Hop on Pop (Culture): Article of the Week


In today's New York Times' Modern Love (Style) section, Kelly Valen wrote of an abusive experience she had in college that occurred as a result of a date-rape: an action that in itself is awful, not taking under account the condemnation and black-balling of her so-called "sisters," her would-be friends. The piece hit home for me for many reasons, the first being my ability to relate to the following, the opening of her essay, My Sorority Pledge? I Swore Off Sisterhood:

My life’s greatest sorrow stems from my inability to feel close to other women. At 41, I’ve cautiously cultivated a few cherished female friendships. But generally I feel a kind of skittish distrust and discomfort when dealing with most women, particularly women in packs.

The few female friends I have kept and maintained over the years have had the same issue I have: a distrust and discomfort around most other women. Becoming a parent has magnified my distrust of women ten-fold, as in ten times out of ten I would rather be alone than within a group a mothers. Motherhood it seems, brings out the quiet bitch in us all.

Women can be horrible to one another more often than not, torturing each other psychologically, ratting each other out, stabbing one another in the back, violently. More violent even than harassment. And in Valen's case, rape.

Valen's essay lead to a discussion between me and several friends about feminism in general and the idea that perhaps the feminist "movement" has outgrown itself to such an extent that women have had no choice but to turn on each other, pointing fingers, pulling at the hair of former colleagues and teammates. Perhaps this is a recent phenomenon or maybe women since the beginning of time have been at each other's throats in the same way. I have a feeling though, it has changed. There is something that seems to happen after every war or societal movement, a kind of inability to put down one's weapons and accept one's new, "liberated" life.



The conversation drifted over to Hillary Clinton and whether or not a woman candidate could and can be celebrated in a country overrun by competitive alpha-women who are so crippled by jealousy that very often they/we cannot look at the bigger picture.

Sure, Hillary isn't the most likeable of women or even political candidates for that matter, but I think a great much of what she is criticized for is the result of her "masculine" thirst for power. It is hard for us (as women) to support strong women without familiarizing ourselves with their "weaknesses," and so in the case of a hard-bellied Hillary, there is a disconnect. Because she is a woman lacking the vulnerability of a trusted female confidante, and therefor threatening to women who might normally support her.


Women are manipulative. We hold one another down in ways that are debilitating to ourselves, often gesturing toward men and misogyny as a what's-what to blame. And none of us are innocent. It is far more difficult to congratulate a friend on exciting news than it is to console a friend in times of need (jealousy is the antithesis of pity). A strange paradox during a time when women are congratulating themselves for being so modern.

Women aren't evolving as much as we say we are. We're just talking more shit behind each other's backs. And what is perhaps most upsetting is that, as I criticize this inexcusable behavior, I am more likely than not, just the same, a judgmental and often catty creature unable to see such character flaws in myself.

Valen closes her essay with an unfortunate conclusion:

I’ve been a full-time lawyer, a working mother and a stay-at-home mother. In each role, I’ve found my fears about women’s covert competition and aggression to be frequently validated: the gossip, the comparisons, the withering critiques of career and mothering choices. We women swim in shark-infested waters of our own design. Often we don’t have a clue where we stand with one another — socially, as mothers, as colleagues — because we’re at once allies and foes.

I want to remain optimistic. After all, here I am with three daughters. What am I to teach them? Cautionary tales about men’s harmful proclivities abound. But how do we help our girls navigate the duplicitous female maze? How do we ensure that they behave authentically, respect humanity over fleeting alliances, and squash the nasty tribal instincts that can inflict lifelong distress?

I don’t know. I’m afraid I never will.


She has put into words what I have been unable to voice without becoming defensive on behalf of men and boys, my son included-- that women and girls should be more cautious of themselves and one another. Betrayal and judgment of one's own sex can be far more paralyzing than that of the male equivalent, with lasting repercussions that are far more difficult to understand.

GGC

32 comments:

Anonymous | 3:54 AM

YAWN! That was aboring blog. You are better off talking about the toddler day's.

