Category: feminism

When the woo grows up

In my opinion, How I Met Your Mother is the best sitcom on TV. It has taught us many valuable lessons such as the Bro Code, the Crazy/Hot scale and the Lemon Law. And this season, it brought us the term “Woo Girls.”

robin-and-the-woo-girls

(I tried to find a video but failed miserably, sorry pets!)

Woo Girls, according to Barney Stinson, are those girls who wear cowboy hats to bars, do shooters, call each other “slut,” and yell “Woo!” when when a song they know comes on (usually by Lynyrd Skynyrd.)

woo-girl

Woo Girls are always 20-somethings, maybe 30-somethings. But what happens when the Woo Girls grow up?

They join Mary Kay and try to sell you cosmetics.

mary-kay

My mom dragged me to a “free makeover” by a Mary Kay consultant last night. Okay, maybe dragged isn’t the best term. Mention the word free and I’m there. Unfortunately, we were headed to a Mary Kay consultant meeting, at which they would talk each other up and do our makeovers sort of as a party trick.

“So, ladies, you get one entry into the draw for every friend you bring. So if you bring 5 friends, you get how many entries?”
“Five!”
“And that’s how many chances to win?”
“Five!”

And then they proceeded to “Woo!” at each other while they talked about how much money they’d made that week. Now, I will Woo in the appropriate scenario. After all, I’m a single, twentysomething bar go-er and oft-drunk. I will Woo if the band plays Third Eye Blind or Greenday and WOOO extra loud if they play the Beatles. But I will not Woo sober. And I will certainly not Woo about the selling of cosmetics.

At the beginning they handed us a mini survey. “Do you want us to contact your spouse to give him gift ideas?” Answers: “Yes, he would love the help!” “No, he usually picks out something himself.” I circled all of the “he” and “himself”s and the word “spouse” and wrote in big letters: “So this is only for married straight people?” right across it.

The information package you get at the end is all about why you should start your own Mary Kay business. You see, as a woman you shouldn’t work outside of the home. Just think of the money you’ll have to pay in child care, nevermind the neglect and suffering of your children. But it’s a modern world, you should be earning money for your husband to spend. So the Mary Kay way is perfect! You can be a Supermom, never leave the house and only speak to women and children! Because you’re not fit for the outside world.

…Woo!

Bitch

This post is inspired by Jessica Valenti’s book He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know. But I’m going to take a different approach to my response on this book because I want to talk a little bit about feminism first.

I am not a feminist. Or at least, I never thought I was. My sister would probably say I am, I just don’t know it yet. I think what I struggle with most is the term “feminist” itself. Because of the connotations it has. Because I’ve had countless annoying English classes where people argue that every piece of literature is actually about repressing women. Because I’ve had a very close encounter with a group of the pointing, accusing kind of feminists that give the word a bad reputation.

But what is a feminist, exactly?

I believe in equality - sexist, racist and ageist. I believe that women are treated differently than men in society, that we have a different set of expectations. I believe that we are conditioned to be a certain way and raised to behave differently and have different expectations. I believe that there is inequality between men and women, professionally and personally. That’s not even a belief so much as a proven fact.

So I guess what I’m saying is that this makes me a feminist. Still, I shy away from that word. This is probably one of the biggest challenges facing women’s rights today, the stereotypes that go along with “feminism.”

I am an intelligent, successful woman. I know what I want in life (most of the time) and I fight not only to get it but to excel at it. I am not a pushover. I was raised to go after what I wanted.

Because of this, I have been called a “bitch” more times in my life than I can count. I’m a bitch because I know how to get what I want. I’m a bitch because I’m in control of my workplace. I’m a bitch because I’m not a pushover, because I will stand up for myself and for what’s right. I’m a bitch because sometimes I simply refuse to stand for the patterns of social niceties that we’re expected to perform. Because sometimes people just really need to be told that they’re not doing what they should.

