The readings by Jean Kilbourne and Imani Perry reaffirmed many of my own experiences being a woman in a male-dominated society; although, I do also agree with my classmates Jenny and Miran that media/advertising is not the main culprit for the pressure on women to be thin or to have self-esteem issues. I concur that our peers have a much greater influence on self-esteem. However, I would go one step farther and say that I believe it’s the influence of the men in a woman’s life that shape how a young woman responds to what her peers say about her and what she sees in the media.
I have always been a bit of a feminist and usually get upset when something is put forth as a male-only activity. I easily could have been a news copy editor when I was starting out as a journalist, but I have always liked watching sports, and when I found out how few women were working as sports journalists, I set out to become a sports copy editor and succeeded in that profession for several years.
Where does that way of thinking come from? My father.
I am an only child, and I was “daddy’s little girl.” (I will warn you that the topic of oppression of women is going to get me fired up so I will try to just get this out in my blog and then not get on my soapbox in class.) My dad was definitely traditional and could have been described as “macho” (expecting dinner on the table at 6 every night, never really seen cleaning the house, owning a Harley, etc.), but I will say that he always told me I was incredible, that I was worth something and that I didn’t need any man in my life who didn’t also think I was special. And, he was always there for me. Being raised that way for the first 18 years of my life certainly caused me to not really care what messages the media were putting out there. Like every teenager, I cared what my peers thought, but I also just stuck to my core group of friends and we really did our own thing for the most part.
That brings me to my own perspective on why male-dominated society persists despite so many efforts by women to make things equal: the “daddy didn’t go to my dance recital” syndrome. This syndrome, which I proudly named by myself several years ago, leads women to seek male attention and take on professions such as stripper or waitress at questionable restaurants like the Tilted Kilt. I firmly believe that young girls whose fathers were not supportive of them lead them down the road to having boyfriends who also didn’t support them and then their whole view of gender roles became twisted and therefore allows men to stay in a dominating role. In a study by Carey, Peterson and Sharpe (1974), they compared data from samples of strippers with data from a sample of go-go girls (one who would have more dancing ability, and would show less skin than a stripper, but would get paid the same) and found that in general both the go-go girl and the stripper entered the occupation because they were from unhappy, broken, or unstable homes, and they were influenced by an absent or ineffective father. And I’m sure we’ve all heard a similar phrase in society that is said to new fathers of daughters: “You have one job in life – just keep her off the pole.”
While I was reading Kilbourne, I realized I hadn’t really thought much about why men have always been “in charge”; I had just thought about what has happened to women that has caused them to be seen as the “inferior” gender. Kilbourne’s statement that “real freedom for women would change the very basis of male-dominated society … and men fear this” really struck a chord with me. Her assertion that “men’s awareness of just how powerful women can be has created the attempts to keep women small” is, in my opinion, a fascinating perspective.
Perry’s article on women and hip hop also built on Kilbourne’s statements about women trying to “have it all.” While I find the double standards for men and women (especially regarding physical appearance) to be ridiculous and infuriating, I am not saying that I personally haven’t wished to be seen as attractive. I am fully aware that I must look and act a certain way to get ahead in my career, and really, life in general. As Perry said, “separating the healthy desires to be deemed attractive from those desires for attractiveness that are complicit in our oppression is challenging. … We support the status quo in order to succeed within it, despite our better judgment.” I feel like I am constantly fighting to have a balance in my life between being a wife/mother and furthering my career. In essence, am I striving to support my husband and my male boss? Yes, I am, but I am also seen as their equals. Otherwise, I would be with someone else and also working somewhere else – and that somewhere else would certainly NOT be the Tilted Kilt.
Carey, S. H., Carey, R. A., Peterson, & Sharpe, L. K. (1974). “A Study of Recruitment and Socialization into Two Deviant Female Occupations.” Sociological Symposium. 11: 11-24.