Back when I got to college in 1970, the women’s movement was in full swing and all the women I knew were on the bandwagon. We took off our bras and spoke out on politics and women’s rights, applied for graduate programs in law and medicine and business in record numbers and moved into many fields and positions traditionally dominated by men.
In spite of our high hopes, things turned in such a different direction, I’m watching the #MeToo movement with a mixture of delight and skepticism. I saw Meryl Streep proclaim in an interview “there’s no going back now” and I questioned it, because we all thought there was no going back in the 70’s and then… we quit going forward and in my opinion a portion of women went backwards.
We assumed the sisters coming along after us would continue progressing and accomplish equal pay, breaking glass ceilings, and achieving an equal rights amendment. So when we hit the late 80’s and I realized I didn’t hear much about any of that and accomplishments seemed to have stopped, I was stunned to realize the main thing I started seeing women standing up for was their right to be sexy. Necklines dropped, skirts and shorts were raised, and by the 90’s into the 2000’s a fashion for hooker clothes — and even dressing their very young daughters that way — was growing.
Somehow the right to be sexy issue has become so bound up with a “rape culture” argument that my efforts in social media to suggest women drop that one are met with outcries of condoning rape based on the “she asked for it” mindset. I’m not sure how so many women became so clueless but the right to dress however you want without being raped is a completely different issue than what it means to dress in ways — sexy– that support the masculine view we’re only worthy as sex objects.
In the 70’s we understood that and were very conscious of wanting to be viewed as more and not labeled as arm candy, trophies or sex objects. I’m not sure what happened, but the move from standing up for being recognized as smart and capable and talented, etc. to standing up for wandering around with our busts and butts hanging out as the sole issue of interest is baffling to me.
Get Real About Where We Are
The truth at this moment in time is that far too many men [I’d argue a majority but can find zero studies that specifically question how men see women — not how they feel about the gender gap or inequality, but what they believe about women — in a male-dominated research world I found that interesting)] see women mainly as sex objects. I’m not talking about the political correctness many of them babble in public, I’m talking about how they really feel and act. There are men who were changed by the movement and sons who have been raised to respect women (though I may be arguing in another post that they nonetheless are part of a male privilege culture and disrespect women in subtle ways), but way too many men still see women as put on earth solely to serve and pleasure them.
We’re good for sex and possibly for cooking and changing diapers (although no longer sexy once the latter two are our roles…) but not good enough to be paid the same, to advance into equal numbers of managerial positions, to hold as many seats on Boards or to preside over important elective positions. THAT is the current state of affairs.
To me, the insistence on the “right to be sexy” colludes with the male attitude that it’s all we’re good for and plays right into their sense of superiority and right to power. How nice for them that in a world where they just want us to be sex playthings there’s a whole segment of the female population that wants to be nothing more than a sex object. Good for the men maybe. In what universe can any woman consider that to be good for us?
I’ve seen a number of these “sex as power” advocates claiming it’s empowering. I call bullshit. Empowering as to what? It certainly doesn’t add anything to inner power, confidence or self-worth. It’s only powerful as to men and some odd (and I’d say sick) sense of having power because you can turn a man on. I hate to tell you, but most of them are turned on all the time anyway and some are known to have been turned on by sheep, so it’s a pretty low bar. Not much power in being able to do that…
The ability to make men want sex from you objectifies you and maintains their image of a world in which they do what they want, get what they want and we are here only to serve them and their desires.
How did we stop demanding to be seen as smart, capable, skilled, talented, powerful, worthy, creative and EQUAL? Why are so many women not fighting to change the male power balance and instead fighting only to validate men’s belief we’re only on earth to satisfy their need for sex?
#MeToo and Moving Forward
I’m glad to see the #MeToo movement; it’s beyond time to call men out for their sexist behavior. But it concerns me a little that so much is focused on the issue of being sexually harassed instead of being focused on the many other things we are, the many talents and abilities for which we should be recognized.
While we need to address the serious problem of men seeing us as sex objects, I think it’s even more important to address our right to be equal under the law, equal in pay, equally represented in boardrooms and management positions and elective offices, etc. There’s a whole conversation about men respecting women beyond just telling them not to harass, molest and/or rape us that needs to be had.
There may be a time down the road when a conversation about our right to wear whatever we want is timely. I suspect though, when we have achieved a change of attitude in which men see us as creative, talented, skilled, smart, capable, etc. and treat us as equals, and, more importantly when we see OURSELVES that way, we won’t need to argue about what we have a right to wear… Let’s address the right issues first.
- Sexual Objectification is NOT Empowering
- Why Getting Naked Isn’t as Empowering as Everyone Keeps Telling Us
- How Our Brains Turn Women into Objects
- How Gender Inequality Persists in the Modern World
Note: this is a little off my usual beat, but I find the need to bring forth the divine feminine so important, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the issues we face. So I don’t think I’m done 🙂