Friday, September 30, 2011

Rant of the Day

"I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute."    --Rebecca West



It happens every few months.

Somehow, something sets me off.  It may be a book, it may be something I heard someone say, it may be a picture.  I never know when it will strike, but when it does I transform from Calm and Unassuming Student to Angry and Homicidal Feminist.

In this case, it was a video.

http://www.vimeo.com/28066212

Watch this and tell me that, if you are female, this doesn't make you want to go join some sort of crusade against the media and society and men in general (or if you are male, want to go hide somewhere where your wife/girlfriend/sister/friend/mother who has joined said crusade cannot find you).  My roommate sent me this video today when I was at work, and after taking an eight-minute break to watch it I was angry.  I came home from work, stormed into the bedroom where my roommate was, thanked her for sending me the video, and then I ranted.  I yelled.  I screamed.  I swore.  I cried.  I yelled some more.  I pondered getting a buzz cut and never wearing makeup again, just to make a point.  I laughed hysterically at that mental image.  I continued to yell, fairly incoherently.  And then I faded off into angry muttering.

Four and a half hours have since passed, and I can now look back with humor at my evening rant.  But the fact is, it is an issue I am passionate about it.  With the exception of days like today, I generally don't go off on rants about it, but I am thoroughly a feminist and thoroughly frustrated with the treatment of women by the media.

What is feminism?  Well, according to Rush Limbaugh, "Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women access to the mainstream of society."  Fortunately, I choose to put my faith in sources untainted by prescription drug addictions, but this quote points out the biggest problem blocking progression of women's rights: Whenever a woman acts in a manner contrary to the demure, weak, subservient feminine "ideal," the first thing that is criticized is her looks.

What?

Why is it that when a woman is strong and intelligent, the first thing that is questioned isn't her ideas, but rather her figure?  Or her hair?  Or her outfit?  Why is it that those who oppose Hilary Clinton don't criticize her views, but rather her outfits, or her laugh, or her thighs?  Why, when unable to articulate a counterargument to a female politician, do those who oppose them resort to sexually humiliating portrayals?  Why is it that women are expected to spend hours on their hair, their outfits, and their makeup?  Why does society construct an image of the ideal woman that is impossible to attain, and then tear down women who cannot meet that standard?  Why are women sexually objectified, abused, and used for marketing?  Why are the male equivalencies of a slut--a player, a womanizer, a pimp-- not considered a bad thing?  Why is it socially acceptable for an old man to date a young woman, a smart man to date a dumb woman, and a rich man to date a poor woman-- but not the other way around?  Why can men still be considered attractive when they are overweight, or old, or not even necessarily particularly good-looking, but for a woman to be considered attractive she must be size zero and twenty-two years old?  Why is an intelligent woman considered unfeminine?

Why do we as a society pander to fragile male egos?

I don't understand what it is about a strong female that is so intimidating to men.  I don't understand why we as a society have to persistently enforce the norm of the strong man and his little wife.  It's something that makes me wonder if marriage is even worth it.  So many women's husbands get home from work, eat the dinner their wife made, and then shuffle off to the living room to watch football while their wife does the dishes.  It's as though women's efforts mean nothing; men are expected to be the ones with jobs, opinions and personalities, while all women are expected to bring to the relationship is a clean house, meals, good looks, and a uterus.

The pressure on women to fuss over their appearance is astounding.  No matter how smart a woman is, how kind, how funny, how strong, it is not enough: for her to matter, she must be beautiful, as defined by male sexual preferences.  Clothing and cosmetic industries play off female insecurities and make a fortune at it by simultaneously making women feel inadequate and offering a glimmer of false hope that with the right products, they can be as attractive as they want to be.

They can't.  No matter how much time and money they spend, women will never be as beautiful as society tells them to be.  And that shouldn't matter.  But it does.

The problem is that while I can acknowledge these issues, I am at the same time affected by these same pressures and as a result am a part of the problem.  Earlier today, I pondered getting a buzz cut and never wearing makeup again to make a statement.  Will I do it?  Of course not.  I agonize over what I look like just as much as everyone else.  But the fact is, while somehow in my mind I hope that my new hairstyle, or new outfit, or makeup tip I read about will make me pretty, it won't.  I know this, but it doesn't stop me from trying.  And the knowledge that I will never measure up to the beautiful feminine ideal doesn't make me feel empowered, it just makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and cry over the fact that I haven't been on a date in a really long time.  I acknowledge that it is ridiculous, but so is the whole situation.  It is absolutely ridiculous that women as they are are not enough.

For the record, I don't hate men, or even blame them entirely for the treatment of women.  As long as women allow society to devalue them, they are equally part of the problem.

And yet my long hair remains.

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