Manolo Blahnik Feminism: the Right to Choos| filed under: Feminism, Feminist
I call the new feminism Manolo Blahnik Feminism, which is a super-sexual, super-sexy, and super-confusing form of self-empowerment. Ariel Levy calls it "raunch culture" and I believe that it is going to blow up in American women's faces.
I believe very strongly that there are too many dangerous contradiction in the new feminism, in the new American woman.
I attended a panel on gender differences in the new feminism and my question to the panel was, "I understand how empowering strappy stilettos, butt jeans, bare bellies, and camisole tops are for the modern woman. It is all about taking back the sex, taking back the gaze, reclaiming the control of what is cute, what is hot, what is sexy, it about taking back control, reclaiming feelings of pride in the body, pride in the shape and tan earned from an active, outdoorsy life. That's all fine and good. Unfortunately, we men never got the memo. I never got the memo."
In fact, I feel sort of like a fox in a henhouse. Why? Well, all of my old-world, unenlightened, seduction techniques work now better than ever! In fact, the truth is, I am really too nice for the Manolo Blahnik feminist.
The Manolo Blahnik feminist wants to be taken, wants to find a real man, wants to take risks and have a great time; she pursues a doctrine of devil may care.
Well, no matter what the Manolo Blahnik Feminist thinks she wants and no matter what she thinks she's doing, she is actually walking into a very dangerous trap.
We men are not responding to this self-empowerment with amazement and respect, we're responding to it by licking our lips, by taking advantage, by rubbing our hands together, and by trying not to jinx this out of being. We are pretty well convinced that what is happening won't last: the Manolo Blahnik feminist fancies herself the aggressor, the buyer, the pursuer, the seducer. And we men are what she is after.
All we see is, "man that girl is fine -- I'd like some of that."
As men in such a seller's market, we don't have to choose. We can date another willing girl every night. We can push sex much faster than we ever could believe. The three-date rule? Ha! That's the official rule, but now the first date counts from the night we first met. Oral sex on the first date has sort of become de rigueur -- if you want a second date.
Instead of getting control, the Manolo Blahnik Feminist has relinquished control to us men.
And even worse, this is a very dangerous game. We men are bigger, stronger, and not all of us are so nice. I personally have a lot of experience with women who are survivors -- survivors not just of dating or their 20s, but survivors of sexual abuse and rape.
I have loved them, I have befriended them, and I worked through relationships with women who have survived sexual abuse and rape.
Its always an ugly story and the world is never the same. We just have not received the memo. This kind of exciting, naughty, passionate, irresponsible, reckless indulgence in "raunch culture" is going to result in one hell of a cultural hangover.
Many women will be unable to recover from this self-indulgence with any semblance of faith, trust, hope, or intactness.
And many men, too.
When it comes right down to it, who would have any of the right stuff to even have faith in marriage, the family, and children after indulging in such self-destructive, self-loathing chaos?
I am not sure if modern women have it very good. Not nearly as good as would be expected. I attended college at a high point for feminism an academia, when a woman would still identify with being a feminist.
Not any more.
BY WENDY SHALIT
Wednesday, September 21, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT
Ariel Levy attended Wesleyan University in the 1990s, and she doesn't feel the better for it. It was a place where "group sex, to say nothing of casual sex, was de rigueur." It was a place where they had "coed showers, on principle." When Ms. Levy suggested to a department head that it would be nice to have at least one course in the traditional literary canon, she was dismissed with icy contempt. Yet elsewhere on campus a professor of the humanities taught a course on pornography featuring, um, detailed textual analysis.
It was all supposed to be so liberating. But it wasn't, as Ms. Levy argues forcefully in "Female Chauvinist Pigs." It was merely the academic groundwork for what she calls "raunch culture," now so ubiquitous that we take it for granted. Young women wear shirts emblazoned with "Porn Star" across the chest. Teen stores sell "Cat in the Hat" thong underwear. Parents treat their daughters' friends to "cardio striptease" classes for birthday parties. This is liberation?
Ms. Levy is baffled. "Why," she wondered, "is laboring to look like Pamela Anderson empowering?" Why did female Olympic athletes pose for Playboy before the summer 2004 Games? Why did Katie Couric feel the need to point to her cleavage and gush "these are actually real!" when she guest-hosted "The Tonight Show" a couple of years ago?
Some sort of pervasive pressure, apparently, requires "everyone who is sexually liberated . . . to be imitating strippers and porn stars." Ms. Levy describes the perfect distillation of this impulse--a social group called CAKE that hosts steamy, hooking-up parties in New York and London. CAKE makes big bucks advertising "feminism in action"--it claims to be the place where "sexual equality and feminism finally meet"--but its events are indistinguishable from those held at the Playboy Mansion.
