Saturday, November 28, 2009

Where are the women, Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

Cartoon from the New Yorker Magazine - if you can't read the caption, it says, "The subject of tonight's discussion is: Why are there no women on this panel?

Carol Diehl of Art Vent has some astute comments on the status of women after watching two 60's films, "Contempt" and "Viva Las Vegas." I remember all too well the causal sexism of the period but what shocks me and continues to shock me is how many younger women reject "feminism." Somewhere along the way these young women got the (incorrect) message that feminism is a bad thing, something they don't want to be associated with. Why did this happen? I find it very frustrating.

I fell like telling them that it "it ain't over yet." When I worked in a huge medical center in California, I was shocked at how ruthless and vicious women were to each other - esp. younger (pretty) women on their way up the corporate ladder. The men didn't have to worry about keeping us "old bags" in our place. They had women to do that for them. A lot of women "got it" when they turned 30 and were now deemed too old but they sure did a lot of damage on their way up. I was talking to a gallery owner in SF the other day who firmly believes that women artists now have as much opportunity as male artists. A cursory look at who is who and who makes what in the art would should dispel that illusion but somehow it keeps on ticking. Sexism - the gift that keeps on giving.

How do you counter such lethal ignorance except by continually keeping the dialogue open. Younger women who think that feminism is dead and that they are "above" such things are in for a horrible surprise - every tiny gain from jobs, housing, child care and health insurance (!) is under attack.


Zoomie said...

I believe that a lot of women turned away from Feminism because of the publicity given to the silly ideas like burning bras and rejecting men. The real issues, in my mind, are equal pay for equal work, and equal opportunity. If women keep focused on those issues and resist the negative bashing of men and the silly stuff like bra burning, we will make good progress. We aren't there yet, by any means, but just in my lifetime it's true that we've "come a long way, baby!"

namastenancy said...

The "Silly Bra" burning was a 60's way of protesting the ideals of beauty in the Miss America contest. The media should shoulder the blame for focusing on the shock value of that, instead of the point that the protesters were trying to make. Unfortunately, the media has also demonized feminism; there's far less "male bashing" than you would think. A lot of what's considered "male bashing" is a serious critique of rape and male violence and how males are socialized (The rape in Richmond being a very current and tragic example) . But the women trying to change things don't have access to the mainstream media and when they do, they are set up as objects of ridicule --- much as African-Americans were portrayed in previous eras. The Step and Fetch It, men in black face stereotype and women portrayed as hairy, hatchet blandishing harpies have a lot in common. Some women have come a long way but a lot have not. The anti-abortion provision in the current health bill under consideration in Congress is a pointer of how far we have yet to come. Some of the decisions of our current Supreme Court have also rolled women's rights back, especially those regarding sexism in the work place. What Carol and I (and others) are so sad about is that young women have not looked beyond the idiotic images on TV to the reality of their own lives and how sexism impacts every area of it. Once they have a few years experience, they will understand it better - but in the meantime, they will have done a lot of damage to themselves and to other women.

namastenancy said...

For a continuing and nuanced discussion of Feminism (plus tons of side bar links of all sorts of points of view), check out Echidne of the Snakes: