If someone asked you to describe yourself, what would you say? Young boys and girls respond very differently to this question. This is most likely because people parent boys differently than they do girls. Girls are taught to be polite, while boys are encouraged to speak their minds and figure things out for themselves. Girls are conditioned from a fairly young age to value certain personal qualities over others. John Stossel talks about a study done where girls and boys were asked to describe themselves. “The girls described themselves as ‘nice,’ while the boys described themselves as ‘talented,’ ‘smart,’ ‘good at math,’ ‘funny.’” Being nice is important, but I wish people taught their young girls that being nice doesn’t men you have to boring. You don’t have to choose between being polite and being intelligent.
I think that as we get older some of us girls figure this out. However, some of us don’t. We look at girls in exposing Halloween costumes and automatically assume they’re slutty idiots. We see a girl wearing a lot of makeup and assume she’s probably a complete ditz. Similarly, a girl who likes to read and excels academically must be a prude with no social life. We need to realize that a woman can be smart and sexy and that what she wears or does with her body is her choice.
I saw this trailer for the first time a few weeks ago and was very excited. Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism and The Purity Myth are two very important books to me. I read her blog, Feministing, on a regular basis and all of these things have helped me become more comfortable calling myself a feminist and getting over the social stigma that comes with being labeled as such. This is the trailer for a film based on Valenti’s book The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women.
Young stars like Miley Cyrus and Jordin Sparks have been vocal advocates for “purity rings.” These girls have so much influence over their fans and they choose to waste it on touting archaic gender roles. Instead of telling young girls that they are equal to men and that they should be just as assertive and confident, they relay messages meant to keep women “in their place.” I’ve also noticed that these girls that wear “purity rings” have a strange sense of superiority. They’ve been told to believe that having sex before marriage somehow makes you less of a woman. This is such a dangerous idea to implant. They’re being led to buy into the lie that they are nothing more than the number of people they have, or haven’t, slept with. As Jessica Valenti says in the video, “What the virginity movement really wants from women is submissiveness, and they’ve been prescribing a return to traditional gender roles as the cure.”
Personally, I’m not the least bit domestic. I can only cook a handful of dishes that I like to eat. Maybe this is because I was raised by a single mother who, while being an excellent cook, is also a mechanical engineer. She taught me the importance of an education, while some of her friends felt it more important to teach their daughters how to “get a man.” I’d like to have a family some day and I know that I’ll have to learn how to iron properly and cook something on the stove other than hotdogs, but I plan for my marriage to be a partnership. In this day and age, I think it’s become quite obvious that being a good mother and wife doesn’t mean you can’t also have a career and I certainly plan on having one. In Mother Nature Hrdy says, “The trick was to convince a woman that being chaste was both in her interests and the same as being a good mother. A mother will have an obvious stake in compliance when the status of her offspring depends on her ‘virtue,’ on how well she measures up to patriarchal standards.” This still goes on today, but I’d hope that women don’t worry about meeting men’s standards, or anyone else’s standards for that matter. Be your own person. I guess that’s the point of this post: be who you want: sexy, reserved, intelligent, outspoken, funny, confident, etc. You don’t have to subscribe to the false dichotomies that have been set in place by society.