Bad Feminism

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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.

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8 thoughts on “Bad Feminism

    1. No. As a political movement it has its merits. I enjoy my right to vote and having access to education (I’d have a lot more angst if I didn’t have writing as an outlet lol) but as a modern cultural movement I think it’s taken a bad turn and that’s what I wanted to address with this article.

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      1. I have a problem with an “equality” that suggests women have no value unless they can prove they are as good/the same as men. I think a woman’s worth, and the value of every person is inherent, as I said above.

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      2. In this particular instance Jennifer Lawrence did. I stated my opinions as clearly as I am able in the above article and I’m afraid I have nothing more to add. If you’re merely looking for a stage to school me in whatever your particular cause happens to be then please look elsewhere because I have no patience for people who enjoy being argumentative for the sake of being argumentative. If you have no desire to see it my way then don’t, I’m merely offering my observations.

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  1. So many are willing and eager to do the combative power struggle, because that’s the easy path to take: it requires no thought or any effort to improve. Two incomplete and selfish people will never have any satisfying relationships.

    The mutually serving relationship, the one that is greater than the sum of its individuals, requires constant work, respect for each other, and more than the perfunctory levels of effort to maintain.

    That seems to be too much work and responsibility for most people.

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  2. Jennifer Lawrence never suggested anything about “being sexy” to get what she wants. Where did you read that? She just asked to be paid the same as her male colleagues.

    No serious feminist would argue that she should use her feminine wiles to get what she wants and take control of the situation. The whole point of feminism is that we aren’t sex objects. I mean, that is the *whole point.* We want to be taken seriously, paid the same, and forge our own paths without being shamed for our choices (whether that means being a stay-at-home mom or a corporate mogul).

    I really don’t understand where this power struggle idea is coming from. In the ideal feminist world, men and women share different aspects of life as equals, in both the public and private sphere. Men would get paternity leave, women would be taken seriously and paid the same in a professional environment. Tit-for-tat. Pretty uncontroversial if you ask me. It’s the antithesis of a power struggle. The fact that it’s called feminism and not just egalitarianism is itself something worth debating.

    The whole “feminist” movement necessitates not trying to control other peoples’ sex lives. Which is good, because obsessing about other peoples’ sex lives is super creepy 😛

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