Living As Woman

Jun 16, 2012 by

I want to start off this article with a few personal experiences I have had recently and not-so-recently.

I was driving with part of my family last week and an old lady drove past us in a big truck.  My six year old brother exclaimed, “Mom!  I just saw an old lady driving a truck!”

She responded, “Are old ladies allowed to drive trucks?”

He confidently answered, “No!”

I wasn’t sure whether the problem was whether the driver was elderly or female, so I asked him, “can old men drive trucks?”

He answered yes.  After further questioning to figure out why he thought these things, eventually he admitted that maybe old ladies can drive trucks after all.  But what struck me was that a child as young as six already has certain discriminatory ideas about gender and gender roles in his head.  Upon further thought, this is not quite so shocking, since he has had six years to see how society views women and men.

A few days ago a friend shared a link with me of a photo shoot of models dressed like Barbie and Ken in ‘real life.’[1]  I thought it was a cute and clever photo series, so I showed it to my mom who was right there.  She didn’t find the photos as cute as I did; in fact she thought that the photos, which showed Ken as very in touch with his feminine side, were “disgusting” (I didn’t even show her the last picture in the series.)  Why is it disgusting to dress and act in a feminine way?  Is femininity disgusting?

That same day my brother posted a Japanese anime video on facebook and tagged me and two of my sisters in it.[2]  In the video three girls get very angry at high school boys and two of them run outside to go yell at their neighbor who is a boy.  The boy just sighs, goes back into his house, and comes back out and throws boxes of chocolates at the girls.  This stops the tirade right in its tracks as the girls greedily pounce on the candy like animals and devour it.  I don’t understand Japanese anime, and I do joke about how much I like chocolate, but this video seemed a bit over the line to me.  Women do not turn into voracious animals around chocolate, and chocolate isn’t a tool to distract angry women.

My last personal experience with gender happened over a year ago.  My college dorm was having a pole fitness event and a friend and I decided to go (Pole fitness is learning how to pole dance as exercise).  It’s not exactly something a feminist would like, but we thought it would be fun.  There were no men present and we were not performing in front of spectators for money.  We were not wearing lingerie; everyone there was wearing workout clothes, because it was a real workout (my arms were sore for days afterwards, and I had bruises all up and down my shins).  I would compare the whole evening to a sleepover party, but instead of learning new makeup tips to feel ‘sexy,’ we learned dancing tips.  My family found out that I was intending to go to this event and while I knew they wouldn’t exactly approve, I was a little shocked at how much they disapproved.  My mother forbade me from going (I went anyways), and after church one Sunday four or five of my siblings approached me and went on about how they were “disappointed in me,” and how it was such a “slutty” thing to do.  Yes, pole fitness is an unorthodox way to exercise, but it’s not like I’m going to perform for men in my underwear.  Is it wrong of me to ask that my own family doesn’t call me a slut for going to one class?

I don’t like when people use words like slut or whore.  Most women are not sluts or whores, and yet the terms are thrown around so casually by both men and women alike.  I can feel so much hatred and disdain towards my gender through the use of these words, and it really disturbs me.  I don’t like knowing that there are people who resent me and hate me just because I am female.  What disturbs me even more is hearing my own siblings toss around these words, particularly my younger sister.  I’ve noticed that my experiences with gender have come from my own family.  Perhaps that is because my family is just sexist, but I don’t think that my family as a whole is so different from society in that respect.

I found a video on YouTube the other day that described the Bechdel test, which is a test to determine if a movie has a female presence in it.[3]  The criteria are 1: are there two or more named female characters? 2: do those female characters talk to each other? And 3: do they talk about something other than a man?  These three standards seem ridiculously easy to meet, and yet apparently many movies do not make the cut.  I find this sad and pathetic.

I have recently finished a book by Jessica Valenti called The Purity Myth:  How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women.  This book is the reason why my interest in gender issues has been renewed.   Valenti brings up many interesting points about how women are being dehumanized from every corner of society, but she also devotes a chapter to the unrealistic standards that men face every day.  She also includes questions for discussion, resources, magazines, blogs and books at the end of the book.  I recommend this book to anyone who is interested.

Valenti talks about the virgin/whore dichotomy for women, which is the idea that if a woman is not ‘pure’ or chaste she is a whore, and there’s no gray area in between.  This false dichotomy relates back to my disturbance with people calling women sluts and whores; I don’t agree with this black and white view either.  Women are more than their level of sexual activity, and their sexual activity should not have a bearing on their moral character.  After all, a man’s moral character is not based on his sexual activity, but rather on his reason and prudence.  Shouldn’t a women’s moral character be judged likewise?

