Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Public Face of Women's Personal Lives

Carol Hanisch's "The personal is political", an oft-quoted, and oft-misquoted concept, is as true now as it was in 1970. The fact that as a society, we still don't "get it", is extremely distressing. Here are some examples taken from recent media stories and blog posts:

1.Your body is your only real asset. Britney Spears is FAT! Hear that, folks? Her recent, less- than- triumphant television appearance has provoked a shitstorm of negative attention, most of it centered around how "gross" she looked in her outfit. Please. I'd pay to look that "gross". I'd bet most women would. I bet she's all of a size 5 or 7. That doesn't really matter, though. She dared bare her belly after her sex symbol status had been revoked, so she HAD to be mocked. All women should try to be sexy, but only certain women can BE sexy. If you aren't one of those women, you better not try too hard (but you still have to try, and no, we won't tell you where the line is), or we'll have to tear you down by saying one of the two most devastating things that can be said to a woman- "you are ugly" or "you are fat".

2. Your body is your only real asset, part 2. Women in miniskirts are HOS! Kyla Ebbert, a woman trying to board a Southwest Airlines flight to Tucson, Arizona was reprimanded by a flight attendant for immodest attire. She was wearing a tank top covered by a shrug, with a miniskirt. I've worn outfits like that to work. It's a cute outfit. Back in the late sixties/early seventies, Southwest Airlines flight attendants wore outfits with miniskirts and hot pants. But hey, double-standards are just a daily thing for women, especially women who work at Hooters, dare to have attractive bodies, and want to fly on airplanes. There is that sexy-but-only-when-we-say-so thing again.

Women and airplanes just seem not to mix in general these days. Remember the Saudi princesses who were kicked off of the British Airways plane in July for being too modest to sit next to male passengers? Can't win for loosing, can you?

3. Your name is not your own. The name change thread has been revived at Pandagon, which is partially the impetus for this post. It seems people can't get enough of shaming women for complying with the patriarchy, and women can't get past making excuses for their compliance. It's simple, folks. Women take their husbands' names because it is the socially expected thing to do. Period. Women define themselves through relationships. Because of this, women find it especially important to have a "family" name, or distance themselves from a family name that has negative connotations. Women go on about taking a husband's name to get rid of a bad father's name. They talk about wanting the same name as their kids. Sure-- I get all of that. I also get that adult people can change their names at any time, for any reason. They can also elect to give a child the mother's name, or choose a totally new name for the whole family. Overwhelmingly, they don't. Why? Because society will beat them up for it.

Women have a lot more pressure on them to have "pretty" names, too. I hear women say they thought their husband's name was "better" or "nicer" than their own. Of course, that doesn't negate the fact they could have just changed their name at any time, or the couple could have picked a new name together, but hey, when a woman gets a chance to increase her palatability socially with a better name and a more respected status (married), of course she jumps at the chance.

4. Your body, which is your only real asset, does not belong to you. Want over-the-counter emergency contraceptive? Want an abortion? Want to get your tubes tied? You'd better hope you are in the right place at the right time. Apparently pharmacists and pharmacies all over the country are just arbitrarily deciding they don't want to give out Plan B because it is against their moral judgment. And if you are a rape victim? Don't go to a Catholic hospital. Apparently, they don't have to make EC available to you. I'd also not go to a Catholic hospital if I suspected ectopic pregnancy. Apparently, they won't give you a shot to end the pregnancy (and keep you from dying)-- rather, they'll remove the whole fallopian tube. Feels a lot less like abortion to them that way, see? And If you want the "A" word, and you live in Ohio, you better fight against a ludicrous piece of legislation that would require a man's permission before you abort ( I say a man's, rather than the father's, because there is no real way to determine the father at that point). Want your tubes tied? You had better be way over 30, with at least two kids, or good luck finding a doctor who will do it.

5. Women are single-handedly destroying the world. Women who choose not to have children in countries like Japan and Russia are causing the economies of those nations to be imperiled because of negative growth. White women in America who are choosing not to have babies are letting the immigrants take over. Women who have too many babies are unfairly using up too much of the planet's resources. Women who use hormonal birth control are releasing it in their urine, which is polluting the water. Personal choices, you say? No one else's business, you say? Men have input into reproductive matters too? Water pollution from 1,000 other sources is more pressing? Please. Stop making excuses.

Sigh. If Eve was weak, I'm glad that other women are not. Surviving all of this crap takes a lot of fortitude.