So the word feminism is kind of an attention grabber. Especially when an admittedly Catholic writer is using it. But anyway, in the same way I shamelessly admit to my faith I shamelessly admit that I chose the title as an attempt to entice you to read this. Because I’ve noticed something that I think deserves an open and honest discussion, even if it’s not had in this forum. And the thing I’ve noticed I’ve named bad feminism, for the purposes of this post.
Now feminism as a concept I’m not totally against. I’m all for the ladies having a strong sense of self-worth, I’m just especially picky about where I believe women should get that sense of worth. Because recently I read a not well thought out but well-intentioned article about a trending quote from none other than Jennifer Lawrence (you were expecting it to be Trump or someone weren’t you?) And the quote was this:
“Either your boyfriend is going to look at porn or he’s going to look at you.”
Now she is far from the first person to say something like this. Just pick up Cosmo magazine and read it for like 4 seconds. That would be enough for you to see a growing trend that threatens to seriously damage the next generation of men and women, particularly in the context of how they relate to each other. And like any good story, it has to do with power.
Ever since the dawn of the birth control pill there’s been a change in attitude about sex from something that is procreative to something that is completely for pleasure. There was an idea that now a woman can have sex “like a man,” as in often, for pleasure, and without consequences (isn’t that a lovely word for a child?). This was to be the great equalizer. The magical pill that would turn the tides for women everywhere by putting a woman in “control” of her sex life, particularly in regard to how many children she wanted to have (if any) freeing her for other options and resulting in greater wealth for an increasingly material and consumerist nation.
However, this appeal was also founded on the idea that being a wife and mother was not important, and certainly not enough to satisfy a “modern” woman. After all, being a wife and mother was degrading and hard and messy and society proclaimed that a woman’s worth would now no longer be inherent or tied to that natural role (I say natural from a biological perspective because like it or not women are the only ones who can bear children), but measured. And the way it would be measured would be by how much power she had. Worldly power. Status, money, success, looks, education, and, of course, a career. And not just any career (I was told that my elementary education major was too traditionally feminine to be considered feminist by the speaker at a feminist lecture while in college) a lucrative high-powered career, and preferably in a field that had once been “dominated” by men.
Even though these idealists (there were probably man and women in the bunch during this societal shift) claimed to be promoting equality, I question that. Because these same idealists were the ones to reframe sex as the ultimate form of control and empowerment as feminism became intertwined with the sexual revolution. The idea was that with the risk of pregnancy lowered, women could use consequence free sex as an enticement over men and a vehicle to assert their dominance because they had something men desired and men would have to accept it on their terms. And you can trace Jennifer Lawrence’s quote directly back to the understandings of gender and relationships that took root during that movement. After all, her words are based on the notion that men are simply going to use you, that men and women are not complementary but in competition for power and control, not just in the workforce but in relationships as well.
So how do women “win” this relationship game? How’s a modern woman to protect herself against being used and take control of her relationship? By being sexy. Sexier than other women so that her man desires her to the point where his desire can be manipulated into power (control) in the relationship. And Jennifer Lawrence echos this with her quote with her implication that if your boyfriend wants to use women for his own pornographic pleasure, that’s not a fault of his it’s a fault of yours. Providing sexual pleasure is your job/role as a woman in a relationship and he should be using you for that. However, by that same token, if you are the epitome of sexual desire that he is looking to use for his own pleasure, then you have succeeded as a woman because this requires your consent (hopefully) and in order to get that consent he has to meet whatever conditions you place on your consent. And this is the empowering foundation of sexual “liberation” from traditional forms of “oppressive” monogamy.
Regardless of your politics, I still think that this train of thought is an extremely dangerous ride. Because men and women are more than just their bodies. And life is about more than just pleasure. And the world will become a dark place indeed if, instead of men and women complementing each other through loving service, they switch to this combative power struggle. A relationship where the question changes from how can I serve you to how can I be served by you? A switch from a life of love to a life of self-satisfaction. And the most frightening part of all is that I see so many willing and eager to walk down this path.
Let me officially go on the record to say that I’m not.