Feminist Amnesia

I posted a comment on a blog not long ago where a woman working in a very male dominated industry was expressing how difficult it can be to be heard as an equal. My comment, amongst other things, stated ‘It’s okay and very necessary to be introspective and self analytical and spiritual, but as women we also need to fight. We tried being equal and that sucked because men aren’t free either…’ Okay, so I didn’t express myself very academically, but my point was akin to something the Dalai Lama said the other week when I went to hear him. He said that it’s all very well and good spending time in meditation, but if you are poor and hungry, all the meditation in the world isn’t going to fill your stomach. I was trying to point out that despite our efforts for equality, we still don’t have equity and perhaps what we really want (and in order to be really liberated) isn’t the same as what men have. Men don’t generally have a great work/life balance, nor do many Western men comfortably and publicly share their emotions and Spirit. Another woman replied to my comment with this comment:

That’s two women so far engaging in judgmental attitudes towards the masculine. You’d think women were VICTIMS or something else just as disgustingly disRespectful. I read of masculine bashing, followed by an emotional pattern of dominance, possession and a desire to mark your territory. Judging men then behaving just like them. And that’s why it is said to drop ALL judgments, because underneath it all, we are judging ourselves.

Wow. Me desiring to challenge a patriarchal social structure and being derisive towards ‘the masculine’ are two quite distinct things. I celebrate the masculine as I celebrate the feminine. Hence my desire to change the social structure so that rather than just emulate what we have now (a patriarchal structure where women are considered equal but are actually not equal), we create something entirely different. I realise that this makes me a socialist of sorts, but a change – in my opinion, is necessary – as what we have now is so very far from ideal. Women have made so many gains since the feminist wave of the 60s, but in so many ways are so much more confused and constricted. In the 60s, young women weren’t starving or cutting themselves like they are in droves today. Nor were teenagers getting breast implants from their parents as graduation presents, or getting labiaplasty because they are so influenced by the sheer volume of porn and all that that implies that surrounds them.

I went to a Women’s Expo this morning and listened to four women speak about their lives and share their own motivational stories. One of these women was in her 60s and had her own cosmetic/beauty company for older women to celebrate their own beauty. At one point she said “I wear my lines as a badge of honour.” I threw my hands together to clap and ended up holding them together as I was the only one who seemed moved to do so and soon realised that she hadn’t finished the sentence. She went to say “[I wear my lines as a badge of honour] and I can show women how to diminish those lines or at least highlight other areas to detract from them.” She mentioned not long after this that she was getting married the next day and this statement was met with thunderous applause and calling out. So you see, women aren’t even sure what we’re celebrating anymore. Are we wearing our wrinkles as a badge of honour or are trying to cover them up? Is marriage still the most celebrated success that a woman can have? We’re trying to do both, failing dismally and getting frustrated and pigeon-holed at the same time – by ourselves and by the men around us. Most of the men (who are my age or older) I know think boob jobs and botox look ridiculous, but they are becoming so ingrained in the popular culture that young women now wear their fake breasts as a badge of honour.

So back to the comment that shocked me so much: You’d think women were VICTIMS or something else just as disgustingly disRespectful. That women themselves are viewing victimization as disgusting and disrespectful is amazing to me. When on earth did it become disrespectful to be a victim? What does that even mean? Victim feminism is not what I was talking about. Seeking power by claiming an identity of powerlessness will hardly help matters. Putting our heads in the sand and thinking that we have equity isn’t helping anyone, men or women, either. Women un-united or uninformed, or women attempting to fit the stereotype of recent ‘masculine’ extreme fantasy (ie the ‘tits on sticks’ phenomena of boob jobs on Paris-thin bodies as one example; even the older women like the one I heard this morning are aware that young is good; young is very, very good) just results in amnesia from one generation of so-called liberated women to the next.

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19 Comments

Filed under Beauty, Weight Loss, Women/Feminist

19 responses to “Feminist Amnesia

  1. newhoosier

    It has been my contention that women, using their sexuality, intelligence, and compassion, could not only be equals, but could be the dominate force on this planet. However, they struggle with such horrible self esteem issues from poor body image (as one example) and such debilitating strife with other women that they fall short of their potential.

    I don’t think the problem is boobs getting augmented. There are valid reasons why some women want larger breasts. I also think women have every right to use their sexuality however they like–including taking advantage of men who are too stupid to know any better.

    The problem is when parents and the influence of society tell girls and women that there is a “standard of beauty.” Because there is not a standard of beauty. Beauty shouldn’t be the only thing women have going for them either. And for many women their beauty is merely one component of their encompassing strength.

