The discussion was about a feminist essay. The topic of the essay was consumerism with regard to women and how we've been trained to want certain things, how marketing aimed at women.. etc etc blah blah you know the deal..
Actually, I did not really find out the argument that the essay was making because I stopped reading when I got to this:
"The confusion between cause and effect is particularly apparent in the consumerist analysis of women’s oppression. Women are not manipulated by the media into being domestic servants and mindless sexual decorations, the better to sell soap and hair spray. Rather, the image reflects women as they are forced by men in a sexist society to behave."
Why? Because of the language. "Women's oppression?" "Forced by men?" GRRRR!!!! I saw red. And not in the "Oh I am so oppressed and my every action is forced by men so I'm angry" kind of way, either. So yeah, I didn't finish the essay. More on this later.
So today, in the interests of rationality, I did finish it. Here it is for anyone who's interested. The reason I did this was that the part I quoted above was written in 1969, and the language was deliberately emotive, in order to make women aware of their oppression and manipulation, I guess, and perhaps to wind them up enough to do something about it. And that's the problem. I was being blatantly manipulated into being angry about my oppression and manipulation, and it pissed me off.
Anyway, I finished the essay in case there was something important that I had missed by not finishing it, in the interests of fairness. The language from the modern-day writer is a lot less emotive:
"None of this is to say that marketers don’t have alarming power to shape desires, but just that it’s a little dance between the consumer and the marketer. The consumer has to provide the raw material; appealing to the need to please men in women only goes as far as women have that need. I’ve got a bucketful of make-up that I wouldn’t have if there weren’t men or marketers, but both elements need to exist in order for the sale to work. I the consumer have to feel that I need a way to be more pleasing to the male eye and the marketer has to convince me that their lipstick is just the ticket."
However, she's still saying that makeup is about pleasing men. Which is weird, because when I wear makeup, I do it so that I'm pleased with the way I look. I don't give a rat's arse whether men appreciate the colour of my eyeliner and how it matches my eyes. In fact, in my experience, most men don't notice such things, at least not specifically. It might register that you look nice - but I look nice without matching eyeliner too. It's me that gets a kick out of knowing that it matches. And also, other women might notice, in that subtle dominance game that happens constantly between women, that men play no part in, and that goes back to Darwin and survival in cave-people times, well before any of this 'oppression' bullshit started.
Anyway, that isn't really what this is about. Well, it is, but only in a roundabout way. Like I said, the reason I didn't get to the end of the essay the first time was because the language made me angry. And I think I've figured out why.
Three words. Self fulfilling prophecy.
"Women are oppressed!" goes the catchcry.
"We are?" go the women, surprised. "Okay then. Hey, Gloria, did you know we're oppressed? We'd better do something about this."
"Okay, what shall we do?"
"I know, lets look at all the ways in which we're oppressed and exaggerate them."
"But won't that make us more oppressed?"
"Yeah, but at least people will notice."
The thing is, if someone is told they are a victim often enough, they will start to believe it. And once they believe they are a victim, they'll start to behave like a victim, which in turn will make other people treat them like a victim, and it's self-perpetuating. I'm not saying that women have not been oppressed, quite the contrary. I probably know as well, if not better than most people, what kind of a battle it is for a woman to be self-determined in this world. And this world is possible for a woman to be self-determined in, thanks in a great part to women being made aware that they don't have to stay home and be housewives.
What I'm saying is that to continually tell women that they are oppressed victims who have been forced and manipulated all their lives to fit some mould, will turn women into oppressed victims who are forced and manipulated to fit some mould. And it makes me ANGRY! Angry enough to be rude to the feminists who are the very people who have battled on my behalf so I can get paid the same as a man, drive a car, vote, all that stuff.
I am not a victim. I am not being oppressed. I am not being forced. How do I know? I'll let you in on a little secret that isn't really a secret.
My ex husband used to rape me on a regular basis. That's what forcing is. That's what being a victim is. That's what being oppressed is. Wearing makeup doesn't even rate.
And that's why reading those words in relation to buying makeup pisses me off so much. FOR FUCKS SAKE, STOP GIVING WOMEN A VICTIM MENTALITY, ALL YOU FEMINISTS. Stop telling them they are the underclass who are being held down. Stop convincing them that they are easily manipulated by the media, that there is a glass ceiling above which they cannot go, that they are secretly deep down trying to please men when they buy makeup, and this is the truth that undermines their silly womanly belief that they are pleasing themselves. For fucks sake, stop telling our women that they can't do things because they have been oppressed.
Instead, tell them that they can. Tell them that although in the past things were hard for women, that now things are different, that they have the power, that nothing is out of their reach. That they are astute enough to avoid manipulation, that they control their own destinies and that they can determine their own self.
Maybe then, things will actually change.
And if you're thinking "That's easy for you to say blah blah shearing sheep blah blah determination blah blah," - who the fuck am I? I'm just another product of the same society as you. I'm nothing special. I'm a woman, yes, and one who's had one hell of a life.
But first and foremost, I'm a person. And so are you.
Oops. I ranted. Oh well.
And no, I am not playing the pity card here. I do not pity myself. I do, however, know the difference between a real victim and one who is convinced they are one through being told it repeatedly.