I know you’re all just dying to hear me rant about women’s rights, sexism, feminism, sex, men, and the like, so without further adieu…
When it comes to sexism, some say “fight fire with fire,” but I think more along the lines of “two wrongs don’t make a right” and “an eye for an eye just makes the whole world blind.” Why battle sexism against women with sexism against men, especially when a blind tirade for women’s rights can leave many women by the wayside anyway? Hear me out, but first…
Before I go any further, I should probably acknowledge that my response to sexism and feminism and the like are, of course, all tainted by my own experiences and my place in the universe. I am well aware of the fact that:
- There are women who are much poorer than I am – the vortex of poverty affects women worse than men in most cases, and has the power to destroy everything in its path.
- There are women who have been raised in very different societies or cultures, sub-societies and sub-cultures, or just family units than I have been – whether it be in the debutante-riddled pockets of the South, a patriarchal tribe in Africa, or a subtly male-dominant household right next door. You can change where you are and where you want to go, but you can’t change where you come from, really.
- There are women who are considerably better looking than I am – this can prove to be a disadvantage to some because it makes it more difficult to be taken seriously in the workplace in any way other than as a piece of meat.
- There are women who are considerably less attractive than I am – this can prove to be a disadvantage because, let’s face it, what is beautiful is good. It’s how we’re programmed.
- There are women who have been physically beaten or tortured, emotionally or psychologically abused, to varying degrees of severity, although none at all is acceptable – of course these will deeply affect their thoughts and feelings on the subjects. I don’t think this requires any more explanation.
- There are women who are older than I am, who faced the issues of their day and without the gift of 20/20 hindsight that I have had all along, and all the progress that has been made over the years that I benefit from and probably do take for granted more often than I should.
With all this in mind, I’m not a feminist – if anything, I’m a humanist. I don’t bristle at gender roles in and of themselves; I object to feeling pigeon-holed and feeling as though I don’t have any options, because I actually have about a few thousand different combinations of options to choose from, and honestly, I want to be a housewife. My ideal career involves working with children, cooking and baking, house cleaning, interior decorating, and personal shopping. These are real jobs, but when they’re all wrapped up with a tag that reads “housewife,” they’re suddenly meaningless. I don’t see why I should be forced to seek fulfillment by working for The Man when I could be working WITH the man of my choosing, as a partner in one of the most private of all companies and the comfort of my own home.
The shock and awe elements of the early “women’s liberation” movement were necessary given the severity of the situation, but I feel that there was an unfortunate failure to follow up with almost anything. We were led to a vast array of choices, which is obviously great, but given no tools with which to base our decisions on or methods to deal with them – this conundrum has been the subject of some of my favorite novels, from The Bell Jar to Commencement. Now, women must be all things to all people at all times (case in point: the new Sarah Jessica Parker movie), and if that’s what they want to do, that’s great – but I don’t, and neither do a lot of other women, and I resent feeling as though I have to just to be taken seriously, especially when most men can still just skate by because their gender roles haven’t been modified basically at all. I don’t do everything all at once well, personally, and I don’t need another romcom about some 6-figure, size 0, frazzled-and-fabulous working woman to remind me of that fact and make me feel better or worse about it, frankly.
There was a failure to truly communicate the scope of change necessary when it comes to gender roles, and there was a failure to follow up with how women’s decisions would be received, beyond superficially accepted – there are laws that dictate equal opportunity, but have been virtually no attempts that I know of to combat inaccurate perceptions and negative receptions of a woman’s choices. If I were to pick a career, I’d be applauded at first for being proactive and productive, as if raising a family is easy. Then eventually, I’d get shit for being married to my job and not truly enjoying my life, as if no one could ever feel satisfied and rewarded from a challenging career. And I mean, it’s true; your job will probably not love you when you’re 80 and drooling (unless your job is being Hugh Hefner), but your kid might not either, and at least if you work your whole life away, you’ll theoretically have enough money to put yourself in a nursing home. Anyway, if I pick raising a family and put having an outside job on the back-burner, then I’ll be applauded for being domestic and traditional, but then I’ll get shit for “relying” on my husband, which is offensive because it implies that my husband isn’t somehow relying on me in other ways, because those “other ways” (ie: housekeeping, childcare, being a personal chef, interior decorator, chauffeur, homework assistant/tutor, home health care provider, office manager, crisis manager, peacekeeper) are not considered important when a mother performs them inside the home, since that’s what women are supposed to do. Actually, it doesn’t even really matter if a woman on some level chooses being a career woman over being a mother anyway, because the second she pops a kid out, she’s still expected to be a domestic goddess and mother nurture. Yeah, there are nannies – how many eyes roll at women who hire outside help, because clearly, if they can’t run the office and their home, then we should all take a ride on the lollercoaster at their expense.