Chris. | 6:08 AM

Actually, that was a great entry. I'm not so sure that women are more catty and backstabbing than they used to be. Keep in mind that unlike men who have typically competed physically with one another for mates, food, etc, women have always fought our battles on the social front. I have to teach myself to play on the girl's team, making a point of not blaming women for what men do, or ensuring that I compliment a women, very genuinely, as much as I can. I hope it's helping...

verybadcat | 6:11 AM

Yeah, I just wrote a history paper on second wave feminism, and I touched on this in my conclusion. You know, I would love nothing more than to be a stay at home Mom, but I never would or could tell my closest friends that. They would die. I have a good job, I have a career path, I'm in college, and I would "pause" it all, or even give it up entirely, for the chance to raise my own (yet to be conceived) kid. How fucked up is that? My dirty secret is that I want to be barefoot and pregnant.

Scar | 7:43 AM

i love this. the worst thing I ever did was join a sorority.

Anonymous | 7:51 AM

Very interesting post, I enjoyed reading it and finding I'm the same way.

Don Mills Diva | 8:02 AM

I think you've given me something to write about this week.

Usually I am spot on with the things you write, but I have to say this has not been my experience with women. I do not agree that Motherhood brings out the quite bitch in all of us - in fact that makes me sad because I have found such great friendship and support from other women since becoming a mom.

I actually think that the whole idea that "women in packs are so mean" and "women are so awful and bitchy" in itself is such a damaging stereotype. Are women bitchy sometimes? - yes of course but feel like a lot of the "mommy wars" and "mean girls stuff" among adult women is sensationalised.

Maybe it's an age thing. I may have been more inclined to agree with you when I was in my 20s but now that I'm (well) into my 30s I am incredibly grateful for the strong, supportive women I have encountered. Most of the women I know bend over backwards to make women feel comfortable their choices whatever they are. Perhaps I've just been execptionally blessed, but like I said I find it upsetting that groups of women, be they mom's groups or whatever, are constantly stereotyped as cess pools of jealously and backstabbing.

Anyway - just my experience. This is a well-written and thought-provoking piece and I thank you for sharing it.

caramama | 8:02 AM

I completely agree with some of what you say (such as your last sentence), but I respectfully disagree with other points. And I say this in a non-catty, non-judgemental way. ;)

I've done a lot of research in the areas of gender studies, from how we differ in communication to how we differ in play as children to how we differ in the workplace (I have some really interesting reading recommendations in many areas--email me if you are interested). I truly believe that women have been like this for a long time. I think that what changes over the years is the subject on which we focus/gossip/criticize.

What especially drives me crazy is that many characteristics that are applauded in men are criticized in women, especially by other women. For example, a man is assertive, but a women who acts the same way is a bitch. There was a recent study I read about that confirmed this bias of character traits in the work place.

I feel like this is a jumbled comment, and I could go on and on, but I'm just going to leave it at that. And this was a very interesting post today. Thanks for putting it out there!

caramama | 8:09 AM

Apparently I wasn't done. Sorry. But I want to add to what Don Mills Diva said.

I have found many groups of mothers to be very supportive and understand. There are others I've found to be a bit judgemental. I have been lucky to be part of groups who are wonderful to each other, such as some of these online communities/blogs.

Also, since I've had a baby, I personally have found myself to be more understanding of other women who are mothers and wanting to be more helpful to other mothers and children. I'm often surprising myself with how I want to go out of my way to help strangers with kids, even it it's to share an understanding smile. It's a nice thing to discover.

Okay, I'll be quiet now. :)

Don Mills Diva | 8:25 AM

Ditto on the understanding smile thing - I notice and try to be nicer now when I see women struggling with kids and looking tired and run down and I feel like I've gotten more consideration in return.

Okay - I'll be quiet too :)

Anonymous | 9:03 AM

I feel the same sense of insecurity around women in packs, but I don't know how much of it can be attributed to my own self-esteem issues and how much can be the alpha-female and her minions kind of thing. I relate to a lot of what you say, but I have also found more compassion among my female friends (only one of whom I truly feel 100% comfortable with) since motherhood has struck us all.

Within my own group of female friends, I find that one of them is the catty, gossipy type and that most of the time, if she's not around, the rest are truly genuinely nice and caring. Most of them, when the catty one is on the warpath, will keep quiet and just let her rant, but at one time or another, each of us has fallen into poor behavior and let ourselves be mean about one thing or another a time or two. So I wonder if some of it has to do with that Queen Bee and her Wannabees kind of thing or if it's more of what you speak with the second wave of feminism. I just don't know.

