“grrrl” is a noun, not an adjective!
Posted by crustyriotgrrl on September 2, 2008
This is an essay I was asked to write for a WS class last semester.
Throughout my entire life, my gender has played a huge role. It has determined what kind of things I should be interested in, what expectations are placed upon me and what point of view I have on certain issues. It has affected me for the better and for the worse. In this essay, I will focus on the worse; negative aspects and experiences that I have endured simply because of my reproductive ability.
There are numerous challenges and contradictions of being a woman in American society. One of the most prominent contradictions I see has to do with body image. Because of influences from the media, women are taught that being thin is an ideal body type. This may be difficult enough to deal with for women that are naturally curvy but it is complicated because of the culture we live in as well; American society also stresses over-indulgence and “the bigger the better” mentalities, including in the realm of food. It seems as if women are tempted to indulge in the smorgasbords but if so, they will be ostracized for not keeping up with society’s ideal body image. Women must also deal with other societal expectations for physical appearance such as having long hair and wearing makeup. Both are seen as “feminine” attributes and may cause women to believe they are more masculine or less beautiful if they do not yield to these expectations.
Education is another area in which I see complications for women. From a very young age, American children are taught that education is the solitary most important tool needed for success in life. The reasoning behind this being that the more intelligent one is, the more career opportunities one may have. This seems to be ineffectual for women. Importance on our education is severely undermined because of the ideal female job; housewife. Being able to find a rich husband seems to be a much more necessary skill for women. Because of this, women are not taken seriously in high-end jobs and receive much less pay for equal work overall; about 78 cents to the male’s dollar. It seems as if no amount of education could convince men that women are on an equal intelligence and capability level as them in careers. I see this as somewhat of a double-edged sword; whereas it may be more acceptable for women to be somewhat less intelligent, it’s also somewhat expected. If a woman has no desire to further her education after high school, she is automatically thought to choose home keeper as her eventual day job.
Women’s sexual freedom has also been subject to several contradictions. Perpetuated by the media’s representation of the ideal woman as well as what the typical man desires, women are seen as quintessential if they are somewhat promiscuous. This also includes their choice of dress, such as low-cut shirts or short skirts. This also can go the other way if a man finds a woman ugly or is generally displeased with her; she may then be known as a slut or a whore for the way she looks. Women struggle with having to fit within the stigma men have for their outer appearance or run the risk of being referred to as undesirable terms. This is also affected by the ideal that women should save themselves for marriage, something men do not have thrust upon them. It is almost as if men are expected to be unbridled but if women exhibit the same tendencies than they are easy and cheap.
These ideals that women struggle with on a daily basis are somewhat contributed to our upbringing and socialization. Girls are raised with the principals such as being quiet, physically presentable, soft, dainty and passive. If we deviate from any of these, we may be seen as bitchy, annoying, ugly, abrasive or manly, all of which are very negative for women. Young boys are inoculated with a very different set of morals; being strong, independent, assertive, aggressive or brave are all ideals that they are taught to strive for. If a woman would exert any of these characteristics, she would most likely be seen as any of the aforementioned unfavorable adjectives.
Political involvement also has somewhat of an influence in women’s lives. Affirmative Action is seen as necessary in order to put women on the same level playing field as men. This is a very bittersweet because women should not have to be backed up by a piece of legislation in order to achieve equal status to their male counterparts. Another huge aspect of political legislation in regard to women is the touchy debate over abortion legality and rights. Politicians have found it to be their own business in the issue of control over women’s reproductive abilities. This is contradictory along with education because in many cases teens altogether are not taught satisfactory safe sex practices which lead to women’s desires for abortion in the first place. It’s like teaching a child to steal and then later imprisoning and punishing them for being a criminal; how can we expect anything different from uneducated young women?
In some cases I believe women’s emotions can be extremely contradictory and difficult to deal with. Specifically, their fear. In our heterosexual-preferring society, women are taught that men are our natural other halves yet at the same time very dangerous predators. The thought of a daughter walking home alone in the dark, or alone anywhere, could make a mother cringe with worry and concern. Women are somewhat expected to always need protection and never be alone in public situations or else we would be subject to devious sexual predators, which is perpetuated by both genders, not just other women. This reinstates the belief that women are primarily seen as sexual objects by men and their reproductive organs hold their only redeeming value. Because of this, women are generally distrusting and insecure about men in general.
As an American woman, I find many issues of importance in our society. I am concerned with the current state of equality between the sexes in all aspects of life and in all cultures of the world. I think our society needs to be taught more understanding and tolerance of outsiders’ opinions and experiences. I dislike our current ideals of self-centeredness and “every man for himself”; there needs to be more collaboration and collective effort among both genders to be able to get past these obstacles. I believe we need dire improvements in the areas of education, global compliance and interconnectedness, health care, general safety and freedom, whether they be for more funding, expanding the bracket of those who are eligible or overall increase.
I also am very concerned about how women are valued in society. In my own personal experience, I have struggled with being unsure if male attention and desired friendship is contingent on my personality or solely on my physical appearance. Women should not be seen as having worth just because of their looks, but because of their overall character and personalities. I have also experienced negative reactions from men because of my appearance and style of dress, who question why I do not partake in “more feminine” outerwear.
Because of several negative experiences women in my family have had with men, I am more independent and strong-willed than most. My family is definitely matriarchal because of both my grandmother’s and mother’s dealing with divorce, abuse and neglect with their past spouses. Through their experiences and unfortunate situations I have learned to be self-sufficient. I have personally felt fear of males because of domestic abuse my mother, sister and I went through when I was a child.
As for connectedness with women of other cultures, I definitely feel like I am able to relate to them. As a Social Justice major, I am extremely interested in women of other cultures and the struggles they endure. I feel like women of all different countries go through the same central issues in relation to oppression by outside forces.