Don’t Abuse the Power of Pretty

I’ve met plenty a pretty person, and I think it’s good for beautiful people to have confidence and don’t shirk away from their attractiveness. But there comes a point when knowing you’re pretty can turn into an abusive power.

The type of power abuse I’m referring to is commonly known as a “tease”, “heartbreaker”, or a “flirt”. These have feminine connotations, but I have met a fair share of handsome gentlemen with the same tendencies as beautiful women. These power abusers know they’re beautiful, enjoy it, and like to see others reactions to their beauty. Often times I’ve noticed that it becomes a bit of a game to them, seeing the opposite sex (or same sex queer) squirm. It is an incredibly powerful feeling to not have to do much other than exist and smile to make someone melt. And like all other powerful feelings, it can become addictive.

Look at how many I have on the line!

Look at how many I have on the line!

The opposite is also true of beautiful people; they can also not like to address their beauty or use it per se, because they are embarrassed by the attention or it or would feel entirely too conceited for them to acknowledge it in any way, shape, or form. I used to be this way. And yes, if someone asks me now if I think I am attractive, I say yes. It is an objective quality determined by any number of things including general cultural cues, independent preferences, and moods. But if I think I am an attractive individual, for whatever reason, I shouldn’t be embarrassed to acknowledge it. Anything else would be demeaning. There’s a difference between that and modesty.

Modesty is important. If you do think you’re attractive, don’t make a point of bringing it up to people, or rubbing it in their faces. Such attitude would be what is known as a “sore winner”. Confidence is great, but crossing the bridge into braggart territory is just harmful. The abuse of power I’m talking about is another harmful effect of being a sore winner in the game of beauty.

I had a friend once, who was off and on in a committed relationship with a guy for several years. I thought for sure they were destined to be married (turns out they were, they are now married.) But she would always attract the attention of other people, guys and lesbians alike. When she was single she would flirt and smile and offer her attentions to almost anyone, leading them to believe that she was really on their side and interested. She had many offers to become romantic with these other people, but she always declined and ended up returning to her steady flame. What bothered me most was that even whilst she was taken she would continue the flirting and sending “I’m really interested in you” vibes to these other people that were quite obviously interested in more than just her vague friendship. I told her once that I felt she was leading them on and that it wasn’t very nice. She just looked at me and said, “It’s fun.”

While it was fun for her to see how many callers she could get from both sexes, it wasn’t as fun for the people who thought they had made a genuine connection with her. What a surprise when all that alone time she spent doting on them turned out to be nothing more than a mild entertainment for her. It usually left them confused, upset, and very down on themselves. Being played with like a toy isn’t fun for the person standing in as the “toy”- no matter what Toy Story leads us to believe.

I try to be wary of this. I’ve gained confidence since high school, but I want to be responsible with it. As much as it sucks, beauty is power to an extent. If a guy I don’t feel romantically inclined to or even physically attracted to asks me to do something like sit in his lap or hang out one-on-one in a romantic setting I turn them down. Better to let them know immediately that it’s not what you’re into than to lead them along and play with their emotions. That is just cruel. And you never know, you may be distracting them from opportunities to meet the real person for them.

Taming the Mane

Am I pretty?

Am I pretty?

I’ve noticed a trend in the common world today, straight hair is the equivalent of beauty. I will admit that in my adolescence I watched make-over shows (primarily for the clothing), and in my time as an intern at a women’s magazine the makeovers were all incredibly similar in their styling. Every makeover given on a tv show or for a magazine saw to the flattening of curls. Frizzies were abolished and the women were sent on their way with products to help tame the mane. The shows and magazines are all saying the same thing: to be successful women should be attractive. Well, that’s not entirely wrong in our current clusterfuck of a society.

Women are perceived as more powerful if they know how to inspire arousal. And I do know that some of the shows (What Not to Wear for example) actually get to the core matter in that the issue isn’t attractiveness, it’s confidence. Stacy and Clinton are always saying, “If you feel good about your appearance you’ll feel better about your insides and exude that confidence for everyone to see, including employers, friends, family, and prospective romantic partners.” Or something along those lines.

