I’ve been having a running argument with a friend on Facebook, all because of this one article that she posted. She liked it, I didn’t. She has good points but I hold stubbornly to mine that constantly being on the defensive implies guilt and uncertainty, both uncalled for.
The author’s stand seems to me to be highly coloured by certain (probably involuntary) fascist aspects of the “women’s movement”, for want of a better phrase:
1. Women worthy of respect have to conform to specific non-“girly” rules, which is as appearance-obsessed as the point of view it affects to despise.
2. The professions most worth aspiring to are those that were historically male bastions: lawyer, doctor, entrepreneur
3. Women have to try harder just because they are women just to impress other women
4. Everything, but everything is judged in comparison, not as it is.
It's a tyranny of discrimination nearly as bad as the other one. I agree there was a time when it was necessary to go too far, but the pendulum wasn’t quite allowed to continue swinging until it found equilibrium. I have three nieces below the age of six and I resent much of the article on their behalf and for their sakes.
If anything, girls should be taught that being female is merely a fact of birth, like your family or the colour of your eyes. It's not your only identity. Your achievements shouldn’t be judged by it ("woman president", "woman CEO"), nor should you be strung up for having failed the “sisterhood” if you're an underachiever. You can be girly or feminine or boyish or butch, or whatever the current media label, or none of them. What type of woman you are doesn’t matter, what counts is what kind of person you are.
I hope my nieces will know that they are free to respond to the world as people. To ignore the media, both for and against, and think for themselves. To not argue with fools who start stupid discussions that begin with "all women" or "all men". To laugh at a sexist joke if they find it funny without it in any way affecting their power of perception. I hope they understand that the world will chatter incessantly but they are free to let go of all expectations but their own. To be women or ladies or girls without feeling a driving need for aggression or apology.
Only one important thing is wrong with the pink princess franchise – her inherent helplessness. The princess does not do for herself. Fate, fairy godmother, prince or a singing teapot always has to intervene for her. The other things – obsession with beauty, for example – are only secondary to this very dangerous message. For the rest of it, they’re just fantasies, no more cause for socio-cultural angst than Superman or Tarzan.
Then there’s this genius who wrote 1000 plus words in the New York Times, no less, about women bullying women in the workplace. Apparently the gentler sex is usually the kind, caring custodian of the careers of all other women in the world, so any deviation from this is an aberration worth reporting. What is this - a Bene Gesserit breeding program?
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