7 Reasons Why This Often Is Not Female Empowerment.
Hint: it’s what women have been told they must do for validation for ages.
(Note: do not bother to comment on this article unless you’ve read the entire thing, carefully, in its entirety. You cannot challenge an article with validity if you did not actually read the whole article. It makes you look like a fool, and, it isn’t a legit or informed discussion debate if one person has only read some of the information on which they are conversing).
(Second note: none of this is a judgment of anyone. I am not saying anyone is “bad” or “good” in this article. There is no judgment of character going on. Instead, this is an analysis of psychology and behavior).
Ever heard women say things like, “Showing off my body is empowering.”
“I’m expressing my sexuality.”
Though many women nowadays will claim that half-naked selfies, and that their butt-cheek baring shorts and crotch skimming hemlines are “liberating” and that they are “empowered women” who can “do as they wish,” there are several flaws to this argument and mindset.
Reason #1 that this is not empowerment.
In a May 2016 article from Fem Magazine, the term “choice feminism” is discussed. Choice feminism states that the choices of a woman are inherently feminist, simply because she made them herself. That any choice made by a woman is automatically feminist, for the simple reason that she chose it.
Yet, while a woman may choose to wear make-up and that can be a supposedly feminist method of self-expression, often the “choice” women make to wear it is rooted in the subconscious or even conscious desire to conform to sexist beauty standards. As in, what is “expected” of women and femininity.
The same goes for shaving and most other beauty rituals, which all serve to reinforce the narrow, rigid, and oppressive idea of femininity in our culture.
A woman may get cosmetic surgery because she “wants to” but why is she making her breasts bigger, ironically, in a culture that tells women big breasts are where it's at? The answer is obvious. It’s a conscious (or subconscious) attempt for her to feel better, to feel more acceptable, and more beautiful in that culture's narrow ideas of beauty. So it was a “choice”…sort of.
Would she have chosen the same thing in a culture where these ideas and standards were not present, though? Highly doubtful.
Thus, how we choose to clothe our bodies can fall into this realm as well.
The main point being: just because a woman chooses to do something does not make it inherently feminist, or a good thing for women as a whole.
And further, though we seem to make choices every single day, how many of those choices are wholly uninfluenced by the culture at large? Probably not many. We may think they are, but subconsciously, all of us are very influenced by our friends, our culture at large, etc.
The second reason it’s not empowering is that women using their bodies to get attention, approval, and validation is nothing new. Thus, this type of behavior is nothing out-of-the-box or trailblazing. It’s conformist and predictable.
For ages, women’s value in our culture has been based on their bodies and their looks. So women taking half-naked selfies or walking around with their butts hanging out is not a form of liberation.
It’s actually a form of oppression and going along with the rigid expectations of women for the ways in which they can hope to garner men’s desire. It’s conformity to the max.
It’s women doing what they feel they need to do, and what they’ve been told from our culture at large, in order to get noticed by men.
In truth, it’s operating within the narrow constraints of how women are told are the ways they might be noticed and deemed of value in our culture.
It’s going along with the age-old construct that women are objects for the visual pleasure of men. That women’s power and worth are in their looks.
Women using their bodies and sex to get attention, to attain success, this is not groundbreaking, bad-ass, or outside the box. It’s as old as the hills.
Further, there is a difference between sexuality and self-objectifying.
There is also a difference between empowerment versus consciously (or subconsciously) conforming, striving for attention, and a sense of validation.
The latter mindsets and behaviors might be called pseudo empowerment.
We seem not to understand these distinctions in our culture.
In his book, Girls on the Edge, Dr. Leonard Sax argues emphatically that sexuality is good. Sexuality is about your identity as a woman (or man). It is about feeling sexual and being comfortable with it. This is a healthy part of being human. A healthy aspect of becoming an adult.
Sexualization, however, which runs rampant throughout our culture currently, is about being an object for the pleasure of others. It’s about being on display for others. This is harmful in varying ways.
Again, sexuality is a part of who you are (on the inside).
Sexualization is about how you look and how you are perceived by others.
We have become a culture that (consciously or not) routinely make ourselves into sex objects (in other words, engaging in the sexualization of the self). Who define ourselves by how we look, rather than by deeper character and who we are inside.