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5 Comments

  1. joeltaylor1989

    A couple of minor problems that I have noticed with this article.
    First, your video on chocolate is a bit idiotic to use. Comedy makes fun of stereotypes. Chocolate is a stereotype of women. You may argue that the stereotype is wrong, but don’t call the video sexist for playing off the stereo type, attack the existence of the stereotype at all.
    Now, you may want to now proceed to attack the stereotype. However, your chocolate example of a stereotype LITERALLY is a comedic stereotype. You may appeal to the fact that chocolate is a staple of valentine’s day. Then you are going into the realm of, if it wasn’t a thing most girls liked, it wouldn’t be a staple. Thus, that example seems to justify a stereotypes’ existence. Notice, there are justified stereotypes. Stereotypes based on how a majority acts. A stereotype does not mean all act this way, just most. If you have something against women liking chocolate, that is a different issue.
    My five year old niece saw a statue, talked to it, and pet it on the head, there is a reason they have a show called “kids say the darnedest things.” A kid can hear the word dam in a sentence about energy creation, and go around shouting it around the street. A kid can hear a joke on TV and take it as reality until later corrected. Your brother was corrected for his problem with old women, what are you complaining about? That he had an error in judgement? HE IS SIX FOR GOD’S SAKE!
    In regards to feminine men, if I am disgusted when my kid listens to music about treating women like objects, sex, and pot, is it wrong for me to tell him to turn it off because I am worried it will produce him to be over-tolerant of that in his own life rather than merely tolerant of it in others?
    In regards to term usage, keep in mind, there are other demeaning words that are thrown around. People naturally look down on others’ lifestyle and use words to do so. Two people can act the exact same, and those words will be used on each other because they just don’t like each other. So either you are saying there is nothing wrong with being an actual one of those words, or you are saying that we overuse those words. If it is that we overuse those words, then yes, but if you think it is from sexism, there are a lot of female dogs out there as well as walking excretions.
    In regards to the pole exercises, you seem to be having problems with the family expressing concern about what you are doing by calling you a slut. That is a fair problem. However, how many times do we attempt to win arguments by reaching to the extreme. In this case, the argument is that you are acting like one and they are worried that you are falling into an acceptance of that type of lifestyle, maybe not pole dancing, but casual sex. So, like most arguments, they skip the middle and cut straight to the main point. The younger kids are feeding off the parents, but that is the parent’s concern. Look at our politics, socialist and rich getting richer are the arguments presented. When the argument is not done in academia, which few high and mighty college students understand, the argument does not always take a formal stance. A reasonable person addresses the concerns, and tries to keep the discussion alive. Compromise is not always unreasonable. Compromise does not, in that case, mean dancing without a pole, but asking that if you don’t do it, for them to talk to you and hear you out without getting upset or arguing. If they do, you keep trying.
    As far as your movie example goes, name the last film to have more than four main characters, seeing as how minor characters rarely get enough lines for this requirement to be reasonable but are named; that came out that wasn’t a flick about dating (Notice that all love films or films that have love as a main plot are immediately excluded from this test on the basis that two chicks talking might be about the main plot but is about the other guys); where a conversation could be relevant and about something other than a main male character (a conversation about the events going on cannot take place without talking about a man). Yes at first look these requirements seem easy to meet, but, in the end, are, for our current style of films that we like, hard to meet. (For the record and irony of title ‘Sucker Punch’) (Also for the record, notice a list of movies that are blacklisted by default, but are not expressing sexism. EVERY MOVIE WITH LIMITED CHARACTERS, EVERY MOVIE BASED ON A NOVEL OR COMIC, EVERY ACTION MOVIE WITH ONE HERO WHO IS NOT A WOMAN, EVERY MOVIE WHERE THERE IS A REASON FOR LIMITED WOMEN, EVERY MOVIE ABOUT THE MILITARY, EVERY ROMANTIC COMEDY, EVERY PERIOD MOVIE, EVERY MOVIE WHERE A GUY IS THE LEAD [since all conversation will be about him]. This greatly limits the list of movies to be used as evidence.)
    Seeing as how my comment seems to be a work of its own, I will leave off there and add no more until my current points are addressed. But, for the record, this started off as a rant. Until the end, it sounded like it was all about how bad your family is, not about the issue at hand. Family can be an example, but if you want to sound serious, don’t make it a main point. Opinion News shows on Fox and MSNBC are guilty of these personal experience stories all too often as it is.

  2. The End Is Near

    Why did you choose pole dancing as a form of exercise? Is it a better workout? Does it offer a type of activity that works a part of the body that other workouts do not? If your choice had nothing to do with the content of the exercise, others like your family, would have concluded that the common use of the pole indicates a demeaning act for a woman. Why would you want to represent yourself in that way and tell your parents?

  3. Gerber

    The only question I have is if you think as badly about people when you realize that what you are arguing against is the scientific part of a person’s mind at work? Our analysis of the world around us tells us if something is different in space or time, it is a different object. If there are two objects which are identical in composition, then they are two of the same object, made of the same thing, and can be used in the same way. If they are different in composition, then they are different types of objects with their own benefits, descriptions, and uses. When, however, we apply this to objects we use most often, i.e. each other, we form stereotypes. Now, I am not saying that this is good, but when you consider that this is how most people form stereotypes, not out of hate, but analysis of people they meet or from receiving prior evidence from others, it seems that they are merely doing that which science is teaching us to do in today’s day and age. If you tell a scientist that his data is wrong because it leaves out certain ideas that are not empirically evidential, then he gets mad at you and has the same reaction these people are having to you. They may be wrong, you may be wrong, but can you really have a strong feeling about it when you consider it a product of our scientific thought process rather than mere preset beliefs?

  4. Gabbylicious

    “The war between the sexes is over. We won the second women started doing pole dancing for exercise.” –the character Ryan Gosling plays in Crazy, Stupid, Love

  5. Closet Otaku

    For the record, I’m amazed that everyone is focusing on the chocolate at the end of the video, and not on the blatant misandry present at ever point leading up to the chocolate. The girls were LITERALLY shouting at Toshiyuki why he doesn’t just DIE just because he’s a high school aged boy. That he responds with grace (by not shouting back or attacking women in ANY way) and just distracts his aggressors is what really struck me about the video.

    There are of course, many jokes within the clip that may not be apparent to those unfamiliar with anime tropes and the anime industry at large. But I’m shocked that people only focus on the part of the clip, the only part that can even BE construed as against women, rather than the attack on men that took up 80% of the clip.

    We live in a society blind to misandry, but quick to act the victim whenever women are portrayed as anything less than strong, independent, and smarter than their male counterparts.

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