Perhaps you have to be a father of girls to understand the clutch in my throat when my daughters tell me about the bullying they’ve suffered because some guy judged them not a winner—therefore worthless.
So on this Mother's Day weekend, I’m remembering 1968, when hundreds of women went to Atlantic City to picket the Miss America Pageant … and put Women's Liberation into the public consciousness. And I’m wondering why, women, a half-century afterwards, are so many of you still allowing so many males to define you?
Like this, for example.
The Shriver Report Snapshot: An Insight Into The 21st Century Man, published this month, questioned 818 mostly American, heterosexual males older than 18. They were asked which traits “they wanted” most in a wife or partner—and in a daughter:
- Intelligence ranked at the top for both
- Independence and strength were far more valued in a daughter than a wife
- Being principled was seen as more important for a daughter than a partner
- Attractiveness, sweetness and being nurturing were far more valued in a partner than a daughter
- Two-thirds wanted an independent daughter; only a third wanted an independent partner
When I consider this, I can’t help picturing women as candy vending machines from which men make their selections: attractiveness today, independence tomorrow … Snickers today, Hershey bars tomorrow.
The same year as the Miss Americ protest, to trivialize what the Liberation movement was all about, the cigarette guys introduced Virginia Slims with the tag, You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby.
In 1969 came Philip Roth's breakthrough Portnoy's Complaint. The novel elevated to the erotic equivalent of a woman—a slab of raw liver in the hand of its randy young protagonist.
In many circles in the 1970s, recalls women's historian Jone Johnson Lewis:
... being sexually free meant primarily being more sexually available to men, and still doing all the laundry, cooking and housecleaning. One Illinois legislator was quoted calling feminists ‘braless, brainless broads.’
When men disrespect women like this—or abuse them physically or emotionally or in hiring or in compensation—we all are assaulted.
Oxford University student Ione Wells recently wrote in an open letter to an attempted rapist:
You did not just attack me that night. I am a daughter, I am a friend, I am a girlfriend, I am a pupil, I am a cousin, I am a niece, I am a neighbour, I am the employee who served everyone down the road coffee in the café under the railway. All the people who form those relations to me make up my community, and you assaulted every single one of them.
Even someone as successful as Oscar winner Helen Hunt feels the overwhelming challenge of being a woman today.
Actress, screenwriter and director Helen Hunt
In a recent interview, she noted that fewer roles go to older actresses today—not because of age, but because they are women:
I'm tired of the billboard where she's barely in her underwear and they're selling a watch or something. I'm over it, to be honest.
I’m over it, too, Helen.
I’m over seeing 20-year-old LPGA golfer Lexi Thompson topless on the cover of this month’s Golf Digest … with the jacket around her neck dangling down just enough to cover her nipples.
I’m over the annual Sports Illustrated “swimsuit issue” … all bulbous breasts and bikini bottoms and pubic bones.
I’m over the Victoria’s Secret company—whose stock in trade is young women’s bodies—shamefully refusing to make bras for women once they’ve had mastectomies.
But, cheers for Helen Hunt! Hear her roar in a new film, Ride, that she wrote, directed and stars in.
For Thoreau, a notable bachelor, the morning hour at Walden Pond was a time for poetry and art. But he added:
To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.
Could he have been urging all of us—women especially—to fashion our life into a work of art day by day, by means of our own perception of ourself?
In my next blog, “Bridge of Dust”
Buy my newest book, Fat Guy in a Fat Boat, in print or Kindle from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Fat-Guy-Boat-Peter-Yaremko/dp/0990905012/
Also available is my e-book, A Light from Within, about the small moments of our lives that seem commonplace until they are examined under a creative lens.
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