Confidence is the key point here. Yes, it’s a good idea to look professional on a job interview, but that doesn’t mean you have to rid yourself of personality or the characteristics that make you truly stand out as an individual. More and more I’m viewing a sea of straight-haired beauties wearing ridiculous amounts of make-up to work out and pumps for every other occasion. Soon stilettos will be on treadmills and there will be mandatory waxes and peels for job positions. I may be exaggerating a bit, but I don’t think confidence should be derived from appearances. Women and men alike are being taught daily that sex appeal trumps everything else. (Feel great naked? Of course you feel great, you’re NAKED!)

I think the ultimate confidence is when you don’t have to change your looks to appeal to others. I was born with Shirley Temple hair, and by golly, if it doesn’t frizz up into a wet dog of a mess every time it rains. I still keep it in its natural element, and don’t fret terribly over its dead cell existence. Many a time friends, boyfriends, and family have remarked on how little time it takes me to get ready in the morning or before going out. That’s because I throw on something I’m comfortable in, dab on some make-up for funsies, and I’m out the door in 10 minutes or less. The point of going out into the world is to experience things, not look to see how others are experiencing you. (Or shall I say judging?) Who gives a damn.

In the ridiculous movie Bachelorette, the heavier bride, played by Rebel Wilson, said to her maid of honor (Kirsten Dunst) that everyone thought she was too fat for her soon to be husband. Kirsten Dunst just turns to her and says, “Fuck everyone.” I haven’t been this happy with Kirsten Dunst since Bring it On. Such comments are usually spouted out of a place of jealousy or self-loathing. Giving them any attention just warrants their further usage.

I’m not saying that if you straighten your hair you’re insecure, plenty of women derive confidence from the act among other things and that’s great. But it’s a cheap confidence if it’s obtained through beauty alone. Physical beauty fades, it’s a fact of our decomposing bodies that we don’t remain forever 22, and delaying the process with surgeries and treatments only makes the transition into later life more difficult. Why cling to something that doesn’t offer up anything of substance? Instead, sharpen your minds, eat well, and enjoy the simplicity and chaos that can be life. Rock your straight hair into your eighties if you want, but just realize that no one truly cares. At that age, we’re all on the verge of being forgotten, or forgetful. It won’t matter what’s on top of our heads as much as what’s within it.

Saying “Vagina”

This is my last post for my class Sociology of Gender, but be warned, I will probably continue to write about gender issues, just with less frequency. Entering the class I started out being a feminist. And I must say, I am still a feminist, but a much better educated one. I’ve always aspired to be different from other women, but now I realize that I shouldn’t be trying to outshine other women, I should be supportive of them, and try to make a difference in the gendered way people socialize by just speaking up (politely, of course.) Women who do not come from the same background as me, women who have been taught that they are inferior, and women who feel they need to dumb themselves down to be attractive are not my enemy, the societal rules that told them to be that way are.

Throughout the course, I’ve come to see feminism as more of a collective than individual effort. Sure, each individual has the power to determine how they approach things. I certainly view TV and movies with a different eye, I hear what a lot of guys my age say differently, but I’m not the only one who has to be exposed to gender inequalities, it’s everyone, men too. With this mindset, I have decided to partake in the  Mizzou production of The Vagina Monologues. Yes, that ever restricted word VAGINA. I’m saying it, and I’ll probably be saying some variation of it multiple times on the stage at Jesse Hall in front of my peers and my parents. Yup, daddio will be in attendance. But the main purpose of the Vagina Monologues is to empower women, help raise awareness, and end violence against women. In our first rehearsal, Struby Struble (awesome name, right?) kept using the phrase “feminist collective” which simply meant we were all in it together, not just the women in the room or the women worldwide who participate in V-Day, the umbrella organization, but all women period. I would even venture to say that the feminist collective includes men who are feminists. It’s not about drawing a line in the sand, either around yourself or your gender. Anyone who wishes to end violence or the stigma surrounding female sexuality and abuse is a part of the effort.

If my super masculine father wants to see a show called “The Vagina Monologues” there must be hope for everyone. In the orientation video we watched during our first rehearsal, a police officer was interviewed about the play being put on in his community. He said that his job was about protecting the safety of people, so of course he was supportive of the V-Day movement. If everyone thought this way, there would be much less skepticism surrounding the idea of a feminist movement. It’s not about the fact that a bunch of women are screaming vagina at the top of their lungs, it’s that they’re free to talk about their struggles as women with fellow women and others who care and can help. The freedom of expression in the play is about ending the silence that many abused women endure. If there wasn’t such a stigma around rape, incest, or genitals, abused people all over the world would feel more comfortable talking about and reporting their attacks, which could help with finding a solution.