Let’s take my friend Kaitlyn for example. Kaitlyn is the smartest person I know. She’s driven and focused. She does amazingly well in school. She doesn’t accept anything less than perfect from herself or anyone else. And because of this, she’s already gotten so far in the last 22 years, and I’m sure will soon be working for Pixar and making millions. But you see, Kaitlyn is a bitch. Because she dares to question her teachers. Because she dares to demand better. Because she stands up for herself when no one else will. Because she’s a woman in a “man’s field” and she doesn’t fade into the background.

Apparently, “bitch” doesn’t mean “nasty” at all. Apparently “bitch” is actually a compliment, because Kaitlyn and I are both glad that we’re all of those things.

But I guarantee you that a man with the same approach as Kaitlyn or I would never be called a “bitch” or even an “asshole.” No, he would be the boss, a go-getter, competitive. This is absolutely the most annoying double standard that exists in the vast world of sexism.

I am tired of being called a bitch.

One day I was having tea with my sister, and I was particularly upset about being called a bitch, yet again. “I don’t think I’m a bitch,” I said. “I care a lot about people, I have lots of friends. I go out of my way to help people. But if everyone keeps saying it, it must be true, right?”

My sister looked at me and said, “You’re not a bitch because you’re not nice. You’re a bitch because you’re a strong, empowered woman and you’re not what society says you’re supposed to be.”

It was with this in mind that she leant me the book He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut, insisting that it be one of the 50 Books that I read for my list.

The book really opened my eyes to things that I already knew. That is to say, what she was saying seemed so obviously true that I was surprised I had never really thought about it before.

19. He’s the Boss, She’s a Bitch

“If you’re a woman in a position of power, you’ve probably been called a bitch… Or maybe you’ve been called a “boss lady.” Or ball buster, ball breaker, or some other word that means castrating, pushy, loud, and basically out of line. Why out of line? Because women don’t belong in positions of power, silly! So if you’ve gotten there, you must be a bitch. Men, though, arenatural bosses. Just think of the way men and women in the workplace are described. Men are ambitious, women are ruthless; men are commanding, women are bossy.”

1. He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut

“Despite the ubiquity of ’slut,’ where you won’t hear it is in relation to men. Men can’t be sluts. Sure, someone will occasionally call a guy ‘a dog,’ but men simply aren’t judged like women are when it comes to sexuality.”

Jessica Valenti has another book called The Purity Myth alllll about this obsession with women’s virginity. I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to.

7. He’s a Bachelor, She’s a Spinster

“There’s something hot about single men. They’re bachelors, with cool apartments and the freedom to do whatever they want without judgment… Single women, on the other hand - especially single women who have the gall to be over thirty - we’re old maids. Spinsters. Desperate to be Bridezillas and moms. There’s no such thing as a happy single woman. We’re all just wives-in-training or crazy cat ladies.”

I will not be a crazy cat lady. If no one worthy comes along then I will be a) a single mother  b) a lady who was always crazy and has always liked cats and c) probably better off anyway.

22. He’s Himself, She’s Mrs. Himself

“Now, most American women who marry men will change their last name [...] to their husband’s… The reason I hear most often when women talk about why they want to take their spouse’s last name is tradition. To which I say, meh. I’m unimpressed. There are plenty of traditions worth keeping… But holding on to traditions that not only make your life more difficult - legally changing your last name, and all the paperwork that goes along with it - but are also mired in sexist ideals of women being owned? That’s just too much. (Quick remedial lesson on last names for those not in the know: The idea is that owmen were passed as property from father to husband; we don’t really have an identity of our own - just that which the men in our lives define for us.)”

I have a lot of personal feelings on this one because my mom never changed her name. When asked why, she simply answers that she knew exactly who Shirley Francis was and hadn’t a clue who Shirley Montgomery was supposed to be. This is highly unconventional, even for our time. Countless teachers and friends asked me growing up if my parents were divorced. The other day my banker just assumed that my mom was a single mom. But I agree completely with my mom’s choice and I’m pretty sure I will chose the same. Mostly because I plan to have made a name for myself in the world before I get married, and why would I want to take that name away?

