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Posts Tagged ‘slutwalk’

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.

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Despite what we would like to think, life is not a multiple choice, scan-tron type of affair.  And sometimes, everywhere you look, something reminds you that choices and decisions are much more complicated than either/or.  Two cases in point, in case you’ve missed them:

First up, a Mother’s Day op-ed in Sunday’s New York Times by Stephanie Coonz.  If you recognize the name, it’s because she’s the author of 2005′s groundbreaking “Marriage: A History” and the newly released “A Strange Stirring: ‘The Feminine Mystique’ and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s.”  What she had to say was this:  that archetype of the happy — and saintly — stay-at-home mom?  It never was.  In fact, she points out, until quite recently, mom was pretty much villified, her social status in the dumpster until Betty Friedan came around.  So that whole debate about the mommy wars?  Put it to rest.

Coonz’ research has found that, really, whether you stay at home or work outside it, your happiness –  and your family’s too — is all about the choice.  There’s more, but here’s the take-away:

These findings suggest that it is time to stop arguing over who has things worse or who does things better, stay-at-home mothers or employed mothers. Instead, we should pay attention to women’s preferences and options.

Feminism has also fostered increased respect for men’s ability and desire to be involved parents. So we should also pay attention to expanding men’s ability to choose greater involvement in family life, just as we have expanded women’s ability to choose greater involvement in meaningful work.

While stay-at-home mothers may not have the aura of saintliness with which they were endowed in the 19th century, it’s indisputable that their status and lives have improved since their supposed heyday in the 1950s. On this Mother’s Day, it’s too bad that nostalgia for a golden age of motherhood that never existed still clouds our thinking about what’s best for mothers, fathers and their children.

And then there’s this.  The current shitstorm over the “SlutWalks” that are taking place across the nation — and beyond.  Sparked by a Toronto police officer who told a bunch of college women that they could avoid being raped if they didn’t dress like sluts, women have been marching in their underwear to protest his message.  I get the anger against blaming the victim — just not the underwear.  But I do like what salon’s Tracy Clark-Flory had to say about this whole either-or issue.  A slut or a prude?  She votes neither, and wonders why it has to be one or the other:

I’m tired of the polarizing rhetoric: Are you a prude or a slut? You know what, I’m neither. I understand the concept of re-appropriating slurs, and that many people find it freeing and empowering. Also, political discourse doesn’t exactly lend itself to nuance and subtlety, so shocking slogans can be tremendously effective. On a personal level, though, this kind of reactive language can feel awfully limiting. I’m not a political caricature, and neither is my sexuality.

… So while it’s kick-ass that so many women are proudly calling themselves sluts, I’d also like to defend the prudes, and those of us who would rather toss out those reductive categories altogether. The conversation really starts to get interesting when you say: I’m not a prude, but I’m not a slut; I’m ____

Choices, all of them, and never quite as clear as they seem.

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