    However until women realize they can be equals, and not just should be equals, they will not be. And lastly:

    Until women respect women, men will not respect women.

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  2. Hey Simonne,
    Compelling and well written post. You know, I’m not real strong in the feminist movement. The reason being that I never felt inequal – perhaps it was how I was raised – I was taught to believe in myself and to go after whatever it was I wanted. That as long as I was willing to work hard and honest to get it, I could. And that has pretty much beared out in my experience.

    I think perhaps if we focused more on what really mattered to us (male or female) that much of the strife would be a thing of the past. But in my mind, feminism which started out brilliantly, has become something quite combative and untennable. Which could be why it is so polarizing.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents for what it’s worth.
    wC

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  3. Hi Newhoosier, thanks for dropping in. Your belief that women need to use their sexuality as well as their intelligence and compassion is part of the problem I believe. Women are judged (by women and men) very much on their appearance and sexual demenour (even in your post about yourself you write, “Have always preferred classy to slutty”). If such vernacular existed in which to define men I may opt to use that too, but there is no such language. Please tell me the valid reasons – that have nothing to do with breast cancer and how women are judged on their sexual appearance – on why women want larger breasts, I’m intrigued!
    Women taking advantage of men too stupid to know any better is just another sad way in which the divide between the sexes widens.
    I very much agree with you re the influence of society creating the standards of beauty. Surely you acknowledge that this society is a patriarchal one? These images of beauty and soft porn that is our advertsing are one of the very reasons that although, as you put it so simply, women just can be equals, until this changes, they simply cannot. And until there are soft porn images of men saturating the culture I completely don’t blame you for not being able to see this. Try telling an Afghani woman that she should just realise that she can be equal…

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  4. Hi WC, I love it when you pop over and I appreciate your opinion. It sounds like we were raised in much the same way! My sister and I were also taught that we could be anything we wanted and to believe in ourselves. Between us we have several degrees, including a PhD and have pretty much traveled the world, been published, etc etc. But I still don’t feel equal when I am constantly reminded that women are not equal. I work in the corporate sphere and it’s pretty obvious here. Women do not, despite many people believing the contrary, make equal pay for equal work and they are not welcomed back into the workforce after they have had children and given adequate solutions to a fair work/life balance. I guess, like you, I also have found it relatively easy to work hard and have never really stuggled for my achievements. But it is the women I see all around me who do struggle; women having children in the corporate world; friends who’ve been raped; women who live in oppressive countries; older women who become invisible – the list goes on – who put the fire in my belly. Same as does my loathing of cruelty to animals, violence against children, third world poverty etc etc. My fire goes beyond the liberation of the sexes, but gets white hot when it becomes obvious that fighting for animal rights is a much less contentious fight than fighting the gender fight. So, the thing is, I am focusing on what really matters to me. And as I get older I feel less afraid to use my voice. I do believe that going inward, that focusing on peace and individual growth is a key factor in moving foward into a new paradigm, but I also believe that some people are here to speak up for others who are silenced against their will. And it’s hard being the one who always ruins the party, let me tell you! Luckily I was graced with a sense of humour – I think thats why I’m writing a comedy of sorts rather than a weighty feminist text! Actually, I’m no where near academic enough to write one of those!!

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  5. wrothful

    Simonne, this was simply a breathtaking post. Thank you so much for this. I have to admit (as a man) this whole topic of feminism is one that I have difficulty finding ways to address. Sometimes I feel like being a guy basically just removes any right I may have to participate in the conversation. One of the things this post has done, is inspire me to respond from the other side of the fence, as it were. Rather than hogging your comments, I’ll have something related up soon.

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  6. Pingback: Masculine Diffidence « wrothful

  7. Great post, Simone! I too despair that so many of our young sisters feel the need to emulate the Paris Hiltons of society these days. It seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I’ve worked in an all-male company for 10+ years and find that men, generally, are unable to admit that they enjoy every advantage society has to offer – what with being on top of the proverbial totem pole and all. I love ’em, but it’s hard to explain to them what it’s like NOT to be them.

    Also, the notion that being wrinkle-free and married should be the be-all/end-all goal for women saddens me too. However, I think that’s slowly fading away, now that so many women are staying happily single for longer periods of time. It’s important for us women to really know ourselves and feel comfortable with who we are before we attach ourselves to marriage. Now if we could just get over our obsession with plastic surgery (labiaplasty? Man, it looks like some women really need to increase their vagina confidence).

