Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Female Experience: Two Sides


Anna Holmes, managing editor of Jezebel, penned this smarticle in the NY Times op-ed section about Hillary Clinton and feminism. It sparked a relatively intense debate between me and my friend Marshall:
JESS: From Holmes' article: "Sexism is so pervasive as to be almost invisible and so accepted that to mention it is to risk being accused of hypersensitivity."
JESS: so true
MARSHALL: no other social group has made the advances that women have made in the last two generations in such a short period of time, basically without retribution or violence
MARSHALL: the older generation and their expectations will die out. and there will always be assholes.
JESS: yeah
MARSHALL: but at least in this country I really dont think sexism is the defining narrative
JESS: it's not the defining narrative but it's certainly an important one
MARSHALL: and it really sickens me during the age of arranged marriage and genital mutilation perpetuated on 10 year old girls that Hillary losing an election is considered at all
JESS: part of me wants to tell you that you don't get it because you're a man and you can't see the nuances and subtlties that affect me every day that have their roots in patriarchy
MARSHALL: I know. isn't that sexist too?
JESS: perhaps in some ways, but i don't think saying that the sexes view things differently and understand the world in different ways because of their distinct personal experience is sexist MARSHALL: no, but when a man says it he usually is called such
JESS: and i also don't think its fair to compare the experiences of women in 3rd world countries to women in america
JESS: well that's not my ideology. maybe it's steinems', but not mine
MARSHALL: I know
MARSHALL: it's my same deal with African Americans complaining about slavery when there are still slaves on this planet. if it's something truly abhorrent than address it in its entirety.
JESS: i hate that reasoning, though. it's like telling someone who has a normal life but is depressed to cheer up because most people have it worse than them.
JESS: everything is relative
MARSHALL: sure, but I honestly believe a woman in this country can do whatever she wants to. maybe I'm ignorant. but I dont think Hillary Clinton losing has anything to do with her gender.
JESS: i agree that her loss has nothing to do with her gender and everything to do with her horribly unlikable personality.
JESS: and i do think women can get to where they need to be - but that's not the point. we can achieve what we want, but our methods of achievement are different and often times much more difficult than those of men. women have to work 10x harder to get the same opportunities men get handed to them on a silver platter
JESS: or they have to flash their tits and be okay with being painted as sex symbols a la emily gould or elizabeth wurtzel
MARSHALL: well here's a flipside: If I wrote a book about my mental disorder, looking the way I do, do you think anyone would read it?
MARSHALL: did her sexiness help her or hurt her? I mean, if you accept that we think different you can accept we achieve differently too
MARSHALL: my main point would be that I think this Hillary analysis is a disservice to feminism, and I think a lot of feminism in the western world is a disservice to women
JESS: the thing is that it wouldnt MATTER what you look like if you wrote a book, and it would matter what I look like
JESS: I agree that we achieve differently but that doesn't mean we should be afforded different opportunities
MARSHALL: I dont think that's true
JESS: but like... it is. it's a fact. for example: you know that guy who wrote about wanting to have extramarital sex for NY mag? did you see his face gracing that article at all?
JESS: no, of course not. and emily gould writes a piece for the NY times magazine and gets her face on the cover
MARSHALL: no, but I didn't see Jewish Carrie Bradshaw either
JESS: but they never put pictures with Sex Diaries, thats the point, they're anonymous - their credibility and anonymity would be shredded if they posted a picture
MARSHALL: true
MARSHALL: I think Emily Gould is known
JESS: Emily Gould was not known outside of Gawker followers until the ny times piece
MARSHALL: do you think it's a disadvantage?
JESS: i think that it can be
JESS: i don't think there's anything wrong with women using their looks to get ahead, but when their looks are getting more attention than their writing, then we have a problem
JESS: society isn't going to change. they're not going to stop putting elizabeth wurtzel in a belly shirt on the cover of her book about being young and depressed in america. they're not going to put chuck klosterman on the cover of sex drugs and cocoa puffs 2. women may as well turn it from a disadvantage to an advantage
MARSHALL: right. just like sex.
MARSHALL: it's not ever going to be the same
JESS: it just occurred to me that that's the number 1 difference between modern feminists and feminists like steinem from the 60s
JESS: steinem is still clinging to the idea that these subtle nuances engrained into the fabric of society that are dentrimental to women can be slowly unwoven, while the girls of my generation have accepted the disadvantages and found ways to turn them into advantages
MARSHALL: right
MARSHALL: what do we want ____! when do we want it? Now! is the dumbest thing that's ever happened to any movement
JESS: don't say that. the disadvantages i spoke of wouldn't be so nuanced if it wasn't for those women
MARSHALL: clinging to that is what I mean though
JESS: maybe
MARSHALL: I'm prepared to admit I'm sexist if that helps
JESS: see thats the trouble, you think you're sexist and though you obviously have some malecentric ideas, you're one of the least sexist people i know
JESS: i've dated some really fucking misogynistic assholes
JESS: are you mad now cuz i fought back? do you need me to bake you a pie in reconciliation? ;)
MARSHALL: we can't have you baking
MARSHALL: baking is a man's job
MARSHALL: you can just make the crust

-Jess

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