The words “vagina”, “cunt”, “pussy”, “clitoris”, and “twat” may be hard words for people to hear, but think about why they’re hard to hear. Words don’t become obscene overnight, people are told they’re offensive and shouldn’t be spoken. They shouldn’t be talked about or bad things will happen. When women learn that words for their genitals, their very womanhood, are offensive to the average listener, they tend to become ashamed and introverted on the subject, making it difficult to discuss sexual needs to partners, relationship abuse, rape, or incest. If women are taught it’s their fault, they’re going to start believing it.

Fact: Most Feminists Don’t Practice Castration

In the common gender discourse, it’s easy to vilify men. Women are often the pushers of gender equality, but for it to be successful on a global scale, men have to be a part of the conversation. Writer R.W. Connell says just that in her article Change Among the Gatekeepers. It’s ironic that a group trying to achieve gender equality would not only exclude men, but also characterize them as the problem. To achieve the equality that these women’s groups are suggesting, they need to start seeing men as just as complex a group as women.

The problem is not men themselves, it’s patriarchy. Many men do not overtly share the beliefs and practices of a patriarchal system. A man who won’t allow his wife to earn more than him is certainly participating in patriarchy, but if the wife obeys and takes a lesser job is participating just as much. What many gender equality groups and women in general forget is that even though many men are advantaged, the benefits are not spread evenly over all men. Only the few, powerful and wealthy men possess the true benefits of being a man, without incurring any of the disadvantages. When you think about it, there are several disadvantages to possessing a “Y’. Men occupy the most dangerous careers, suffer the most industrial injuries, pay most of the taxation, and are under heavier social pressures to be and remain employed in a typically “masculine” job according to Connell. Many of the men who occupy the dangerous careers are not the ones with stay-at-home wives or a high salary.

The irony of the situation is demonstrated pretty well in an episode of Parks and Recreation in which Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson take the Pawnee Rangers and the Pawnee Goddesses on a weekend trip to the forest. Ron is in charge of the Rangers, the boys’ group, while Leslie is in charge of the Goddesses, the girl group. In the Rangers, Ron emphasizes manliness, which consists of silence and surviving by just sitting and staring into the fire while eating beans. The Goddesses partake in several fun activities like making s’mores and having pillow fights. This sparks envy within the boys in the Rangers and they beg to become Goddesses. At first, Leslie refuses them saying they belong in the boys’ group with Ron, but then the girls argue that segregation is always inherently unequal, citing Brown v. Board. They also say that excluding the boys is against everything their feminist heroes have fought for: equality among the sexes. Leslie then decides that the boys have every right to become goddesses and they’re all initiated into the group. They celebrate with a puppy party.

Even in fictionalized situations, it’s obvious that men and women have to share ideas and respect each other for the truth of gender equality to be realized. Excluding men is the same as excluding women, both are social injustices and demean human character. Rather than take revenge on the entire male population, many of whom probably haven’t a true sexist bone in their bodies, we have to move towards a mutual respect that perpetuates the idea that when together, we can accomplish great things.

Hello, My Name is Birthing Vessel

In many aspects of my life I’m reminded that I am a potential mother. That lovely crimson reminder each month is the least of my worries however. As young as five years old, I was told that I would make a good mommy some day by my day care supervisor. I had a fascination with dolls at the time and was constantly dressing them, brushing their hair, and making them drink tea, one of the best beverages of all time. I’m not sure if this was indicative of my innate mothering skills though, since I often forgot to feed them or put them to sleep.

Women are often assumed to have one main purpose in life: to give birth. Regardless of actual want or skill, it’s society’s command that women who can bear children should, and must. At some point in their lives, women are encouraged to become pregnant by friends, family, coworkers, or culture such as TV shows, advertisements, and/or movies. I myself have felt the heat mainly from family members.

