Tuesday, March 8, 2016

If Only We Would

It’s International Women’s Day today. I sent a tweet to Diana and Terry this morning telling them they were inspiration to me because they were strong women who spoke their minds. I really admire that. And boy did that really open up the floodgates on Twitter! I’ve never received so many notifications. I think there are women who are there, women who are getting there, and women who want to get there. It was all shown in the replies to the conversation with Terry. I find it so interesting to see how women around the world react to idea of a “strong woman who speaks her mind.”

I find I can speak my mind in my writing, but it is so difficult to do so face-to-face. I watched a TV report done a few years ago about women going to the car dealership to get a new car. For the most part, women cannot negotiate. Why? Because they feel it is confrontation and it makes them very uncomfortable. But more than that, women are not encouraged to be confrontational. It goes against the “nurture” June Cleaver persona we have been indoctrinated with. We simply don’t learn how to negotiate.

If we take a walk through history, how have women been portrayed? In ancient Egyptian society, women were treated quite well. They were educated. They were loved and could have a say in society. They could even become ruler in rare circumstances.

In ancient Greek society, most city-states’ treatment of women was drastically different. Women could not vote. They could not leave their house without a male chaperone (husband or family member). They were meant to run the household within the limits they were given. They certainly weren’t afforded many more privileges than that of the slaves. Women were simply necessary to continue the creation of more men.

Ancient Roman society was no better for women. A woman belonged to her father and then to her husband. Either could have her put to death for immorality or adultery. Women were not educated, or given very little education. Slowly, however, women were given more freedoms and were even able to own property. But it was a long struggle.

Ancient Chinese culture didn’t improve women’s situation. Confucius, bless his little heart, taught that women should not and did not need to have thoughts or ambitions of their own. They were to be respected as wives and mothers. And that is all they should strive to be. Women were regarded as inferior to men in all things.

Wow, this is getting depressing.

Flash forward to Victorian times. There’s a Queen ruling the entire British Empire, but that does little to advance the plight of women anywhere. They are definitely considered their husband’s chattel. Any property or wealth they may have had prior to marriage was given to the husband and was under his sole authority. If a couple divorced, the children went with the father, even if he abused them all. Women had no voice and no hope of gaining one.

1900s-1920s. Women are put in prison, beaten, terrible things done to them because they wish to vote. To vote. (Maybe men knew the power we women truly have and were terrified to unleash this power!) Once that right was won…home life didn’t change much.

1950s. June Cleaver. Father Knows Best, Bonanza (where are the women? Oh right. They are the damsels in distress to be rescued by the big, strong Cartwright men.), Ozzie and Harriet. Smell a theme here? While women could own property and work, it was a male dominated world and they just lived there.

1980s. Alexis Carrington. My how things have changed. A women running a multi-million dollar corporation. Nevermind that she lied, stole, slept her way in and out of mergers, murdered, attempted murder, and had to be the biggest you-know-what on the planet to keep that power. Which does nothing for women’s reputations as they are climbing the corporate ladder. Whenever a woman is strong and asserts herself and control of a situation, she’s clearly on her period. Hysterical. A bitch. Crazy! You know the drill. Whereas any man who acted the same would be lauded for his acumen, given a huge raise and a corner office.

All this brings me to something that has been gnawing at me for the last year or so. When I saw Kim Kardashian West’s tweet I knew it was time to gather my thoughts together and write them down.

People are praising Ms. Kardashian-West as a feminist; liberated, because she posts naked photos of herself on social media. Would anyone call Hugh Hefner a feminist? He did the same thing by posting naked women in a magazine and bringing it to the bathrooms of American men everywhere. I’m pretty sure no one would consider him remotely a feminist. So whether you post the photo yourself or let someone else do it, it doesn’t make you liberated. Or a feminist.

Slaves were liberated. Paris was liberated from the Nazis. The concentration camp prisons were liberated when American forces came. Posting naked photos of yourself isn’t liberating - it is just using someone you know to pimp yourself t to the world.

So good on Chloe Moretz calling out Kim! Kim gained notoriety through a sex tape (whether she knew of its release or not, she’s not quibbling now about the press it gave her). One of her latest projects was a massive book of selfies. A magazine cover of her behind with champagne raining down on it. When we and the next couple of generations have gone and our children’s children learn about this era’s pop culture, what will they take from it? About Kim and her self-worth/self-importance. Will she be known for her charity work? Her selfless acts of kindness to those in need? Probably not. Just someone who earned a huge amount of money showing her tits and ass. What a shame.

I went on Instagram a few months back and saw a photo of an actress I like who posted a photo with a hashtag of “WCW.” She had posted the picture with a friend of hers from a TV I enjoy watching. I’m fairly new to the crazy world of social media and had absolutely no clue what that meant. So I clicked on the hashtag. I now know it means “women crush Wednesday”, but at the time I thought it meant something like “women clothing? wrong!” or “what clothes? wow!” or “wear clothes? why?!” Because the women that popped up had no clothes. Just breasts and nether regions showing. (Just to clarify - the two actresses were fully clothed and simply showing some sisterly love.)

I’m by no means a prude. Nor am I Mary Poppins. But there’s art and then there’s selling yourself short. Are there really so many young women in this world who only see their self-worth in how many likes and hearts they can get from total strangers salivating over their nude bodies? What a sad commentary on today’s society! Yet what kind of role models have these young women had growing up? The world adored a teenage Britney Spears who showed excessive amounts of skin at a young age. Kim Kardashian is lauded by millions as she posts naked shots of herself wherever she can. Selfies have become an addiction to an entire generation of people. They are constantly putting themselves on display for the entire world to see. Has it numbed their still forming minds, allowing any sense of self-worth to stagnate and rot?

Boys grew up watching their fathers look at naked or nearly naked photos of women on social media. They hear the remarks their older brothers or dads make about these women, and they aren’t viewed as human beings, just sexual creatures. Sex sells, especially in Hollywood so women routinely have the gratuitous “shower scene” in a movie or TV show. They prance around naked without a plot reason to do so in front of the fully clothed male co-star. We all take this in without even realizing it and it leads to the desensitizing of women as actual human beings, instead of simply sexual creatures.

In closing one thing that confounds and infuriates me is colleges that have the “welcome to our school! Here’s a pamphlet on how not to get raped” which they give to their female students. Umm, what a minute!  Instead of teaching girls how not to get raped (as if it is ever their fault!), why not teach boys and young men that rape is NEVER acceptable? While I certainly don’t encourage this, a woman should be able to walk around in only nipple rings and a G-string without some male saying “Well, she was asking for it!” Men are not taught to respect women; they would never consider such an unspeakable act if they were.

So again, it’s International Women’s Day. Do we really need, in this 21st Century, to teach our daughters that their self-worth is in their looks? That it’s ok to put their bodies on display to gain attention, or love, or to fill some sort of need by the attention of men looking for a quick shower “date”? It is the 21st Century and we women actually do have a lot of power. We are educated. We run businesses, take care of families, change the oil in our cars (we can, but most of us choose not to). We run empires, rule countries. We are educated, brilliant, funny, sophisticated, artistic, sensitive, strong, amazing women and we need to start building each other up instead of tearing each other down. Why do to each other what man has done to us for thousands of years? Tell a woman you know today that you admire her. Tell her why. But don’t stop there. Do it every day. Little acts of kindness go a long way and soon we won’t even remember a time when there wasn’t a woman US president. The entire US Supreme Court will be made of female attorneys. The sky is our limit, but we need to stop being our own worst enemies and start being our greatest fans.

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