In Search of Feminism


boys are stupid

I was asked recently if I really was a male chauvinist or if that was just how I portrayed myself in my blog. Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve taken some humorous liberties in discussing differences between men and women in a few of my articles, and while the comments and concepts were tongue in cheek, I can’t say everything I’ve said was false. Perhaps it’s truer to say it was an exaggeration of how I feel. Let me explain my side and then you can decide for yourself.

If I understand the feminist perspective (and I probably don’t) there seems to be a lot of talk about gender equality. To be frank, I’m not entirely sure what this means. I can fully support the idea that women should be paid equally to men. Salary should be based, in my mind, on merit rather than gender or race or any other factor. Women should be considered equal to men in the workplace for the purpose of raises and promotions. That’s just fairness and common sense.

I don’t always like the way women are portrayed in film and literature either. One glaring difference I see between modern cinema and the films of the 30’s, 40’s 50’s and 60’s is how the female roles in older films often seemed to portray a very generic, simple, passive kind of character. The women in most films from the middle of the twentieth century served as more of a supportive role for the male leads. They were the classic “damsel in distress”. They cried too much. They begged their men not to go into danger. They were helpless to take care of themselves. They tended to be meek and unassertive. Of course, I’m generalizing and there were some actresses that played stronger roles, but by and large, the women of film have been cast as more a part of the scenery than the story.

I think this started to change during the 1970’s when activists like Gloria Steinem started speaking out for women and the feminist movement began to grow. And though we still see examples of women in film taking on a more stereotypical model (the young woman that is being chased by the evil monster/serial axe murderer/whatever falls and starts crawling while crying in terror rather than getting up and knocking the crap out of her assailant) I think we have a growing number of strong, intelligent characters that have found their way into mainstream entertainment.

Ellen Ripley is my hero

Ellen Ripley is my hero

Ok, so perhaps I’m onboard with feminists thus far. (Or perhaps I’m not). The part that gets confusing to me is when I hear women chanting loudly that they don’t want to be objectified or sexualized. You’ll have to pardon me ladies, but I think this may be a bit hypocritical. I appreciate that you don’t want to be thought of as a sexual object that exists for the purpose of pleasuring men. The purpose of the female existence is not simply to provide sex to men, bear children and care for the family. I get it. You have brains. You have talent. You are no different than men in your dreams and desires and your right to exist as you wish. You are not the weaker sex. But the picture I see being painted by today’s feminist makes it sound like men are not supposed to see women as sexual in any way. If my understanding is correct, then there are a lot of mixed signals men are receiving that contradict what is being said.

Allow me to illustrate. A woman paints her face with makeup. She puts on a push-up bra that holds her surgically enhanced breasts, which she then covers with a low-cut blouse that exposes quite a bit of skin. She slips on a short skirt, black stockings and heels that accentuate her backside. She then goes out to a club with her friends and they spend the evening checking out guys and making comments about the physique and sexual appeal of the men they see. They expect guys to hit on them and if none did, they would feel insulted and disappointed.

Sure, this is just an isolated “snippet” and doesn’t represent the sum of female life but it highlights the contradiction. The truth is, I think women want to be seen in a sexual way by men. They just don’t want this all the time and don’t want to be seen as an object but rather as an empowered sexual equal. When a woman puts on a T-shirt, a pair of jeans, puts her hair back in a ponytail and goes to the grocery store, she’s not looking for men to see her in a sexual light. She just wants to get the things on her shopping list, get through the check out and leave. She wants to be in control of her sexuality in the same way men are (although for most guys, our “sex” switch is perpetually on inside our heads)

Women sexualize men too. It’s natural. Sexuality is hard-wired into our brains. Finding ourselves to be sexually appealing to the opposite sex (or same-sex if you’re gay) is tied to our self-esteem. I don’t think that a woman must be viewed in a sexually neutral way in order to garner respect from men.

