Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Woman's Place

Cat Valente has a great post about "a woman's place" here http://yuki-onna.livejournal.com/675153.html While I did read this post recently, it wasn't the one that I read this morning that inspired my post. http://yuki-onna.livejournal.com/675690.html This is the post and I'm not sure how I slipped up on the link.

The truth is, I'm kind of tired of all this virtual bra burning. It shouldn't be necessary in this day and age. But I'm sick to death of being told my words aren't as powerful as Joe Smoe over there because I'm a woman. I actually believed that all this shit couldn't happen in the writing world, that it was the words that mattered, not who wrote them.

Writing should be gender blind, but it isn't. Women shouldn't have to use their initials or a male pen name to be accepted as a writer. We shouldn't be required to turn our female protags into a mirror image of their male counterparts. They shouldn't be required to have a boyfriend to complicate their lives and they shouldn't have to rescued by some big strong man.

Women can take everything a man can and with more grace. Don't think so? They survive childbirth, spousal abuse, and rape and still get up in the morning and cook breakfast and go to work. Life goes on, it doesn't stop for a woman's pain and discomfort. A man get sicks and he drops on the couch like a ton of bricks and spends the day moaning and groaning about how bad he feels. A woman gets sick and she's still expected to cook the meals and get the kids to school.

I don't watch "Mad Men" because it just instills the belief that a woman's place is in the home and if she's working, well, she must be a slut. I laughed when women protested the show "The Playboy Club" last fall but didn't mutter a word about "Pan Am". Same idea, their clothing was just a little less revealing. And yes, I worked as a waitress back then and my ass was considered up for grabs by any male customer who walked through the door. Not to mention my touchy-feely boss. I was barely eighteen but I learned fast how to avoid grabby hands.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, especially for women. Okay, I'm done now.


Al Tucher said...

I write a female protagonist partly because I find female toughness more interesting. It's more likely to take the form of endurance and resilience than punching ability.

Heath Lowrance said...

This is spot-on. I read the post in question and every word of it is true. As men, we are sometimes blind to the misogynistic nature of popular culture. Even us bloody-hearted liberals.
In my case, I was raised by women (like many young men of my generation) and I have a teenage daughter-- both of those things have given me a slightly different perspective. But despite that, I still find myself occasionally falling into old, patriarchal modes of thinking. It's just ingrained in our culture, isn't it? This lack of respect for women. I dislike this aspect of myself and men in general, and intend to focus more on changing it.
Great post, Sandra.

Brian Lindenmuth said...

As a one time single dad let me say not all men do the flop on the couch cuz I'm sick routine (but I know many who do).

Also, have you seen the Ashley Judd thing?


sandra seamans said...

I agree, Al, a woman's strengh comes from inside. Which isn't to say they can't fight when they need to. :)

It is ingrained, Heath, but I believe, in this country, only since after WWII. Think about it, women walked across the country to settle the West right along side the men. Women helped build this country, they worked in the factories to build airplanes during the war. Then suddenly they were the weaker sex. It just doesn't track.

I know that, Brain. My son is a single Dad, too, raising two boys because their mother prefers being a weekend Mom. Things aren't always equal, no matter your sex. I come from the point of view of one female in a house full of men. That give me a totally different perspecitive from yours :)

I read about the plastic surgery hoopla, but didn't know that she had responded. Thanks for the link! It's a sad commentary on our society that Marilyn Monroe would be considered fat today.

Katherine Tomlinson said...

i was brought up in a household that included my grandmother, who had been a traveling saleswoman back in the 40s. She was the top seller in her company but couldn't tell anyone because it would, in her boss' words, "Humiliate the men." Forty years later, she was still fuming about that and telling my sister and me not to accept that kind of limit.
Imagine my surprise when I hit the working world and discovered sexism was alive and well. Imagine my dismay during the 2008 presidential campaign when people who identified themselves as liberals vilified Democratic contender Hillary Clinton in very personal, very sexist terms.
You're so right Sandra. This shouldn't even be an issue any more. And yet... it is.

sandra seamans said...

What got me about that campain was the fact that they asked her to step aside so HE could win. She was within a hair's breath of beating him and had to take a back seat instead of letting it play out to the end. There was nothing fair or equal in that decision. Just politics as usual.

And I certainly understand your grandmother's frustration. I don't think there's a woman alive that hasn't felt that at some point in her life.

Thomas Pluck said...

I grew up with three women and I still catch myself wearing sexist blinders at times.
You linked to some excellent reading. I often prefer reading women in the crime genre. They have a better perspective, sometimes.
I wrote on the the livejournal post that I think the last few generations of men secretly feel left out of the Mad Men era, when White Man was not only king, but undisputed and without any competition. Today we have to share a meager amount of the spoils, and we react like we're victims. It's quite pathetic.
The easiest thing in the world is to be a man born into a middle class family, but we expect medals for behaving like decent human beings.

sandra seamans said...

We all have those blinders, Thomas, in one way or another. I can see changes in my sons' generation but when I look back to my grandparents and parents lives, the changes don't seem very big considering they encompass four generations.

Maybe the problem is that women, at least many of my generation, are willing to settle for whatever they can get without rocking the boat. Which makes it easier for men to set aside their opinions and worth.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I disagree a bit about MAD MEN. I think a critique about that sort of thinking/behavior goes on nearly week as Peggy and other female characters wrestle with the sixties mentality. Now we have the first black woman and the canvas is stretched.
I think there is a difference between portraying things as they were and endorsing them. Betty Draper is probably the only continuing character who would fit that stereotype and she is nearly comatose. This week dealt with the Speck murders and how that played out. When was the last time we thought of that.
It takes a while to get under the skin of MAD MEN. But worth it for me.

sandra seamans said...

I watch the commercials for Mad Men and just shake my head, Patti. The women in their pearls just remind me of the fantasy life of "Leave it to Beaver". I did try watching when AMC put the show on Sunday mornings but I just couldn't like any of the characters. People I know, didn't live like that and I just can't seem to relate to them.

I remember the Richard Speck murders. Hard to forget the name of a man who committed the crimes he did.

Manuel Royal said...

Sandra, you're entirely mistaken about "Mad Men"; either you haven't seen it, or haven't paid attention.

And I'm annoyed by sexist statements like "Women can take everything a man can and with more grace ... A man gets sick and he drops on the couch ..." Bigoted bullshit.

Otherwise, good piece. (Did someone actually tell you your words aren't as powerful as a male writer's would be? That's ridiculous.)

I like good female protagonists; often I write them. And I like good fiction, regardless of the genital configuration of the author. Find stereotypes tedious.

sandra seamans said...

As I said in response to Patti, I've tried Mad Men but just can't get past the commercials that dote on sex, cigarettes and booze. It's not the world I remember from the fifties and sixties.

Yeah, it probably did sound bigoted but that's my world. I know things are changing but for those of us who've lived this life, it's not going to change.

Yes, I had an editor tell me that he loved the country noir I submitted but it wasn't noir enough. Which begs the question - how noir does noir have to be? :)