Sunday, March 9, 2008

On Starlets, Harlots and Modern Feminism

There was a time I would have scoffed at being called a feminist. I could have considered myself a post-feminist, perhaps, basking in the afterglow of suffrage, the nineteenth amendment, the civil rights movements and the toils of our mothers and grandmothers to continue to shatter the glass ceiling. I rested comfortably in the fact that my generation is the first to face no real opposition in our choices of career, education or even marriage and childbearing. Of course, our families and friends weigh in on these decisions, but those influences are the product of the values of our families, cultures and religion more than societal norms. We face no legal barriers for almost any choice of lifestyle.

We are the daughters and granddaughters of feminism. It's time to once again take up the mantle. I wish there was a new name for it, and I'll see what I can do about finding one, but I have bigger fish to fry. We have a legacy to protect, and that legacy is being threatened. Unfortunately, this threat isn't one we can fight with protests and civil disobedience and the ACLU, because it's an inside job. I believe that elitism, idolatry, materialism, entitlement, promiscuity and political correctness are the true enemies of modern womanhood. By that I mean women judging women, women worshipping the unworthy, women taking for granted the opportunities of our society, underestimating the value of their own virtues, denying the sanctity of anything that isn't "freedom" and living lives that do not fulfill us in the name of current conventions.

To be fair, I must admit that I like fashion magazines. I read Vogue, InStyle, etc. I like to have nice clothes, but don't call me a hypocrite. I do not worship at the feet of Prada, Sephora and La Perla, or the people who can afford to shop there with regularity. Our voyeuristic tendencies have made demigods of do-nothing socialites, and a faux aristocracy of entertainers. This battle of ours is no longer about seeking equality, success and fulfillment on our own terms; its about finding all those things with six pack abs, "juicy" written across our butts and not wearing any panties. God help us, Susan B. Anthony would roll over in her grave if she could see this. I can't blame the starlets and harlots for everything… I presume there have always been women like that, minus the public forum. But, come on, we don't have to watch. And if we do watch, we can treat it as a cautionary tale instead of a rite of passage. It isn't necessary for bat mitzvahs and old fashioned sweet sixteen parties (with slumber parties and nail polish, not dj's and Escalades) to be replaced with DUI's and rehab as the transitional marker for adulthood. And I honestly don't even think that when Gloria Steinem and Betty Freidan (forgive the mentions, they're aren't exactly heroes of mine) preached sexual freedom, they didn't have in mind night vision sex-tapes and bisexual make out sessions at bars to get free drinks. Forty years ago, women were burning bras (which would never happen now, by the way. We dare not burn that which lifts and separates). Forgoing panties with miniskirts, I assure you, is NOT a natural extension of that protest.

What is even worse is the way women turn on other women. It is an expensive world we live in. Some women have to work. Other fortunate women have the opportunity to stay home with their kids. Neither option is without great sacrifice, we are all just doing the best we can, following our hearts and trying to pay the bills and do what's best for our children and finding stolen moments to nurture our marriages, friendships and very occasionally, ourselves. Yet women trade barbs over this like they're in a political debate; even women who are friends. The absurd and sad truth is that after all the fighting to be able to make our own choices about careers and families; we have deteriorated to attacking each other for doing just that. To what end? I'm a stay home mom that takes on creative ventures when I can. I'm one of the lucky ones, to be sure. But I no longer get facials and massages, buy a new wardrobe every season and travel Europe just because I can. I don't even buy hand lotion without balancing my checkbook first. My comforts are the ones I can create, but I wouldn't trade the time with my son for every luxury in the world, and I'll be damned if I will let the Real Housewives of Name Your Pretentious Locale make a bad name for me. And yet there are families who can't make ends meet without two incomes, even with the sacrifices of little luxuries, so we need to lay off the women who kiss their babies goodbye every morning to venture out into the "real world," too. The fact is we all have our convictions about how a household should be run and the role of the woman in that household, but I honestly don't think that is why women can be so venomous and defensive about it. If someone else's approach is different than ours, we take it as an indictment of our own situation, as though the very act of living their life is a judgment of the way we live ours. We need to be each other's advocates, supporters and cheerleaders because there are more than enough hurdles already.

Deep breath. My arthritic hands have given out ahead of my impassioned heart, before I've even touched on the roles of abortion, politics and men in this crisis of feminism, and my little one is awake from his nap. If you're one of the brave souls who made it this far, you'll be rewarded with a continuation of my diatribe very soon. (Lucky you)

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