“The Rise of Women” and a Farewell

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The Masculine Mystique

Coontz briefly discussed the “Masculine Mystique” in both the video above and in her piece. This mystique has caused men to believe that they must fit into their particular gender roles and stereotypes created by society, parallel to the feminine mystique. How can men resist this? It is crucial that they do in order to progress.

One conclusion that can be drawn from both of these authors is that there is definitely room for improvement. The road to equality is long, and you can’t rush through it. As long as there are glass ceilings intact, or women continue to be oppressed, then patriarchy still exists, which is something that both Coontz and Rosin can agree on.

Another important thought to take from this blog is that women’s accomplishments do not, I repeat, do NOT have to come at the expense of men. Equality should be the motivator and main goal, and equality is impossible if status is achieved at the expense of other individuals. While the typical male and female stereotypes have changed throughout the years, many men are still blinded by the masculine mystique. Breaking through this and allowing equal playing ground for all should be the number one priority.

-B

“The End of Men”

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So after looking at things from Coontz’s more realistic and slightly pessimistic point of view, Hanna Rosin takes the time to point out that while, yes the struggle still exists, women have come such a long ways, and that there IS in fact a threat against patriarchy and its existence.

In the 1970’s, scientist Ronald Ericsson came up with a way to separate they X and Y chromosomes in the male sperm cell, thus allowing people to choose the assigned sex of their children. However, to Ericsson’s surprise, as time went on, more and more couples started to request females. At first, they were apologetic and made excuses for their preference, but eventually the shame was gone from their requests. Why requests girls? Especially with all of the adversity they will probably face based on their genitalia? Because women no longer detest themselves or their gender identity. The weak and fragile connotations associated with feminine words are slowly-creeping actually- fading away. Even Ericsson himself admitted that the motivation and and accomplishments of the modern female are quite outstanding. A young girl in today’s world has a far better chance of thriving rather than surviving in society and every day life.

But, how does class pay into all of this? The trend of full-time female workers and the stereotypical “deadbeat” male are most commonly found within the working class. These women are often single mothers and support their families, or have spouses who do not provide. Does this mean women only know how to work when they have no other options? No. Absolutely not. But women who work full-time, are often a part of the working class. Some researchers even take it so far as to say that the jobs the take, such as domestic work like cleaning, or childcare, just translates from the home. Home health care, child care, education, etc. all of these require stereotypical “feminine” skills. However, women dominate these fields! They have started to turn these absurd stereotypes around and create a way to have a steady income.

While women have completely infiltrated the working class fields, they are slowly, but surely making their way to the top!

-B

Disney Movies and Shaping Children’s Ideas of Gender

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Almost everyone grew up watching Disney films; we remember the characters and the story lines well. Many little girls wanted to grow up to be Belle or Cinderella and many little boys wanted to be Aladdin or Hercules. These characters were our idols; they embodied everything that we wanted to be when we were young.

But by looking a little bit further into Disney films, it’s easy to realize that they were setting up gender roles for us as kids that we aren’t completely comfortable with today.

In our society today, there is a huge pressure from all sides to conform to a certain ideal of beauty; we are inundated with all types of images and media forms telling us who to be and what to look like. These pressures can become so overwhelming, that we will go to drastic lengths to change something about ourselves.

From an early age, mainstream media puts images into our brains, telling us what is appropriate for our gender type. Young girls are hounded with images of princesses, who tell them that the key to happiness is being fashionable, beautiful, and finding a prince to save you. Young men are taught that to be successful, you must be good looking and muscular; and are sometimes even taught that to be successful means to be manipulative.

In the article, “What’s Wrong With Cinderella?,” written by Peggy Orenstein, a mother, Orenstein has a problem with the amount of princess imagery all around us. She writes that you can’t go anywhere today without someone bringing up the idea of a princess, especially if you have a young daughter with you. The author opens her article by recalling a time that her daughter was called “princess” by a waitress, who brought her “princess pancakes” and tried to guess “the princesses’ favorite color.” The author goes on to ask the question of, “does every little girl have to be a princess?,” which is a valid point. Why is it important for little girls to be feminine, wearing pink, and playing with dolls? Why must young girls stick to such domestic stereotypes?