Andrea

WendyB | 9:41 AM

There are many women who are great people, but if you assume they're going to be vile, you're not going to get the best of anyone. Interestingly, 99% of the women I've had trouble with at work in the backstabbing department were the ones who said they don't trust other women. There was a lot of projection there, IMHO. (The other 1% was just out of her damn mind...crazy that knew no gender.) I started out working in a nearly exclusively male environment and when I started managing people, I primarily hired women. Honest to God, the women were more reliable and less EMOTIONAL (really!) than the men who worked for me. I didn't have time for the male temper tantrums that I'd experienced previously. I actually find it rather sexist that women are accused of covert meanness and backstabbing when men, in the office at least, do the SAME things except then it's acceptable office politics. I've been screwed over by sneaky men plenty of times at work. I think if any woman extends a helping hand towards other women, she will be pleasantly surprised at the results

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 10:41 AM

Good points, Wendy. Perhaps I've gone cynical after some less than pleasant situations with other women (in groups) and have kind of sworn off groups altogether at the risk of having to deal with discomfort because it's kind of like anything in lfe, I like to call it: stay away from the frying pan, even if the stove isn't on.

Also wanted to make clear that I'm not talking about blogger relationships. That's a very different beast, in my opinion. Women together in the flesh is a totally different dynamic.

Thanks, all for sharing your perspectives and POVS/

barbara | 2:01 PM

I think not being a "group" person (i'm not either) is very different than not trusting other women. Bec, it sounds as if you have a lot of really wonderfully fierce women in your life though, no? Thanks for the think-piece.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 2:39 PM

Absolutely. Tre fierce!

Green | 2:51 PM

Maybe you're not meant for group situations. Or maybe you're just meeting the wrong women. Maybe some of both.

I just want to be sure I understand what you're saying - are you saying we'd be more likely to vote Oprah into power than Hillary because everyone has seen Oprah cry and knows her best friend is Gail?

If so, I think you're underestimating the intellect of many people (female or not).

Not all women are manipulative. It seems to me (merely from reading your blog) that you have traveled more than I have and have more friends than I do. If I can find nice women to be friends with, then surely you can too. I can only conclude that if you haven't, you're not looking very hard.

There's a great line in the movie The Last Boyscout that Damon Wayans says to Bruce Willis - "I want to meet the bitch who fucked you up" and in reading your blog post, that's what popped into my mind.

*I apologize if this comes across harshly; I don't intend it to. I am just shocked by what I can't help but see as closed mindedness by someone I think of as a smart person.

Anonymous | 3:16 PM

haha "I want to meet the bitch who fucked you up" classic!

I am a preschool teacher and until three years ago have always had a woman as my co-teacher. Now I have a guy. I wouldn't trade him for the world. I get to be honest and blunt and don't have to worry about my tone or how I phrase my sentences. He does not read into the way I ask him to cut out snowmen or roll his eyes when I ask him to get off his ass and help. With women (from my experience and from what I still see in the other classes) there is always a bit of tension. "I asked her a half hour ago to go make copies but she still hasn't done it..." Ahh, so glad I don't have to deal with that anymore :)
~jjlibra

Jessica Blair M. | 3:18 PM

thank you for posting this. while i don't identify with an experience similar to valen's, her feelings towards women are not far from mine and i really enjoyed your post as well.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 3:19 PM

I'm sorry for this as closed-minded. That was not my intention. I was merely responding to a post that hit a nerve with me, agreeing with the author that women can be pretty brutal to one another. Especially in groups. It was a personal response to a personal essay on a personal blog.

This post was me trying to justify why the author (as well as I) have had such rotten experiences with groups of women. I have amazing friends, of course, and have spoken with many of them about the same issues I have mentioned in this post, so I don't think the issue is that I don't have any nice women friends. I have many, actually. And am a bit sad that so many readers read into this post as being "poor me, I have no good girl friends."

My issues come from watching over and over women convince themselves that women are the "good guys" ... the "victims" in male/female situations and I don't think that's fair or even often the case as in my own experience as well as the experience of the woman who authored the piece.

As a sidenote, I do think that if Oprah ran for President she would win over Hillary. I would wage money on it actually. For many of the reasons described in the above (green) comment. And I don't think I'm underestimating the intellect of this country at all when I say that. We're talking about a country who voted Bush into office. And then re-elected him. Collective intellect has not been our greatest strength as a country, it seems.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 3:20 PM

"I'm sorry that this post was seen as closed-minded"... I mean. Woops!

