I read a brilliant article today on the idea of female “purity” and society’s perception thereof. I agree with many of the things the author, Lindy West, mentioned and was especially struck by her analysis of patriarchal ideologies behind judgements against women. The article mainly focused on her perspective of masculine placement of blame upon women for supposed promiscuity and/or sluttiness, but I think this piece can be used in a much greater context. Many societies still do have backward or conservative views on femininity, female sexuality and power (which afflict both men and women in accepting stereotypes and gender roles), which I think is incredibly damaging as the outcome of these perspectives result in shame, confusion, sexism, and so many other complexes. It not only hinders the movement toward gender equality, it also scars young minds and results in bullying in various forms.
For example, today I was told to “act like a lady” when I did not conform to someone’s idea of gender roles. Apparently I am too aggressive because I am assertive in making decisions when no one else will, and I am not afraid to defend myself when I am attacked. Although I know that in itself, this
statement demand might seem harmless enough, but it is not. At least, not to me. To me, this tells me that the person asking this of me expects me to behave in a certain way to please them and to make them feel more comfortable and/or better about themselves because they are uncomfortable with strong women women who are stronger than them.
Am I supposed to apologize for being a strong woman? For knowing what I want, standing for something, and take a leadership role when necessary? I don’t think these are things anyone should apologize for. Had I been born a man, these would have been incredibly desirable traits (to both men and women), but because of my gender, I am basically told to sit down and shut up. I do not think this is right or remotely OK.
It is sad that in a modernizing world, unwarranted (and unwanted!) concepts of gender roles and gender norms/stereotypes are still shoved down one’s throat and it’s thought of as socially acceptable advice to slap people with. Because that’s what it feels like to me – a judgement pie in the face. The fact that people feel it’s alright to place their own anxieties upon us because we are women, is incredibly offensive and quite frankly, none of our business. On days like these, I feel tired and jaded, for I have fought this fight many a time – with my father, with men in the school/workplace, with romantic partners, with friends, and with complete strangers. It hurts the most when it comes from someone dear to you though, because if you’re anything like me, you hope that having been so close to you, some of that feminist mindset would have rubbed off. But I guess not.
Well, what can I say, but…
I leave you with this quote from Lindy West, on her reasoning behind sexist male judgements from a projected male POV:
“…I struggle with the same powerlessness and insecurity that all human beings do, so as a coping mechanism I take advantage of our culture’s patriarchal power structure and exorcize my feelings of worthlessness by perpetuating shame-based proprietary attitudes over women’s bodies. Basically I’m obsessed with controlling women’s lives because I can’t control my own.”