Monday, March 12, 2007

Female Empowerment... is that flushing sound you're hearing right now...

AKA My Apologies To Alice Paul, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gloria Steinem... You All Know Who You Are.

I feel like all their efforts are being flushed down the toilet.

When I was a young girl growing up in the 70s and 80s, Female Empowerment was all about getting equal pay for the same job, earning the rights to be respected as any man would in the same position, and to be seen as something other than a sex object. Women were bringing home the bacon, fryin' it up in the pan, but yet never never never letting their husbands forget that they were men. It was okay to look good while you did all this... but the focus was intended for a woman's brain and accomplishments... not her bra size or amazingly-cellulite-free tush.

The women I saw on TV as a little girl in the 70s-- who made an impact on who I am today:
  • Mary Tyler Moore... a single woman who used her brain, not her feminine wiles, to get a job in journalism. While Mary was considered fashionable and pretty, she was mainly a working girl, and the episodes centered around her independence in that harrowing (haha) Minneapolis burg.
  • Maude... tough, independent, strong-willed, and opinionated, Maude was no Harriet Nelson*. Her character had been married four times when the show first began. I don't think anyone would ever confuse Beatrice Arthur with a sex object. I'm just sayin.'
  • Lucy... from Here's Lucy, we met a widow with two kids who got a job to support her family. No man necessary, and of course, hilarity ensued.
  • Elaine from Taxi... a female taxi driver in New York in the late 70s? Wow. Elaine was a single mom who supported her kids by driving a cab. Sure, she was pretty, and she dated half the cast... but she was a tough chick, too. I don't recall any episode where she had to flash anyone to get things to go her way...

Really, I was probably a little young to be watching some of these shows at the time. But my point is... Mary Tyler Moore never had a dream sequence where she changed into a barely-there bikini to increase ratings during sweeps. Bea Arthur didn't get Botox or a boob job to show she still had it as an older woman playing a lead character. Lucy didn't give her boss a lap dance to advance her career. Elaine, who was definitely the one and only female sex symbol on the show, didn't resort to stripper-like behavior to get Louie to give her more calls when she needed extra money. Sometime, she actually used her brain to outwit him.

What chance do my girls, or anyone else's daughters, have now with the "gotta be sexy or I'm not worth jack" pervasive attitude? For that matter, what chance do our boys have to learn how to respect women, when the images that bombard them everyday tell them we're objects? Oh, but we're sexually empowered objects. Yeah, great. That makes me feel so much better.

Women who say they're more empowered by being overtly sexual all the time are lying to themselves and everyone around them. Don't get me wrong. I don't want girls to think they have to go all June Cleaver** and wear a pretty dress every time their man comes home from work, ensuring that dinner is on the table and the house is neat as a pin. Nor do I believe that women should avoid talking about sex or even having sex when they want, that it's a dirty subject that nice girls don't bring up. That's all bullshit, too.

What I don't buy, though, is that we, as women, can give into the "I'll let you treat me like an object, because it actually gives me all the power" philosophy espoused by so many now. Older women like Sharon Stone and Madonna are grabbing nude scenes... just because they can. They want everyone to know they've still got IT.

Girl power, my ass. I hope to God that when I'm in my 50s, people will be able to say that I've contributed to my community, that I was a loyal friend, a good mother, a positive role model for other women, and maybe even a leading force in education...

... NOT, "Oh, my goodness, Ethel! Look how perky her boobies still are at her age!"

*for younger readers, please see Ozzy and Harriet

** again for younger readers, please see Leave It To Beaver

10 comments:

goldennib said...

Oh, yeah, girls putting it out there for anyone to have is so empowering: children no one can take care of except Grandma, debilitating diseases, emotional damage. I have been known to call men "sluts" for premiscuious (sp) behavior and I have told others that any idiot can produce a child. Girls have stooped to gross behavior instead of lifting up their brothers.

Julie_Gong said...

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Granted I am not that much older than the girls falling victim to these ideas but it disgusts me that women actually think this way.

stefanie said...

I concur with your sentiments, but mainly I just wanted to say that I love Mary Tyler Moore! :-) I have the first two seasons on DVD, despite being the only person my age who I know (other than Darren) who has ever seen more than one full episode. Love that show.

Stinkypaw said...

I agree with you 100% - there is way too much attention being given to having to be sexy and not enough on being "a good person". I also think that a lot of the "work" on empowering girls has to be done at home, with strong values and discipline because they sure aren't getting that from the world, at least not the media, that's for sure.

Bea was and still is, for me, the picture of a strong, opiniated, independant woman. And Mary as well, of course, who also seemed to be a nice person.

lizgwiz said...

Great post!

Mary Richards was a great role model. Sadly, Mary Tyler Moore, in recent years, has totally fallen prey to that "need to stay young at any cost" mentality, which just makes me sad. Did you see that reunion movie they made of the old Dick Van Dyke show, where everyone else had aged, and she was all shiny, tight and wrinkle-less? It made me sad.

Alyssa said...

Part of me thinks there should be a role for "Do Me Feminism" in the world. I just don't think these girls are embracing that, they don't know what feminism is. Madonna did at one time (the Do Me part), but even she's gone all Tweed and Country.

The big problem with marketing Do Me Feminism (I'm looking at you, CW) is that they don't address the problem that many women who are being exploited sexually for a living don't necessarily have a lot of choices.

Margaret Ann said...

I agree 100%. Unfortunately, it starts so young...you can hardly buy girls clothing today that isn't slutty and designed to oversexualize our girls. I don't want my almost 5 year old looking trampy!
The "I'll let you objectify me b/c it actually gives me the power" line is a bunch of crap--I agree.

don't call me MA'AM said...

goldennib: Amen, amen, amen. Well said.

julie_gong: it's refreshing to hear that from someone your age. Really.

stefanie: I love her, too! "Oh, Mr. Graaaaant!" ;-)

stinkypaw: it's just so sad, isn't it? I just can't understand why it's hot to be a ho.

lizgwiz: thanks! And yes, I agree with you about MTM's current status. She looks like a wax figure... with implants.

alyssa: YES! Those who HAVE a choice make it too easy for those who don't have a choice to get sucked in.

margaret ann: nice to see you again! I've had that problem for my daughters, too. We often complain to dept. stores and ask if there's anything available that won't make them look like hookers. :-)

Mich said...

MTM had it all.

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