All of the hullaballoo about Summers Eve’s latest ad campaign (you know, the one that hails the “V”? Ironic, when you consider that the product for which the ad in question shills is one that disturbs a healthy V’s natural, self-regulating biology, one that’s counter-indicated by medicine, and one that carries the implicit message that your body, as it is, is bad. Hail the V? My A__. Oh, and those ads are racist, too), has left me obsessing over a bigger issue, one that has nothing to do with douche.
The aforementioned bigger issue is this: how these glossy messages of “empowerment” hijack and cheapen the conversation about what it is to be a woman, diverting our collective attention from important conversations and messages that could be truly empowering. So often, it seems that we’re terrified of the nuance, the deeper, more complicated questions, and so we attach ourselves to a quick, slick slogan. Girl Power, served up by a woman who calls herself Baby Spice? Or, as Rebecca Traister so eloquently explained in a piece in Sunday’s NYT Mag, a raucous call for an end to victim-blaming… while marching a “SlutWalk” in our underwear?
Don’t get me wrong: We’re all for Girl Power, and an end to the hideous pattern of victim-blaming that continues to rage against survivors of sexual assault. And we’re pretty fond of our Vs. But what about the rest of us? What about the feminine aspect, that je ne sais quoi that makes women women?
I can hear those knees jerking already!
When you say men and women are different, surely that must mean that one or the other is deficient: that’s a message used to denigrate women! The brain science is inconclusive! Gender is different than sex!
To discuss the feminine as something real, something distinct, yes, different even, well it’s still perceived as dangerous. Threatening. Historically, it makes a certain amount of sense, of course. Plotted against a timeline of the modern workplace, women are still relatively new to the game. It made sense that, upon our initial entree, our strategy was to blend in, to play like the boys, even to look like them (one word: shoulderpads). We downplayed our differences, fearing that if men smelled fear, insecurity, or Chanel #5, we’d be at an immediate disadvantage. Or maybe kicked out of the club for good. But isn’t it possible that every time we choose not to own our own womanness — and all the differences inherent to that womanness, like empathy, inclusiveness, compassion, collaboration, holistic thinking — we do ourselves and our gender (hell, humankind) as a whole a disservice? After all, isn’t there something more essential, more divine to being a woman than simple possession of a V?
They’re valuable qualities (and frankly, whether they’re born of nature or nurture… does it really matter?). And men possess them, too. But in our culture, it’s those more traditional masculine qualities — linear thinking, assertiveness, individualism — that are prized. So, while men leave their feminine untended, women are all too often taught to shy away from their own. All of which leaves humanity as a whole operating in a rather lopsided fashion. But what if we could allow room for both to thrive?
It’s complicated to get at, though. We like proof in these parts, and the science remains controversial. Suggesting that women and men are different is too vague. Invites too many fears. (It’s proven, after all, that women perform worse on math tests when they’re told they’re being given the tests as a measure of how women are at math, compared to men.) And maybe that’s why these sorts of silly V-power messages fly. Real conversations are too risky. We’re too afraid that by honestly exploring a more complex idea, we might inadvertently give up some ground. But if we could begin to see this conversation as necessary and beneficial — for everyone, not just women, but men, too, who could use a little encouragement in terms of awakening to and cultivating their own feminine sides — maybe we would all benefit.
So, hail to the feminine — and the masculine, too.