There are a lot more double standards to read about in this book, and all very interesting at that. These are just the ones that really got the feminist in me going. Now just don’t talk to me about bush shaping and we’ll be okay.

If you’ve ever been called a bitch and hate it as much as I do, Valenti suggests we take the word back. The next time someone calls me a bitch, I’m promising to say “Thank you” in return. And for now… change your Facebook/MySpace/Twitter status to “is a bitch.” and be PROUD!

Bush shaping

This commercial annoys me. The whole idea of the double standard of women having to shave or wax their pubic hair really angers the usually relatively tame feminist in me. I’m not the only person I know who’s had that conversation with a guy. When I wrote an article on waxing for the Charlatan last semester, one guys I asked said “Yeah, I’d ask a girl to wax.” And then I asked him if he’d wax he said “Hell no, that’s way too painful!” Damn straight it’s painful! It’s a good thing women are more tolerant of pain if we have to go through having hairs ripped from our most sensitive parts to look “sexy.”

So here is yet another commercial that shows that girls should strive to have perfectly shaped bushes, with a brand new razor that I’m sure will give millions of women uncomfortable in-grown hairs. Seriously, who has time to shape their bush into a perfect circle?

Free your skin? Why not free your bush?

Dear Mr. and/or Mrs. Sender…

I followed some links on my friend Lea’s journal, to a feminism website that entertained me for a portion of the afternoon. The Hathor Legacy is a website that examines TV, movies, etc from a feminist point of view.

I honestly don’t know what I think about feminism. I’ve been in enough English classes to resent someone saying that every piece of literature has to do with feminism. I’ve also been attacked by feminists for my apparent lack of sensitivity. The terms “feminist” and “feminism” are loaded for me. I mean, technically it means that you believe in equal rights for both sexes. But it has grown to mean so much more. If someone is a Feminist do they automatically think that everything is about repressing women? The word has come a ways from it’s roots. I suppose like a lot of isms have, communism for one. Not all feminists are man-eating bitches. Not all communists are Soviet spies.

My problem is that I can’t figure out where I stand. Do I believe in equality? Absolutely. Not just for women, but for all people. But do I believe that our society has a serious problem with repressing women? Not as much. I believe that women have come a very long way in the last century. And sure, there’s probably room still to grow. But I don’t really see it as being one of our biggest flaws. Racism and homophobia are much bigger problems today than chauvinism or patriarchy.

Another problem I have is that I do think men and women are different. Inherently. At the base of it we are all mammals, after all. And in every spicies on the planet, males and females differ. Biologically, we are made differently. Females are made to be nurturers. And to stay close to home. Why? Not because females are weaker. But because they’re more important. They make babies. If they die, there are no babies. If males die, well, one male’s sperm can impregnate a whole species of females if it has to. Biologically, females are supposed to be protected.

Now, before anyone gets angry with me, I know that that isn’t the case in a modern society. I know that I’ll never be a stay at home mom. I know that some women aren’t nurturing, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Things have changed since we were animals. But that doesn’t change how we’re wired. Men and women are built different for different tasks. They think differently. They move differently. Neither better than the other, but for different purposes.

I have come up against a few examples of repression in my life (though hardly any). Someone told me once that photography was a man’s profession because you had to carry all the heavy equipment. And I did resent that. Which is why I’m so torn.

The basic truth, though, is that I want to have babies, and would probably give up my dreams to do so. I like cooking and baking and taking care of people. (I don’t like cleaning though… THAT trait has to be learned, there’s obviously no biological use for it). And I like men who are Men. I like feeling protected. I do want a guy to open the lid of the jar, or to scare away the bird. I’m a girl, so what? Does that make me a traitor to the movement of women’s rights? Besides all of these things I am also intelligent and motivated and obviously going somewhere in my life. So where do I fit in the feminist spectrum?

Maybe I don’t understand enough about true feminism, maybe I only see the stereotype. That’s what the website showed me. It’s really insightful. I suggest you check it out.

I still don’t want to hear about how everything in the world is about feminism, though. Sometimes, it’s really not.