Femme Fatale

The 20s are all about finding your voice. There are so many things that hold us back from being bold, but most of it is internal. Fear is a powerful thing. Going against the grain, being different, and changing the learned narrative can be terrifying. We're taught to not just ignore difference, but to avoid it and not to acknowledge it. The truth about is difference speaks loudly in a sea of sameness. There's more than one story. There's more than one voice in society, but it's called history for a reason. I want to hear herstory. All the women whose voices and actions we don't learn about - the heroines, victors, and femme fatales.

"Women shouldn't be valued because they are strong or because they kick-ass, but because they are people"

*This is part two and the conclusion to my social justice posts on feminism. Missed part one - catch up right here "Women's Intuition". Here's a quote to keep in mind about this opinion post (as all of my entries are). "Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth." Sexism is a powerful thing because it truly affects everyone, whether we're aware of it or not. As a man, I benefit from sexism in so many ways and hardly ever take note of the privileges I take for granted. I'm not treated as helpless or fragile. My ability or inability to drive is not reflected on my entire gender. My gender is represented widely in film/television and in doing so is not centered on interactions with the opposite sex. I could go on for days, but this is about debunking some myths about women.

The double standards women face are seemingly infinite. Men are "supposed" to be the bread winners in a family (again I'll acknowledge the heterosexism wrapped into this) and the women are supposed to stay at home, take care of the housework and the children. Then comes people saying that women who stay at home and are "just a mom" are lazy, do nothing, and have it easy. There are women who have jobs and careers who are viewed as selfish, power-hungry, and cold. There's just no winning. Let's do a quick plug to say that marriage also does NOT define womanhood. Being a parent is hands down the most difficult job on the face of this planet - I do not care what anyone else has to say. It's not a job for just anyone and having a child doesn't make you a mom. Taking care of another person for at least 18 years (more like 26 nowadays) who relies on you for nearly everything, I would say that's an important job. It's one of those high risk jobs in that if you don't do your job people die (like doctors, firefighters, police officers). Without moms, no other jobs could be done because there would be no one who was raised to do them - chew on that. Mother's understand true sacrifice and wear so many hats, nurse, coach, teacher, chef, but most of all superhero. Choosing to be a stay at home mom should be respected and valued like any other job choice. The flipside of that, those women who choose to have jobs or careers (because apparently society thinks it's impossible to have both - news flash, it's not) should not be restricted to maternal domestication. You don't have to have children or be a mom to be a woman, the two can be mutually exclusive. Women can be just as successful as men and do pretty much any job a man can do. Jobs do not have genders. People like to imagine they do - doctors, lawyers, politicians, and especially engineers are all men but women can only be teachers, nurses, secretaries, and bakers - I would beg to differ. That assumption of someone's gender when you hear a job being mentioned, that's the sexist socialization I'm talking about. It's astonishing when the company CEO is a woman why? Why are woman "supposed" to be nurturing and have jobs that deal with emotions and taking care of people. Women, just like men, can be anything they want to be - when did we stop telling people that? Some of the most powerful women are the ones who not only have passion for their careers but also for their children - now that is a truly amazing person, at least to me. I'd call that a femme fatale.

Let's talk more about jobs. Why is there a stereotype of women not doing certain jobs? Why are there statistically less women in high paying jobs and jobs that require high levels of education? Why do women make less than their male counterparts? Well there's a heck of a lot going on there. In general, men are expected to pursue careers and woman are expected to pursue motherhood. Those expectations play a powerful role in shaping our society. If women aren't expected or pushed to go to school to attain higher education then of course they cannot do jobs that require those upper levels of qualifications particularly in degree form. Also the workplace can be non-inclusive of women as well. When women do make it if she's in a male-dominated environment that excludes her identity it can be truly difficult to work comfortably. If every task a woman does is second-guessed, patronized or belittled at her workplace (looking at you science field for devaluing work done by women) because of the unfair stereotype that women are in incapable of doing highly specialized jobs, then it should be no surprise that we don't find women in certain fields. If women get pregnant and have children and their maternity leave is barely a few months she may have no choice but to quit her job because she needs take care of her infant (breastfeeding is supposed to go about 6 months). Instead of making it more difficult for women to have children and keep their jobs, we should be extending the time that women take off until they can return to work reasonably. Yes, there's work to be done but giving the space necessary for a woman to return might make a huge difference. This whole pay gap thing is yet to be explained. The pay gap, that is women (full-time, year-round workers) only making about 77cents to a man's $1 hasn't changed in the past decade. Some say it's become women choose lower-paying jobs, work part-time more than men, or women tend to be primary caregivers to their children. The pay gap is worse for women  of color (hey racism, missed ya), present in nearly every occupation, grows larger with age, exists for women without children, and isn't effectively combatted with education. Study after study has been done and still 7-9% of that gap cannot be accounted for and some suggest direct gender discrimination. We may never know but that means we should be empowering girls from young age to strive for whatever career they please and pushing them into those high wage earning careers. Women shouldn't be limited, admonished about their impending motherhood, or made to be inferior/invisible in their workplace. Femme fatales exist and they are NOT exceptions (that's sexism talking - successful women being seen as anomalies). They're more common than we like to admit.