The princesses are possibly the most popular Disney characters besides Mickey and Minnie. They are instantly recognizable to us in terms of their name, dress, story, relationships, etc. When we begin to look closer though, we notice certain similarities between the princesses in terms of physiques and attitudes. In the article by Towbin et al, “Images of Gender, Race, Age, and Sexual Orientation in Disney Feature-Length Animated Films,” the authors grant these four common characteristics to female Disney characters: “(a) A woman’s appearance is valued more than her intellect, (b) Women are helpless and in need of protection, (c) Women are domestic and are likely to marry, and (d) Overweight women are ugly, unpleasant, and unmarried .”

We also see many commonalities in terms of body type: the princesses all have long legs and small waists. Their facial features are dainty and feminine. They have long hair, flawless skin, and have nice clothes (with the exception of “pre-princess” Cinderella). The princesses are good singers, wealthy, and many of them seem to thoroughly enjoy household chores, such as cleaning. They have seemingly perfect lives and their beauty only helps them advance in life.

In “Things Walt Disney Never Told Us” written by Kay Stone, similar findings on stereotypes and gender roles were found, but Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Cinderella were the only princesses analyzed. Stones results concluded that all three princesses were pretty and passive and all three had female villains. This strongly enforces a popular stereotype of innocent beauty victimized by villains. Stone also found all were patient, obedient, industrious, quiet, and all required to be saved by men.

Young males who watch Disney films see male characters who are above average in physical ability, like in “Mulan,” “Pocahontas,” and “Beauty and the Beast.” In an article discussing the images and portrayal of different genders and races in Disney films, the authors, Mia Adessa Towbin, et al, write that, “(a) Men primarily use physical means to express their emotions or show no emotions, (b) Men are not in control of their sexuality, (c) Men are naturally strong and heroic, (d) Men have non-domestic jobs, and (e) overweight men have negative characteristics.”

As Michael Kimmel points out in “Bros Before Hoes”, girls aren’t the only one who grow up with forced gender stereotypes they feel the need to live up to.  The young boys that watch these movies eventually grow up to be young men who still strongly believe in these gender roles because that is what society has pushed on them from a very young age. As Kimmel points out in his article, this can lead to the idea of “Guyland”, which involves the potentially dangerous cultures of entitlement, protection, and silence when it comes to violence and sexual assault.

Now, obviously, Disney movies and their huge popularity are not disappearing anytime soon (nor should they, because although they do enforce gender roles, they do teach other important lessons children need to learn; and are just generally good movies).  Although we can be more proactive as a culture to make sure that children know that these movies should not be guides for how to form one’s attitude on gender.

-A

“The Myth of Male Decline”

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While our progress in the workforce throughout history is obvious, author Stephanie Coontz points out that while we have progressed, there is still quite a bit of room for improvement, and that the so-called “end of men,” is not a current reality.

Despite how far women have come within the past 100 years, we are still oppressed. Men still dominate the top fields in our country including (but not limited to): computer sciences and technology, engineering, and leading major corporations, while maintaining most of the positions as some of America’s wealthiest citizens. Coontz makes it obvious that some of the hindering glass ceilings from our traditional patriarchal society have yet to be shattered.

The real question is how exactly are women still being oppressed? Through gender socioeconomic class, women are often denied the same opportunities as men, through something called the “patriarchal dividend.” Though it isn’t as prominent in our current generation, men have always been able to rest assured, that even if they are not Caucasian or of the upper or middle classes, they will always trump women. Always. Whether it be at work school, or home men were always guaranteed entitlement. At one time this dividend was so severe that marital rape was not even considered to be a crime or a wrongful act. Women were expected to comply whenever their husbands deemed it necessary.

