Feminism, flawed.

It’s been a month since my last update, and so I decided that one was due. I apologize for keeping any of you in suspense; I hope the delay has not caused you any undue hardship.

While watching a very interesting documentary in my sociology class, something struck me as pretty neat. During the study that was being conducted, a rather attractive blonde woman in her mid-twenties made a ditzy remark and smirked coyly. The conductor of the experiment turned toward her and sharply scolded her- something along the lines of “Forget cute. You’re a woman. If you want to go anywhere, you need to be determined and serious. You need to be hard working and respectable. Forget cute, because when you’re 45, you’ll be an old broad with nothing left.”

It took every ounce of my strength to not stand up, cheer, and give a solid fist-pump.

I had never heard this idea articulated quite so well, and I mentioned the point to my professor as something I really took a liking to. My reason for enjoying this statement so much was the way I saw it relating to feminism. This woman seemed to hit the nail on the head: if women want equality, we have to earn it. We can’t depend on being cute, beautiful, or sexy to get ahead. We only further the stereotypes. Equality has to be gained by merit and hard work. My professor gave me a little rebuttal, stating that feminism is merely the search for equality between men and women. While I totally agree with this concept, I feel that, in a myriad of occasions, it is women who aid in bringing discrimination upon themselves.

I personally have never really felt discriminated against due to my sex, and maybe this is why feminists are so hard for me to buy into (Although I do recognize that I owe the fact that I do not feel discriminated against to feminists of earlier eras). I feel like feminism has reached its goal in all the legal equalities that can be achieved, but I believe it is up to women to do the rest to grasp and maintain social equality.

Women willingly do so much to put ourselves at the mercy of social inequality. Take for example the women in music videos; think of their dress, the way they move, and the way they dance. She becomes nothing more than sex objects at the beckon call of whatever pop star wants to have her next.

And she’s okay with that.

Think of reality shows; think of the way women act on these programs- their serious betrayal to the other women on the show, their publicly exposed sleeping around. In these ways and more, women foster and promote gender inequality.

Now don’t get me wrong… I love shoes. I love dresses, curling my hair, and painting my nails. I enjoy wearing make up and jewelry, but I will be damned if I am not going to be taken seriously. I work hard in school; I hold good jobs into which I put a lot of effort. I refuse to call my girl friends “bitch” as a term of endearment. I dress in a dignified manner when the occasion calls for such dress. I respect myself, and I respect other women.

I think this idea of women making sure to respect one another was well-put in the movie “Mean Girls” (go figure). While lecturing the girls in the school about their behaviors, Ms. Norbury says, “You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.

If women want social equality, if we want to be seen as decent individuals, it is up to US to actively work for that change. We can’t go screaming and parading around on Capitol Hill, braless and refusing to shave. We can’t go to clubs wearing virtually nothing, dancing like strippers with any and every random guy that sticks his hand in our pants.

We can’t expect to to be treated in a dignified manner if we are not willing to treat ourselves and other women as such. We cannot expect to get a pay increase by running around, causing a ruckus while screaming at our congressmen. It’s not going to happen; don’t expect it to. We have to take matters into our own hands, and perhaps we can take some advice from our beloved Mahatma Gandhi:

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” (i.e. we can’t run around howling for change if we are  not going to exemplify characteristics that warrant it)

You said it, big G. You said it indeed.

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12 Responses to “Feminism, flawed.”

  1. throughpaulseyes Says:

    You know how I feel about feminists and all that. I absolutely agree with you. Feminism annoys me because it seems like a complete double standard created to make life more difficult for men. Do you hold the door open and jeopardize the girl’s independence? Or do you let her go and be an un-gentlemanly jerk? I try to ignore the problem altogether and treat everyone with cold, calculated callousness (love that alliteration).

    I was going through withdrawal until this post. A month is too long, lady.

  2. Anon Says:

    There are several points you bring up in this post that I’d really, really like to address.