Silver Spork | 3:53 PM

I can probably count the *total* number of close female friends I've had in my entire life on one hand. Too many times, I've been burned by backstabbing, lying, etc. girls and women. It's stereotypical, but in my experience, men are more straightforward and/or transparent.

At this point, I rarely socialize with other women in group situations.

Shannon | 3:59 PM

I guess I have been lucky in that this really hasn't been my experience at all. I have met other mothers that are incredibly supportive and pleasant to be around. I also think that with age I have become much more open minded and less judgemental myself. I don't pick friends based on their clothing style, etc. I have become friends with mothers who have completely different tastes and interests. They have taught me a lot and we have more in common, since we are mothers, than friends of mine who don't have kids. After all, motherhood is my front and center role right now. I see so many moms try to rebel against the fact that they are mothers, and seem turned off by the "mini van mom" image. I spent my 20's being cool, or at least trying, and maybe someday I will be again. But for right now I have spit up on my shoulder, and thats o.k.

Anonymous | 7:19 PM

Thank you for this very thought provoking piece! I struggled with my femininity while I was working as an Engineer with mostly males. I think sometimes we resort to being overly critical and taking on sterotypically male characteristics to be successful. We (women) have to appear to be more "man-like", and separate ourselves from our femininity(other women) to be in with them (men). They would basically step on other women to promote themselves. I realize this is all summarizing briefly, but that's how it felt. I love men. I love my boys. I am a hardcore feminist, but these are my observations of myself and others in the workplace. It used to enrage me that a man could have a total tantrun cursing and pounding fists, but it was so weak for a woman to cry. They are both emotions. One is less agressive and less confrontational, but still viewed as inappropriate. Ahhh...I could go on and on. My women friends are wonderful. I have only found women to behave as you have mentioned in the work force or while competing for men. Women who are judgemental as mommies are only insecure in themselves or jealous of you. Sarah

Carrie | 11:09 PM

It's not being "closed-minded" to express an opinion based on your own experiences. And kudos for the Oprah comment. It's a sad and sorry truth that celebrity and name recognition will always triumph over true political talent. ~Carrie

mfk | 12:07 AM

I know what you mean sort of... it's not that I have a problem trusting other women, exactly, but I just don't really get the whole "girlfriends" thing even though I love it when I find someone I can relate to. I relate better to women who act more like guys, I think. Which is funny because I didn't grow up in a family of boys or anything like that. Anyway, I agree with you that women (sometimes) can be very mean in groups, and also, sometimes it's just too easy or too hard to be the odd one out in a group of women, or to feel as if you are, anyway.

sweetney | 6:34 AM

i think we might share a brain.

this: Women are manipulative. We hold one another down in ways that are debilitating to ourselves, often gesturing toward men and misogyny as a what's-what to blame. And none of us are innocent. It is far more difficult to congratulate a friend on exciting news than it is to console a friend in times of need (jealousy is the antithesis of pity). A strange paradox during a time when women are congratulating themselves for being so modern.

Women aren't evolving as much as we say we are. We're just talking more shit behind each other's backs. And what is perhaps most upsetting is that, as I criticize this inexcusable behavior, I am more likely than not, just the same, a judgmental and often catty creature unable to see such character flaws in myself.


is just brilliant, so well put. i could have written it myself (though not as well). all so sad, so true...

Anonymous | 11:11 AM

Wow, this post and the comments provoked a whole heap of reactions in me.

One was to wonder whether the problem is more cliques and groups than women themselves? Because men in groups behave badly too. I'm not excusing the guy who raped Kelly Valen, but from her article, one could imagine that he may have felt pressure to do what he did in order to feel accepted by his fraternity. He also seems to have felt remorse, and apologized to everyone, but was still blackballed... which seems hypocritical of his fraternity brothers. I'm not saying he didn't cross a very important line and shouldn't have had any consequences to his actions, but it's not like all his frat brothers were completely blameless either.

I'd also like to back up some of the other comments by saying that, as an adult, I have definitely not found women in general to be manipulative, holding each other down, blaming men, backstabbing, gossipy, etc etc. In fact, my current work as a freelancer relies on word of mouth, and the vast majority of my clients are women - I couldn't survive without their tremendous support. Sure, I have come across a few individual women with some of the characteristics you list (and have been hurt by some of them), but I've also come across a number of men with these characteristics.

