Sunday, May 27, 2012

Taking Responsibility

I wrote before about the current/impending paradigm shift in our culture, one where those who do not fit the default mode of straight, white, Christian man are clamoring for their place. It's not happening soon enough. The relegation of those who are perceived as "Other" to the sidelines is problematic in and of itself. But it also perpetuates greater problems.

On Friday, May 25, the wonderful and talented Jessicka Addams asked her followers on twitter: "I have a question (open to men too). Why do so many girls hate other girls? Why does our gender turn on each other?" I spent the rest of the day thinking about why we do so, and again turned back to the default view in which we as a society subconsciously view the world. Despite the progress we've made and are continuing to make, we live very much in a man's world, where women are sidelined into supporting roles in men's story. We jockey for a place in a world that relegates us to second-class, and even when we've carved out a niche for ourselves, the post is precarious at best. We are fighting for the respect and recognition that are automatically granted men, and that constant state of struggle leaves us, as a group, insecure and fearful of our place in the world. When the space is so limited, we view other women as the enemy of our own success: "If her, then not me." We lash out against each other, and we need to take deliberate steps to abolish this thinking while simultaneously working together to create footholds in a society that is just as much ours as men's.

Note: This is not men's fault. This is not women's problem. Sidelining each other and playing the blame game leads to circling the drain and nothing gets done. This is a social issue we all have to take responsibility for.

Our Government
...needs to stop treating breasts and vaginas as things possessed by alien life forms. Lactation and gestation are two of the five characteristics that define an animal as a mammal, scientifically rendering the body parts that enable them as both natural, and fundamentally essential. Women's health is just health. We can't expect our girls and women to feel comfortable in their own skin when we treat what makes them women as public property instead of body parts. Parts that occasionally have medical issues that need to be treated in a timely, private manner that places paramount the needs of the patient, without the need for legislation and rallies to protect our basic rights.

Our Media
...needs to showcase women in all areas that display a rich variety of the human experience, allowing for weakness, strength, doubt, ugliness, beauty, and a host of other opposites, so no matter what woman is watching, she will not only see a representation of herself and her experience, but vicariously experience other women as well. A rich variety, incidentally, is not the same as a token variety. The beautiful badass in an otherwise  all-man team (Avengers) is not enough. It's merely one woman who broke into the boys' club, and it encourages jealousy instead of stomping it out. Our films, our music, our stories are reflective of our times, yet the primary voices are men's. Even Pixar, a studio that gave us such a rich tapestry of female characters as Jessie, Mrs. Potato Head, Barbie, Bonnie, Boo, Ellie, EVE, and Sally Carrera, waited until 2012 to tell a story where the female character's arc isn't just informing the male hero's role. The most successful female driven film of last year was Bridesmaids, a film centered around what is traditionally called "the most important day of a girl's life", the transition from Miss to Mrs. Not the most important day of a couple's life, a man's, or a person's. Just a woman's. When we continually only tell women that there are only certain roles they can play, and only certain stories in their lives worth telling, it limits their perspective, and creates unhealthy competition for those roles, on film and off it, furthering our insecurity and jealousy.

Most of all, we
...need to stop acting as though "Society" is some nameless, faceless entity that is forcing us to dwell in the shadows. We are society, and we control what it wants, how it works, and what values it holds dear. If we want to curb female jealousy, we need to a) stop giving it so much room to grow, and b) stop rewarding it when it occurs. We want stories that showcase women? We need to write them, we need to finance them, we need to produce them and share them. We want women's health to be afforded respect, funding, the basic accordances that every other division of healthcare is afforded? We need to take it, uncompromisingly, and with a no-nonsense attitude.

The day our culture views women (as a whole) living complete, full lives, regardless of where we are in relation to men, is the day women will feel as secure as men that they have an important, irreplaceable hold in our society.

And that is the day when female jealousy loses the battle it's instigated in our gender.

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