    First: “…due to my sex.”
    The word you are looking for is gender. If you are unclear of the difference, I would caution you against defining feminism in any terms.

    Second:
    “The conductor of the experiment turned toward her and sharply scolded her- something along the lines of ‘Forget cute. You’re a woman. If you want to go anywhere, you need to be determined and serious. You need to be hard working and respectable. Forget cute, because when you’re 45, you’ll be an old broad with nothing left.'”
    I’m unsure how, as a feminist yourself, you are comfortable with a man prescribing any sort of behavior to a woman. Sexism is prejudice PLUS power. The patriarch, the man in power, is, again, telling the poor, unenlightened woman, what to do. He is instructing her as to how she should act and who she should be. She needs to fit his idea, not her own definition.

    Third: “We cannot expect to get a pay increase by running around, causing a ruckus while screaming at our congressmen.”
    I hate to inject emotion into this, but that statement is disgusting. We should just sit back and take it, I suppose. Don’t fight – that makes you look unseemly, girls. Don’t scream. Don’t cause a ruckus. Just take it. Be quiet about it. Lie back and think of the Empire.

    And throughpaulseyes – what luxury years of power bring for you to sit back and denigrate an equal rights’ movement.

  3. 06jk Says:

    Thanks for the comment, Anon. I feel like I don’t get them often enough from people who speak on a very educated level from the heart. I really appreciate it.

    Pardon me for the misuse of the word “sex”. Please note however that I am not an expert on sociology or anything of the sort; this is just an opinion.

    I’m having trouble understanding your second point. I really don’t think our behavior should be prescribed, but I do think that if women want to be taken seriously, playing the “cute” card to hit men’s expectations and toy with their minds is the wrong way to go.

    And as to your third point, there is definitely confusion in the way I’ve communicated my message, and I apologize for that. I was not saying that political activism is something we should stay away from, nor should women be expected to remain calm, composed, and… lady-like. I am a very very vehement believer in political involvement, obviously. And if I truly believed that women should keep their mouths shut about their opinion, I would not write as often and as openly as I do in this blog. I just believe that political equality has been gained, and it’s time for us to now step up and achieve the social equality through excellence. It’s the same the MLK preached for blacks in America. We have to excel in what we do in order to be taken seriously. Being boisterous and whiny isn’t going to cut it.

    Aaaand finally, Paul is a very good friend of mine whom I’ve known for about 4 years now. I have seen few people as respectful as he is toward women. He is one of the few people that I can have valid, meaningful, and intelligent political conversations with, and he takes my thoughts and opinions very seriously…. even though I’m a woman.

    Again, thanks for the comment. I’d love to hear more from you; you articulate your thoughts well, and I need to do a little fine-tuning on mine in order to avoid future confusion in my writing.

  4. throughpaulseyes Says:

    Lady, I’m brown. I live through the days when people of my color are mistaken to be terrorists on a daily basis. Don’t talk to me about a lack of respect for equal rights. I like girls. They’re cute and cuddly and its always been a girl that can keep me in line. They have power. I respect a girl that’s got the voice to make me back down. Guys can’t do it. A girl can.

    Anon, if you want to get really riled up, check out the last paragraph of my blog post titled For Those With ADD, posted August 13th. Also, I wonder if you might comment on whether or not I’m supposed to hold the door open or not. I’ve got a date in about a week and this has me freaking out.

    Awesome response Jak.

    O and hurray for years of power. Here’s to another century of it (kidding).

  5. throughpaulseyes Says:

    O and God forbid a male teacher teach something to a ditz of a woman. Can’t have that, the girl might actually become a decent member of society

  6. prof k Says:

    just so you all know,
    the person who gave the lesson to the “cute” woman in the experiment was a woman. her name is jane elliot and she is an ardent feminist.
    and “jak” the more i read your repsonses, the more you sound like a feminist. embrace it. turn to the dark side 😉
    and let’s try not to create a hierarchy of oppressions. they’re all linked. race, class, gender, etc. if we want to eradicate any of them, we have to eradicate all of them.
    and as for opening doors. sure, go ahead. hold it open for guys, too. it’s the courteous thing to do. i always try to open doors for people. especially if they’re carrying something heavy.