While we have come a long way since then, women still lack representations in areas such as the government or the corporate world. Only seventeen percent of Congress is female, and four percent of the CEO’s in Fortune’s top one thousand companies are women. These numbers are startlingly low. If the end of patriarchy was near, and all of the glass ceilings had been broken, then these statistics would cease to exist. Today, women make up forty percent of the full-time managers working in management, yet only make about seventy three percent of what their male co-workers do. Even with equal training and education, the gap between the salaries of men and women is quite large.

So, with these facts out on the table, have we really come as far as we thought? Or is our progress simply exaggerated?

-B

Chivalry IS Alive-But Is That A Good Thing?

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A girlfriend recently told me, “If my date doesn’t pick up the check after dinner, there’s no second date. It’s important for a man to be a gentleman.” Now, I get just as heated as the next feminist when I’m told that a woman was not promoted at her job because of her gender, or that girls are just not as good at math as boys.  It’s easy to recognize sexism when it’s violent or involves discrimination.  But what about when sexism is disguised as . . . politeness?  

Researchers call it “benevolent sexism,” but we might call it chivalry — when men act in a way that puts women on a pedestal. If you think that men opening doors or offering to carry things for women conveys good manners, you wouldn’t be alone; research has found that some women think more highly of men who practice “benevolent sexism”.   But let’s think for a minute about where these manners come from. These little acts of “politeness” are actually rooted in traditional gender stereotypes that say men are strong and women are weak. Even more than that, they are rooted in gender stereotypes that define what is appropriate behavior for men and women in really narrow ways (i.e., women can only be feminine and men can only be masculine).  What’s scarier is that these traditional stereotypes can be reinforced through sexist behavior.

Violent or discriminatory sexism, called hostile sexism, is used by men in patriarchal societies to police women’s behavior.  When women defy gender roles by acting in a way that is perceived as too “masculine,” men use violence to punish them and remind them of their feminine role.  Benevolent sexism is simply the reverse of this; it isn’t the punishment for acting too masculine, it’s the reward for acting appropriately feminine.  These two types of sexism often exist together and men (or societies) that use one will generally use the other.  So why do women like it when men hold boxes? If a woman is being rewarded through benevolent sexism (e.g., put on a pedestal) than at least she isn’t being punished through violent sexism.  It’s easy to see how violence is wrong, but is being on a pedestal really that bad?

Benevolent sexism may not be physically violent, but it has a pretty similar outcome to hostile sexism.  When women are re-situated in a traditionally feminine role (whether through violence or a man holding doors) they are reminded of feminine stereotypes, like women are the weaker sex.   What makes this extra tricky is that it’s hard to spot. Like I said before, the history of benevolent sexism has been lost over time and it’s hard to recognize benevolent sexism as sexist.  As my friend would argue, these days it just seems like a sign of respect.

But I would imagine that even if it seems like respect, it probably doesn’t feel like respect. Part of that traditional femininity is an over-zealous focus on a woman’s appearance. Women are supposed to be both beautiful and sexually enticing to men.  It seems like being reminded of this wouldn’t make a woman feel respected, but instead would make her feel self-conscious about her looks.  It might even make her compare herself to other women, to see if she is pretty enough

So, what do we do about benevolent sexism? I’m not proposing that we should all kick the next man who holds a door for us, because, let’s be honest, it is polite to hold the door when someone is walking behind you, no matter what your gender or theirs. Instead, we need to question the “rules” about what men and women should do and say (or not say!) or how we should look. Even at a time when a lot of people say that men and women are equal, that our society is “post-feminist”, this study shows us we have to think about and work to recognize how gender norms are still operating, even in disguise, and how they may still be harmful to women.

 

-A

Feminists=Man-Haters?

