Modeling Sexism: The Eyes Have It

When asked if she considers herself a feminist, Cindy Crawford says, “I guess, in some ways. But I also feel like people in my generation, we didn’t — I didn’t grow up thinking I had to prove I was equal with boys, I just assumed I was. Because of feminists before me. I never felt like I had to do that. Do I feel like women should earn the same amount as men, for the same jobs? Absolutely.”

This is smart and frustrating at once. In fact, Crawford’s sentence encapsulates precisely what bugs me about feminist mentality: Many feminist themes start from the presumption that women are somehow less than men, and we need to prove we’ve risen to the occasion.

Cultural factors support this peripherally. Women’s income remains statistically lower than men’s salaries; our shoes are less comfortable than men’s shoes; we are still more susceptible to quasi-physical indicators of esteem decay like eating disorders (3x more susceptible, it turns out).

But — hello — we do this to ourselves. It wasn’t men who bought more couture when Twiggy modeled it in the ’60’s.  And it’s not for men that many women prefer to work shorter hours for slightly less pay.

In fact, the first thing you learn in business school is that it’s not because of sexism that women make less money; it’s because women prefer not to negotiate.  It’s a trade-off: an awkward negotiating conversation in exchange for higher salary.  Lily Ledbetter may have faced some marginal sexism, but frankly the fact that she never picked up on her salary disparity over all those years suggests that perhaps she was not as attentive, ambitious, or aggressive as her colleagues pulling in higher rates.

Crawford’s statement wasn’t completely offensive.  But I get <em>so frustrated</em> by that tendency to start the “equality” inquiry by presuming there’s a gap already firmly in place.

Question Time: Cindy Crawford [Guardian]

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  1. Pingback: Examples of Coercion « Unkategorized

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