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  8. Wrothful, I feel humbled that I inspired you to write a post about how you feel on this and so honoured to read such a personal, articulate, thoughtful post. I truly love what you’ve written and need to read it again (when it’s not so late at night) to really let it sink in. It’s so so refreshing to have a man read a post like this and then comment in such a non-reactive, introspective way. Thank you so much for sharing it.
    OB, thanks for your supportive comment (and thanks for visiting!) – can I steal ‘vagina-confidence’? I like it!

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  9. Dawn

    Simonne I agree with you re Wrothful. Great to have such an interesting, genuine man joining in. Also puzzled re the ‘victim’ comments and will wait with bated breath for any further enlightenment. As to ‘my sister and I were taught we could be anything we wanted’ – what wonderful parents you must have had! Lucky woman.

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  10. newhoosier

    Likewise, thanks for reading my “About” page….

    Sorry, I refuse to believe that sexuality shouldn’t be utilized. I think men should use it too; use it on women “who are too stupid to know any better.” Sexuality is biologically ingrained in our being. The female bird who chooses the most beautiful male bird is being used. The male might not be the best father for numerous reasons, but because he was the prettiest, she chose him. The biologic need for sex and social acceptance is deeper a part of who we are, than the desire to be above such things.

    Yes, I’ve always preferred classy to slutty, but I disagree that women can’t use the same terminology. I’ve never called anyone a slut or a whore in my life (even in a playful way), but a man can be just as much a slut as a woman. Slut, man-slut, and man-whore can easily be applied to a man who indiscriminately sleeps around. Is it biologically advantageous? Yes, but if the women are getting what they want out of him, then “no harm, no foul.” Which means it’s also morally acceptable—they knew what they were getting, and they proceeded.

    I didn’t say cosmetic reasons for breast augmentations weren’t valid reasons. If one breast is a B-cup and the other is a C-cup, which isn’t all that uncommon, a woman might want to enlarge one or reduce the other so that her clothes fit better. I don’t have a problem with breast augmentations any more than a nose job or braces. Is it any different than a woman shaving her legs, shaping her eyebrows, or coloring her hair? But, yes, I do think too many people who don’t need cosmetic surgery have it done.

    Sure, I’ll agree that our society is patriarchal. If you agree that men are also starting to undergo cosmetic surgery for unnecessary reasons, merely to keep up with the same societal standards that say “if you’re not hairy, have large biceps and pecs, have few wrinkles, and a full head of hair, you’re accepted.” It’s not a war of the sexes. We both have the same end goal and have to jump through the same hoops (a lot of men spend the same time getting ready on Friday night as do the women). It’s completely evolutionary, but this is getting away from the point. The point is that women hamstring themselves.

    And please, have you seen Bowflex commercials? Gatorade commercials? Abercrombie catalogs? Football movies? There are plenty of half-naked, fully ripped men to impression 12 year-old boys and tell little girls that’s the kind of man they should strive for. If you don’t see these images, it’s the same reason why I never see commercials for toys or kids’ cereal and my kids never see commercials for mutual funds or financial services. That doesn’t mean they stopped making Trix and UBS commercials, it means Trix commercials aren’t on CNBC and UBS commercials aren’t on Nickelodeon.

    I wouldn’t presume to know anything about the culture of Afghani women. I was talking about our society. I’ve never been to Afghanistan, so maybe you’re right, maybe Afghani women have Victoria’s Secret commercial and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue images to contend with on a daily basis from a very young age.

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  11. Hi there Newhoosier, thanks for clarifying your opinion. I don’t really want to get into a full-blown discourse on gender issues that starts at the beginning, if you know what I mean? There are plenty of sites and books you can read to get a basic understanding of gender politics and feminism if you want to further develop your own understanding.
    ‘Man-slut’ / ‘man-whore’ may be easily applied to men who sleep with a lot of women, but usually aren’t and it’s pretty well acknowledged by most people that men who ‘score’ are still celebrated. Whacking the word man in front of the word slut has no history or tradition (obviously, as the ruling class hardly coins terms to denigrate itself) compared to the rich history it has when applied to the feminine and therefore hardly has the same sort of power/impact and is hardly creating a new paradigm. (May I clarify that when I talk about patriarchy, I do not mean you personally – we have been in a partiarchal society for a long time.)
    I’m not discounting biology, nor do I think that women are above such things! When placing our primal biological functions next to our current social structure (a social structure far more complex than that of the bird world), I’m sure you can see my point. Discussing it almost becomes a moot point in the face of such obvious imbalance in terms of how the sexes are portrayed in terms of their sex. Arguing it from this stand-point has little merit when men being viewed in the same light as women has not been institutionalised.
    The point that women hamstring themselves and that men are now walking down the same path was exactly my point! Hence my desire to create an entirely new way of looking at things, rather than women attempting to be equal in a culture in which men are harldy free either.
    May I suggest that you do find out something about the culture of Afghani women? It’s not at all presumptous for you to do so, and I believe you won’t even need to go to Afghanistan to find out. One of the reasons I want to see something entirely new instead of something equal is so that all women can experience sexual freedom on all levels – be it at the level that I, as a Western woman experiences, or the far more life-threatening and oppressive level that an Afghani woman experiences. It is hardly my wish for her to be freed from her cage only to enter mine.

