Girl Power?

A friend recently posted this article from xojane to my Facebook wall, saying she found it an interesting read. The author, Alecia Lynn Eberhardt, feels that women need to stop using “I have a boyfriend” as a way of getting out of situations with guys who seem interested in more than casual conversation. Eberhardt insists that using the mention of another male, present or not, real or not, perpetuates the idea that only another male matters in the situation, that a woman standing alone saying “I’m not interested” is not reason enough to stop attempting to get to more than just casual conversation. She encourages women, single or not, to stop saying “I have a boyfriend,” and instead stubbornly repeat “I’m not interested,” until it is understood that women can decide by themselves, for themselves, whether they want to pursue anything further with someone.

Seriously, she's not interested.

Seriously, she’s not interested.

In response to this article, I found I’ll Stop Citing a Boyfriend When My Consent Starts Mattering, by Heina Dadabhoy. Dadabhoy lists the number of reasons why repeating “I’m not interested” could be an unsafe option for women talking with men they don’t know. While she agrees that is certainly isn’t right that women can’t just be respected for saying “no,” she doesn’t think it’s safe for women to start expecting it and acting on it. (This makes me think about the Bechdel Test, where the last criteria is, “Do the women talk about something other than men?” Movies have been making it seem like the only important things women have to say are about men for years.)

Where do we go from here? I feel like Eberhardt probably wrote her piece because she feels what I often feel: a need to know what we can do, here on the front lines, in everyday life, to improve the broken image of women. She found evidence of the breakage, and suggested a patch, but therein lies the problem: it’s a patch, and a patch on the evidence, not the problem itself. Men not respecting women who turn them down is simply a symptom of the larger problem – women not being respected in general. Until we fix the larger problem, we’ll have to keep treating the symptoms (refusal to respect what women say, do, think, feel, etc. based simply on their gender), and sometimes the treatment of the symptoms is unsafe, as Dadabhoy pointed out.

How do we get to the real problem? How do we tackle it? I tend to think that media has a huge role in this large issue, but I don’t work in media and, as someone who works on a campground, I don’t even consume much of it. I’m limited to Eberhardt’s option: treating the symptoms I see around me. I work with schoolchildren almost every day who, before hitting puberty, have already decided that in teamwork situations, the boys should go first and then help the girls, whose primary job is moral support. I often bring it up and discuss it, pointing out that all-girl and all-boy groups have accomplished the same tasks they did, and maybe I get through to a couple, but if I only see them that one day, who knows whether the message sticks?

One thing that I find nice about the polyamorous community is that, overall, people recognize that it is a community where women are empowered by their ability to explore their personalities, wants, needs, and sexuality freely, since they are breaking so many relationship norms. Psychology Today even published a study on the topic. Polyamory may be one place where women are finding their voices; if media won’t allow it, what other spaces can we claim?

 

 

Where to start?

First and foremost: This is my 50th post on lovetimesinfinity! Woo!

Seeing as I just also passed my one-year anniversary writing here, I’d like to point out that ideally, I would like to post with greater frequency. Unfortunately, my job/lifestyle doesn’t always allow for a lot of time and internet access, so 50 posts a year will just have to suffice. Hey, it’s almost twice a month. Almost. Better than some of my other blogs.

Recently, I promised myself that I would challenge ignorant posts I saw on Facebook. Most of what I’ve taken the time to challenge has been related to issues regarding gender roles. Today, my “Wall” was graced with the presence of this (click to enlarge):

I’m not sure where the image originated from, as the Facebook group that posted it clearly hadn’t created it themselves. It earned a head-shake, of course, but also, I was a bit pleased. It opens the floor for conversation. It gives us a visual to work with when we talk about women having to choose being one of these things, and being viewed as “hiding who they really are” when they, for example, wear skirts of different lengths.

A question that I think of, too, is whether this image can help open the discussion of it being “okay” that some women actually are sluts and whores, whether their skirts are that short or not. They are on that very visual spectrum, after all, and while some may interpret this image as showing women that they should find some kind of “balance,” I think that there’s a lot to be said for the fact that different people do, in fact, enjoy seeing women with skirts of all those lengths – some people prefer to see women dressing in long skirts, others in short, others in the middle, so all of those levels are ok. Being a slut, and perhaps even being a whore (gasp!) is okay.

What does the image make you think of?