Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Life is An Oprah Episode - On Feminism, Gender Roles, Double Standards

Feminists.  I can only imagine that saying that conjures up images of women that hate men, don't wear makeup, have hairy armpits & legs and wear frumpy clothes. Well, I am a feminist, and let me assure you that I love men (every inch of them), I do wear makeup, and I shave my legs, armpits and get regular bikini waxes.  Feminism refers to movements aimed at establishing and defending equal political and social rights of women and also equal opportunities for women.  Most feminists I know are women, however, I also have some male friends that I consider to also be feminists.  They care about equal rights, not only for women, but, for any group that have been typically discriminated against -- gays/lesbians, blacks, hispanics among others.

When I was a very young child, growing up and playing street games in NYC, it never occurred to me that there were supposed to be gender roles.  I mean, I was playing all those games with all the boys -- games like stick ball, punch ball, handball, etc.  Even on Sundays, when I had to wear a dress all day, I still played with the boys.  I also collected baseball cards and used to "flip" them to win more.  Once while flipping cards in the school yard with Danny Caliente, a boy I had a crush on, I let him win, so he would still like me.  I realized then and there that girls would not be liked if they could beat a boy in a game.  Once I found out he liked someone else,  I challenged him to flip cards until I took away his favorite player -- Mickey Mantle.  Identifying gender roles would be on hold for me until later on, or, until I liked another boy.

When I was nineteen (19) I became engaged.  I have to admit that the first thing that crossed my mind immediately after the ring went on my finger was "wow, I am glad I got this out of the way", -- translation - finding a man and getting married.  The first weekend of the engagement,  my fiance and I went to his friend's house for Sunday dinner.  They were a very large Italian family who sat me down and began to quiz me about the wedding, where we were going to live, etc.  Then these women told me that as soon as I get married I must put my entire paycheck in savings so we can get used to living on one salary for when I had all the babies and stay home.  My head was spinning.  What !  I can not spend my money, that I earned if I want to?  I'm having babies? I can't go to work?  I'm only nineteen.  On the way home, I was hyperventilating and broke out in hives.  I knew for sure women were not treated as equals and future years would prove this time and again, most notably in the corporate world.

As for double standards, the most recognizable area that applies is  -- SEX.  You know, if she does, shes a Slut.  If he does, he's a Stud.  (there's a great book about double standards -  called . He's A Stud, She's a Slut, written by Jessica Valenti - a feminist I've known she the day she was born)...I have never understood that concept.  Look, I was afraid to have sex when I was a teenager, and "held out" until I was almost eighteen (18).  But, I wanted to, and spent those hormonal years  grinding and being groped so I would not go "all the way", afraid of becoming pregnant or being thought less than.  That was just crazy.  Plus, I found out that all my friends had already "done it".  That pissed me off!  Society is still hung up on it, and girls still get a bad rap.

What gets my blood boiling these days are Purity Balls.  Purity Balls promote virginity among teenage girls who are encouraged to sign a pledge that they will remain sexually abstinent until marriage.   The balls are attended with their fathers who pledge to protect their daughters purity of mind, body and soul.  The whole idea of this makes my skin crawl.  It's creepy.  First of all, these girls are typically pre-teen, about age 11 and 12.  They know nothing of their sexuality and how they feel about being a virgin.  It sets them up for failure, because statistically, less than 95% remain virgins, so now they have unrealistic expectations and pressure on them.  Why should their father make choices for them?  And, more importantly, why should these girls believe that they have a higher "value" on them if they remain a virgin?   Pure?  Why should having sex with anyone be considered a gift?  If a girl or boy chooses to wait until marriage to have sex, that is fine and it is their choice..  Just as choosing to have sex is their business.  The true gifts one should bestow on a partner is caring, sincerity, kindness and respect.  I do not think that very young girls (and boys) should be having sex, but, the reality is, teenagers are having sex.  What they need is to be educated about their bodies, and how to be safe.  The whole idea of teaching "abstinence only" is ludicrous.  I know that some reading my blog may not agree with me and that is okay.  These are my feelings; my opinions; my beliefs.  I believe in equality and hope someday we'll actually have it.

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