Focusing on how we look and how this will appeal to others isn’t liberating.
Instead, it’s feeding into the very cycle that oppresses women, and which bases women’s inherent value on their appearances.
This is the opposite of feminism.
It’s the opposite of empowering.
One’s sexuality and sexualization of the self are not one and the same. They are opposite sides of the coin.
Instead, we have mistakenly deemed them synonymous.
Within women's culture, we have come to harbor a lingering and widespread fear of making strong statements, or “judgments” regarding sexuality or remarks about their behavior to anyone. No one wants to offend or anger. Everyone must be careful to be politically correct. Today, we take pride in a morally neutral stance. That this means we are “liberal”, laid back, cool, and not judgmental.
We cannot comment on a girl’s or woman’s behavior or dress because it’s been deemed “anti-feminist” and “judgy.”
Anything a woman chooses to do, we must support, not judge, and bite our tongues about, in order to claim the title “feminist” and prove that we support our fellow women.
Yet, what if certain behaviors, instead of pushing back on and challenging the problem, it adds to it?
In 1970, the supposed feminist writer Germaine Greer published her influential book, The Female Eunuch. Her main assertion is that female modesty is a consequence and manifestation of the patriarchy. That female modesty is essentially the oppression of women and is a means by which to control and contain them.
This thinking achieved the status of established fact in contemporary gender studies. Meaning, one philosophical opinion became decided on as essentially feminist law of sorts.
By chastising female modesty as a symptom of patriarchal oppression, Greer lent support to ideas such as “pole dancers are liberated women.” Her argument has become so intrinsic to contemporary feminism that many people do not know where it came from, they merely accept it as inherently feminist.
Today, we are immersed in a sea of pornographic imagery, and, an increasingly sexualized ideal that younger and younger girls are feeling the need to live up to.
Thongs marketed to girls under ten years old, advertisements abound featuring preteen girls in sexually suggestive getup and positions, and even the fashion trends of women nowadays mimic sex workers and streetwalkers.
Is it empowerment, though, to dress in such a way that, one, mimics the type of person who is paid to please men sexually and two, perpetuates the problematic anti-feminist mindset of women’s value being placed entirely on their appearances and what they have to offer men?
Dr. Fredrickson (in her study, The Swimsuit Becomes You) and her colleagues had a wacky idea for an experiment.
They recruited women and men, and then randomly assigned each volunteer to wear either a bulky sweater or a swimsuit. Each was directed to sit in a room with no windows, no observers, and complete a math test. Thus, they were alone in their own company for the activity.
They then compared how women and men fared on the test when wearing either the swimsuit or the bulky sweater.
The men who wore swimming trunks did slightly better than the men in sweaters.
However, the women who were wearing a swimsuit did significantly worse than the ones wearing a sweater. And remember, the women were in a closed room with no windows or observers.
Just wearing the swimsuit distracted the young women with regard to their bodies.
It seems safe to suggest then that, even when putting on a confident front, women who dress quite revealing and who self objectify are probably going to be thinking about, analyzing, and judging themselves and how they imagine they look much more so, than women who do not do this.
The women who say, “I’m expressing my sexuality.”
And for whom are you doing that?
Women grow up in a culture where their sexuality is, by and large, molded, presented, and made for men. The arching of the back, the wet lips, the well-timed moans in porn? For men. The fact that during sex, a man’s orgasm is assumed, while a woman’s pleasure is a “maybe,” an afterthought. That strip clubs for men outnumber those for women by the hundreds. That it is primarily men who are buying sex from women. That women often choose their dress and behave in certain ways to gain the approval and desire of men.
For men, their sexuality just is. And further, it’s theirs.
For women, their sexuality is, very often, carefully crafted to elicit approval and excitement by men.
Thus, this is not so much an expression of my sexuality (as a woman), but more, is making my sexuality for him.
How is dressing oneself as a sex object empowering?
How does it help our culture in breaking out of the anti-feminist, narrow line of thinking which dictates that women’s value lies solely in their appearance and what they have to offer men sexually?
Or, might it instead be encouraging those very lines of damaging thought?
Might it instead, be conforming, oppressive, and continuing to go right along with a very narrow vein of thought for women, which is that their bodies and their looks are how they get attention and success with men.