Yesterday I made a rather long point about how women are not equal if they define themselves by their relationships with men.
It's pretty bad that it's 2013 and anyone in the west is still having to point this out. It shows just how far we have to go. And, again, I stress, while the problem stems from centuries of patriarchy, it is women - mothers - who have kept it going.
To take an extreme example, consider FGM. Look that up if you don't know what it is. Widely practised in parts of Africa, there are women who arrive as new immigrants in the west who try to keep it going. That is how brainwashed they are. If women will continue to inflict such horrors on their daughters from cultural programming about gender roles, what will it take to convince "modern girls" to raise their daughters as equal independent members of society?
Some of the problem lies in the fact that these women are doing it unconsciously. They don't actually tell their daughters "all you are good for is being a chattel of a man". Obviously not. They don't SAY that. The way they teach it is subtle. Much is taught by example, of course. Girls watch their mothers' behaviour. They watch relationships, whether their parents are a happy couple, or split and in other relationships. They overhear remarks intended for the ears of parents' friends. They collect messages that are every bit as powerful, and possibly more so, than "all you are good for is being a chattel of a man". They are getting this message repeatedly.
The girls getting this message are not rare, not even a minority. So they have a peer effect too. They push it onto friends their own age, and girls who are unsure (no bad messages at homes, but no good ones either) can pick up on the idea from the general culture in school. Peer pressure is very powerful, and without sufficient good messages at home, in the absence of a positive, guiding attitude, the prevailing one will be received.
It seems inconceivable that in 2013, the prevailing attitude in a classroom of girls aged 11 is hardly changed from that of 1813, but how else do you explain the insistence of mothers who tell you "I had to buy her a bra, because all her friends have them, and she was being picked on". I heard that with my own ears. None of the girls in question had anything to put in a bra. It was effectively a fashion statement.
There was a time when we would pride ourselves as parents on saying "yeah, and if all your friends jumped off a cliff............?".
So, let's talk about fashion. What is it?
Read this: http://www.fashion-era.com/sociology_semiotics.htm
Do not ignore the target ads on the page, they are pertinent to the discussion.
Note "sexual availability", "sign system", "need for tribal belonging", "rôles", and so on. If anyone honestly believes that it's just fun, that it's just a bit of harmless vanity, then they might like to explain how it became a multi-billion dollar industry, and one in which people will take great risks with their health.
Of course men take part in this too, but have you ever seen a headline critiquing the fashion choices of a male politician?
Please read this: http://proud2bme.org/node/297
This is constant, even normal. We apply a different set of standards. It could be argued that people in the public eye are always going to be assessed in this way, but that's not the point. It's the fact that it's only the women who get the assessment. The worst I've ever seen written about a male politician is that he looked "rumpled". As a matter of fact, he did. He looked like he'd slept in his suit. Can you imagine if a woman had got up in front of the cameras in an outfit that needed ironing?
And, as has been often pointed out, women are often the guilty ones for making these criticisms.
I don't think you need me to tell you that women spend much more of their (usually lower) income on hair appointments, make-up, wardrobe, dry cleaning, shoes, beauty treatments, and so on. Or that they are far more likely to be starving themselves to achieve a fantasy body shape. You've heard all this before.
The question is why?
OK, some will say they enjoy it. They love clothes. Ohmigod they love shoes. The manicure is so relaxing. It's not for me to argue this.
But others will say they do it because it's expected. Because they won't get a job, or a promotion unless they "dress for success". Some will admit they wear a short skirt in interviews.
Sometimes, it just becomes a habit. Women get so used to complying with an unwritten cultural dress code that they forget why they are doing it. It goes on a long, long time. Why do women wear skirts and men wear trousers? Was it always so? No, of course not. No more than men having short hair, and women having long. These are norms that settled into the cultural mindset at some point, and subsequently became considered correct. Out of habit, and absolutely no other reason.
There is no record of how this began:
The practice of binding the feet of Chinese girls so that they were tiny, lasted 1000 years. Men interviewed at the time it was being phased out admitted to sexual arousal at the sight of these tiny feet. What they had in mind of course were feet covered in shoes, because once uncovered the deformity was obvious. I will spare you the photos here, please read the WP article if you want to see examples, including X-Rays.
And from that article it says "For men, the primary erotic effect was a function of the lotus gait, the tiny steps and swaying walk of a woman whose feet had been bound. Women with such deformed feet avoided placing weight on the front of the foot and tended to walk predominantly on their heels. As a result, women who underwent foot-binding walked in a careful, cautious, and unsteady manner. The fact that the bound foot was concealed from men's eyes was sexually appealing. On the other hand, an uncovered foot would also give off a foul odour, as various saprobic microorganisms would colonize the unwashable folds.
Another attribute of a woman with bound feet was the limitations of her mobility, and therefore, her inability to take part in politics, social life and the world. Bound feet rendered women dependent on their families, particularly their men, and became an alluring symbol of chastity and male ownership, since a woman was largely restricted to her home and could not venture far without an escort or the help of watchful servants"
Now tell me what's different about these:
I expect objections about this comparison, and of course the deformity is different.
I'll return tomorrow.