All posts by Clio

Review: Reviving Ophelia

But most important, we can change our culture.  We can work together to build a culture that is less complicated and more nurturing, less violent and sexualized and more growth-producing.  Our daughters [children] deserve a society in which all their gifts can be developed and appreciated. (p. 13)

In early adolescence girls learn how important appearance is in defining social acceptability.  Attractiveness is both a necessary and sufficient condition for girls’ success.  This is an old, old problem.  Helen of Troy didn’t launch a thousand ships because she was a hard worker.  Juliet wasn’t loved for her math ability.  (p. 40)

Girls are trained to be less than who they really are.  They are trained to be what the culture wants of its young women, not what they themselves want to become. (p. 44)

I first read Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher, Ph. D. when it came out in 1994.  Even then I was searching for me.  I was very confused about being female and looking for answers that would make me worthy in the eyes of society.  I missed what Dr. Pipher was saying.  Society is not the place to turn to for answers, it will only confuse you and set standards which are impossible to meet.  I wasn’t ready to hear that I was good enough on my own, and screw society.

Twenty years later, I returned to this book in search of answers on how to be a good auntie to the children in my life who have been raised in a society which is more pornified and sexualized than when Reviving Ophelia was first published.

I didn’t find those answers either.  Not because Pipher doesn’t offer a good explanation of what happens when puberty hits and many of the ways parenting and society can stack the deck against young women without meaning to.

I have to take it on intellectual faith that the maelstrom that is puberty and adolescence really is as described.  There was so much other dysfunction going on in my family that I truly cannot relate on an emotional level and do not have physical memories of what it was like to be a teenaged girl.

Hormones rampaging?  Didn’t notice.  Black and white thinking?  Don’t remember.  It’s hard for me because my memories involve a father who came into my bedroom at night and a mother who undermined my development at every turn.

Watching my six nieces grow has been quite the education for me.  I can see the things Pipher describes happening in them and I have learned it’s okay because it’s normal.  I’ve watched them go through these stages and come out the other end to be strong women who can face society on their own terms.  In no small part due to the parenting they received, from family prepared to teach them the pitfalls of living in a pornified society filled with highly sexualized standards for girls and women.

Reviving Ophelia is well-written and easy to read.   Dr. Pipher’s case studies are still relevant, as are her explanations about what goes on when a girl hits puberty.  That I didn’t get what I wanted from it is not Dr. Pipher’s fault, I was looking for a book she didn’t write.

 

 

The Female Pose

My friends are all feminists. All of them. Especially the men. And we often get into discussions about the pornification of society and the expectations that for women to be deemed worthy  they must adhere to impossible standards of beauty.

One of the communities I used to be active in was science fiction/fantasy fandom. While the people who welcomed me were some of the most accepting people I’d ever encountered, and were willing to teach me the not-so-secret handshake, over the years I noticed the cliques, the gatekeeping (by males), and even more sexualization of women, especially in cosplay.

It’s so sad this happens and people make up excuses for why it’s acceptable, when it isn’t.

In 2012, Jim C. Hines and John Scalzi held a pose-off to raise money for charity. The object, male authors attempting to pose in the same positions in science fiction/fantasy cover art as women are drawn. Of course, they’re drawings, because those positions are impossible to hold by real, actual women.

Today, I came across this on io9:  10 Stupid Arguments People Use To Defend Comic Book Sexism.     (I look forward to the day when links and titles to articles no longer have numbers in them.  Why couldn’t this have been simply titled “Stupid Argument People Use …”?)

The conversation continues to be the about objectification.  Reducing women to only their body, and judging them on the impossible standards of beauty as enforced by society.  We feminists rail against this all the time.  We don’t want the children of the world growing up to believe that the only worth a girl has is based only on her appearance.

We need to understand that every person we meet is a fully realized individual with talents and interests that don’t show on the surface.  It isn’t about sex.  It’s about sexualization, and objectification. And those are wrong.

How do we change the conversation?  As always, we start with ourselves.  When we see someone handsome/pretty, do we think of them as people?  Do we wonder what stories they might have to tell?  Or do we just think of them only as something shiny and bright that would look good in a picture on our walls?

Changing the conversation means we train ourselves and those around us, especially kids, to see people as people.  To see women as people.  Seeing women as people means accepting that not every body is the same, and that no matter how much you think they should do something (lose weight, stop wearing stripes, wear tighter/looser clothing, etc.) to look good to you, they are under no obligation to do so.

Every person on this planet has a story to tell that is more than just how their body looks.  We all have interesting stories, and we need to be asking about those instead of judging people by their looks.

Catcalls

I want to write something about Jessica Williams‘ story for The Daily Show about catcalling but I find myself without words.

Where do men get the idea that saying those things to women is acceptable?  When called on it, men have said, “I’m just sayin’/I was kidding/Can’t you take a joke?” to me.

Men, it is not a compliment to stare at a woman’s body (in my case, usually my breasts).  It’s not nice to stare and whistle.  It is especially not good form to say things to women on the street/in bars/etc. you would not want said to your sister/daughter/wife/girlfriend.  Why do you think this is okay?  Trust me, women don’t respond well to this behavior, and would never date some jerk who said such things to her.

Instead of complaining, which I am really good at, I am going to make a suggestion.  It’s one many advocates for girls  and women make.  Let’s change the conversation.  Instead of teaching us how to survive this bullshit, let’s teach men and boys that this behavior is not okay.  Let’s teach them that girls and women are more than their bodies, more than their appearances, and do not owe a man anything just because he whistled at her.

We are not bitches/frigid/sluts/etc. because we choose not to engage with you.  Most of the time, we are afraid and disgusted by you and do not understand why you won’t just let us be.

It’s really not that hard.