Once when I was seven or eight, my mom gave me her old Barbies from the 60’s. I liked Barbies a lot, so I figured they were just for me to play with, but the first thing my mumsy told me was that I would pass them on to my daughter when I did have one. This confused me, I instantly withdrew from the Barbies and asked her, “What if I don’t have a daughter?” She laughed as she said that someday I would make her a very happy grandma. It was a sweet moment, my mother wanting to start a family tradition and all. But the happiness that I caused her seemed to be a conditional one. If I became a mother and gave her grand babies to spoil, she would be happy. Now that I’m older I know my mumsy will always be happy for me, but at the same time I know she would be even more ecstatic if I got married and popped out a couple rugrats.

It’s a common theme threaded throughout society that a woman’s most noble and important role is to replace herself with a new human being. Think of all the period piece movies in which people, especially those of noble birth, say a wife’s only role is to bring her husband and the rest of the world a son. She’s diminished to nothing more than the means of releasing a boy into the world. Nowadays, giving birth to any gender is highly revered in many places, not just boys, but the logic remains the same. The woman is mother first, and wife second. Nothing else is important.

In cases of domestic violence, women are often blamed for the abuse inflicted on their children by intimate partners or the children’s father. It is the woman’s fault for not removing the children from harm’s way even though she is incurring abuse as well and the options abused women face are often faulty and dangerous. In the book, Our Bodies, Our Crimes, Flavin says that when abused women try to leave their abusers it actually creates more reactionary violence because the abuser’s control is being threatened. The automatic blame placed on the abused mothers and not the abuser is a telling sign of how society thinks of women. Their ultimate goal is to be mothers and to protect their children, her harm is of no consequence, the only harm that matters is the harm against the child. What society doesn’t seem to realize is that healthy, stable children are usually the result of healthy and stable mothers. With no concern to the mother’s well-being children are often thrown into the same state of despair. Not to mention children become adults. If we take care of the children only when they are young, our society is sending the message that youth is a priority, especially the female population.

Another area of society in which women are treated as mothers and nothing else is in the actual process of giving birth. Hospital birth has largely taken over the United States, leaving home births with midwives at less than one percent. This is a problem because when women deliver in a hospital, all of their control over their bodies vanishes. In The Business of Being Born movie, it shows that women are pumped with drugs to induce labor faster so they can get more women in and out of the hospital, and a lot of the time they’re urged into treatments and surgeries, like cesarean section, without having knowledge of what it is they’re being forced into. The woman’s health is compromised and she’s viewed as just another body delivering a baby. All the focus is on the child and getting it out as quickly as possible. The whole process of birth is diminished along with the woman’s autonomy.

When viewing popular culture, it becomes clear that women are destined for motherhood and nothing more in our society. Most of the women on TV are either attractive, young mothers, or young women of childbearing age that could become mothers quickly. With these images saturating the market, it’s no wonder women are reduced to child bearers and nothing more. While it’s true that giving birth can be a great blessing and empowering for some women, it can also mean devastation and disempowerment for others. Just because women have the ability to become pregnant doesn’t mean that they want to or should. It applies in the same way that just because men can become fathers doesn’t mean that they have the desire to or are obligated. It cheapens the whole experience to force it onto people who are unable to enjoy it or simply have no interest in it. And even when a woman becomes a mother, it is not her only role in society. The ideal mom who does nothing but mother and homemake is quickly vanishing. Most women have careers, hobbies, and even interests! No one should live for one single thing. It has been said that it’s wise not to place all of your eggs in one basket.

Birthright

When Americans think of reproductive rights for women, they often go straight to abortion. That is what has had the most controversy and media attention, but there’s the opposite side of the reproductive rights spectrum: the right to bear a child.

Being the white, middle-class woman that I am, it’s hard for me to imagine someone not allowing me to conceive and give birth to a child. In fact, it’s incredibly easy for me to see people protesting the fact that I don’t want my own child by either giving it up for adoption or getting an abortion. Many people would probably call me irresponsible, stupid, etc. but I can’t think of a single person or entity that would tell me it was simply not allowed that I bear a child and raise it myself.

