Today is International Women’s Day. To celebrate we should all point out sexism when we see it and not be hushed when people tell us we’re always pointing out things that are sexist. Do not be hushed. Never be hushed.
I’ve been listening to The Feminine Mystique in the bathtub the past few weeks. While it probably wasn’t the wisest choice when it comes to a relaxing listen, it was a smart choice in terms of educating myself.
The book, even forty-seven years later, is startling and depressing. Right now I’m at the part where Betty Friedan is explaining the way the short stories in women’s magazines changed dramatically over the course of ten to fifteen years.
In the late 30s the characters in these stories were women with careers. Of course, the were often in search of a man (hello Chick Lit), but still they had careers and were fulfilled by them. By 1949, the female characters in these stories longed only to be housewives, and often were housewives fulfilled by making their men happy, cleaning house, and that kind of thing. And in the early 50s it had come so far that not only were all the main characters housewives who relied on their husbands for everything, the career women were portrayed as temptresses, loose women, and, well, devils.
It has to be said, What The Fuck?
Of course as the short stories changed so did the prevailing wisdom about women and what they were good for. And what they were good for was raising good, strong men, and keeping house for good, strong men. Sociologists were saying how the ultimate in femininity was taking care of your home and family, college educations for women were a waste and only made them more unsatisfied.
Even typing about it makes me pulse race with anger. Can you see why this is not good bathtub listening? It makes me so angry.
And while things have changed, they have not changed enough. No. We still have a long way, baby. Take for instance, the Oscars last night. Eighty-two years of Oscar ceremonies and only last night in 2010 did a woman win for best director. It’s 2010 and we’re still having woman firsts. Fuck that noise.
We need to make noise. More noise. It is our duty, our job to point out sexism (and discrimination of all kinds) wherever we see it. Yes, we will be annoying. Yes, people will make fun of us. But you know what? Living in a society filled with negative images of women is more annoying. Living a in a society where with think “no means no” is the best way to prevent date rape (why not, “yes means yes?” we should seek consent in sexual situations and not wait for denial) is annoying. Living in a society where women have to be careful where they walk, what they wear, who they’re with, lest they unwittingly ask for it, is annoying.
And we need to talk about all this and more. We need to keep talking and not stop. Never be hushed.