I realize I am painting feminists with a broad brush and I know that a great many women who think of themselves as feminists are Sex-positive  and this makes a lot more sense to me. I think it can be empowering for a women to be comfortable with and even use her sexuality without compromising her dignity or demeaning herself. However, it is hard to take seriously the position that many hardliners are extolling that sexually objectifying women is anti-feminist and chauvinistic when many of the women I hear shouting this are holding a copy of 50 Shades of Grey in their hands. (That book, by the way has sold over 100 million copies putting it in the same category as the Harry Potter series and it wasn’t purchases by men that put it there). My point being, ladies is that you can’t expect to be taken seriously about zero sexual objectification when you make a book about a women being treated as a sexual object one of the best-selling books of all times or make breast augmentation the top cosmetic surgery in the country. You can’t have it both ways. Don’t talk about being treated equally and then get mad because a guy didn’t hold the door open for you. If you want equality, then whomever gets to the door first holds it open.

I’ll concede that Madison Avenue uses sex to sell just about everything and the majority of the images that are used are female. I would also agree that the fashion world has created this bizarre image of what women should look like that is not only gross (honestly, 6 ft women that weigh 105 lbs? That’s not even sexy) but dangerously unhealthy and unrealistic. Is Barbie a good toy role model for a young girl? Perhaps not, but neither is He-Man if you think about it.

tumblr_nm3oqdKm6B1spm17no1_540

There is a lot to be said about how modern societies define and encourage gender roles and I would agree that both young girls and boys are subjected to unrealistic concepts. I also realize this is probably an integral part of the overall topic about which I’m writing, but in the interest of not posting a 10,000 word article that no one would read, I’ll just acknowledge that gender role assignment is a discussion that should be had by anyone interested in exploring modern feminism. Also, I’m not going to go into the subject of domestic violence because that goes beyond just differences between men and women and opens up an entirely different discussion about violent human behavior. I will say I have NO tolerance for men who are abusive towards women and leave it at that.

Please don’t misunderstand my position on women. I love them. Women are amazing. I find women overall to be stronger in many ways than men. No man that I know would go through pregnancy and child-birth. Even the manliest of men, a guy that could gut a deer without blinking, step into the octagon and face the fiercest opponent and tear a phone book in half with his bare hands would cry like a baby if he had to push an infant out of a small orifice. If there is a God then I have to assume He (or She) knew what he was doing when he chose the female to be the sex to bear children.

Men and women ARE different in many ways and that’s not only ok, it’s a good thing. We can appreciate our differences without becoming militant about it. I think we can all come to an understanding about the treatment of both sexes that works for everyone. I’m ok if the lady in my life expects me to kill all the bugs and cut the grass and get up in the middle of the night because she heard a strange noise in the kitchen (This is hypothetical by the way. I’m single and live with three female cats and they kill all the bugs.) I can live up to certain expected male roles. I’m also ok if one of my female co-workers gets a promotion over me (assuming she was more qualified). In return, all I ask is that if I happen to ogle a women with an attractive body that I not be berated for it (Can’t I appreciate that this hottie has good genes and works out?) And if women can give me a pass on the fact that I enjoy incense and scented candles, that would be great. It doesn’t make me gay. I just like the way they smell in my home, ok? And yes, I cry during movies once in a great while. Ok, maybe more than once in a while. Ok, maybe all the time, I’m sensitive. Is that so bad?

Ladies, I love you. I really do. I’m not perfect. I’m sure I can do better. But if what I’ve said in this article makes me a chauvinist, then so be it. In the interest of cooperation and understanding let me quote the late Rodney King… Can’t we all just get along?

 

[Author’s note: As an afterthought, I wanted to post this video to illustrate my understanding of “girl-power”. I’m not suggesting that a girl or woman needs to play sports or do other “guy things” to be respected by men. I just like how she takes the typical female stereotype that men often have and kicks it squarely in the nuts (pun intended). “Oh, I’m a little girl so I can’t play football? Fuck you. Watch this!” Or maybe I got this wrong too. In either case, Sam is awesome so watch the video. :)]

~V

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