This is not the case with many women however. Women of races other than white were discouraged from procreating in the 1920s because the United States had a eugenics program in which a European Protestant population was favored. President Theodore Roosevelt thought that the “wrong” women were reproducing according to Flavin’s book, Our Bodies, Our Crimes. He thought that their genetic backgrounds were unsavory and so thought that their genes should not contribute to the future generations. These minorities in the future fought for the reproductive right to bear a child by arguing for better pay and benefits, state supported child care, and affordable, safe housing.

Race is not the only distinction made in terms of who has the right to bear a child. Women determined “feeble-minded” or who have been incarcerated are also encouraged to be sterilized. Women are even given “no procreation” orders by judges without any kind of legal backing. As a woman who doesn’t want to have any children that I couldn’t afford, it was difficult for me to read that women who were socially and/or economically disadvantaged actually wanted to raise a child on their own. Raising a child while in prison or addicted to drugs or even without much financial support is what I picture a living hell to be like. And especially in the case of women who are addicted to illegal drugs, it’s hard for me to sympathize with their desire to be mothers when they can’t seem to take care of themselves.

I’ve come to realize that the “it’s for the child” arguments can lead down a slippery slope in which women’s reproductive rights are tightly controlled by government, which is as we know, is dominated by men. These women, despite their personal issues, have every right to become mothers. The government should only step in when the mother’s actions actually have a negative effect on the child. And a woman should never be sterilized so that there’s no hope of her ever becoming pregnant, no matter how much personal reformation she undergoes. It sets a poor example for the rest of society whenever women are given court orders not to procreate and men are rarely sterilized in the penal system. When women are stripped of their reproductive rights, it sends the message that they don’t have the ability to be autonomous or have control over their own bodies. And that message, given usually by men, is a dangerous route to defining men and women’s roles in society.

Silly Women, Sports Are For Men

It’s common throughout the world that women are either limited in their participation in sports or banned from the concept entirely. But one would think that in a progressive, Western society like the United States there would be a bit more equality and inclusion. I’m here to report that this is still only an ideal in our country rather than a reality.

As with many aspects of society, this separation and exclusion starts young. As a child I was ushered into dance and gymnastics, feminized sports if people even desired to call them sports. My brother and my male counterparts however were encouraged to partake in baseball, basketball, football, and soccer. I “rebelled” at the age of 8 and joined the recreational soccer league. I could choose to play on an all girls team or a co-ed team. I was all for playing with boys and girls, since in the fourth grade I played with people of all genders on the playground, but my parents told me that the co-ed teams would play too rough for my poor girly sensitivities. “They’re too aggressive,” mumsy told me. “You’re liable to get hurt.” If any of you know me, you know I’m not simply the type of broad to stand off to the side and let people walk all over me. Well I was even more aggressive as a child.

When my parents segregated me from male players, I think I lost a bit of my aggressiveness. I became more introverted and hesitant. I no longer went after everything I wanted and I held my tongue when I otherwise would have spoken. It’s hard to prove that this one decision made by my parents when I was in fourth grade had that much of an influence on me, but part of me thinks that it was a large factor in my personality shift. Sure, increasing social pressures and school changes compounded with this to make me more timid, but maybe if I had be allowed the opportunity to compete with boys, see them as my equals and match or exceed their aggressiveness, I would have been more equipped to handle the new pressures of middle school and junior high.

Even when women are allowed participation in sports such as basketball and soccer, they have separate leagues and are often encouraged to exaggerate their feminine sides to compensate for their masculine behaviors. Danica Patrick, a female race car driver, is an exceptional professional in what would be considered a masculine sport. But most coverage of her focuses on her appearance, so much to the point that she no longer resembles a driver. The bikinis she’s photographed in make her out to be more of a silly fan girl than the athletes that inspire the silly fan girls.

It seems that women’s options in terms of sports are few. They can participate in feminized sports, which most people don’t think of as sports such as cheerleading and ice skating, or they can join a women’s league of a masculine sport and have to choose between over-exaggerating their femininity for others’ sake or risk the media labeling them as butch lesbians. Luckily I’ve regained my confidence and some of my aggressiveness that is necessary to take control of my life. But many girls growing up in this kind of double standard society may not be so fortunate. If women are told that their best is still not equivalent to any man, they’re going to start believing it. It’s a shame to prematurely shut down half of the population’s innovative potential because society believes women shouldn’t dirty their hands.