I was actually a bit shocked by your description of “women”… and, going back and rereading your earlier posts on masculism and man-hating (where I agree 100% with what you said), I was struck by you making such a harsh statement given your total rejection of similar sweeping generalisations of men. And thinking about it as I write this, doesn’t my and others’ need to defend women here indicate that this description really is too harsh??

But having said that, I recognize the negative qualities you listed in myself…. not necessarily in my day-to-day acts, but in the potential for these qualities to come to the surface (and, unfortunately, the number of times they did when I was younger). My feeling is that they are all facets of being human - along with kindness, generosity, compassion, etc – and not solely possessed by women.

Your post also led me to think about friendships… I don't have the same mistrust of women that you describe, but I know that I only really click with very few. I see this as a normal situation though… where is it stated that we should expect to be best buddies with everyone we meet? Tolerant of, yes, polite to, yes, respectful of, yes, but friends with?

There’s more I could say but I’ll finish with a conclusion of sorts: I actually think the message we give to our sons and daughters is pretty simple - don’t say or do things you feel are wrong just to impress a group, be aware of the true motivation behind your words and acts and take responsibility for them, try not to be hurtful, stay honest to yourself… that is, BEWARE OF CLIQUES AND GROUP-THINK! (And to verybadcat, this includes so-called feminist group-think: if you want a baby, have one, and screw what your friends think. True friends support whatever decision you make, even if it’s not for them.)

(and sorry for posting this as anonymous, but it seems to be the only way I can. Emma)

the weirdgirl | 2:04 PM

I have found it about 50-50 for men and women. There are men and women who are great, and there are those who are bitchy assholes. I think group settings in general really have the potential to bring out the worst in people.

I can't disagree with your assessments because I have also run into the same experiences, but I will disagree that the vast majority of women do it. I DO, however, completely understand how those experiences can make you very wary of groups. I've had a few incidences with my larger mom group that just weren't pretty. But then again my small playgroup has totally got my back.

I'll just keep the cool few, but I won't let the bitchy ones make me wary of ALL people. Sometimes you can totally bond with strangers in unexpected places... and I won't give up the opportunity to meet someone new that way despite all the bitchy competitive others.

Hannah | 3:49 PM

Hi Becca, it's Rachel's friend Hannah. (Surprise! I lurk your blog. Especially when I'm in the middle of finals.)

This post made me a little bit sad, I think because I get so disappointed when I see public opinion of feminism outside my circle of friends. I really agreed with a lot of what was said above, about this view of women as catty and manipulative. As someone who has been a self-identified feminist since I found out what it actually means (hairy legs and butch haircuts are symptomatic of being a feminist sometimes, not prerequisites...once you've been reading feminist theory on gender construction it becomes really appealing to fuck with gender presentation), I have to say that I really disagree with the statement that the feminist movement has outgrown itself to the point that women can only attack each other. I really strongly believe that the reason we need feminism, the reason we need people of all genders to come together as feminists, is to eliminate that type of behavior, to make it unnecessary. That is what the feminist movement is about.

And while I'm talking about what the feminist movement is about, I do really want to point out that being a feminist is not mutually exclusive to being a stay at home mom. Feminism is not about typecasting women into "dykes in combat boots" as the ideal, it's about making sure women can live their lives as freely and with as much choice as men can. And on the flip side of that, feminism is also about opening up choices for men, about breaking down these strict gender roles and expectations for gender presentation that are socially enforced so strongly that deviating from them is physically dangerous (just Google violence against trans people, and you'll see). Feminism is about choice for all genders, not about making women "like" men. Feminism didn't end after second-wave feminism got us legislation that said we couldn't be discriminated against based on our biological sex. First of all, those laws are de jure, not de facto, and second of all, there are so many other things that are still ignored that the feminist movement is working for.

Like her or hate her, I think Naomi Wolf's work is really relevant to this idea that women are always vicious and competitive. She notes that as women gained more access to spaces and careers that had been exclusively masculine spheres, the beauty ideal (which she refers to as the Iron Maiden) became less and less realistic and more unattainable. This leads to women starving themselves to attain that goal of the beauty myth, which leads to their preoccupation with hunger, which does not allow them to focus on what they really want. A female student cannot study or learn when she is busy trying to distract herself from hunger pangs because she's had "too many" calories that day and can't allow anymore. Women's relationships with food have become more and more disordered as they have become more and more upwardly mobile.