  7. prof k Says:

    oh, i almost forgot.
    perhaps one of the most important parts of being a feminist is thinking critically about gender. just don’t take anything for granted as “common sense” when it comes to gender. think. why do i believe what i do about women, men, feminists, etc? feminism isn’t a double standard. it’s about eradicating double standards. the feminists i know don’t like it when women infantilize themselves any more that you guys do. we recognize that both women and men are responsible for eradicating oppression. (btw, there’s no one way to be a feminist. i don’t agree with all feminists, just like i don’t agree with all women, or all people, or all fans of project runway.) and paul, i wonder just how you do feel about feminists and “all that”?

  8. amberfireinus Says:

    My goodness. Such deep thinking from young people. Im trying to think back to being 19 myself, and how serious I was about it all back then.

    I thought your article was interesting. You made very nice points, spoken like a true woman your age. I hope you arent offended by that comment, its just that as you age, ripen and get to experience the world more, your perspective and perceptions will change and you will have a far wider view than the one you currently hold.

    However saying that, I would like to point out that you missed the real deal of the situation that day in the classroom. You see, all you saw was the professor correcting this girl for being ditzy. Reread the words exactly. I will paste them here for you to reread.

    “Forget cute. You’re a woman. If you want to go anywhere, you need to be determined and serious. You need to be hard working and respectable. Forget cute, because when you’re 45, you’ll be an old broad with nothing left.”

    O.K. So what is my problem with this quote? The problem is that the teacher assumed that the woman at 45 would no longer be attractive. The implication was that she only has a limited shelf life. This is a far more dangerous attitude if you ask me.

    I used to be very similar to you. I used to believe in working harder and smarter than everyone else to really prove my worth as a woman to be on equal footing with any man. I have had a very successful career to prove it.

    However, I hate to tell you that the reality of this world is, that being cute never ever hurts (especially if you have the brains to back it up). If used properly with the inner smarts, you have an advantage. Dont be fooled by those of us who use our cute.

    Let me give you a good example of how cute works… even for an old woman like me of 40. I went to purchase a car. I did my research, spent hours on the internet looking for the perfect deal on the car I decided on. I looked every single day for months. When I finally zoned in on the car I wanted it was time to go meet the dealer. So, I go down and am simply nice. I let the salesman treat me like the little lady. I smiled sweetly alot and stared at the guy with big wide eyes like a doe. I asked a great deal of questions about the car that I already knew the answer to. I allowed him to feel good about himself. I allowed him to feel like my protector in this purchase. I did not wear anything revealing. I did not humiliate myself in any way. I just listened and smiled. I gave the impression of being impressed. This is called sales. He thought he was selling to me when in fact it was I who was selling to him. Selling him my cute.

    I decided that I didnt want the car that the salesman had on the lot. I really wanted the top of the line model. So, now to make the deal work for me and to use the situation to my full advantage… I told the salesman I really wanted to buy from him because he was sooooo knowledgeable about the car and was so kind to put up with a woman like me. blah blah *eyeroll* Before I knew it he was talking with the owner of the dealership on my behalf. He comes back and tells me that the dealership will go and get me the car that I specified at the next buying auction. All I had to do is tell him what I wanted.

    The story ended up that not only did I get the car I wanted, but I paid about 8k under even a private sale car (the dealership only added $250 to the price they paid at the auction – totally unheard of!). My car is 2 years old and dealers are still selling it for more than I paid for it. Dont even let your mind wander to try to insult me with something as silly as… it must have been a Katrina car or a wreck. Of course I got the carfax report and DMV lifetime report before purchase.

