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First They Came For The Poor Women

women

Wisconsin is imprisoning pregnant women who admit to using drugs. This is being done under the guise of “protecting the fetus.” Before we discuss how stressful and unwholesome prison life is for a fetus(!) let us be crystal clear; we’re only talking about women who admit to using drugs of which the court does not approve. We are not talking about psychotropic medication or even prescription pain medication. What is really at issue is that illegal drugs are being used. It is not clear that there is any medical data that even posits let alone confirms that illegal drugs are more damaging to a fetus than prescription drugs. But what is clear is that vulnerable and/or poor women are an easy target.

There is no ignoring, no matter how hard the media tries, that women’s reproductive rights are dissolving in front of our eyes. Bit by bit access to health care and choice is slipping away, particularly for the poorest women in this country. It might not be an organized and coordinated effort but there’s definitely a sophisticated marketing machine at work. Who is going to argue with “protecting the fetus?” It’s right up there with “it’s for the children” or the flag, motherhood and apple pie. Treacly sentiment aside, no one is interested in protecting the fetus. If they were there would be free and excellent healthcare for all reproductive aged women. Nobody would be poor and/or hungry in this country either. Every woman would have a safe wholesome environment in which to gestate and raise her children. There would be no slums, or crime-ridden housing developments. Violence against women and children would be treated like the hate crime it is. In short, it wouldn’t be such a lousy world to be a woman or a child.

We live in a society that screams on the top of its lungs about the unborn, but doesn’t seem to give a rat’s ass once they arrive. Everyday children go hungry, are neglected and abused and have access to weapons, alcohol and drugs. Every year another batch of children fall through the public education cracks and don’t graduate high school, or worse, graduate illiterate. Fifty years ago we waged a war on poverty in this country and we lost. We now are in the midst of a long drawn out war against women. It is not a coincidence that this attack is occurring as women make groundbreaking progress in almost every traditionally male bastion. Women must shake off the Barbie mantel that’s been thrust upon them in recent years. We need to shift our focus from physical perfection, put down all things pink and pick up this fight. We must recognize media pandering (e.g., television channels, websites, and merchandising directed to women, as if we were a separate species) for what it is, offensive and distracting. Creating women centric genres could be positive if the ones being created weren’t so damn insipid. The “chicklit” section in your chain bookstore are not shelves filled with; Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Simone de Beauvoir, Shirley Chisholm and Our Bodies Ourselves. Nope. It’s shelves of light romantic “beach” reading. The television channels and (the majority) of websites designed for women are not for anything remotely serious (or even good.) There has been a steady pervasive patronizing campaign underway as women’s rights have been chipped away. Color me a conspiracy theorist, but I don’t believe it’s a coincidence.

We needn’t lose our sense of humor or even stop enjoying a good An Affair To Remember viewing. But we do need to resist buying into the 1950s model of womanhood we’re being sold. We have become a serious threat to those in traditional power positions. A woman came this close to being the democratic nominee for President! If that doesn’t scare the pants off the status quo I don’t know what does. We cannot tolerate the chipping away of our progress. We may not feel that a pregnant Wisconsin woman in handcuffs has much to do with us or is a feminist issue, but we’d be very very wrong. They are coming after her because they can. First it’s the poor and disenfranchised, that’s the way it always works. Those women who do have a voice must use it. We must recognize that the Spanx, push-up bras, Botox, and body sculpting are the corsets, garters and pointy bras of the 1950s. Those instruments of torture, popularized after women took men’s jobs during World War II, are a symbol of something insidious afoot. This is not a call for bra burning (heaven forbid!) but merely an urging to recognize what we’re being sold and how it’s being used to distract us from a much more serious issue.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing

 

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Shattered Illusions*

About a year ago, a health care professional offered to glue artificial lashes to my lids.  Glue. Something. To. My. Eyelids.  This offer(?) wasn’t prompted by any medical need.  There’s been no adverse reaction to any treatment or genetic syndrome.  All of my eye hair is present and accounted for.  The woman in scrubs explained that ‘eyelash extension’ was the new big thing.  I replied that false eyelashes were in fact one of the oldest big things.  Ah, but false eyelashes are removed!  The glue she was offering was permanent or until the false hairs drop off (preferably not into something one is cooking.)

When the (head) hair extension phenomenon picked up steam, I found it amusing.  I’ve yet to spot an extension that looks even remotely organic.  I can still picture that mother and daughter having lunch.  They had identical yellow extensions all over their heads.  The shared the same length and shade and visible knots all over the back of their heads.  What kind of psychodrama was playing out that afternoon in which they wouldn’t tell each other that their slips were showing?

The zeal for spray tanning has not faded either.  If you’ve ever been overcome by a sudden mob of midwestern high school seniors on their school trip to Times Square, you might feel a bit like Willy Wonka.  These orange little people are everywhere.  Acrylic nails don’t seem to be going anywhere too soon either.  But if you’ve ever seen them on toes, you’d agree it’s time to ratchet it back a bit.  If people have the time, money and inclination to cover themselves in synthetics, so be it.  There are worse hobbies/vices.  But I would draw the line at gluing things to one’s eye!  What is so striking about all this artifice is how terribly retro it is.  It’s reminiscent of the 1950s; a time that was not all that great for a lot women.

Cone bras and girdles are now push-up bras (and surgery) and girdles with the naughty name; Spanx.  (It’s so much more empowering to have your innards squished when you can wink at the product.)  Hair was set in rollers every night and “done” at the beauty parlor once a week.  Today, hair may or may not be coming from your scalp.  Scalp hair is chemically straightened (because straight hair is fashionable right now) or professionally blown out several times a week (today’s women apparently lack the upper body strength of their ancestors.)  Fashion has a very retro feel as well, with strapless dresses being de rigueur for a decade or so now.  The 1950’s pointy toed pointy heeled shoe has eaten its Wheaties and grown big and tall.  (There’s nothing quite as sad as a woman who can not walk in her own shoes.)

I’m not ready to scream “conspiracy,” but there is something about keeping women in a 1950s mindset that is discomforting.  Do I think eyelash extensions are part of the war on women’s health care?  Not exactly.  Do I think selling young women on the idea of physicality above intellectuality is the backlash of the second wave of feminism?  Probably.  Let me be clear; fashion is fun.  But sometimes it can slide into raison d’etre.  It takes an enormous amount of time (and resources) to emulate Barbie.  When you’re not gluing on hair, you’re lasering it off.  There’s the plumping and the smoothing, the changing of eye-color according to the season.  All this while, finding the “It” bag of the millisecond.  There’s also the unrelenting pursuit of whatever brand is being sold by the celebrity of the moment.

Maybe there wouldn’t be even a whiff of political overtone if men were engaged in the same pursuits.  The majority of the (heterosexual) pairings I’ve witnessed indicate that men are caring less about their appearance as women are caring more.  Perhaps there is only a finite amount of superficiality which can exist on the planet?  Women seem to go to great lengths (no hair extension pun intended) to dress as men seem to look like a 12 year old who just got their wish from Zoltar to “be Big.”  There is certainly a budding relationship between these polarities.  Hopefully it won’t result in more distance between people.

*He thinks I’m lovely but entre nous,
My lashes and nails are stuck on with glue.
Oh, his shattered illusions

Fascinating Aida – Dillie Keane (1983)

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2012 in Style

 

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