Tag Archives: Feminism

Dear Ms. Magazine

Happy Birthday Ms. Magazine!  It seems like only yesterday when you were born.  It must be annoying to hear that over and over again.  40, wow!  You look great!  Really you do.  Don’t give me that look, it’s okay to care about your looks if you’re a feminist, don’t try that on me.  You look great, really.  You know a lot of other magazines have very bloated advertising, and a rather eerie glossy finish.  But not you.  Yes you’ve freshened yourself up over the years, but that’s what keeps you modern and relevant.

Do you remember the first time you came to my house?  Me neither.  But I remember you being there in those early years.  My housewife mother must have heard about you at her consciousness-raising group and invited you home.  I’m guessing you got passed around a bit.  Household expenditures were tightly monitored (it was the 70s after all, things were tough all over.)  Come to think of it, it took some chutzpah to start a magazine outside of the standard advertising model on the cusp of the recession, didn’t it?  But you never did shy from a challenge.  They laughed at you.  I know you remember that.  Who did you think you were?  A serious magazine for women?  A business run by women?  They said a lot worse too.

It must have been hard at times, all that bullying.  They even made fun of your name.  You know, that name that is now a standard fixture in the English language; appearing on all official documents and forms?  You were the first to talk about abortion openly, instigating untold honest conversations and sharing in homes across the country.  You shone the spotlight on domestic violence, helping to place the shame where it belongs; on the perpetrators.  You gave voice to issues that often had no visible champion.  You helped us to understand our bodies and minds and how they can work.

You never have been popular.  I don’t mean that to be hurtful, it’s actually praise.  Who wants to be adored by the masses?  It’s far more satisfying to be loved by those who ‘get us.’  You did come along at the right time, that’s for sure.  No one was rolling out a red carpet or anything.  No, no.  But the swelling of bias and bigotry awareness of the early 1970s was a boon to Ms. and feminism.  Even the most misogynistic would begrudgingly admit that 51% of the population should be treated equally.  Not so far as enacting the ERA or anything, but wait, no sad stories, this is your birthday!

Milestone birthdays can be affirming but they can also be a bit jarring.  It’s a gift to age, to survive!  While no one wants to live in the past, it is the shared memories that give us a feeling of being a collective.  How many remember when grown women were routinely called ‘girls?’  Remember when we didn’t even have names?!  We were Mrs. Robert Smith or Mrs. Nathan Green.  We not only keep our first and last names now, but sometimes a man actually takes a woman’s name (gasp!)

I remember that you were the only magazine in our house, quite possibly ever.  I’ve no doubt you played some part in my mother returning to school and becoming the writer she always longed to be.  You probably had a hand in the household responsibilities being distributed to all family members (yeah that was just great, thanks!)  I can see your handiwork now, in my own outlook on life.  I struggle, like I know you do, with the backlash of some of our progress.  There are times I thought we’d be further ahead by now.  I know you know.  We still have work to do don’t we Ms.?  Maybe 40 really is the new 30!  Happy Birthday Ms. and thank you.  Now get back to work.

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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing


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Woman v. Woman

Can you hear it?  It’s bubbling up again.  There it is!  The woman wars.  Every so often (usually precisely timed to an election cycle) the media is abuzz with the ‘in the home versus outside the home’ battle.  There are so many flaws in this campaign it’s difficult to know where to start.  But I hardly see why that should slow me down.

  • There is no war – this is completely made up.  Nobody cares what you (or I) are doing with our lives.
  • If I’m wrong (and it’s been known to happen) and there are snips and snarks and snide remarks, they are being made by people who feel insecure about their own choices.  In other words, it is a very biased opining.
  • Semantics matter: “Working inside the home” means a person “works from home” – for money.  It doesn’t make anyone’s efforts less worthy to properly identify them.  Managing a household and perhaps children for no compensation is difficult and unrelenting labor and warrants its own term.  It is confusing to use euphemisms such as “working inside the home” simply because we’ve become allergic to terms such as housewife and haven’t come up with anything better.
  • Where a woman spends the majority of her time has little to do with how she votes.  Women can see the world as a larger place than what is directly in front of them.
  • When is it time for men to be pitted against each other in a fictional sophomoric war?

The whole point of feminism is freedom of choice.  Women should be free to choose the life that works for them at any given point.  Women should also be free from being a subcategory or manipulated to fulfill a stereotype.  Women are not a numerical minority, but historically have had limited access to opportunities.  Our country has a long history of creating fictional fracases within minority groups for the purpose of distraction.  Eventually people do catch on.