This next part is something I was just thinking about, not something that I've read any research on, so it's not completely thought out. But it seems to me that the more unattainable the beauty ideal gets, the thinner/whiter/blonder it is, the fewer women fit it. This competition between women is over that beauty ideal. Competition between women is almost always over things that we are "supposed" to value in a society that is patriarchal. (And of course, I'm not saying that we should not value these things; only that it is perfectly valid not to value them.) It's over motherhood ("My baby is better than yours"/"I'm such a failure; she can have a baby and I can't"), it's over beauty ("My thighs are so fat; all my friends are skinner than I am; I'm so ugly"), it's over men ("That bitch flirted with him! I saw him first!"). This is the cattiness that women are said to have, and it seems to me a bit like now that we grow up being told we can do anything, we have this ambition. We have this knowledge that we can stand up for ourselves, but we do not know where to put it. Women's anger is not permitted in society--how many times have you seen men fighting it out? And how is women's anger presented? As irrational and nagging.

When women compete in arenas that are not traditionally feminine, in the workplace, or in politics, there is an immediate backlash, a punishment for stepping out of it. Just last week there was a hostage situation at Hillary Clinton's campaign office--and the US thinks it's so enlightened! How come Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, all these countries that Americans claim oppress their women, were able to have women heads of state, and we, who claim to be so advanced in the realm of gender equality, can't even have a female candidate without there being a threat on her life. I am aware that she wasn't there at the time, but a bomb threat at her political headquarters is DEFINITELY a threat.

And just as a personal counter--every single one of my close relationships except two (and one of them is my dad) is with a woman. The people I value in my life the most are women, the people who I count as the people who made me who I am are all women. Feminism is also about making space for this, about bringing women together. It's a little bit hard to take, and the definition of "lesbian" she uses is not the pop culture one, but Adrienne Rich's "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" makes this point incredibly well.

I'm not sure I put that together very well. It's sometimes hard for me to express myself well when I'm on the spot and when it's on something that is so incredibly important to me.

Anyway, I hope your holidays are getting off to a good start. We're buried in snow up here in Montréal, and I'm looking forward to getting home to some sunshine soon.

(I hope this doesn't post twice; I was having a little trouble.)

the weirdgirl | 10:40 AM

Ooh, I like Hannah! I've read a lot of feminist literature too, and you put everything into words very well hon!

And you're definitely right about one thing... if you personally don't place value on the things women (or men) get competitive about it's much harder for the cattiness to touch you. (It's a little harder to "fit in" too, but I'd rather not fit in than play the bitch game.)

Rock on, Hannah!

Hannah | 6:09 PM

Thanks, weirdgirl. The only issue with not placing value on the things people get competitive about is that it's either impossible or very difficult not to a lot of the time. Especially when we're talking about motherhood...if you're a mother, hopefully that's an identity you value, and I would guess that it would be ridiculously difficult to detach other people's criticism of that from your own perception of yourself as a mother. That example is tricky, because it differs from, say, the beauty myth in that it isn't a negative thing to want to be, whereas the Iron Maiden requires starvation to attain. I suppose the way that they're similar is that there are these expectations of what children should and should not be allowed to do, and doing things the reverse is where the criticism comes in. For example, apparently you're not supposed to let kids run around naked in public (and I mean, like, parks and the beach here, not Chez Panisse), but if I had kids, I would probably let my kids run around naked in public up until the age that they started being uncomfortable doing so. They don't sexualize their nakedness, so even in our (completely bizarre) societal view of sex, that shouldn't be a problem, but I'd problem get a lot of shit from people for letting them do it.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 10:41 PM

Thanks for your insightful comments, Hannah. And for your ideas. I totally respect where you're coming from and why feminism is important and why advancing must remain a constant and that at the end of the day, everything is about choice. I think it's a very interesting topic for discussion.

I think society has exaggerated our competitive-streak for sure but I also feel that women typically want "themselves" to excel for "themselves"... It's a different kind of competitiveness than I think men have. Men have an inherent need to be "providers" while women have a sort-of expectation that we will be provided for and so we're constantly trying (albeit subtly) to rebel against our own expectations in order to feel more in control of our own lives/lives of our children/etc. I believe this is the reason for conflict. Because in so many words, we feel conflicted. And waging war against those we (are afraid to admit) might need as providers isn't always an option, so where and who against do we exude this kind of conflicted power? I believe in many cases it is against each other (woman to woman). I say this not because I've given up on women but because I believe we can overcome these issues. That by being aware of our points of weakness (as women, or feminists or whatever) we can take the appropriate course of action in our own lives to change, or at least be open and aware that we still have a lot of growing (adapting) to do.

