ATTENTION LADIES: Your merit doesn’t matter

November 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

by MIRANDA

Just, you know, FYI.

Deborah L. Rhode’s research shows that conventionally attractive people receive special treatment and privileges throughout all spheres of life:

Less attractive children receive less attention from parents and teachers. In higher education, attractive students are perceived by their teachers to be more intelligent, and good-looking faculty get better student reviews. At work, unattractive people make lower salaries. In politics, good-looking candidates get more votes. Résumés and essays get more favorable evaluations when reviewers believe attractive people wrote them.

If attractive people receive benefits, then unattractive people are necessarily punished. And — surprise! — women are disproportionately affected by this bias. The systematic practice of “holding only women to sexualized standards diverts attention from competence and perpetuates [regresssive] gender roles.”

But, pretty ladies, don’t fear: You, too, can be judged and punished according to your appearance!

In fact, women also can pay a penalty for being too attractive. “Although less common, it tends to happen in formerly male professions, high-status jobs in which too sexy or too attractive an appearance is a negative characteristic,” Rhode says. “It’s just assumed that those women aren’t too bright.”

Where beauty hurts women, size hurts too. George Washington University researchers found that “obese women lose out on $4,879 per year because of their size, almost twice what it costs men” — and this is caused almost entirely by discrimination. Rhodes addresses this too, citing Hillary Clinton and Elena Kagan as cases where a woman’s size was picked on in lieu of substantial conversations about her professional qualifications. (And let’s be honest, the idea that someone’s merit is in any way related to her physical appearance is really troubling.) “I think that’s a form of punishing pushy women…It’s an easy way to take down someone who is delivering a message you find unwelcome or threatening.”

Another researcher, Deborah Gruenfeld, demonstrates that no matter a woman’s body type, her body language has an immense effect on the way she is perceived in the workplace. She says, “When it comes to leadership, there are very few differences in what men and women actually do and how they behave. But there are major differences in perception.”

And as with beauty, the question of body language puts women in a tricky double bind:

When women behave in dominant ways, they are seen as unlikeable because they violate norms of female niceness. Alternatively, women displaying feminine traits are judged as less competent and capable.

Women aren’t allowed to exhibit femininity, but we also can’t act “like men.” So just how, really, are we supposed to be?

The Slut Myth

October 24, 2010 § 7 Comments

by JANEY

“In my first book, Full Frontal Feminism, I opened by asking readers what the worst thing you could call a woman is (slut, bitch, whore, cunt), then what the worst thing you can call a man is (pussy, fag, sissy, girl). In both cases, the answers were some variation of ‘woman.’” — Jessica Valenti, The Purity Myth

The word “slut” first originated as a Middle English word meaning a physically dirty woman, and has now evolved to mean a metaphysically “dirty,” or sexually promiscuous, woman. But how exactly do we decide who should be considered a slut? If sexual promiscuity is the mark of a slut, it would make sense to measure a woman’s sluttiness by the number of men she has slept with. In my experience, however, this is not actually the deciding factor. For example, when I was in high school, two of my best friends were considered “slutty” to some extent, but one was considered more of a slut than the other. I’ll call them A and B.

A was a white, thin girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, pearls and polo shirts. She lost her virginity when she was fourteen and had thirteen sexual partners before she entered college. She had several one-night stands and “friends with benefits” type of relationships. She never considered herself a sexual being and had little to no sex drive. Most of the boys she slept with were in the same social circle which we dubbed the “AP Boys”: a group of boys who were good-looking, athletic, popular, usually rich, and smart enough to get good grades without trying very hard. She didn’t particularly like sex, but she continued to have it for a variety of reasons, including to gain social approval from the AP Boys in order to continue to be invited to their parties, and because they wanted to and she “didn’t care.”

B identified as Middle Eastern; she was curvaceous and exotic-looking, with long black hair and darker skin than anyone else in our milky white high school. She often wore low-cut, tight black shirts and short denim skirts. She was visibly comfortable in her sexuality; she was unashamed of her body and unafraid to flaunt it. She lost her virginity when she was sixteen, and had six sexual partners before she entered college. She generally slept with the “bad boys” in our school, both because she liked the excitement and because she didn’t want to hurt a “nice” boy’s feelings as a result of her lack of interest in a serious relationship. Although she didn’t have serious relationships with these boys, she never slept with someone she wasn’t dating and she never had a one night stand. She enjoyed sex immensely and regarded it as a simple physical act which brought her and her partner pleasure.

Throughout high school, B was considered much more of a slut than A. A remained well-liked and still retained most of the respect she had before she had sex, and it was generally accepted that the girls who called her sluts were simply jealous of the amount of male attention she monopolized. B, on the other hand, was more often than not written off as a trashy whore. Not because she had slept with more people (A actually slept with more than twice as many people as B), but because she was comfortable enough with her sexuality to integrate it into her self-image and her public image. Essentially, B wasn’t being punished for having sex, but rather for enjoying sex. Sluts are not “proper women” because a “proper woman” is not supposed to be a sexual being; she’s supposed to be prim, proper, and repressed, and have sex because it is her duty. In the Victorian era, when sex within marriage was considered a patriotic duty for a woman, women in loveless marriages and brides frightened of the wedding night hijinks were told, “close your eyes, open your legs, and think of England.” Things haven’t changed as much as we’d like to think they have. Women are, to some degree, still expected to passively accept the sexual advances of men (especially of the men that will improve their station in life, such as the AP Boys) and fulfill their duty as hollow-eyed sex objects.