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Posted by on April 12, 2012 in Cultural Critique


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Where The Boys Are

St. Patrick’s Day, Mardi Gras, Spring Break.  What do these springtime festivities have in common?  Alcohol and ensuing wantonness.  There are other events that involve excessive drinking as well (New Year’s Eve, sporting championships, four years of college, etc.) but without as much (ahem) carousing. Perhaps it is due to the time of year, but the trinity of St./Mardi/Break also seems to entail disrobing.  Of course the wearing (or not wearing as the case may be) of the green can occur in rather chilly clime.  But a green beer/whiskey induced snogging marathon knows no geographical boundaries (and can be accomplished while wearing a jaunty plastic green derby.)

There is nothing new about springtime debauchery, or drinking and impromptu romantic entanglements.  MTV didn’t create the bacchanalian beaches, they just filmed it.  (Cameras may alter people’s behavior, but when people are that far gone, it’s probably just incremental changes.)  Phone cameras, social media, and youtube didn’t create opportunities for regret.  Ruining a reputation has always been as easy as pie.  People love to talk about other people; it’s simply what we do.  We don’t need technology or tabloids to do so, we just need a willing listener.  It’s neither bad nor good, it just is what it is.

What is bad and not good, is that it is only women whose reputations we are discussing.  Since the dawn of time (or at least since the first caveman slurred; “take off those pelts baby” and flung a string of purple stones at her – which probably really hurt) it has been women whose bodies have been the entertainment and who have been punished for their cooperation.  Even when a woman has kept her bikini top on and engaged in the same overindulgence of spirits as her male companions, it is her reputation that is at stake.  Almost any (absurd) behavior a drunken male engages in is followed (in the clear light of day) with slaps on the backs or guffaws of; “Dude, you were off the hook” (or some other vernacular which also makes no sense.)  The male’s behavior is seen as “normal” and a way of blowing off steam.  His random romantic interludes (if there were any) are heralded. While in the girl’s hotel room next door…The kinder mascara smudged friends are unconvincingly cooing; “everyone does it. don’t worry about it. in a couple of weeks no one will even remember.”

One could argue that branding a woman was an effective deterrent to behavior that in fact could have had dire consequences.  Effective birth control is a relatively new invention.  Women died in childbirth on a somewhat regular basis.  A girl/woman could fall pregnant and have absolutely no means of supporting herself or her child.  She would no longer have access to the only acceptable profession; matrimony.  Her matrimonial chances might be diminished if there was even a hint of behavior that could render her unsuitable.  Whether she did anything or not, she could be ruined just the same.

Women now support themselves and (hopefully) have access to reliable birth control.  What possible reason, anthropologically speaking, do we still have for branding women who drink in excess and physically exploit themselves and/or others?  While our culture has ratcheted up the sexualization of girls and women (to extremes never before experienced) we have remained stalled in our judgments.  Fashion, celebrities, video, film, television, and music have not just progressively disrobed women but have objectified them to cartoon proportions.  Through modern science (and photoshop) women now look more like Betty Boop and Jessica Rabbit.  When women are depicted engaging in acts of romance, they are almost always done so from the perspective of what pleases a man.  Girls and women in videos (and real life) dance to simulate an act that can only pleasure their gentleman dance partner.  The objectification of women is, shall we say, off the hook.  Yet, we cling to our scarlet A ways.  Could it be that at our core, we are not comfortable with our cultural objectification of women?  Are our judgments a way of saying; “No, go back, we’ve led you astray?”  The alternate explanation; that we are in a backlash to the second wave of feminism that simply knows no bounds, is more likely, but far more disturbing.



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Posted by on March 16, 2012 in Cultural Critique


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Vive Le Difference!

I am a feminist.  I do not waiver pronouncing that fact, and do not understand people who do.  “Well, I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but I do enjoy the right to vote, work, control my fertility, etc.”  Good G-d, just say you’re a feminist.  It’s not a dirty word, and it is not synonymous with man-hating.  But I digress.  I believe that women are much more than the sum of their parts (augmented or otherwise.)  At times, I have resented the male to female reassigned peoples that equate womanhood with wearing make-up and high heels.  I am about as femme as they come, but it is a choice not a condition of my gender.

Here’s the rub.  I live in the world.  My beliefs aside, I know that as a woman I am judged on my appearance far more than my male counterparts.  I also have no doubt that I have used that inequity to my advantage at times.  Like cheese and fish, the gender-physicality-inequity phenomenon, becomes more pungent with age.   One need only turn on the television to confirm that more 60+ actors are considered swoon worthy then 60+ actresses.  Thanks, in no small part to the baby boomers, the pendulum has swayed just a bit in the past decade.  For their part in this incremental change, I’d like to personally thank Helen Mirren and Diane Keaton.  (If anyone had ever told me I’d be thanking an actress for getting naked on screen…)

I doubt the gender-physicality phenomenon will ever be anything other than unequal (on the screen and on the streets.)  It’s just not how we are wired.  One need only walk through an art museum to be reminded that this disparity is not a new phenomenon.  Women (for reasons I won’t attempt to argue) have always been the preferred vista.

