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Friday, October 2, 2009

October: A Woman's Place

The Victorians had pretty strict ideas about a woman's place and what was expected of her, as illustrated in this month's featured title. Do you think that the way we view women has changed? How so? What issues are we still grappling with in 2009?


Lorie Ann Grover said...

Oh, my mother-in-law is always reminding me of the rights we have now, that she didn't have growing up. Usually, it's about the work force being wide open!

Personally, I'm thankful to wear pants! I don't want to overlook the simple niceties as well.

Melissa Walker said...

Salaries still aren't equal as they should be. Jezebel did an interesting post on that (referencing my favorite MAD MEN!):


Let's ask for what we want and deserve!

Anonymous said...

I'm thankful to wear pants! I don't want to overlook the simple niceties as well.

vitamin c

Little Willow said...

I believe that anyone can do anything he or she sets his or her mind to - within physical limits, of course - and I think that freedom to pursue dreams or endeavors should be granted no matter what your gender.

Had I been born decades earlier, I would have been fighting for the right to vote, among other things. I believe in equality for both genders and all races.

Shelf Elf said...

I agree with all that's been said already. Things have changed and come far since the Victorian era, for many women. A woman running for the US presidency? That speaks to significant change in North American society.

LW - you said it, I think that it's exciting, and right, that many girls feel they can do whatever they choose and set their minds to. That is what it should be like for all young people, regardless of gender.

Libba Bray said...

Hello, ReaderGirlz! I am technologically unsound. It took me two hours to figure out how to post. It is a wonder I am allowed out in public. So this is a test comment. If it works, the real comment will follow. If it doesn't work, I'll cry. Wish me luck!

Libba Bray said...

Awesome sauce! It worked! Okay. My comment. Obviously, we've come a long way, baby, as the ad used to say. But...(there's always one of those, isn't there?) I think there are still many issues with which we are grappling in 2009. Certainly, a woman in Saudi Arabia doesn't have the same rights as a woman in America. Women in the Congo are the victims of horrific war crimes. And when people talk about the "feminization of poverty," it's more than a catch phrase. An inequity in wealth distribution certainly hits women and children hardest. That's the global picture.

But I always think, to quote the feminists (I believe it was Gloria Steinem?), that "the personal is political." I think it's important to be aware of and think about the way messages are conveyed to women, through magazines, advertisements, commercials, politicians, etc. Have you ever noticed that all the commercials about cleaning feature women and are aimed directly at women? So no matter what, in our culture, we take it for granted that the women will do all the housework. Same with ads for Children's Tylenol or kids' cereals. They are aimed at women. Then think about fashion magazines (and hey, I'm a shoe addict--I look at them). But the body messages are so mixed up: On the one hand, every magazine has some article about "loving yourself" and "accepting yourself," along with scads of articles about losing weight and getting in shape. You juxtapose that with pictures of extremely thin, tall women who represent about 1% of the population, and you've got a sort of crazy-making scenario. No wonder we're so confused!

The thing to keep in mind is that this is big business: weight loss, fashion, self-help, the "idealization" and objectification of women and their bodies and lifestyles. By keeping women in a perpetual state of feeling that they are not "okay" that they must constantly "fix" something about themselves, many businesses stay in business. Many people who hold power over women continue to hold power over women by making them feel inherently "not okay," or at least doubtful. And it's doubly so for women of color who don't see themselves represented on the covers of fashion magazines or on TV shows (how many WOC are on "The Hills"? Just wondering...) or in commercials supposedly featuring "average Americans."

Yesterday, I was at Target. I needed some moisturizer for my face. No joke--there were eight whole shelves devoted to a gazillion different products, all of them couched in crazy language like "correcting" and "lifting" and "sculpting," like the moisturizers were strict nuns trying to whip our naughty skin into shape. I was totally cracking up. And I was completely overwhelmed. Then, in one corner, was the only moisturizer targeted at men that I could see. It said, "heals dry, chapped skin." That's it. Men apparently do not need to have their skin reprimanded. Their skin needs healing. So did mine. So I bought that.

Anyway, I have loads of thoughts about this, but mostly, I encourage you to be aware of the way that society and industry shape the world's perceptions of women and the ways in which we buy into that. You don't have to do anything but be aware, keep your eyes and ears open. But my guess is that once you are aware, you will start rejecting the standards imposed by others and start feeling freer to love yourself as you are. And then you can spend time thinking about things like how to stop global warming or end poverty or champion the rights of those who need champions or write amazing songs or books or make art or learn to surf or travel to Iceland or read philosophy, all of which sound much more interesting than worrying about the calories in a cookie.

Ah. That felt SO GOOD. Now I'm going to eat a bagel. With cream cheese. And I'm going to enjoy every bite. Also, my skin is very moisturized. Thank you, Vaseline for Men.

Dia Calhoun said...

Wow, Libba! What an amazing post! It did make me think of Gemma, too. (Spoiler ahead) I loved how she was greated on her arrival in the US by a woman--the statue of liberty. And I loved how she encouraged Mrs. Nightwing to truly begin educating the girls. The whole book is about becoming your own woman, which always seems to mean breaking the bonds that society has imposed upon you.
Gemma and Felecity and Ann all did this in their own ways. I think they are an inspiration to girls everywhere.

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