    Being “cute” or appealing is never ever a mistake. It is a proven fact that a beautiful woman is not offensive to neither men or women. That is why women dont mind eating at places like Hooters. A woman can appreciate another woman being beautiful and flirty without it making her feel worried about being gay. Its simple marketing.

    Being smart is using what God has given you to get any advantage. If its a great sense of humor and you can make people laugh and like you, or if it is a beautiful smile that makes others smile, or if it is a hard cold intellect to make them all stare in awe.

    You dont have to act like a man to be respected. God gave us each advantages over the other for a reason. Its up to you to be smart enough to learn about when you can use your advantages wisely and to your benefit.

    I see our feminist problem as women in far more complex terms:

    A. Having value and respect for traditional roles of being a wife and mother. We need to give ourselves credit for being able to do those jobs and have the firm belief that they are actual jobs which require huge amounts of skill. It isnt the easy way out or the free ride in life. Done properly, those are the hardest jobs in the world.

    B. Not buying into the fact that we have a shelf life and once we are of a certain age we are no longer of any use because we are then useless to men therefore worthless as a being.

    C. Allowing ouselves to be sucked into the whole idea that as a woman we have to be everything. We have to be brilliant and beautiful, and perfect at all times. Perfection is an illusion that we demand of ourselves and then blame the men for.

    D. Saying and believing stupid things like… Math and Science is for boys/men.

    E. Believing that our looks are what makes us attractive to others when being attractive on the inside is far more important and far sexier. Looks mean very little in sex appeal terms.

    F. Not appreciating in ourselves the strength of being women. Not fostering relationships with other women, finding mentors and being mentors as we travel our roads to enlightenment.

    G. Allowing petty jealousy into our lives in any way shape or form.

    H. Putting 12 year old girls all made up to look like 30 year old women on the covers of magazines and believing that it is realistic to look like that at any age other than 12.

    Do you see my point here? You can be a feminist and be a housewife. You can be a feminist and be cute. They arent mutually exclusive.

  9. 06jk Says:

    That was ridiculously refreshing.
    I really have no way to respond to that; it was awesome.
    Thank you 🙂

  10. throughpaulseyes Says:

    I wish Anon would say something more…

    Sorry prof k, I didn’t check this again until now. On the off chance that you look at this, again, I’d refer you to my post titled For Those With ADD, posted August 13th, 07. The last paragraph is a letter I wrote to feminists. I have this little multiple personality thing going where I switch between alter egos of Democrat and Republican. I like writing things that get people angry, and then defend the points (I have another post titled Global Warming (if it existed) would be a good thing).

    I’m all for equality, but my issue with feminism is that there seem to be so many feminists who seem to simply like the idea of having something to yell about with other girls. I’m in college, and I’ve seen women chanting random feminist slogans. I had time before a class, so I was standing there watching it, and the girls started to yell at me, calling me a chauvinistic pig. I was just standing there and not one of them knew me. And yet they yell. Having testicles isn’t a crime, but these girls seemed to think it is.

    My parents are Indian, and I just got back to America two days ago. We were sitting down to dinner, and I rose to take my plate to the sink, and all hell broke lose. Everyone jumped up. The women were literally running to take the plate from me, the men were yelling at their wives or for servants to take the plate from me. It’s a different culture, and I think I’ve sort of adopted some of those ideas. I always say my dream is to have a rich wife who works to support me, while I sit at home and smoke cigars watching TV all day, letting a nanny take care of the kids, but honestly, I would prefer that my wife did not work, and instead just kicked it with the kids. My mom wasn’t around when I was younger because she worked a lot (not out of necessity, mind you, my dad does an awesome job providing for us) and I always wished she was around more.