The Progressive, The Almost There, and The Ugly

As Gillam and Wooden said in their article, Post-Princess Models of Gender: The New Man in Disney/Pixar, male characters have done a complete 180 in terms of their masculinity. So long macho men, a new, more mature man is in Pixar town. Gillam and Wooden focus on Mr. Incredible from The Incredibles, Buzz and Woody from Toy Story, and Lightening McQueen from Cars. While these men have matured into an acceptance of “feminine aspects”, they’re the only characters that seem to be multi-dimensional or able to develop over time.

The often singular women roles in these movies portray the female as a sidekick or less complex person. They’re often still sexualized in either their image or their effect on men, perpetuating the idea that their sex appeal is one of the greatest things they could accomplish. The story is told from the men’s perspective about men’s issues with little concern about the women around them.

But that’s not the only group getting put in a box. Diversity is still lacking in these Disney/Pixar movies. If there’s a minority character, they’re usually a minor role and stereotypical. The hispanic car in Cars is recognized only by his accent and seemingly clownish attitude that is often attributed to hispanic men in children’s movies. The main characters remain white men in leadership roles. While they may be emasculated and more well-rounded, emotionally complete men, they are the only ones largely progressing from their old, static expectations. Their improvement is great, but if the characters around them don’t become more prevalent and progress with them the story still lacks a fundamental perspective that is left out of society, even though it makes up a majority of it.

The movie Brave is a step in the right direction, featuring a strong female lead who rejects the traditional gender role of women and the expectation that they have to marry to become anything of worth. While she is a strong female character in that she stands up to her mother’s demands, partakes in sports, and adventures by herself, she is still only representative of the white perspective. And the other dominant female in the movie, her mother, is the same stereotypical role of womanhood that involves primping, cooking, being polite and quiet, and marrying young to a prince who could take care of you. The main male figure in this movie also takes a step back in comparison to the previous Pixar movies. Instead of being this “new man” touted by Gillam and Wooden, he blunders around as a large, masculine moron who’s main desire is to take down a huge bear to prove his essential manhood. Granted he doesn’t urge his daughter to marry as much as her mother does. Even with this new movie Brave, it’s still the only one out of many Pixar movies that even has a female lead.

With these examples in mind, it seems that Disney/Pixar would have us believe that if a man is progressive but still powerful, the women have to remain in their static secondary roles. And if a woman is progressive and powerful, the men then have to stay in their static “macho” roles. Essentially, we can’t have our cake and eat it too. But is this true to real life? Are men and women not permitted to both be multi-dimensional and strong if they’re within sight of each other? Methinks not. In fact, if men and women are constantly fighting over who can be the interesting one, both lose. The “winner” is bored by the lack of equivalent companionship and the “loser” cannot enjoy their own faculties. To say that it’s mutually exclusive for a man and women to both possess dynamism is complete and utter bullshit. Intelligence is a public good in that it is non-rivalrous and non-excludable. Being in the presence of another intelligent human being does not lower your intelligence, rather it provides an opportunity to learn from each other, thereby increasing both participants’ intelligence levels. So I challenge you, Disney/Pixar, to make a children’s movie in which both male and female characters represent the reality, that we can in fact eat our cake and have it too.

The Fighting Fuck-Toy

Women have been largely excluded from the hero discourse. When they are portrayed, they’re usually one member of a group of heros, and they’re usually the only woman. Think of Wonder Woman and most recently, even though she possesses no super powers, Black Widow in the 2012 Avengers movie. (The comic book itself has more female characters, but the movie is much more widely known and recognized.) Aside from this token-like treatment of women super heros, when women are present in heroine roles they’re still objectified as sexual beings to be acted upon, rather than powerful agents who are in control.

A very overt example of what is called “The Fighting Fuck-Toy” in the movie Miss Representation is when Selina Kyle (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) turns into Catwoman in the Tim Burton rendition of Batman. Before Selina Kyle transforms she is weak, bullied, and harried. But when she transforms she turns into the only image of a powerful woman that is plausible for mass media: a temptress in skin tight clothing. The first sentence she says as a newly “empowered” woman is, “I don’t know about you Ms. Kitty, but I feel so much yummier.” Catwoman equates her power with sex appeal and the word “yummy” in particular. Alluding to herself as something to be desired and devoured actually places her in a position of inferiority to the men that are intended to do the devouring.