B was an easy target because she was precluded from living up to society’s ideal for a woman as a result of her race and body type. The archetype of a proper woman — pure, white, dainty, delicate — conflicts with society’s schema for women of color. Women of color are expected to be louder, cruder, and more sexualized — in body and demeanor — than white women. Where A was subtly pressured to live up to the archetype of the proper woman, B was pressured to live up to the stereotype of the exotic, oversexualized woman of color. People used to tell her she looked like Kim Kardashian all the time. Let me tell you, she doesn’t at all. The only things she and Kim Kardashian have in common are their black hair, big boobs, and Middle Eastern descent. Their eyes, noses, mouths, smiles and face shapes are drastically different. When I reminded people of this, they would say, “Yeah, that’s true, but they just have the same… look…” Many would go so far as to admit that their shared “trashiness” was a point of comparison.

Essentially, the idea of a “slut” is a myth told to women to keep them in their place. Just as Santa will not actually bring you coal on Christmas if you break a few of the house rules, you will not actually turn into an intrinsically tainted, unpalatable creature if you break one of society’s rules and have sex with one too many men. The word “slut” isn’t a criticism for having too much sex necessarily, but for being a woman: a real, living, breathing woman with quirks, foibles, normal sexual feelings, and personality; and failing to live up to the societal ideal for a woman: the passive, pliable, perpetually innocent, and sexually available Barbie doll.

On Male Studies

October 21, 2010 § 1 Comment

by MIRANDA

Remember all that hoopla about Male Studies? The “debate” — you know, the debate between progressive gender equity and anxious protection of sacred manly manhood — is still a topic of attention. Still a topic, in fact, at my school. So check out my friend Molly’s article in The Stanford Daily, exploring what she calls “John Wayne’s Masculine Identity Crisis?: A dance-off between feminist studies and the newly emerging male studies.” (Bonus: there may or may not be a quote from someone you might know, in the online sense of the word? Maybe it’s me? Perhaps? Because goodness knows I love to talk about the ladies and the studying.)

Heads Up: New Dutch Government Contemplating Burqa Ban

October 1, 2010 § 4 Comments

by KATIE E.

Via The Guardian:

“Wilders has won pledges to introduce legislation banning Islamic headgear, joining France, Belgium and Switzerland in a growing campaign across Europe to ban a veil that relatively few Muslim women wear.”

I’m not sure of the accuracy of the statement that “relatively few Muslim wear” the burqa, but, does it matter? Shouldn’t the law protect everyone?

I’m sick of the racist, sexist, Westernized idea that Muslim women don’t have agency and would never choose to wear a religious symbol without being forced by a man. As the article states, this is coming from a conservative government, but how long do you think it will be before this type of Islamophobia is again accepted by many as an aspect of feminism? The last time I checked, feminism was supposed to be about giving all women agency, not just when it’s convenient or when we can’t twist it to make ourselves look superior to another culture.

It can’t be ignored that this is coming from a new conservative, anti-immigration government, though. While many will interpret it this way, I highly doubt they’re doing it in the name of “feminism.” Growing numbers of Muslims do not threaten anyone except for white, usually Christian people who would like to remain a privileged group.  If I were leader of The Netherlands, and I tried to ban all cross necklaces or nun’s habits, can you imagine the outcry in the country and all over the world? I would be told I was taking away religious freedom and agency from the same kind of people who support this legislation.

Putting the rampant racism, Islamophobia, and misogyny seen here for a moment, can I just ask what happened to personal freedom? What gives a country a right to dictate what its citizens should wear, and couldn’t this possibly lead them further down a bad road?

If you live in The Netherlands, please contact the leaders of the nation and voice how oppressive the legislation is. We cannot let this happen in another country.

Really, W Magazine? Really?

September 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

by ELENA

Once upon a time, I had a subscription to W. Magazine. As an artist, I love collaging, and W’s edgy, large-format fashion spreads provide great imagery for collage, and other mixed-media projects. But this article makes me really happy that I didn’t renew my subscription.

For starters, I have a problem with anyone describing different fashion styles in a “clique” mentality. “Clique” seems to imply a negative exclusivity, which a lot of people face in their lives, without reading W’s fluff fashion pieces. This also implies that women can only have one sartorial style code. I own dresses that flaunt my curves, flashy miniskirts, streamlined pieces, and flowy, bohemian dresses and scarves. According to W, I’d be considered to be a fashion schizophrenic.