Ready for the big finish. Body image. Women again are caged with all these contradictory expectations. When women go to work they're supposed to be professional but wearing a suit is seen as domineering, intimidating and not-feminine enough. When women wear dresses they lose their power and men, their respect for them, in the work place. Women are supposed to be perfect at all times. Make up, what's it's purpose other than to cover up what is naturally there. Women are supposed to hide their flaws and imperfections, but those blemishes are only considered unacceptable because we've made them to be that way. Men don't have to wear make up and hide all our unsightly marks, they're just "normal." Women are supposed to be hairless. Shaving natural hair that grows on their legs and armpits in particular (facial hair is out of the question and sometimes arm hair too) - keyword there is natural. We're socialized to want to upkeep those ideals, they are not inherent. Grooming is crazy because women are stereotyped as taking long amounts of time getting ready, but that's only because they have a massive list of things to do before they're socially acceptable to step out in public. Hair (full color - hide your grays and your age, but men can be silver foxes), makeup, nails all have to be pristine but not too done up or it's "too much" or not too little or else it's not enough/too natural. Like what does that freaking mean? It does not make any sense whatsoever. Menstruation, a natural (there it is again) body occurrence, but it's viewed as disgusting and men get queasy at the sight of pads and tampons - get over it. Why should a woman be ashamed if she has an accident and why can't women talk about it - it's their bodies. 

Next there is impossible tightrope of clothing. Women are supposed to be sexy but not too much lest they be "too easy," conservative but not to point that they are not showing any skin and are too reserved. Women are supposed to wear bras (pretty much a lacy cage) but it shouldn't be seen or it's racy. Underwear is either ancient granny panties or thongs that imply your status as a sexual person. Dresses that are too long, too short, strapless, strapped, pantylines, unflattering cuts, too revealing and it just never stops. Skin tight everything and it's too much, but loose and you're frumpy. It's a neverending tug of war that can never be won. Shoes, flats are practical but seen as unprofessional but heels are painful and unnatural to walk in. Necklaces, rings, bracelets, and earrings - not too many or you look overdone, but not too little or you look bare. Skin color is a topic for it's own post but if we're talking about mainstream beauty ideals (that is white women) there's this "natural glow" that you're supposed to have. Pale skin (what some people naturally have) is undesirable but not enough melanin to be a person of color cause that's too dark just "tan" enough. It's like makeup for your whole body. If you were supposed to look "tan" you would be born that way. It's a made up ideal that makes no sense, you hate natural colorful skin tones but try to attain it anyway - mmkay. Weight -  you shouldn't be skeleton thin or frail, but don't be fat, big or plus-sized. Your boobs should be big and your butt should be plump your waist should be flat, and your thighs thin with a gap - the thing is NO ONE LOOKS LIKE THAT. Girls (and guys too) are trying to be this "perfect' size but it doesn't exist. Clothes in arbitrary numbers (size double 0, really) and shaming larger women (I understand obesity is an epidemic and a health risk but people treat being overweight like they have the bubonic plague). Why do men get to just throw clothes on and go but women are supposed to primp, burn, diet, jump, squeeze, shimmy until they're perfectly uncomfortable in their own bodies. You are beautiful the way you are. You don't need anyone else to tell you that but I'm doing it anyway. No one should get to make you hate your own body. No one should get to make you feel ugly because you're not a magazine supermodel. No one should get to make you feel undesirable because of the way you look. There is nothing wrong with how you are naturally - that's you, and that's that.

The thing about all these -isms is that not only is the dominant group forcing their ideals on the minority group but the minority group is also internalizing those social standards and oppressing themselves. Yes, men are mostly responsible and needed to combat sexism, but women also play a big part. Stop picking on each other - the clothing and body image portion especially is devastating. So what if a girl doesn't look like you. So what if a girl doesn't only eat salads. So what if a girl doesn't shave. So what if a girl doesn't wear make up. So what if a girl doesn't wear dresses, skirts or booty shorts. That doesn't make her any less of a girl. A girl is a girl regardless of your opinion of the checklist of norms you think she should conform to. You don't get to have an opinion of someone else's life. What gives anyone the right to do so?  Your tasks, should you choose to accept them, are to challenge your assumptions, check your biases, and confront discrimination when you see/hear it happen. Slut-shaming, fat-shaming, rape culture and all the rest need to go. Women - wear what you want, do what you want, and be who you want - that's what it means to be a femme fatale.

My blog post question for the day is ... what is another double-standard women face? Hair - if it's short you're too boyish or masculine - because we assign genders to hairstyles ... yup, makes sense.

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