Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Feminist Raises Its Daughter

I am currently reading Naomi Wolf's "Beauty Myth" which I suggested to my 15-yr old girl to help in critical "methodology" for her IB MYP project on "The image of women in advertising" and have conjured up more enthusiasm for the book, after toiling through the first 50 pages of conspiracy theory. Interesting point that the only professions where women are consistently paid higher than men are modeling and porn. Automatically ruling out porn, why would mothers NOT encourage their daughters to ever enter any profession (not just modeling, but including TV presenter, housewife, etc.) where their most valuable attribute is their appearance?

Because to do so, would be condemning your child to a life-time of insecurity, always worrying that she will be too fat, or too thin (aka not voluptuous enough because every smart woman knows the commercial appeal of Kate Moss is that, until she drank and drugged herself into middle-age, she looked like a child, which is disturbing if you think about that too much), not young enough, not mainstream enough, not exotic enough, not this year's look...always subjecting yourself to a judgment criteria you don't control.

"Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at...confuse desiring with being desired...a beautiful heroine is a contradiction in terms, since heroism is about individuality, interesting and ever changing, while "beauty" is generic, boring and inert." "A man's right to confer judgment on a woman's beauty while remaining himself unjudged is beyond scrutiny because it is thought of as God-given." "Though God made Adam from clay in his own image, Eve is an expendable rib. God breathed life directly into Adam's nostrils, inspiring his body with divinity; but Eve's body is twice removed from the Maker's hand, imperfect matter born of matter."

"The beautiful woman is forever excluded from the rewards and responsibilities of particular human love, for she cannot trust that any man will love herself "for herself alone." "When men are more aroused by the symbols of sexuality than by the sexuality of women themselves, they are fetishists. Fetishism treats the part as if it were a whole; men who choose a lover on the basis of her "beauty" alone are treating the woman as a fetish--that is treating a part of her, her visual image, not even her skin, as if it were her sexual self. The woman's value as a fetish lies in the way her "beauty" gives him status in the eyes of other men.

Wolf's thesis is that in "modern" European and North American culture up through the 19th century up to WWII, in mainstream culture, a woman's value was determined by her moral and spiritual purity, her religious devotion. With the end of WWII and the conversion to the consumer era, this religious fervor was transferred to the "Feminine Mystique" the value of the woman as the ultimate house-keeper, mother and home-maker, opening up the possibility to sell them detergents, house-hold appliances, sewing machines, baking accoutrements. Cleanliness was next to godliness and the new holy waters were soaps and detergents. With the feminist revolution in the 1960s and the entry of large numbers of women into the workforce, this no longer became as economically attractive a business model, so a new standard was invented - the Beauty standard.

Like any ideal, ideal beauty can never be achieved. Beauty is made into a religion in our culture. Like any religion, you must suffer and pay a high price to be beautiful, whether it is through gym work-outs or endless beauty maintenance rituals, ranging in pain and invasiveness from eyebrow pluckings, to laser treatments, to plastic surgeries. The holy oil of purification in the Beauty ritual is the ultimate consumer product: skin cream which promises to revitalize, rejuvenate, replenish nourish, reverse the signs of aging, protect your skin from a "hostile" environment, provide the skin with the calorie-rich indulgences "caviares" and "mousses" that most thin women cannot ingest as a food. The holy oil of beauty cream has a 10x profit margin on the base ingredients, cannot be misrepresented because everybody knows these products don't actually do what they promise - since none of these products actually penetrates the stratum corneum to effect any changes on a cellular level, and the more you charge for it, the more people will pay.

My daughter is now plotting (she is 15 and her "future job plans" change every week) to go to work for the health and beauty division of a consumer products company.

How does a Feminist raise its sons? Well, in addition to educating themselves to the level they need to engage in a fulfilling and self-sustaining (aka not sucking off the parental teat) profession, like my daughter, before they leave my house, my boys will know how to clean a bathroom like nobody's business, cook at least three full, healthy meals, open the door for any woman or girl and treat women with courtesy, respect and old-fashioned manners, and maybe just maybe if they attend SEC football games, wear a coat and tie? Because, at the end of the day, George Clooney dated cocktail waitresses and television presenters, but he married an Oxford-educated international human rights lawyer (who also happens to be beautiful), and I want my sons to find smart life partners with character, moral and family values...

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