|Right... because using real swords and killing each other is a definite plus.|
I bring this up because I have this acquaintance to thank for probably causing me (whether directly or indirectly) to exhibit my views on gender equality to a greater degree than I would have before. Yes, I'd care about feminism regardless, and yes, I am getting a degree in a major in which feminism plays a major, vital role. But after you care for someone who doesn't care about you and also happens to believe that women doth protest too much and might just happen to have stated that a woman's place is in the kitchen... well, women's rights suddenly takes on a much deeper meaning.
Also, my job as an assistant building manager in a campus apartment has made these issues a lot closer to home. I have an inkling that my roommate (who is the main building manager) and I are being payed less than the previous manager, because he was male and we are female. And there's been slight, subtle tenancies for people to question our abilities at repairs and maintenance because we are female. It's not blatant, but I can feel there; an undercurrent of awkwardness and slight rage, just like status above gave me. It's not enough to call someone out on it, but it's enough to piss me off.
Which is what this post on my personal blog picks up on; involving the awkward situation of being upset with women themselves showing sexist tendencies - and not even knowing it. After this incident of seeing how my own friends from class could be doing things that, to me, read as hurtful to themselves, I started thinking about fangirls and feminism and if there was a connection there.
And then, because the world is an absolutely wonderful place, my classes started giving me material exactly when I needed it. We began discussing gender politics from the 1950s in my television class. Gender and performance came up in Music as Discourse. And then I read Helene Cixous for my Comedy: Text and Theory class. And I got incredibly happy.
If you've never heard of her before, Helene Cixous is a French feminist writer, perhaps best known for "The Laugh of the Medusa." In this essay, Cixous describes how women, especially in writing, must find their own way of expressing themselves, away from the way men do. "Women must write woman. And man, man," she states (877). Prior to this she says, "beauty must no longer be forbidden" and describes how, in her desire to express herself:
so full of luminous torrents that I could burst - burst with forms much more beautiful than those which are put up in frames and sold for a stinking fortune. And I, too, said nothing, showed nothing: I didn't open my mouth, I didn't repaint my half of the world. I was ashamed. I was afraid, and I swallowed my shame and my fear. I said to myself: You are mad! What's the meaning of these waves, these floods, these outbursts? Where is the ebullient, infinite woman, who, immersed as she was in her naivete, kept in the dark about herself, led into self-disdain by the great arm of parental-conjugal phallocentrism, hasn't been ashamed of her strength? Who, surprised and horrified by the fantastic tumult of her drives (for she was made to believe that a well-adjusted normal woman has a... divine composure), hasn't accused herself of being a monster? Who, feeling a funny desire stirring inside her (to sing, to write, to dare to speak, in short, to bring out something new), hasn't thought she was sick? Well, her shameful sickness is that she resists death, that she makes trouble. (876)The italics above are mine, highlighting my favorite part of this rather long quote. What Cixous discusses is an immensely important issues in discussions of feminism and femininity: the female body itself. Somewhere in the past (the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, the myth of Medusa, the fear of the pregnant woman - wherever you want to pick a starting point) men became slightly terrified of the female form. At some point in time, men realized, "Holy shit, women don't have penises." For some reason, woman became man's opposite. And then men encountered the age-old fear: "if I lose my penis... I'll be just like a woman." Because women represented the opposite of men: nature, the bodily, the very grotesque itself (meaning anything that makes us animal and bodily; this deserves further description, but it involves bringing up Descartes and that'll take another hour at least. For simplicity's sake, we've split up the mind and body into two separate entities, and we're always trying to control the urges of the body (think Freud ego/superego/id split if you're more familiar with that)) woman became something shameful and all that comes with it (pregnancy, menstruation, breast feeding).
Sounds ridiculous, right? It is - and yet it's the basis of what's been called the patriarchy. You know, the society we all live it where men still make more than women. Sucks, doesn't it?
Of course, this is all theory, not real-world application. So, to make it a little more clear, I was going to show you this clip from About Schmidt. I've never seen this movie, but we watched this excerpt in my Comedy class the other day. Except when I watched this video, I realized that it doesn't allow me to make any of the points I was hoping for (which is a message in itself). There's supposed to be a shot of Kathy Bates, standing totally nude, before she climbs into the hot tub. But for whatever reason, this scene has been deleted from the posted video. Why? Probably because of what my Comedy professor was saying the other day. When this movie was released in theaters, people flipped out at seeing Kathy Bates nude. No one cared that, at the end of this scene, you see Jack Nicholson's ass as he peels off his swimming trunks (which is not in the clip as it ends too soon). But Bates' middle aged form drew shock and admiration at her "bravery" for undertaking such a role. Despite the fact that Kathy Bates sees and lives in that body EVERY DAY OF HER LIFE.
Think about all the issues with the female form - in regards to self-esteem and weight (something I will becoming back to later). In representation. In establishing strength. There's not a solution for these problems and there's no right answers, but there are definitely some wrong ones. Like this:
Obviously, loads more to say on the topic. But that'll do for now.
|This hedgehog proudly supports women's rights.|