Personally, I have made my peace with this situation.  For quite some time actually.  I believe it all balances out.  I don’t take any particular pleasure in pointing out that (socially) men often get the short end of the stick.  Women have far more freedom in expressing themselves.  We have latitude in our attire (if you don’t believe me, try to remember the last time you saw a man going to work in a dress.)  We (mostly) walk through life with an air of perceived innocence (has anyone ever looked askance at a woman alone in a playground?)  We are not viewed as undesirable dating material because we a) don’t have a degree b) live with our mother or c) don’t own property.  We are expected to express ourselves emotionally and physically, and might even live longer for doing so.  For me, the social benefits of my gender far outweigh the physical bias.

I have no issue with the fact (yes, it is fact) that men and women differ biologically.  Having differences is not a license to be treated differently however.  I enjoy and expect equal rights.  I have not a doubt in the world that many many will take issue with all I have expounded upon above.  (Some) women in particular, are very angry at having their appearance be acknowledged in any way.  It’s not a constructive use of anger.  We live in a world of mostly sighted people.  Like most mammals, we use our sight to learn about others and our environment.

So as I age, and hopefully I will, I accept that unlike Mr. Tom Selleck, I may not become increasingly dreamy.  As long as I also get to chide people for cursing (in public) with impunity, talk to unknown small children without being mirandized, and hug and kiss my friends in public without notice, I’m not complaining.

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Posted by on October 18, 2011 in Cultural Critique


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Somewhere That’s Green*

I read a story today about lockers not “Hurt” ones, but fully decked out Better Home & Garden, ready for their close-up, middle school lockers.  Need I mention (that according to the article anyway) they all belong to girls?  It took a moment or two for me to discern why this story irritated me.  I love small spaces.  I excel at space engineering, and fancy myself aesthetically inclined.  As a (relatively) grown woman, I am still not immune to the charms of a dollhouse.  In fact, the only reason I probably don’t have one is that I am not (yet) a recluse, and fear discovery.

Clearly the concept of interior decorating in miniature, is not what caused my ire.  How about the gender disparity then?  Why a story solely about “tween” girls and their decorating habits.  I mean if there ever was a career or avocation that was gender-blind, surely it’s interior design; for every Dorothy Draper there is a Phillipe Stark.  Should the reader of today’s article then intuit that the author and all parties mentioned deem the activity overtly feminine?  What other reason could there be for only discussing girls?  Unless someone can offer me an alternate explanation, I’m going with that.  So yes, I’m offended from a gender disparity viewpoint.

But in truth, that was only part of it.  I would have been happy to swoop my feminist cape in dramatic fashion and storm out of the argument.  But the author waved the crimson flag, and that flag was the locker chandelier.  That’s right ladies and gentlemen, for just $24.95 you too can own a motion detecting, battery operated LOCKER chandelier!!  But wait, you also can purchase carpeting, wallpaper, and (coming soon!) miniature recycling bins.  Okay, I made up the part about the recycling bins.  I think.  Now presumably, besides not being able to drive oneself to the mall, the average 11 year old does not possess an income that would support this “second home.”  And that, dear reader, is when I got most prickly.  It is implied (in the article) that mothers (my kingdom for one decorating inclined father!) are making these purchases for their daughters.  This troubles me in several ways.  I don’t think the average locker can fit a helicopter!  If a child’s first locker is not by definition, their own space, I don’t know what is.  It’s bad enough that parents support entire retail markets devoted to child/tween/teen bedroom decor.  Seriously, whatever happened to painting old furniture and hanging posters, or beads!  Are children only allowed to be creative in the confines of an expensive enrichment program?

So while I am irked with the perpetuating of the girl=appearances equation, I am equally irked by the snuffing of organic life of a child.  We all had lockers (I still have a scar on my pinkie to prove it) and we all made them our own.  Photos, mirrors, whiteboards, candy (was that just me?) extra lip smackers, created unique interiors.  This article suggests that (besides looking like a Boca Raton condo) what today’s (girl’s) lockers have in common, is their commonality.  They are decorated by mass market expensive products, purchased and approved by parents.  If you’re a parent, worried that your cherub will slide down the popularity ladder if they go one more moment without 10 square inches of green shag carpet, let me suggest the following: take your child to a crafts store.  Have them make their own wall paper, curtains, what have you.  Light fixture?  Well, I suppose flares are impractical, but surely there are more creative solutions than a $24.95 chandelier.

I think it’s safe to say that this article hit the trifecta or irritants for me: reinforcing the importance of appearances for girls, parents insinuating themselves into the (potentially) creative life of their children, and perpetuating the mass market retailing to children.  Not bad for one article!

* I cook like Betty Crocker
And I look like Donna Reed
There’s plastic on the furniture
To keep it neat and clean
In the Pine-Sol scented air
Somewhere that’s green

– Little Shop of Horrors, Howard Ashman

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Posted by on October 10, 2011 in Childhood


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