The surface logic of such conduct is fairly simple, notes Ms. Levy. "Women had come so far," or so the thinking went, that "we no longer needed to worry about objectification or misogyny." If male chauvinist pigs "regarded women as pieces of meat, we would outdo them and be Female Chauvinist Pigs: women who make sex objects of other women and of ourselves."
Well, Ms. Levy is having none of it, and she is not the only one. Even Erica Jong seems to feel that something has gone wrong. Known for popularizing the idea that a woman may want consequence-free sex, Ms. Jong today declares: "Being able to have an orgasm with a man you don't love . . . that is not liberation." It isn't? Someone should tell this to Annie, a blue-eyed 29-year-old who admits to Ms. Levy that she "used to get so hurt" after a night of sex that didn't yield an emotional bond. Now she has gotten over it, or tried to: "I'm like a guy," she brags.
How did this happen? Why did feminism sell its soul to the sexual-liberation movement in the first place? After all, the original feminists were fighting to be taken seriously. Hugh Hefner, by contrast, said that his ideal girl "resembles a bunny . . . vivacious, jumping--sexy." There seems to be a contradiction here.
Ms. Levy's answer is that, after a brief and failed fight against pornography, feminism joined forces with Hef & Co. to fight for abortion rights. This is a plausible explanation, as far as it goes. Abortion has indeed assumed a primary importance in both feminist "rights" thinking and in the whole culture of soft-core libertinism: Mr. Hefner is a big fan of abortion, for obvious reasons.
But something else may be going on. Feminism grounded itself, in its early days, in the idea that there were no differences between the sexes. A girl wanting to keep her virginity was bad, for sexual reticence amounted to asserting a separate standard, a Victorian one at that. To Hef, modesty was a "hang-up," and to the feminists it was a "patriarchal construct." Ms. Levy believes that feminism was on the right track but then veered off-course: "What has moved into feminism's place . . . is an almost opposite style, attitude, and set of principles."
But maybe feminism's foundations were weak from the start. Everyone in Ms. Levy's book--whether it's middle-class girls who feel anxiety about appearing "hot" or grown women who confess to Ms. Levy that "accumulating sex for its own sake . . . is not that sexual"--shows that a woman's experience of sex and love is very different from that of an adolescent boy or a man. Indeed, the more a woman imitates a man, the clearer these differences become.
Paris Hilton tells Rolling Stone: "My boyfriends always tell me I'm not sexual. Sexy, but not sexual." (Ms. Levy reports that on one of the infamous videotapes she takes a cellphone call during intercourse.) Plainly, the sexual revolution has not brought fulfillment for women. Even its mascots experience boredom, and for the civilians there is distress and heartache.
It may be that, like Ms. Levy, a lot of feminists now regret getting in bed with Mr. Hefner. Yet if you mention the word "modesty" within 20 feet of them their heads spin around like Linda Blair in "The Exorcist." This is where they get stuck. Only if feminism can embrace the more traditional ways that men and women have courted throughout the ages can it have anything practical to offer young women. To the extent that feminists dismiss as worthless anything that is perceived as "backtracking," they only help to perpetuate the "raunch culture"--even as they deplore its effects.
Take a beach scene that Ms. Levy recounts, when the male "friends" of two girls pressure them to take off their suits. Soon surrounded by a circle of 40 screaming men, the girls say "no way!" but eventually give in and spank each other to appease the crowd.
Such a girl requires, in addition to perhaps Mace, a compelling alternative to the Female Chauvinist Pig. Otherwise she may well give in to social pressure--not to mention professorial nonsense--and then wonder what's wrong with her when she is not happy with the pig in her bed or the pig she has become.
Ms. Shalit is author of "A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue." You can buy "Female Chauvinist Pigs" from the OpinionJournal bookstore.
September 20, 2005
By LOUISE STORY
Cynthia Liu is precisely the kind of high achiever Yale wants: smart (1510 SAT), disciplined (4.0 grade point average), competitive (finalist in Texas oratory competition), musical (pianist), athletic (runner) and altruistic (hospital volunteer). And at the start of her sophomore year at Yale, Ms. Liu is full of ambition, planning to go to law school.
So will she join the long tradition of famous Ivy League graduates? Not likely. By the time she is 30, this accomplished 19-year-old expects to be a stay-at-home mom.
"My mother's always told me you can't be the best career woman and the best mother at the same time," Ms. Liu said matter-of-factly. "You always have to choose one over the other."