Catwoman prances around in her skin tight suit, red lipstick, and stiletto heels for awhile, causing mischief, but not really making much of a dent herself until she eventually needs the help of a man, Batman in particular when she almost falls off a roof. So while Selina Kyle is seen as a new woman of agency as Catwoman, she is in fact still under the influence of men. Her power derives from the assumption that men will find her sexually attractive, take away that assumption and she has no power. If for example, an unattractive, 6oish, overweight woman were to undergo the same transformation into Catwoman with the tight black suit and all, would she still be perceived as powerful knowing that men will not be aroused by her appearance? Even with this perceived, sexually derived power, Catwoman is not the main villain of concern neither is she the main hero. She’s rather a side character that’s either an annoyance, tease, or romantic interest to the hero, Batman.

Many women are taught that beauty is power. I saw a billboard for a cosmetic surgery practice that said those exact words. But if women are truly going to be taken seriously in academic and leadership pursuits, they’re going to have to learn that their sexual appeal is more of a distractor that marginalizes their words and actions, and makes it easier for them to be equated with sex rather than intelligence or agency. Real power is when people respect you and believe your ideas are of worth. There are plenty of hot bods and pretty faces around, but usually our thoughts are unique to ourselves.

Welcome to the Working Week

Work: something most Americans partake in, either by choice or necessity. And while there’s the illusion of the American Dream that anyone can go out and find that perfect job in the air, there’s often more obstacles in the way than initially realized. Discrimination is one of the main deterrents from finding a successful career. Either discrimination based on class, race, religion, ethnicity, or gender can impede an American’s career aspirations. I have it fairly easy as a white, educated middle class person, but add in my gender and things ain’t so rosy.

Being a woman has its perks, (like enjoying Jane Austen novels without being called a homo), but in the work force my tidbits are more of a hindrance. I’ve noticed this in two separate work situations, one at my part time job at a movie theater, and the other at an internship for two separate, but jointly owned magazines.

At the movie theater, many young women are hired, probably because management has seen that high school and college aged girls are a bit more reliable/responsible than boys at that age. This is a generalization, but I think that’s why our staff is predominantly female. The discrimination doesn’t come in the form of hiring or even pay, since we’re all paid minimum wage. The problem lies in our assignments. It’s been the expectation that women move from concessions, where everyone starts out, to box office. The men move most likely to the role of usher. These moves are seen as promotions, but without pay raise.

The reason why most people think that men are moved to usher is that they are stronger, more able to lift trash and carry the ladder used to change really high light bulbs and movie titles. Women are promoted to box office because it requires more thought processes, like managing the phone, a multitude of passes, large amounts of money, and being the face for the company if a customer complains. So the typical roles of males and females are reinforced in this situation. Women are daintier and more patient, so they handle the money and customers, while men are brawny and brusque, so they do all the manual labor and have the least amount of customer contact. While this isn’t necessarily unfair since we’re all paid the same wage, there’s still little consideration of where the employee would like to work. The roles are doled out and accepted.

Another subtle, but noticeable work occurrence I’ve noticed is the assignment of jobs to the interns at the joint magazines I intern for. One magazine is focused on women and the home, and the other is focused on business and has a more masculine/neutral vibe. Most of the assignments I have been given are for the feminine magazine, usually taking pictures of people at events that want their name and face in the magazine just to show people they’re out on the town. The male photo intern on the other hand takes the more important feature shots for both magazines despite the fact that I’ve been there longer than him. I wouldn’t say this discrimination is blatant, I doubt that my editors are consciously choosing our assignments based on our gender, but I would say that their decisions are stemmed from an unconscious categorization. They probably think that the male intern would feel uncomfortable taking the same girly photos I do, and so give him more of the traditionally masculine tasks.

In order to change this inherent discrimination in the work place, people need to be taught early and often that men and women have equal aspirations and equal skill levels. Because of the stereotypes that perpetuate our society, women and men alike come to expect standards for themselves and the opposite gender, and act according to those norms which perpetuate them further. A true meritocracy should be put in place and women should be encouraged just as much as men are to advance their careers, rather than assuming that women will leave work or not want as much responsibility simply because they’re potential child-bearers.

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