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According to a new study at the Huffington Post there is a major disparity between people that believe in equality “between the sexes” and identify as feminist. The study found that only 20% of Americans identify as feminist whereas 82% believe that “men and women should be social, political, and economic equals.” Equality between men and women is the most commonly accepted, mainstream definition of feminism (though there are many more out there than work in involve those not in the gender binary, and other problems not brought up in mainstream feminism).  Personally I think the biggest reason behind this disparity between Americans believing in equality and labeling themselves as feminists is mainly due to our societies’ main image of feminists.

This image is, of course, that feminists are man haters, and “the vast majority of teenage girls just aren’t going to sign up to a movement if their perception is that it involves hating men”.

Well of course they’re not. As we grow up, women learn that we need to please men. We must seek validation from men by being constantly attractive, by laughing at their jokes, by shutting up and listening when they speak, by getting their attention in whatever way we can. This is further complicated by the fact that many women are sexually attracted to men and want to have relationships with them. And if getting the man you fancy means putting up with sexism rather than challenging male privilege, feminism is not initially going to seem like a very attractive option.

Feminists have always been accused of hating men because it is a very effective way of silencing a very threatening movement. In a society where women’s value is based on our ability to please men, and where men hold almost all the cards, the worst possible thing we can do is hate them. So when feminists point out and object to the oppression, abuse and discrimination perpetuated by men against women, this is framed as man hating in an attempt to silence us, in an attempt to ensure that we are vilified and ignored by the rest of society, so that male oppression of women and male privilege can continue unchecked.

Other factors not helping the feminist movement are growing movements (particularly online) that claim “matriarchy” and the “end of men” are both on the rise. Both of these phrases have been attributed to the trend of women gaining more in both the work and societal settings.  In her article about this so called ‘end of men’, (“The Rise of Women Does Not Mean the End of Men”), Stephanie Coontz writes that:

“The increase in unemployment and fall in real wages for the bottom 70 percent of men          since the 1970s is not the result of women’s ascent from the artificially low wages and limited job access that prevailed during the era of legal discrimination. It is a product of growing socioeconomic inequality, outsourcing of traditional male jobs, attacks on unions, and decreasing investment in infrastructure.

It is true that many men (as well as a significant though smaller subset of women) have had difficulty adjusting to these changes. Some men remain so invested in their breadwinner identity that they go into crisis if their wife earns more than they do. Others, hoping someday the old order will return and they will recover their masculine privileges, fritter away their chances for self-improvement.”

No matter how we frame our arguments and no matter what kind of image we seek to project, as long as we highlight, object to and fight misogyny, feminists are going to be called man haters.

Instead, I’m going to continue to highlight, object and fight, and trust that once younger generations come into contact with feminists and feminist thinking, they will be able to recognize for themselves that there is a clear difference between hating misogyny, oppression and inequality and hating half the human race.

Although, feminism isn’t in a must of crisis as it may seem.  In the last decade, a wealth of new feminist groups and organizations have sprung up all over the country as a mass of new activists have discovered feminism, very often online. It’s true that we still have a lot of work to do – so let’s focus on that work, and let’s not allow our debates and our activism to be molded by patriarchal propaganda.

Feminism doesn’t have an image problem; society has a misogyny problem. The idea that we feminists hate all men is just a distraction.

-A

A Halt to Patriarchy?

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A hot topic in class this semester was, “The End of Men,” and whether or not patriarchy is coming to a slow end. Is it? I would like to think yes, yes it is. Slowly but surely, our patriarchal society is slowing down and realizing its faults. Now, this by no means whatsoever means that men are coming to an “end,” women are just moving closer to equality. Authors Hannah Rosin and Stephanie Coontz discuss this hot topic that we discussed in class, pointing out the ups and downs of this new trend.

History of Women in the Workforce

Female Power

Both of the articles above discuss the the rise of women in the working world and the progress we have made. Is it enough? Will patriarchy actually end? Hopefully that is something that both Rosin and Coontz can answer.

-B