At Yale and other top colleges, women are being groomed to take their place in an ever more diverse professional elite. It is almost taken for granted that, just as they make up half the students at these institutions, they will move into leadership roles on an equal basis with their male classmates.
There is just one problem with this scenario: many of these women say that is not what they want.
Many women at the nation's most elite colleges say they have already decided that they will put aside their careers in favor of raising children. Though some of these students are not planning to have children and some hope to have a family and work full time, many others, like Ms. Liu, say they will happily play a traditional female role, with motherhood their main commitment.
Much attention has been focused on career women who leave the work force to rear children. What seems to be changing is that while many women in college two or three decades ago expected to have full-time careers, their daughters, while still in college, say they have already decided to suspend or end their careers when they have children.
"At the height of the women's movement and shortly thereafter, women were much more firm in their expectation that they could somehow combine full-time work with child rearing," said Cynthia E. Russett, a professor of American history who has taught at Yale since 1967. "The women today are, in effect, turning realistic."
Dr. Russett is among more than a dozen faculty members and administrators at the most exclusive institutions who have been on campus for decades and who said in interviews that they had noticed the changing attitude.
Many students say staying home is not a shocking idea among their friends. Shannon Flynn, an 18-year-old from Guilford, Conn., who is a freshman at Harvard, says many of her girlfriends do not want to work full time.
"Most probably do feel like me, maybe even tending toward wanting to not work at all," said Ms. Flynn, who plans to work part time after having children, though she is torn because she has worked so hard in school.
"Men really aren't put in that position," she said.
Uzezi Abugo, a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania who hopes to become a lawyer, says she, too, wants to be home with her children at least until they are in school.
"I've seen the difference between kids who did have their mother stay at home and kids who didn't, and it's kind of like an obvious difference when you look at it," said Ms. Abugo, whose mother, a nurse, stayed home until Ms. Abugo was in first grade.
While the changing attitudes are difficult to quantify, the shift emerges repeatedly in interviews with Ivy League students, including 138 freshman and senior females at Yale who replied to e-mail questions sent to members of two residential colleges over the last school year.
The interviews found that 85 of the students, or roughly 60 percent, said that when they had children, they planned to cut back on work or stop working entirely. About half of those women said they planned to work part time, and about half wanted to stop work for at least a few years.
Two of the women interviewed said they expected their husbands to stay home with the children while they pursued their careers. Two others said either they or their husbands would stay home, depending on whose career was furthest along.
The women said that pursuing a rigorous college education was worth the time and money because it would help position them to work in meaningful part-time jobs when their children are young or to attain good jobs when their children leave home.
In recent years, elite colleges have emphasized the important roles they expect their alumni - both men and women - to play in society.
For example, earlier this month, Shirley M. Tilghman, the president of Princeton University, welcomed new freshmen, saying: "The goal of a Princeton education is to prepare young men and women to take up positions of leadership in the 21st century. Of course, the word 'leadership' conjures up images of presidents and C.E.O.'s, but I want to stress that my idea of a leader is much broader than that."
She listed education, medicine and engineering as other areas where students could become leaders.
In an e-mail response to a question, Dr. Tilghman added: "There is nothing inconsistent with being a leader and a stay-at-home parent. Some women (and a handful of men) whom I have known who have done this have had a powerful impact on their communities."
Yet the likelihood that so many young women plan to opt out of high-powered careers presents a conundrum.
"It really does raise this question for all of us and for the country: when we work so hard to open academics and other opportunities for women, what kind of return do we expect to get for that?" said Marlyn McGrath Lewis, director of undergraduate admissions at Harvard, who served as dean for coeducation in the late 1970's and early 1980's.
It is a complicated issue and one that most schools have not addressed. The women they are counting on to lead society are likely to marry men who will make enough money to give them a real choice about whether to be full-time mothers, unlike those women who must work out of economic necessity.
It is less than clear what universities should, or could, do about it. For one, a person's expectations at age 18 are less than perfect predictors of their life choices 10 years later. And in any case, admissions officers are not likely to ask applicants whether they plan to become stay-at-home moms.
University officials said that success meant different things to different people and that universities were trying to broaden students' minds, not simply prepare them for jobs.
"What does concern me," said Peter Salovey, the dean of Yale College, "is that so few students seem to be able to think outside the box; so few students seem to be able to imagine a life for themselves that isn't constructed along traditional gender roles."
There is, of course, nothing new about women being more likely than men to stay home to rear children.
According to a 2000 survey of Yale alumni from the classes of 1979, 1984, 1989 and 1994, conducted by the Yale Office of Institutional Research, more men from each of those classes than women said that work was their primary activity - a gap that was small among alumni in their 20's but widened as women moved into their prime child-rearing years. Among the alumni surveyed who had reached their 40's, only 56 percent of the women still worked, compared with 90 percent of the men.
