Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Last Night's "F-Word" Discussion

I just have to get this post started even if I run off to pick up the 5 year old. My brain has been swimming for the last 12 hours.

Last night I and seven other women came together to discuss what feminism means to us and our country and I think we are really onto something fantastic.

We talked about everything under the sun related to women's issues--workplace concerns, education, inspiration, how "the plan" changes, and I could keep going. I want to just list all the topics I can remember for now...

We talked about phases of life, new motherhood, sex differences with nurturing and geniuses, Larry Summers, is it ok for women to be "on average, better" at some things? Does it bother you to say that men or women may have different skills if those differences aren't used against either sex? It bothered some of us, but not all of us.

We talked about how we individually felt about strippers and then how we feel feminists feel about stripping, modeling, and being a "sex worker." (I am already an old person and didn't realize that one doesn't use the word "prostitute" or "whore" anymore.)

I was educated and humbled that there are many other F-Words out there. I am well aware that there is misinformation and hurt feelings revolving around women's choices to breastfeed or not, but I had no idea that just saying "formula" was really hard for some women to hear or discuss--no matter if they used or did not use it. I had heard once upon a time when I was a student but had long since worried about using the word "slutty" to describe a style of clothing. I knew thong underwear was being sold to tweens but it was not on my radar that even there was a market for thongs that fit 7-year olds.

We questioned the media. Does it get too much credit for how our men and women see each other or not enough? We questioned our language. Besides "whore" and "slut" we discussed just how we talk to little girls and little boys differently. Do you really think boys and girls' are treated as differently in school today as we were taught they were 20 years ago? I have my opinion. It may not match yours.

How do we get younger women to understand what the bigger issues are? Do we agree that we should be upset at that NASCAR woman using her body to sell GoDaddy? Do we think that a woman may have even thought of that marketing idea? I shared that I got an email about Bubba getting a job and that doesn't keep me from respecting men and thinking they are capable. I do not worry about my own sons seeing cleavage when they are teens and having them think that means women are all sex objects.

I question what is wrong with me...or what is right...as a mother of boys....

Do we all agree that when women entered male-dominated jobs they just proved they could work like men but now it is time to actually change the way we view modern workplaces? What if women had gone to work first, with babies in tow, and left the men home to be house managers? The 8 hours work day was a dream once upon a time and women were perhaps relieved to no longer be so stressed with the family-farm-based schedule and pressures of feeding a family. Free time was created when our society became more industrialized in many ways. And yet now we are so uber industrialized we don't ever shut it off.

Are you worried that there are not enough female mathematicians? Computer scientists? Do you think the English majors and Sociology majors needed more convincing? Where do personal preferences come into play? Can you really blame one 6th grade teacher for everything you study as an adult?

What era really did things get out of whack? The 50s? The 80s? If the American Association of Pediatrics had always advocated mother-baby togetherness and breastfeeding for at least a year, would have male-dominated work places changed as women entered them? Now women have proved they can detach from their children, but do we want to keep up this trend? Well, I cannot lie, I have used the word "Attached" in my blog title....I think it is time for social change.

This discussion was the first of many. Ladies who came, please post other "minutes" to this blog to show the world what we covered. And other readers, please give us more food for thought.

The average age of our participants was about 30. Nobody under 25 came and no feminists of the Second Wave made it either. Life happens, I get that, and in some ways I am grateful we didn't have a full house. I am hopeful that we will get talking more, both online and in person. We can have a late evening discussion or a coffee hour another time. Could I dream that Charlottesville will begin to feel a surge of female energy that could really change the lives of women locally and beyond?!

Gotta go, I want to hear from you!!!


Noble Savage said...

That sounds like a fantastic, well-rounded discussion. Reminds me that I want to find some feminist groups that meet in person, not just online.

Jeff said...

Dove has that interesting "campaign for real beauty." But you know what made me realize that marketing can never be really good? Dove is owned by the same company that makes "Axe body spray" with the uber-misogynistic advertisements.

Lately Disney has leveraged their investment in Peter Pan by spawning a new franchise based on the fairies of Neverland. The first film in this series (after several novels) was called, simply "Tinker Bell". It's a sort of "origin story" for that character where she finds what her in-born "talent" is. She turns out to be a "tinker" which is the Neverland version of an engineer/product designer/mechanic. For real. She starts out rejecting this, but after she is tricked into causing a big problem for the fairies, she realizes her talent can fix things and draws up a bunch of engineering schematics for gadgets the other fairies can use to make everything right. I don't know if the folks at Disney really did this on purpose, but I like the idea that there are girls out there that can now say, "I want to be an Engineer like Tinker Bell!"

On thing I like to keep in mind regarding gender differences is how statistics are not the same as individuals. It's one thing to say, "many boys like cars. Fewer girls like cars." And it's another thing to say, "This boy likes cars. This girl doesn't like cars." Statistics are very not useful for making decisions about individuals.

And for my last comment:
Bunk Bots. www.bunkbots.com
A really freaking awesome cuddly toy for boys. Created by a dad who realized his boys didn't dislike cuddly toys, they just didn't like frou-frou cuddly toys. So he made them cuddly robots.


Stephanie said...

Wow! I guess I am old too. I had no idea about the thong underwear for kids and the apparently outdated word "prostitue". Lots of food for thought here. Thanks for sharing! :)

Bird said...

I would just like to say that the Word Verification word for me to post here is "hooter." Isn't that so apropos?

I was really psyched by the discussion we had and hope we can do it again. The best part about it, for me, is that I felt like I came away with more questions than answers, which is always more fun!

I definitely think it's a serious challenge for feminists to think through our judgments about women who use their bodies in a commercial way (whether in ads or in adult films). I do not think that it is sufficient to say, "these women are being controlled and objectified and there's no way a woman would willingly make herself into an object of male desire." I do think it is possible for a woman to engage in these activities of her own volition and may even sincerely enjoy it. If that is the case, then to say she should not be doing any of these things is to take away choices, to assert that there are things women should do and things that they shouldn't do. I'm not comfortable doing that because it is antithetical to my interpretation of feminism. Plus, if we say that women who model or dance are simply products of their male-dominated environment, I think we are giving men way too much credit, while locating those women in a disempowered state, denying them the very agency we want them to exert.