  11. Anon Says:

    Ask and you shall receive? Anon returns, somehow.

    throughjackseyes – There’s no need to be an expert on soc., or even feminism, to voice an opinion on feminism. It just seems as though you haven’t been exposed to a lot of feminist thought, particularly third wave stuff. Foucault, bell hooks, Betty Friedan, bitch magazine (very amusing alternative to Cosmo), Steinem – there’s a lot of reading out there. It’s not that what you’re saying is invalid – it just seems that you’re missing some information.

    I’m not sure how you can say political equality has been gained when there’s only 16 women in the US Senate. But feminism doesn’t just encompass middle-class white women; there’s black feminism, queer feminism, Third World feminism. Equality with men for queer women? Not so much.
    That’s a random, and incomplete example, because I’d rather not talk about de jure sexism – you’re right that a lot of de jure equality has been achieved (in everything but reproductive rights, I editorialize). What about de facto equality, though? Wages, situations in the workplace, expectations, gender roles, gender relations, sex work, medical treatment… I could go on for way too long, in a way that makes me increasingly seem like a whining women (this is more addressed to “throughpaulseyes” now, I suppose). But when you’re raised to believe that these things are normal, and culture is so ingrained – when you see the numbers, read the literature, it’s eye-opening. I’m not bitter anymore; I finished that stage a while back. But I can’t, and won’t excuse and forget marginalization.

    throughpaulseyes – no interest in the oppression olympics, and the internet means I don’t know who’s brown, white, or purple.
    It seems like you don’t really know what feminism is. And when I say “seems like”, I actually mean “you have no idea what feminism is”. I’m a graduate student, and throughout my college career on the East Coast, I’ve never been witness to women “chanting feminist slogans”. If I had, and if I had any idea what a “feminist slogan” was, I would probably support it and join in, so that’s that. Moving on, your detesting of feminists because a college girl yells at you makes as much sense as my hating brown people because you’re being belligerent. Having testicles is not (and never has been) a crime. A Bad Experience doesn’t mean that all feminists are like that, or that all women are the same.

    You’re taking all these feminist issues and personalizing them. The simplest phrase to throw around is “it’s not you; it’s the patriarchy.” Feminism doesn’t attack men; it attacks the patriarchy in the historical moment.

    Gender issues in the home is just a cultural norm. I’m not sure why you want your wife to stay at home, other than your personal experience – what if she wants to work? I can’t say what’s right for any case, and won’t. Oh, and guess how much the British influenced Indian gender roles? I recommend Said as a starter for post-colonial theory, if you haven’t read any.

  12. 06jk Says:

    Anon, I’m so happy you came back!!! (NOT sarcasm, by the way)

    I totally understand what you mean, and I love the points you made. Trust me, I get sick myself when I realize how objectified women have become in society. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll even have a shot at the types of things I want to do (I want desperately to play a major role in the political arena… currently dominated by men, as you correctly pointed out). However, it’s not like there is a law about women running for Senate… it’s an issue that society has to handle.

    MY gripe is that as far as the laws of this country are concerned, I see no problems. Perhaps I’m missing something though, and that is very possible (Please note how often I refer to myself as “idealistic untainted youth” in other posts). I just feel like it’s time for ALL women to step up and quite holding the rest of us back. We have to realize it’s not okay to call each other sluts, whores, bitches, etc. Girls/women need to stop buying into all that stupid rap that refers to females as nothing more than sexual beings, etc. etc.

    As I pointed out in an earlier comment… or maybe it was the actual post… I love getting dressed up as much as any other girl. I love curling my hair and wearing mascara. I love when a man holds a door for me, helps me lift something I can’t, bla bla bla… I just think us females need to step up and show that we’re worthy of respect. So many of us CONSTANTLY allow ourselves to be exploited.

    Finally… your response to Paul… oh dear God I can just see him reading that now. He’s going to get angry I do believe, but I laughed a ton. Thanks for that.

    I really hope you stop by more often. You have a lot of insightful things to say, and I find myself becoming a better person by hearing what everybody else has to think.

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