A 2005 study of comparable Yale alumni classes found that the pattern had not changed. Among the alumni who had reached their early 40's, just over half said work was their primary activity, compared with 90 percent of the men. Among the women who had reached their late 40's, some said they had returned to work, but the percentage of women working was still far behind the percentage of men.
A 2001 survey of Harvard Business School graduates found that 31 percent of the women from the classes of 1981, 1985 and 1991 who answered the survey worked only part time or on contract, and another 31 percent did not work at all, levels strikingly similar to the percentages of the Yale students interviewed who predicted they would stay at home or work part time in their 30's and 40's.
What seems new is that while many of their mothers expected to have hard-charging careers, then scaled back their professional plans only after having children, the women of this generation expect their careers to take second place to child rearing.
"It never occurred to me," Rebecca W. Bushnell, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, said about working versus raising children. "Thirty years ago when I was heading out, I guess I was just taking it one step at a time."
Dr. Bushnell said young women today, in contrast, are thinking and talking about part-time or flexible work options for when they have children. "People have a heightened awareness of trying to get the right balance between work and family."
Sarah Currie, a senior at Harvard, said many of the men in her American Family class last fall approved of women's plans to stay home with their children.
"A lot of the guys were like, 'I think that's really great,' " Ms. Currie said. "One of the guys was like, 'I think that's sexy.' Staying at home with your children isn't as polarizing of an issue as I envision it is for women who are in their 30's now."
For most of the young women who responded to e-mail questions, a major factor shaping their attitudes seemed to be their experience with their own mothers, about three out of five of whom did not work at all, took several years off or worked only part time.
"My stepmom's very proud of my choice because it makes her feel more valuable," said Kellie Zesch, a Texan who graduated from the University of North Carolina two years ago and who said that once she had children, she intended to stay home for at least five years and then consider working part time. "It justified it to her, that I don't look down on her for not having a career."
Similarly, students who are committed to full-time careers, without breaks, also cited their mothers as influences. Laura Sullivan, a sophomore at Yale who wants to be a lawyer, called her mother's choice to work full time the "greatest gift."
"She showed me what it meant to be an amazing mother and maintain a career," Ms. Sullivan said.
Some of these women's mothers, who said they did not think about these issues so early in their lives, said they were surprised to hear that their college-age daughters had already formed their plans.
Emily Lechner, one of Ms. Liu's roommates, hopes to stay home a few years, then work part time as a lawyer once her children are in school.
Her mother, Carol, who once thought she would have a full-time career but gave it up when her children were born, was pleasantly surprised to hear that. "I do have this bias that the parents can do it best," she said. "I see a lot of women in their 30's who have full-time nannies, and I just question if their kids are getting the best."
For many feminists, it may come as a shock to hear how unbothered many young women at the nation's top schools are by the strictures of traditional roles.
"They are still thinking of this as a private issue; they're accepting it," said Laura Wexler, a professor of American studies and women's and gender studies at Yale. "Women have been given full-time working career opportunities and encouragement with no social changes to support it.
"I really believed 25 years ago," Dr. Wexler added, "that this would be solved by now."
Angie Ku, another of Ms. Liu's roommates who had a stay-at-home mom, talks nonchalantly about attending law or business school, having perhaps a 10-year career and then staying home with her children.
"Parents have such an influence on their children," Ms. Ku said. "I want to have that influence. Me!"
She said she did not mind if that limited her career potential.
"I'll have a career until I have two kids," she said. "It doesn't necessarily matter how far you get. It's kind of like the experience: I have tried what I wanted to do."
Ms. Ku added that she did not think it was a problem that women usually do most of the work raising kids.
"I accept things how they are," she said. "I don't mind the status quo. I don't see why I have to go against it."
After all, she added, those roles got her where she is.
"It worked so well for me," she said, "and I don't see in my life why it wouldn't work."
Thanks to Carrie for sending me this article.
My dear friend commented on this part of the article, "And when it comes right down to it, who would have any of the right stuff to even have faith in marriage, the family, and children after indulging in such self-destructive, self-loathing chaos?"
Her response was, "....Therein lies the pitfall.... Once you start tasting of that forbidden apple, the garden of romance can all too easily dissapear! This, i think, is why many parents of our generation divorced --- lack of faith in love is a direct result of the "free love" movement. Someone needs to warn the young!!! They need to be made aware of the booby-traps. Otherwise we are all just walking around with broken flowers, feeling numb to the pain we don't even realize we are entitled to have."