Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Feminist Roadtrip Ramblings

So, it's about 9pm at night... I'm having some wine, eating some gjetost, and getting to work on this post a wee bit in advance.

I happened to just get back a lot earlier than expected from a road trip. I did a lot of cool things in an extremely short amount of time (1920s jail museum?!?, Patti's 1880s settlement, rainbow colored bridge, etc), but surprisingly (if you know some of the other stuff I did on my journey) I think the coolest thing I got to see and hear was Dr. Susan Douglas speak.

For those that don't know, Susan J Douglas is the author of multiple novels (most recently of Enlightened Feminism), a professor, a columnist, etc... She's done a lot and continues to contribute a lot to the world of feminism.

And, no... she does not wear camouflage and birkenstocks, have short spiky hair, nor is she unfortunate in the natural beauty department as some stereotypes for feminists would lead you to believe.

She is; however; a mother, a wife, intelligent, well-spoken, and a proponent of derisive laughter.

There were a few key things I feel the need to pass along:

Aspiring to be beautiful is a dumbass thing to do. We are beautiful. Why not aspire to do something great instead?

 When she said this there was definite laughter in the room... but, I didn't find myself laughing... why? Because I began to wonder how many lost hours and brilliant minds we've lost to the intangible treasure of achieving the ideal beauty. Surely if we used all the efforts we use to try to make ourselves beautiful (or acceptable by the media's standards) towards gender equality we would be progressing instead of regressing.

Eve Ensler has said before that she thinks that the media is trying to distract females through these means, distract us from the bigger picture... by making us content with constantly trying to self-improve so we don't look too closely at the bigger picture. So we don't see what's really happening.

Dr. Douglas discussed how music can tell a lot about a society's views and did a little mini timeline...

"I Will Follow Him" to "You Don't Own Me" to music of today where women singers objectified - portraying them as only caring about love while appearing ditzy.

She mentioned how that goes along with how women are currently portrayed on television (on both reality television and in sitcoms) - obsessed with material goods, finding love, looking beautiful, and being catty. This portrayal does a couple of things: tells the world that that's how American women behave AND it tells American women that that's how they should behave... that that's normal. All the while creating a show that draws people to watch, including women, who could be spending their time doing more worthwhile things such as contradicting that very portrayal.

I don't understand why we as females are not supposed to feel okay with ourselves

 There was no laughter after this phrase exited her mouth. Some looked at each other, while others looked down uncomfortably. I can't speak for what was going through anyone else's mind, but I know I was thinking how true that is... but also was wondering WHY that is so true... We greet each other and we rarely say anything good about ourselves.

I work in a fitting room and I can promise you that I hear FAR more often women berating their bodies (and other women chiming in with things about their bodies that they dislike -- I guess to make the first person feel better??) rather than people talking about what they do like... or even not mentioning their body at all.

What if, instead, we pointed out something good about that person's body... maybe the next time they were in the fitting room they would focus on that instead of X... or the body part you mentioned that you loathed as well.

Susan Douglas said a lot of other poignant things, but the last one I want to touch on is this statistic she gave that I for the life of me cannot remember in its entirety... only about what it was...

Anyways: the gist of it was that in the 1970s and 1980s only around 15% (I know it was more than 10%, but less than 20%) of models were 15% or more underweight... meaning 85% (or so) were at a healthy weight. Today, 92% of super models (meaning models that walk during fashion week in the major cities) are at least 15% underweight. That is a staggering change and after her statement there was an audible gasp from the other people at the luncheon - including the lady to my right.

Now, I used to model (nothing amazing, a catalog shoot for Santa lingerie; some portfolio pieces for designers and photographers) and I STILL saw this to some degree, but those stats about just how far we've come... made me truly thin if we've really gone that far at all... if we're exchanging one form of a corset for another... hmmm..... just the thoughts of this feminist roadtrip rambler.

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