Hope to see you, soon! Come stop by the Woolf household when you're in town from school. We'll be watching White Christmas on a loop, I'm sure. And please comment again! You're insight is always welcome here. :)

Hannah | 4:42 PM

I do see where you're coming from, but there were a few things that really jumped out at me.

Firstly, if men have an inherent need to be providers and women expect to be provided for, then how do we end up with attraction, sexuality, and love that are not heterosexual? Is it just that in a homosexual couple, one person takes the "woman's" role and one takes the "man's" role? What about people who have no interest in settling, and therefore never settle, into a monogamous life-partner type of situation? I feel like a lot of queer people would have objections to being told that they're the woman of the relationship when they aren't women at all, or vice-versa.

To me, the fact that women still are having a struggle between "needing to be provided for" and wanting to be able to be independent proves that feminism has not gone as far as it needs to. The point wasn't just to make women dissatisfied with what they had, the point is to change the entire structure of society, which is why progress is so damn slow. This internal conflict shows that women do not have economic independence, and that they are absolutely aware that they don't--and in my opinion, that is unacceptable. There is no reason that women, who are equal human beings to men (though they obviously aren't treated as such yet) should not be able to provide for themselves. I'm not saying that all women SHOULD provide for themselves, becuase women have the right to control their own sexuality, reproduction, and relationships, and if women do not want to be out in the working world, and are perfectly happy with their husbands doing that work, then fine. But women, as a group of human beings, should be ABLE to provide for themselves as a rule, not as the extremely difficult exception to the rule. I think that this rebellion against being provided for is something that we need as a society, because quite frankly, we as women should be in control of our own lives. We are not helpless, and we are not children. And that control over our own lives should still exist if we choose to be in marriages where the man is the provider and we are provided for.

Feminism isn't about waging war against men. It is about waging war against inequality, against sexism, against misogyny, and more recently, against racism, classism, able-ism, homophobia, and other discrimination and oppressions, because modern feminists recognize that people experience multiple oppressions simultaneously, and not only can they usually not distinguish between the effects of each, there is no reason they should have to. bell hooks, a prominent feminist theorist, uses a really good example to explain this: a young Black girl, growing up, is told to be quiet and docile in public, both because she is a girl and that is acceptable behavior in the eyes of the dominant sex (male), and because she is Black, and that is acceptable behavior for people of color in the eyes of the dominant race (white). Anyway, the point is, it's not about fighting men. It's about fighting all people who perpetuate these types of discrimination and oppression, and women do it too. They do it all the time, when they tell their daughters that their thighs are getting fat and maybe they should start a diet together. When they let the boys stay out later than the girls in the family. When they are condescending toward their friends and family members are disabled. When they tell their daughters and sisters that some of the awful things that men do are okay because "that's how boys are, and they don't know any better, and these things happen." (And I say men here because sexual assault is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men on women, which further illustrates the insane power imbalances that still exist.) Women grow up in a patriarchal society just like men do, and they perpetuate the same things that men do. The only way people stop perpetuating these inequalities is by consciously examining them and trying to stop--and that is true for both men and women. The reason that feminism is so often painted as "against men" is because, as standpoint theory points out, when you are the victim of inequality, it's a lot easier to see that it's there. Men do benefit from the privilege that they have, and it really sucks to acknowledge that privilege. I know, because I, as a straight, white, upper-middle-class, cisgendered (meaning my biological sex matches my gender identity) woman, I have almost all the same privilege that straight, white, upper-middle-class, cisgendered men have, except that I don't have male privilege. Benefiting from inequality makes us a lot less willing to acknowledge that it is there, which is why there are more women who are feminists than men who are feminists, and why feminism was (and has only recently begun to fix the problem) a racist and classist set of theories.

I sincerely hope that none of that came off as too confrontational; I'm just extremely passionate about it, and it does really make me sad when strong, smart women are so turned off by feminism.

And I'm sure I'll see you at some point (whenever Rachel can make some time between practicing!) over the break. White Christmas has always been a holiday favorite.