Inquisitive Children and Accomplished Women

// 3 October 2007

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In the midst of the continuing debate surrounding the Dove ads, the latest entry on Bitch PhD is worth checking out. It’s an account of a mother and son talking about the pressure on women to be “pretty,” according to whatever cultural standards are imposed at the time, and also touches on the pressure on boys not to “dress up or be fancy.” I think Mum sums up these opposing pressures really well with the line:

…Everyone likes to hear that they’re cute or beautiful. As long as you don’t think that’s the most important thing about you.

My one criticism is that the son’s assumption that “boys don’t get diseases that make them not eat” is simply met with the response “exactly!” I mention this because, although we know there is way more pressure on women to be thin than there is on men (something that is most definitely not fair), it also has to be said that anorexia doesn’t only effect women (and, of course, the fact it affects anyone at all is hardly something to cheer about). To imply men are not affected by anorexia seems to play into the hands of anti-feminists who would like to think feminists live in a fantasy bubble where only women suffer and only women matter. Overall, it’s still a great piece though…

Meanwhile, Mind the Gap has got a brilliant post from Zenobia about the unfortunate tendency for the narrative around feminism to frame feminists as exceptional in comparison to other women. She says:

…You don’t get to reject privilege and fight for equality until you recognise your own, and that means recognising all of your internalised racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia. And that means recognising that they might still be there, and that you didn’t magically become right about everything once you became a feminist. Feminism isn’t about some of us being born superwomen and demanding that the world recognise us as such. It isn’t an exclusive club. It’s about freedom for all women, not just the smart ones with the secret handshake and the book club…

I agree entirely. How many of us have had the bittersweet experience of finding ourselves actually bonding with someone who makes lots of negative generalisations about women but then backhandedly explains away our own deviation from the stereotype by saying we’re the “exception to the rule”? How many of us have knowingly raised an eyebrow along with our feminist chums when we see a woman behave in a way that doesn’t seem very liberated to us? As Winter comments:

At what point do we start being the very cliquey cool girls we hated so much at school?

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