The current cover of People features a bikini-clad television actress with the protesting title “I am not Fat!” And she isn’t, not by even the most twisted standards of beauty that have infiltrated our society and handed it new weapons with which to re-enslave women. Ms. Love-Hewitt is a size two, and I mention this only because I know someone will dispute her claim of a healthy weight (and me) and ask. It’s sad really that 40 some odd years into (or after depending on your point of view) the women’s movement, women in the United States are still objects. Which is why Clinton won’t win the Iowa Democratic caucuses or be president. Because she is a woman and women in this country – like most of the rest of the world – are still just the sum of their pretty, or not so parts. Intelligence. Experience. Ability. None of this matters when the easiest way to put a woman back in her place, or at least remind her she is out of it, is to criticize her femininity via her appearance, martial status or commitment to her children.
While it is true that we are allowed to be as naked as we wanna be in the visual self-expression of how far we have come baby, answer me this – how is the fact that we are judged by our appearance and size and “femininity” any different than the Islamic obsession with covering women up? Or the French and Russian governments extolling their female citizens to patriotism via their birth canals? It’s two sides of the same coin, and the coin of the realm is keeping women in their place as second-class and objectified- with our complicity at times it seems because we don’t help ourselves at all by playing into whatever the status quo may be. In western cultures women parrot the line that we are free because we can be blatantly sexual and can control our bodies, and chose to marry or not, parent or play working girl – all the while starving ourselves and fueling a beauty industry out of control, and reading Cosmo for man-snaring tips. Our pop culture thrives on female parts – in music and films that depict females and their sexuality as dirty and disposable. Beauty magazines that sell self-improvement in the form of diets and exercise programs. Fashion that is designed to accentuate beauty and expose those who are not.
In places like say, Saudi Arabia, women will tell you they don’t mind being seond-tier, covering up and not being able to drive is fine because they appreciate being protected by their males and the society these males have created for them. The China and the India are dangerously unbalancing their gender ratios by scanning their unborn fetuses and aborting girls because sons are better for a family – at least until they are of marriageable age and their are no daughters for them to marry. French women are bearing children in the name of nationalism and unaware of that the racist sentiments that are slowly tearing at the seams of their country is the likely cause their governments are praising them for their efforts. But telling yourself you are in charge of your choices is not the same as being in charge. When there are no options to chose from but the ones carefully pre-selected and laid in front of you by others – how free are you?
So, what does this have to do with Hillary Clinton, you ask most patiently. Just that she represents what women are not supposed to know about or think about becoming. She is educated and articulate and didn’t get where she is by conforming to the rules as they are written for women. She may have chosen the well-beaten path here and there, who doesn’t? For example, remember her changing hairstyles back in the early days of her husband’s presidency when her looks were being constantly criticized in the press – which by the way is one of the ways the media works for the system that wants all women to know that love and respect are reserved for the pretty and the closed-mouthed. Sen. Clinton plays politics the way the boys do and she isn’t supposed to even want to play in the first place. John Irving called this being “sexually suspect” in his novel, The World According to Garp. Women who live their lives against the current. The current fashions. The current standards of beauty as dictated to us. The current standards of womanhood.
The Register endorsed Sen. Clinton. It’s unlikely to do her any more good than Ms. Love-Hewitt revealing her dress size. A woman is not likely to be the president of this country. Our sexism is embedded in our genes so deep that we don’t even recognize it. We built our country upon the idea that all men, not women too, were created equal and never changed our minds. And don’t think that our founding fathers didn’t know what they were saying. John Adams wife Abigail railed at him for excluding women. Just as they knew they were in the wrong about slavery (Jefferson referred to it as “holding a wolf by the ears”), they knew what they were doing when they wrote “men”.
I am not a Clinton supporter. I haven’t even begun to make up my mind about the presidential field. It’s a little early in the race and future presidents should be put to the test and made to show their stuff and stamina. Nobody has done that yet. But, the Catholic school girl in me can’t abide those who will use the belittling tactics of the old parish priests when confronted with women who won’t sit down, or shut up or just go away. It may be a man’s world, but as someone pointed out to me recently they aren’t the majority. We are. And perhaps it’s time we decide where are places should be.