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  12. Sue Ann Edwards

    I specifically indicate the concept of “fighting” being used. This is a ‘dominant’ type of attitude, of perspective. Where you have to FIGHT to for your perspective. It’s Battle.

    That perspective, is the perspective of someone who feels they have lost. It’s not an empowering attitude. It’s a victim attitude.

    Change your mind and the World will mirror something else. Life is everything we imagine, so Imagine different.

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  13. I agree with life being what we internally create or manifest; I do this every day and don’t feel in the least aggressive. If anything, I feel empowered, as I have been given the gifts of intelligence, creativity and a privileged position in this world and I know it is my life purpose in this life to help create and manifest positive change. All that is needed to herald this change is more people ‘imagining different’ as you say. The world will indeed change when the citical mass is imagining/manifesting a more compassionate, peaceful world. Until we reach this critical mass, there still needs to be teachers to help teach people how to do this. Many spiritually aware people forget that many many people have no idea how to do this and until they do, the world will continue to mirror disharmony and inequality.

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  14. newhoosier

    Okay, we will agree to disagree. Afterall, though I’m present in the American society, my views are vastly different than the majority. Not only am I a white male that has an income above the U.S. median income level (which makes me “the man” or “the devil”), unlike most people in our society:

    I waited until I was married (well into my 20’s) before having sex.
    I have never called a woman a “slut.”
    I do not drink, smoke, or drink coffee, so I don’t have that common thread (bars/smoke rooms/cafes) to share with my peers.
    I follow logic much more than emotion.
    I am not a regular church-goer, so I don’t live under the oppresive patriarchal rule from clergy pretending to be more in touch with God than the common individual. (Though, I’m not an atheist.)
    I believe women do more to hurt their cause than men.

    Clearly, I do not belong in a discussion on this topic, since I’m cleary either a nutjob or a radical. That said, I won’t concede the point, but you have won the debate. I’m going to recuse myself.

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  15. Funny – I’ve never called anyone a slut either! I guess we have more in common than we thought.
    You definitely don’t need to be a nut-job or a radical to enter a discussion about feminism or equality. But to enter one when you admit you don’t know a lot about it but still feel that you can contribute is really what male privilege is all about.
    I really wasn’t having a go at you as an individual. Thinking Girl gives a great description of patrirachy as – “patriarchy isn’t a bunch of mean guys individually acting out on women. Patriarchy is a system of male domination – it isn’t equivalent to individual men. It may be the reason why individual men act in predictable ways, but it is not simply men as a group. Also, patriarchy can be internalized by all genders, not just men. So women can enforce patriarchy on themselves and one another, and it’s still patriarchy.”
    Consider yourself recused.

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  16. Sue Ann Edwards

    “I agree with life being what we internally create or manifest;”

    We can’t BOTH be creators and victims at the same time, now can we?

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  17. Sue Ann Edwards

    Simonne, I sense your desire is genuine. However, the expressions of the use of force to dominate, where you have to fight or argue or in some other way force your persepctive or your way upon others or upon a situation, reveal you are not coming from a place of Spiritual understanding. But from a place devoid of recognizing your creative power. That place, is neither Honorable nor Respectful to you…Creator.

    That which is of Spirit, Unifies. Since there are no seperate parts perceived, there are no relationships of conflict.

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  18. Sue Ann, I’m not talking about force or domination at all. I’m talking about educating people, particularly young women. I respect that you think I’m forcing my opinion on others, but I do disagree with that. This is my blog and my space to actually have an opinion; people don’t have to come here and they don’t have to engage. I think someone truly spiritual ackowlegdes that everyone does have an opinion and everyone is at different places/stages/life lessons and that absolutely everyone has something valuable to contribute. Ghandi wasn’t forceful, but he was trying to educate and change a system of domination, do you see him as lacking spiritual understanding? I’m not comparing myself to him! I just think you’ve missed the point a bit.

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  19. Interesting, i agree with various points on here, from various people. There’s a lot of passion embedded in these words, but sometimes passion is born out of huge pain and that’s a dangerous mix.

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