Saturday, December 5, 2009

Oooh Shiny!!!

Something is bugging me.

Let me start by saying that I am not an über-feminist. I don't rant endlessly about inequality, I don't try to convince people that 'women' should be spelled 'womyn', I'm not offended by the genre designation "chick flicks," and I wear a bra on a regular basis.

But do I think that women have achieved equality? No, not yet. There are probably many factors that could be used to measure equality, but let’s not kid ourselves – money matters. Say what you will about women attaining positions of power equal to or even greater than men across the country – the fact is that we still don’t make as much money (somewhere around 79% of what men make, last I checked). Women put in the same amount of work (probably even more work in some situations) but receive smaller paychecks. That’s not equality.

That being said, I am not the type to cry foul at every little thing that could possibly be construed as sexism. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt in those situations – if women are treated equally, that means more than just an equal paycheck. It means equal pressure to succeed and equal criticism if we screw up. I’m not going to whine and cry about unfair treatment and inequality, I’m going to work my ass off and give you no choice but to acknowledge my equality.

When I was growing up, I was never told that I couldn’t do something because I’m a girl. I was never told that life might be harder for me because I’m a girl. I don’t know what my parents thought about my earliest career aspirations, but I don’t remember them ever laughing or saying it wouldn’t happen when I told them I wanted to be the first woman to play Major League Baseball.

When I was in the fourth grade, I played basketball with a group of boys every day at recess. One day, they decided that they didn’t want a girl to play with them anymore. My friend and I went to the teacher with this outrageous development and our teacher ended up moderating a big debate in class. I don’t remember exactly what the boys’ arguments were. My argument was simple and I didn't hesitate to tell everyone what the problem was - they didn't want me to play because I was better than them.

When I was in middle school, my church youth group went on an annual retreat with youth groups from across the state. Some of us spent every last second of every single free-time period on the basketball court. For three straight years, when we lined up to choose teams for the first game, I was the only girl who wanted to play. And I was picked last every year. In that first game, they never even bothered to guard me for a while. I was usually wide open and calling for the ball, but I never got a pass for the first few plays. Finally, someone would pass me the ball and I would knock down a jumper and get patronizing high fives and “nice shot” calls from my teammates. It’d be a while before I got the ball back but when I did, maybe I’d make a lay-up on the fast-break, cross someone over, make a nice backdoor pass. The passes came more often, the high fives weren’t patronizing anymore, and by the end of the weekend the only people picked ahead of me were the tall kids (rare commodities at that age, can’t argue with that decision).

I was never mad about being picked last at those games. In fact, I liked it. Maybe I even loved it. I loved it that they didn’t guard me – I felt like I was teaching them an important lesson about underestimating people. Also it was fun to hear the other team yelling at each other about who was supposed to be guarding me. It’s a feeling I came to really love – the feeling of hearing the opposing team’s frustrated coach shouting “who’s guarding number 10?!” Nothing like it.

What’s that? You want to know what I was talking about several shamelessly immodest paragraphs back when I said that something was bugging me ?

What I’m trying to say is, I don’t think women are equal yet, but we’re making strides. I’m also trying to say that I don’t typically call things out as sexist or unfair to women. What does catch my attention and bug the crap out of me though, is when women are portrayed as being weak, especially in ridiculous situations.

In a nutshell – jewelry commercials. Yes, women like jewelry. We get it. But I really hope that it’s more than just me who’s slightly offended by the insinuation that a shiny piece of silver will turn any woman into a useless puddle of goo and/or a sex slave. There’s one commercial out right now that irks me a little, and another that makes me want to rip out my ovaries in an act of pure shame.

The first commercial is a man and a woman ice-skating. The man is a horrible skater, falling all over the place and making a fool of himself while the woman glides around gracefully. He manages to pull himself up as she skates over to him and takes him by the arm to steady him. At that point, he pulls a little ring box out of his pocket and voilà, their roles are reversed and he has to steady her because she’s gone weak in the knees. How do we know she’s gone weak in the knees? Because the camera literally shows us her knees buckling. Not as bad as it could be, but not exactly furthering the gender.

The other commercial, the ovary-ripping-out blot upon my pride as a woman, is just downright ridiculous. A man and a woman stand at a large picture window as a storm rages outside. There's a big clap of thunder and the woman turns like a frightened chipmunk to be comforted and protected by the man, who holds her close and magically produces a necklace or a bracelet or something and then says something lame. Apparently…the woman is no longer afraid because the man has distracted her with something shiny? I’m hazy on the particulars because my mind always shuts off to protect my sanity from further offense right about the time that a grown woman is depicted as being afraid of thunder.

These are the types of things that bug me, the things that bring out that little bit of feminist in me. Maybe because I know that kids are watching this and its just perpetuating stereotypes. Think of the children! Oh won’t somebody think of the children?!


  1. The picture window one is just offensive, not just on a level of how it treats women. It's an affront ot good advertising, interesting TV and men who take women who are scared of thunder on vacation to the woods when there is a possibility of bad weather.

    I want to punch everyone involved with it in the neck.

  2. This is a great post. Thanks for sharing. Seriously. I'm not being sarcastic.