I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176

23 October 2012

The Girl Effect, part 9a

Dragonfly - Photo by A. Stahl

Today I want to continue the concept of The Girl Effect, and think back to some of the previous posts I'd posted in this series and what sorts of things might serve to help girls and women in society, in the workplace and in the church at large have a chance to rise above people who stuff them down.

Before I do all of this, I want to remind you, that all of these issues (women's issues) are issues of humanity, issues the Bible takes very seriously, and issues that impact the whole of society, not just it's female half.

This is not just a first world issue. Oh no. It's a worldwide issue, and we really need to think about it and get to fixing it, so that the lives of our children can be made better.

Who, in their right minds,  would want their child to grow up where the societal norms is that one half of humanity must be pushed down, their feelings and desires quashed?

Who in their right mind feels that it is justice for girls and women to be regularly harassed, marginalized, beaten, raped, abused?

Who in their right mind would make anyone be forced to choose between: parenting, education or caring for their family?

Who in their right mind would want to live in a society that gives them a general inability to control what is said or assumed about them, or their right to self determination - simply because of their gender?

What sort of working mother wishes to return to work immediately, without being given the choice of actual bonding with her child, without the chance of losing her job? Why are countries not enabling women who must provide for their families, to also be parents?

Are feminist, or feminism really bad words?

Definition of FEMINISM
1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
2: organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests
First Usage: 1895

Sounds pretty straight forward, right?  Not so.  Apparently (news to me considering my education), there were four waves of feminism.

Protofeminism - any history of feminism prior to and after the Temperance Movement.
The first wave was from the early 1900s to 1950s.
The second wave was from the 1950s (or 60s depending on who you hear this from) and ran until around the 1980s or 1990s.
The third wave began around the 1990s.
The fourth wave began around the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Sources: Four waves of feminism in a nutshellWikipedia: Protofeminism,  Wikipedia: History of Feminism

Surprise surprise, I've actually never read any books  on or about feminism. I never went to college, so I never did studies on Women's history or anything like that - and feminism was pretty much an evil, dirty word my entire life.  I never could truly reconcile that. Until this year, I never saw myself as a feminist. Guess what? I'm a feminist. (oh noes, I just outed myself!)

Because of my religious background and the schooling I had, I honestly couldn't name more than a handful of feminists and what their platforms were and what they did for society.  I'm not exactly ashamed of that or anything, just stating where I'm coming from as people have a tendency to really assume a lot of things about me that are untrue and I've been told I'm quoting directly from someone's playbook (by name usually) and that it's just like her ""manifesto"" etc - and I've done no such thing. So, I'm laying this bare before I move forward.

I see this issue as a human and a biblical / ministry issue, rather than a "women's issue". Mostly because it does not just impact women. It impacts families, children, men, society, culture, religious practice...

It - women and girls being treated as something "other" or "lesser" or "equal but.." is an elephant in the room.

When it comes to "equality issues" - imagine that elephant in the room. This is all the things that cannot or will not be said because there is a mixed audience in the room and due to the social and cultural conditioning that women and men have had .

What are some of the very common themes in the third world, second world and first world when it pertains to women and what is expected of them?
There are men's spheres and women's spheres and ne'er the twain shall meet, except for the family sphere.

What is the expectation of most girls/women in society?
Basics: be born, hit puberty, get married and have lots and lots of babies. Be the backbone of polite society, never speak out of turn, serve in every capacity possible in the realm of "feminine" and never contradict or speak out against men unless absolutely necessary.
Just like children, you are to be seen and unheard. Never speak unless spoken to.
“A lady never expresses direct anger” - oh my gosh. Seriously? seriously. *rolling eyes*
Never let a conversation have a long lull, but never take over the conversation.  

You must be beautiful, but not "slutty"... culture and country will cause all of that to vary from place to place and family to family. What is beautiful and "not slutty" will be different the world over. What is acceptable in one area is not acceptable in another.   A perfect example of this would be today's article in Deutsche Welle "Do clothes make the (wo)man?" There have been similar articles on many other newspapers about many other feminine issues about what's on the runway, or what's being work by your everyday white or blue collar female workers. You find lots of discussion of Tznius/Tzniut on Jewish websites and in books that will discuss what modesty will look like from an Orthodox, Conservative or Reform standpoint.  In some communities it goes down to even what tights one wears under their dresses/skirts and whether or not they additionally wear socks.. etc. (See Simple to Remember: Jewish View of Modesty, Dress, Clothing, or Modest World's: Modesty in Dress-The Principal Law

Judaism and the secular world are not the only ones with ideas about modesty or propriety when it comes to the workplace. Christianity has been in on the action for the last 1,800ish years as well, and depending where in the world your Christianity is practiced, or what sect of Christianity you are in, will determine what is considered modest. (I really did like this article on Her.meneutics: How 'Modest Is Hottest' Is Hurting Christian Women)

You find it often discussed on blogs about women's issues (things like "Modestly Yours", and "Noble Womanhood" for example), in sermons, on talk radio, and on Christian forums.

And because it is hilarious:

When you get married, there are a whole other host of rules imposed by your culture and religion. Depending how patriarchal that society is, you may have no say over your body still. Or how many children you must give birth to. (I'm not talking pro abortion here, but family planning for your health and wellness)

There's even discussion that one should not wear what they wore pre-children, but need a "Mom uniform" (TLC: 5 Tips to create your mom uniform, blogs like "The Mom Uniform") or websites such as those that promote a return to apron wearing as a part of modesty as a mother and to identify you as a SAHM or a WAHM. (article example: The Apron: The Ultimate Symbol of a Culture of Life)  I find it hilarious how much of our ideas as North Americans and Europeans are so culturally filtered as to what makes a uniform for a woman, vs what makes a uniform for a woman in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, South America... etc.  And our perceptions and cultural discrimination in this field is where a lot of women have a disconnect with each other.

You find some of this discussed here on Wikipedia as well.

What is the perception of these girls/women when they do not submit to these cultural norms?
In many societies, if you buck the societal norms, you are seen as against the system rather than trying to help it, or you're seen as ugly words I can't say here.

I am reminded of a scene from "Mean Girls" (which I love by the way) where Tina Fey's character Ms. Norbury gives the girls a pep talk. (PG language here)

 Girls and women will regularly tear each other down for perceived differences in dress, body language, voice inflection, hairstyle, accessories and whether or not they have children or how many children they have.

Media is one way we are frequently told about our gender norms, as the documentary Miss Representation shows us

Another documentary that discusses this in detail is America the Beautiful.

A book that discusses this phenomenon is entitled "So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids". Some of it was a bit eye opening, as I never really paid attention to fashion on television (who would if you're the nerdy kid hooked on sci-fi with no girly outlets?) and I hardly ever look at magazines or massive billboards. Really, I don't!

There's a real paradox in our cultures that do not really truly let women be women, without all these extra things tacked on to it like "biblical", "whoreish", "mommy", "young teen" and "old lady". This happens the world over!

As my time is continually being cut short, I'll post this now and come back with the second part to this later, in which I hope to discuss a bit about rape culture. Because a lot of these morality issues on clothing and such all come down to what is known in society as "rape culture".

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