But this piece went from “dumb” to “freaking inappropriate” in its way it described women’s body types. Jezebel pointed out W’s insensitivity to special dietary needs and eating disorders in the way that W called any woman who [ghasp!] isn’t a size two a “woman who eats her feelings”, and that is always talking about “gluten-free vegan cupcakes”. Here’s a nice little message for W: Women who may not fit within your acceptable skinniness range DOES NOT EQUAL a woman with a compulsive eating disorder. Also, Christina Hendricks, Beth Ditto, and Brigitte Bardot don’t have their amazing bodies (or, as W puts it, “full figured”) because they can’t stop eating. They have those bodies for a variety of reasons, mostly because they were born with bodies that were naturally curvy. Also, it would be nice if Christina could wear some Louis Vuitton or Prada to an event or awards show, but she has stated that designers won’t dress her because she’s bigger than a size two.

One of my friends from high school has food sensitivities that prevent her from eating many foods, including gluten and corn products. Another friend from Stephens is a vegan. Neither of them wear bohemian clothes, let alone Missoni or Edun. They wear jeans, t-shirts, and dancewear. Both of them have gotten frustrated about how their dietary limitations affect their everyday life. I understand that not everyone who follows a vegan/gluten-free/both diet is doing so for strictly medical reasons, but W needs to stop implying that a restrictive diet is just a great way to lose weight.

And finally, W Magazine, I’d like to think that someone thinks that I have depth because I, oh I dunno, actually have depth and speak with passion and knowledge about the things I care about. If I have to prove my supposed depth, intelligence, and “postfeminism” by wearing expensive designer clothes, then I don’t actually have any depth.

I like fashion. I like fashion magazines that produce creative photo shoots, creative and insightful articles, and that promote body diversity. I will be more than happy to put W out of business by spending money on a superior competitor.

Jezebel: Still Not Progressive

September 1, 2010 § 1 Comment

by KATIE E.

Nope. Unless your idea of busting the kyriarchy involves heteronormative, classist, ageist, woman and sexuality shaming, pro-rape bullshit.

Overall, the entire piece fails due to its insistence that the only “real virginity” is man’s penis into women’s vagina. It makes no reference at all that might not be true for people who are trans,  non-gender binary conforming, bi/pan/asexual, lesbian, gay, and/or queer identified. Plus, it effectively erases people who simply choose not to have PIV sex, or don’t want to count it as “losing their virginity” due to rape/assault/other trauma, or the belief that oral/anal/something else was their “first time.” And what about people who can’t or can’t comfortably have PIV sex due to sexual dysfunction or a similar condition?

None of these people exist in Jezebel-land.

You know who else is apparently a figment of my silly feminist imagination? Twenty something virgins. Instead of respecting the fact that someone couldn’t or didn’t want to do it before they hit 21, let’s talk down to them and insist they need a “a solid core of female friends to guide you through the first-time sex experience” or “Get out of town. Preferably Paris, France. Pick an attractive, mysterious European stranger who doesn’t speak a word of English and is totally inappropriate for your real life, but perfect for this occasion.” You know, I really have no problem with one-time sex with someone you don’t know, even if it’s your first sexual experience. Nothing wrong with that. But doesn’t the idea of picking someone who can’t understand the language you speak scream with consent issues and sound a little like rape? Or actually, sound exactly like rape because that’s what it is?

Besides, how many twenty-somethings (or anybody, really) can afford random European vacations? Not a whole lot, yet the piece  normalizes it and doesn’t offer solutions for the many people who can’t do it.

The entire piece just perpetuates the culture of  shaming women for not having their first sexual experience go a certain way, something that conservatives are regularly called out on. Jezebel would refuse to publish a piece telling women the best way to have first-time sex is after the wedding, but they are fine telling women they need to have a party or be drunk. While their isn’t a huge culture of shame forcing their advice, it’s still the same concept: telling women they don’t know how to handle their own sexuality. It’s time that all of us-conservative, progressive, or somewhere in between-trust women enough to know if, when, and how their first sexual experience will take place.

Men are from Earth, women are from Earth too

August 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

by MIRANDA

ADORE WITH UNBRIDLED PASSION: Headline that reads “Male and female ability differences down to socialisation, not genetics” followed by subheading that reads “Behavioural differences between the sexes are not hard-wired at birth but are the result of society’s expectations, say scientists.”

DESPISE WITH NAUSEATING DISGUST FOR REASONS THAT SHOULD BE OBVIOUS (DOES ANYONE REMEMBER EVERYTHING MEL GIBSON HAS EVER SAID, OR HAVE PEOPLE FORGOTTEN ABOUT THAT ALREADY, IT SEEMS SO, THIS PISSES ME OFF, THOSE PEOPLE SHOULD GOOGLE MEL GIBSON AND DO A WEE BIT OF READING): Photo still of Mel Gibson in a scene from What Women Want that was selected to accompany the article. Because Mel Gibson doing yoga is the best visual representation of researcher Cordelia Fine’s findings that “there are no major neurological differences between the sexes.” And also because now is the best time to publish random pictures of Mel Gibson.

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