I’ve been playing in girlie lit an awful lot recently; it’s subsumed a bit more of my consciousness than I like to admit. Frankly it’s a little bizarre to hear so much chatter and realize there’s still so much animosity among folk who pretty roundly agree.
This morning I posted at The New Agenda that the iPhone app for “scoring chicks” — since yanked — is a little disgusting. But realistically there’d be no market for the app if women really found it disgusting.
If men were pretty sure they couldn’t get away with “that” behavior (and, frankly, I can think of many more piggish things than using this app) then no one would buy it, right? So while it’s men who make up the purchasing demographic, it’s women’s choice not to put our collective foot down that perpetuates such market.
It doesn’t matter why we choose not to get involved — we have many bigger fish to fry, or smart women don’t find themselves meeting men who might use a line like the app’s gross suggestions — the point is that we make a choice to shrug it off, and maybe enough women respond positively that men are intrigued enough to buy.
That’s the tension with feminism. It’s about opportunity. Look at the numbers. Women have opportunity. We have the opportunity to make life choices, and we make them. When other women or employers don’t respond to those choices with open arms it seems silly to blame them. Willingness to assume a “victim” mentality irritates me in general, and there’s a really fine line between being objectified and objectifying oneself.
The ad clipped below captures the whole of that tension:
None of my female Muslim friends are close enough friends for this kind of disclosure; my experience with Hijab-ed sexuality is limited to books in the Reading Lolita in Tehran vein and one traumatic, fiercely-intimate massage in Morocco. That is to say: I have no idea how much an abayah is choice, tradition, feminine, and how much of it is oppression.
The ad itself is sexy and effective — I want to be more like that woman, from the skivvies and kohl out. But is there any more perfect symbol than the abayah to represent that tension between what we want and what is imposed on us?
For the same tension closer to home, see this Dove ad:
It’s a fine line indeed. I’m absolutely not suggesting that women experience no objectifying pressure. What I’m suggesting is that the pressure is not entirely external. And I’m suggesting that, to some degree, we embrace it.
Or maybe not. Again, the tension. Every time I encounter street jeers I want to ask the men whether that’s ever scored a date. To some extent it really is just objectifying women, and it’s not about hope or interest. Maybe it really is just about striking back against repressed feelings of rejection.
Look again at the Dove commercial. Inasmuch as objectification stems from an aggressive defense mechanism it doesn’t come from men. It comes equally from women.
This is no novel conclusion. My takeaway? It’s the residual willingness to assume a “victim” mentality that does the objectifying. It just seems so pointless to keep talking about a “glass ceiling” when in fact we should embrace the opportunity we have to make choices, acknowledge that there’s no single valid choice, and move forward.
I adore debate. There’s nothing I love more than moving the ball down the field. But this taste of gendered debate gets tiring quickly. I can’t help but feel like it’s just as sexist to pledge merit-blind support for someone because of her gender as it is to discriminate along the same lines.
It should be about being the change you want to see in the world. I will always resist the temptation to replace merit with simply card checking the right cache.