For arguments against other ridiculous Hollywood stereotypes of women, check out this article.
Anyway, on to my next point, which is the totally unfair ways in which women’s sexuality is presented and received by the media and by individuals.
I argue with my boyfriend (more often than I probably should) about sexual promiscuity and how important it is or isn’t, should or shouldn’t be. He has a laissez-faire attitude, he says, while I adopt more of a socialist stance. Whatever. His argument is that people should do what they want. My argument is that I agree, but I don’t know many women who truly love sex as much as men do or at least for the same reasons, which automatically creates an imbalance in the bedroom…or airplane bathroom…or the office, or wherever you find the time and space. Barring exceptional cases of performance anxiety, external interruptions, and other dysfunctions, men virtually always finish what is started. Women? There are a lucky few.
There has been a tremendous amount of pressure to have sex exerted onto women since the dawn of time, but I find it appalling that women now have in-your-face social pressure to grapple with, because a lot of women’s liberation was based in reproductive rights and therefore tied to sexual liberation as well. The message now, whether subtle or overt, in the backseat of your high school beau’s car or on the billboard you pass on your drive to work, is that you’re supposed to be having sex, and you’re supposed to love it pretty much no matter what, or you can’t possibly be living a fulfilled life, which is absurd.
But of course, women can’t love sex too much, or else; read this article by The Frenemy for a much better argument on the issue of “sluttiness” than I could ever write (also, just read her blog in general – I adore her, and she’s got a book coming out next year!).
Taking charge of your sexuality is extraordinary and important step towards self-awareness and maybe even something resembling inner peace, but allowing yourself to become a sexual object in the eyes (or more) of others is not empowering. There is sexy, and there is sexual, and there is a difference, and it’s not just a suffix, and it’s all a lot more complicated then it’s given credit for being, and deeply personal.
The superficial celebration of promiscuity in American culture is relatively new and very troubling to me, but not for the stereotypical hand-wringing “family values” reasons you might expect. I guess I’d be categorized as a prude by some, but I’d actually be in favor of sexual promiscuity being truly celebrated and accepted as the norm, because my guess is that greater efforts would probably be made towards ensuring everyone was operating at their peak sexual health and were in greater control of their reproductive rights, which would go a long way towards alleviating a lot of the negative consequences of sex*. Sex wouldn’t be used as a weapon as much, or as a sales technique. Unfortunately, however, promiscuity is not truly accepted, at least not for women – it’s the age old issue of how men are players, but women are whores, but men don’t usually reach that achievement in a vacuum, so in order for men to be players, there have to be a roughly equal number of whores. Men win either way.
Going back to the ways in which opinions can be shaped, I think it’s strange that there are some really great anti-homophobia campaigns (It Gets Better), and campaigns against racism, but sexism still gets brushed aside. The closest thing we have is Tina Fey’s speech in Mean Girls, and the occasional PSA about domestic violence, but that doesn’t get at the root of the problem and treat the disease at all, it just deals with the symptoms.
It’s the 21st century, I live in the Northeast, and the majority of my male friends are from good families, have middle-class backgrounds, attended college, and I enjoy their company, but I continue to be shocked at the sickeningly casual misogynistic comments that shoot from their mouths like bullets into my perception of them. Casual misogyny may be even worse, in some ways, than the more obvious cases; it’s so much more palatable and can slip under the radar much easier. Not mine, of course, because I live for this stuff, but probably for most people.
*I mean, it still wouldn’t “fix” the fact that men and women tend to react differently to sexual encounters, but that’s another matter that is far too complicated and personal for me to delve into right now, or possibly ever. My only comment is that I don’t see the point in trying to pretend that men and women aren’t programmed differently, biologically and psychologically. Yes, our brains are the same size – but we tend to use them in very different ways when it comes to our most basic functions, one of them being sex.
And I’ll leave you with these quotes, for your enjoyment, consideration, and analysis:
“I don’t mind living in a man’s world as long as I can be a woman in it.” – Marilyn Monroe
“Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.” – Faith Whittlesey
“Whatever woman do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.” – Charlotte Whitton
Oh, and maybe this, too: