OBJECTIFICATION AND INTERNALIZATION, TWO DIFFICULT ISSUES

Last week, feminist actress Emma Watson was confronted with questions about her boobs with regard to her feminist views. It might seem ridiculous – it does to me – but at the same time this gave me a reason to think about two difficult issues – especially their intersection.

Objectification

Shortly put, this is the idea that a person is seen as an object as opposed to a full human being – insane as that may sound.

Looking at history, it is hard to deny that women have not been seen as full human beings. In medieval times we were either pure virgins or witches – or prostitutes – but never actual human beings. We then became merely virgins, mothers or whores, but had no function beyond that. After both world-wars (where it was proven women could do all kinds of jobs) the myth of the housewife came into full play. Women ought to be women and women cooked and cleaned and kept house – it is the one thing that always annoyed me about Annie in the adventurous five!

Although you’d never hear me say that these were good times, it is debatable if women were objectified during that time. I’d say seeing a women as a mere cleaning womb would be objectification, but I wouldn’t push the point as semantics are not what I am after today.

The objectification I want to address here came after the second feminist wave. When women began to free themselves from the traditional roles they were forced into, a new myth about women began to emerge. I can’t describe it as well as Naomi Wolff – read her “the beauty myth! – but shortly put a new view of women began to emerge and become dominant. Women as primarily beautiful objects. Women who should not be prized for what they do – at least we were prized for giving birth or cleaning and raising children, sad as it is to claim only that – but for how they look.

Beauty became the one defining thing that made a woman worth something – or so plenty of people would claim. Now I do not like to generalize, but it does seem to me that this statement contains a kernel of truth.

Examples

Examples can be found in many places. From the one female party leader in the Dutch elections first being asked which male party leaders she likes the most – as opposed to the questions regarding the actual election the male party leaders were asked – to female anchors being judged on their legs, not their skills in presenting the news. From Amal Clooney fighting to make sure war crimes committed by IS are punished, only to get a storm of criticism – about wearing heals as a pregnant woman – to the scandal of the US Marine closed of Facebook group displaying and asking for nude pictures of their female colleagues. And last week Emma Watson’s boobs that were the subject of gossip.

Sadly, women’s appearance still comes first, not their incredible achievements.

Internalization

The above may be regarded as stupid and ridiculous. I certainly find it astonishing that what a woman is wearing or who she might fancy is more important that her fight for human rights! However, clearly, it still happens every single day.

The issue becomes a bit more complicated once we factor in internalization. This means that a person – or a group – comes to believe external views of themselves to the extend they start to believe it. It would be what we’d call it if men only saw themselves as objects of beauty after having been told that is all that they are for decades.

Now of course, there is a fine line between free will and internalization.

What I mean is, there is a fine line between you simply believing your greatest value lies in your beauty because you just believe it and you believing it because it is what society has told you to believe from the moment you were born.

I certainly don’t want to claim that wanting to be perceived as beautiful is wrong. But it is striking to see how as a group, most women in the public – and I am assuming therefore also in private – are displayed as first beauty and only second – or more like tenth – as capable.

Sexual objectification and sexual freedom

Taking these issues, one can see why Emma Watson’s true response to Beyoncés visual album was so perfect (on my part leaving out any further comments on society bend on believing women can only fight against each other, not with each other).

Since the sexual revolution of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, we have seen women becoming not just objectified for their beauty, but more and more as sexual objects. What I mean is, they are more and more seen as objects for men’s sexual pleasure while at the same time appearing to come to terms with their own sexual pleasure.

It is why music video’s by female artist are so ambivalent to me. On the one hand I fear that their sexiness as adhering to the internalization of being a sexual object – men like to watch sexy women and I want to sell records and am at my best being sexy – and on the other I applaud women who say fuck it! I have just as much a right to sexual pleasure as a man.

Objectification is fucked up

And that is where I stand now. Aware of the issues of objectification in this sense and stuck. Because as women, we are dammed if we do – perceive ourselves as beautiful or sexy, because it becomes all we are – and dammed if we don’t – fighting to be taken seriously for our skills because how can a woman achieve anything without being pretty first?

So here’s my wish. Can we please, PLEASE, just recognize that women are more than one thing. We are not objects to be given a single adjective. We are human beings, same as men. We are rounded characters, different from each other and the same in many ways. And all I want, is to be seen as all that I am. I am guessing it is what most of us want.

And if we could then put that into practice in both media and the upbringing of girls coming into this world, that would be perfect! Thanks.

VICTIM BLAMING: A RECENT EYE-OPENER

I consider myself a feminist. I consider myself a feminist who is somewhat knowledgable about a few feminist issues – and a complete dumb-ass on most other issues. So I am educating myself and taking you along for the tour (if you want of course, otherwise you should probably just read something else). This week I had a bit of a wake-up call about my own ignorance and it has to do with women and the streets.

Victim-blaming
When I started looking into feminist issues of this day and age – to read about issues relating to earlier times, check out my waves of feminism blog here and here – and one of the many pressing issues that came up is “victim-blaming”. Essentially it is the idea that if a woman gets raped, she must have somehow be to blame. Wether it is because she was drunk or wearing a short skirt or didn’t say no to some kissing, somehow she must have made the attack possible. After all, men will be men and they cannot be helped for their actions, so women should – and more crap like that.

I’ve always found this idea completely ridiculous. How can anyone believe that deep down any woman would want a man to enter her body without her consent? I wouldn’t shove a cup of tea down your throat if you were not in the mood for a cup right? But sadly, this believe permeates our society.

From the mayor of Keulen who claimed that women should keep unknown men at arm’s length to prevent an attack, to video’s of frat boys shouting “no means yes, yes means anal”, from only letting a woman go out in public escorted by a father or brother or husband, to asking a victim what they were wearing, how drunk they were and wether or not they’d had intercourse before. Somehow, a victim is never blameless when it comes to sexual assault.

Streetwalking
Last week, I was finishing a book by Rebecca Solnit called “Wanderlust – a history of walking”. In it, she traces the history of walking, from ancient Greek philosophers to modern day activists. The history of male walking that is. Men, who were allowed the time and safety to walk out. And then she comes to women.

Women walking the streets have had a bad rep for centuries. It’s not safe for a woman to walk about the streets – what with all the men wanting to be with her – so a woman on her own, must have been a streetwalker – a prostitute. Thank god we do not believe this anymore. Thank god women today – in the Western world that is – can just walk outside, whenever they want, where-ever they want.

Except maybe at night. And in certain areas.

Back to victim-blaming
And then I got my eyeopening. I was talking to a girl who is battling street-intimidation because I am looking into the “safe cities” concept. I was giving her examples of how a city could be safer – well lit streets, busy foot traffic, camera’s maybe – and she stopped me. Saying that what bothered her most about this, is that we are thereby making it the responsibility of women to only walk in areas that are safe. And if we don’t… we must be stupid? In part to blame for whatever happens?

And I had to think about it. As much as I believe that safer cities for women, mean safer cities for everyone, I was confronted with how deeply rooted victim blaming really is. Even I had taken the “avoid dark alleys and streets to prevent getting raped” so far, that I didn’t even question my own assumption: that to make the streets safer, we need to make them more accessible.

But all the accessibility in the world are not going to make the difference we need, as long as we keep on blaming victims of sexual assault for what happened to them. Nobody has a right to infringe in that way upon anyones body. Not when you are drunk, not when you are wearing a short skirt. Not even when you are walking on a dark street.

WAVES OF FEMINISM II

Have you ever had that moment in a conversation about feminism where someone casually drops something like "that is classical for second-wave feminist" or read something along the lines of "third-wave feminism focusses on a whole new set of issues" and not really understood what it was all about? Well I have, and it has bugged me tremendously the past few weeks. How can I claim to be a feminist if I don't even know anything about the waves at all?

So, I did what I always do when I am bugged. I Googled. I Googled and researched and I found that the basic idea is not all that hard to grasp. Basically in feminist history three (by now maybe four) major rises of the feminist are recognized. These rises are called waves and so we have four waves. Each wave has it's own characteristics, and their own celebrities, but like anything related to history much MUCH more can be said about each period and all the intermittent time.

However, I wanted to learn more about the waves to start with and take you with me on a little tour. Last post I wrote about the first two waves and today I dive a little deeper in the most recent waves.

Necessity

Before I get into the third and forth wave, I would like to address another issue. Ever since the second wave of feminism, people have been asking if feminism is still necessary. Haven't women achieved equal rights? Aren't they allowed to vote, and work and decide about their own bodies?

These same questions are still being asked today. If women do not yet hold about half of all positions of power, is that not their own fault? Aren't women just complaining because they are incapable? Isn't feminism something that only needs to happen in third-world-countries?

To me, this always seemed like a weird question. How on earth could anyone believe that over 2000 years of patriarchy would just be overcome in a few short decades? We still have obstacles, both external but definitely also internal ones, to overcome. And for anyone who still believes women are viewed equally, just look at what Google suggested when I did my research. Apparently "3rd wave feminism is cancer" is sought THAT often, that even with a drive full of cookies from pro-feminism sites, the Google-algorithm sees this option as one I would be looking for. We clearly still have a very long way to go!

Third wave

Where the first and second wave of feminism mainly focussed on legal rights - though, admittedly, not only - the third wave of feminism focusses more on social constructs that potentially keep individual women back - even if a lot a legal battles are still going on. A myriad of issues came up and were taken on that focus on society: women and sexuality, LGBT-rights, intersectionality, objectification, the way women are portrayed in media, how to raise boys vs. girls etc.

The great thing is, that this is the period where women really started to own individuality and the view was taken on that - like men - women have different interests; we may not all want to be CEO's, but we still all want the option should we so choose. The hard part is, that this makes the feminist agenda harder to define. Do we want to battle rape culture, genderstereotyping, objectification; are we for or against porn and prostitution; what about women in lesser economically developed countries? 

Even more difficult in my opinion, is the issue of intersectionality - about which I will write a blog post later - which (in a very teeny-tiny nutshell) is the idea hat queer women and women of colour face discrimination based on them being women, coloured and/or queer. These issues are interconnected and might need a cohesive approach, but may also need different tactics to combat.

As such, some critics even say that the third wave really isn't a wave. It's more like lose sand and therefore unable to reach the goals. It may also be one of the reasons why - in the Western world at least - the very word feminism went out of fashion, with many women stating they are pro-equality, but not feminists (now that is definitely a topic for another blog!).

Fourth wave

If the third wave was vague and criticised, the fourth is downright contentious. The definition is not yet determined, the issues are still expanding (intersex, male feminism, plus-size support etc.) and really, the question could be posed if we can speak of a new wave or if it's still the third wave, that has simply been updated to match the digital age.

Because if anything is clear, it is that social media plays a huge role in getting people organized and activated - as it does with other issues. Memes are spreading like wildfire, marches are organized on Facebook, Twitter is used to fight sexism whenever it rears it's ugly head and Etsy is selling "pussy-heads by the dozen".

One thing that is clear for this wave, is that people are engaging in large numbers again. It is no longer bad to call yourself a feminist. We can take on issues with a smile - the pussyhats, the awesomely funny signs and even the way "free the nipple" was popularized - and at the same time tackle serious issues with the seriousness they deserve - slutshaming or victimblaming, domestic violence, rape as a weapon of war, female genital mutilation etc. The fight is still one, online and offline, you with me?

Keep checking this blog, because after learning about the waves, I've have seen we still need to fucking fight these issues and I still have a lot - A LOT - to learn. You with me?!

WAVES OF FEMINISM I

Have you ever had that moment in a conversation about feminism where someone casually drops something like "that is classical for second-wave feminist" or read something along the lines of "third-wave feminism focusses on a whole new set of issues" and not really understood what it was all about? Well I have, and it has bugged me tremendously the past few weeks. How can I claim to be a feminist if I don't even know anything about the waves at all?

So, I did what I always do when I am bugged. I Googled. I Googled and researched and I found that the basic idea is not all that hard to grasp. Basically in feminist history three (by now maybe four) major rises of the feminist are recognized. These rises are called waves and so we have four waves. Each wave has it's own characteristics, and their own celebrities, but like anything related to history much MUCH more can be said about each period and all the intermittent time.

However, I wanted to learn more about the waves to start with and take you with me on a little tour. So, here it is. A small breakdown of the four waves of feminism. 

 

FIRST WAVE FEMINISM

The first wave of feminism is the BIG one that really made all the following waves possible. It is primarily the struggle for the right to vote - but the right to an education and equality as to property and a few other rights came in to play as well. We call the women who fought for the right to vote are called suffragettes and this wave was at it's hight in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

For me, the first time I ever heard about suffragettes, was in Mary Poppins. Winifred Banks - the mother in the story - is a part of the "votes for women" suffragette group. We can see this in her clothes as she is wearing a purple and gold sash saying "votes for women" and off course when the chimney sweepers sing "votes for women, votes for women!" (No idea what I am talking about because you are either too young or too old to have seen the movie, check out this clip at 6:57)

Sadly, the happy-go-lucky version that mrs. Banks shows us, is not what the real suffragettes lived through. Quite often these women would be cast off from their families, be imprisoned at protest, force-fed when they'd go on hunger strikes and in some cases they even gave their lives for us to have the right to vote - amongst other issues.

It is mostly thought that this wave ended when women got universal suffrage, that is to say, when all women of a country would be allowed to vote. As such, the period ended at different times in different countries. For example, in my own country (the Netherlands) women were only allowed to vote from 1919 onwards (although they could be elected from 1917) whereas New Zealand gained universal suffrage in 1893.

Celebrities of this wave include: Aletta Jacobs, Marie Stopes, Virginia Woolf and Susan B. Anthony

SECOND-WAVE FEMINISM

Where first-wave feminism focussed mainly on legal equality, the second wave focussed on a lot more issues. Main points were the female body and reproductive rights, family and family-planning, the right to work and equal pay and abandoning marital rape and domestic violence. For me, it will always be mostly exemplified by two things:

Firstly the Dutch Dolle Mina's calling for "baas in eigen buik" (dominion over ones own stomach) that we all learn about in school as part of the troublesome sixties. When I learned about this, it seemed incredible that women were not always allowed to use contraception or get abortions - oh how naive I was.

The second association for me is the inmense shock of finding out that married women in the Netherlands were not legally speaking their own person (difficult to explain, but basically it meant that you couldn't legally hold property or make certain decisions or even work for your own money if you had a husband) until 1957! That's the year my dad was born!

What really gets me about this wave though, is that we still seem to be fighting for these issues! The iconic Roe vs. Wade judgement that legalized abortion in the U.S. is under direct threat from religious fundamentalists - not to mention President Trump - many people still believe that rape inside a relationship is impossible, that women who get raped must have brought it onto themselves, families started by unmarried people are viewed as inferior in many countries and overall the wage gap hasn't diminished at all - not the mention the lack of representation of women in influential roles in business and politics.

It makes me a little sad, but mostly it makes me want to keep up the fight! Who's with me?

Celebrities of this period are many! To name a few: Gloria Steinem (love her book!), Dorothy Pitman Hughes (their picture is so strong!) Jo Freeman, Joke Smit, Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedman.

NEXT WEEK, READ MORE ABOUT THE THIRD AND FOURHT WAVE ON #feministfriday

 

Ps. the header picture I found on this amazing page and found too good not to use! http://www.womenyoushouldknow.net/inspired-illustration-feminism-at-work-pays-tribute-to-pioneers-who-moved-womens-history-forward/

 

RENEWING MY RESOLUTION

This weekend, women the world over marched to show that they were not going to let their rights be taken from them. And although I was unable to attend, I felt so energised by following the story of connection evolve during the course of the day. And then the very next day, I found this in the bowls of the internet, otherwise known as Facebook.

At first I didn’t even understand what it meant. This “joke” was so far out of what I know, so far out of my comfort zone and definitely so far out of what I consider appropriately rude in jokes, that it took me about a minute to realise the “joke” is about gagging a protester. Although the text itself in no explicit way refers to rape, the comments certainly did.

I admit, I was shocked and angered. I know the person who put it online would not rape someone and definitely not gag someone just for saying no. But the fact that this in so many circles is considered funny – and me being without humour for not appreciating it – made me realise AGAIN, how much there still is to be done in the field of women’s right – as if Donald Trump becoming president of the U.S. wasn’t enough to make me realise that.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the immense task – come on, if even here in the Netherlands we do not fully understand rape-culture, there is more to be done than people will admit to – I decided to go for a run in the woods. Well park really, but it was outdoors anyway.

I got my legs moving, my heart pumping and my lungs working hard. The ground was dusted in white, the trees stark against the bluest of blue skies. As my pace quickened, my mind slowed. I felt good, capable, strong. Even if I had no control over the world around me – and never will – I have control over my legs. And my own actions. I have control over what kind of conversations I am willing to engage in. What battles to chose and which to ignore.

I ran home, happy in my body, my mind, my heart and my soul. And as if the universe wanted to make sure my realisation stuck – which by the way, I don’t believe in – a tram covered in advertising for plastic surgery, displaying only female body-parts, passes me. As if society is trying to tell me I am wrong.

That it doesn’t matter how I think I feel. That I should only be happy when my body is one very narrow definition of perfect and my mouth is hut. Duct-taped over as a “joke”.

I am certain now, that I found a truth. That the resolution I made last fall is still relevant. I need to learn more about feminism if I am to deal with this kind of shit on a daily basis. Because as the beautiful poem goes:

“You are enough.
You are so enough.
It is unbelievable
how enough you are.”

Even if society is telling you otherwise!

WHY I AM GOING TO WRITE ABOUT FEMINISM

I so badly wanted to write that feminism was hot! Back in business, back from the dead and ready to take the world by storm!

Beyoncé declared herself a feminist, Emma Watsons bookclub is a huge hit, Germany has had a female prime ministers for years, Canada has a self-proclaimed male feminist prime minister and it looked like the US would now follow by electing the first female president. Feminism seemed hot.

And then yesterday happened.

Yesterday a man who proudly proclaims to able to grab women by the pussy because he is so famous, who stated he wants to criminalize abortions and who has shown a lack of empathy with most feminist issues, was elected president of the U.S.

But that is not what shocks or saddens me the most. Because after his (admittedly more moderate) victory speech the dialogue didn’t become more moderate. Far from it.

Twitter started to fill up with women and minority groups reporting incidences of mental and physical assault. The one that stuck with me the most: a woman being grabbed by the ass as the perpetrator yelled “Trump, baby!” Clearly, the newly election of an assault condoning president legitimized the assault for women throughout the U.S.

Now I do not live in the U.S. and am not a U.S. citizen and stating I would have preferred a different president in a country thousands of miles away from my own seems random and off point. However, considering the fact that the same undercurrents bely the culture I live in, makes it a valid point, in my opinion anyway.

Moreover, I see the same thing happening in my country. Sexist jokes are becoming more gruesome and saying anything against it makes me a sore loser, a feminazi, ridiculous or overreacting. It’s just jokes, right? It’s just jokes until the person who acts on them becomes the president of a country that is known to influence my own.

Having said this, the one good thing about yesterday for me: I realize yet again why I am speaking up for these issues and that perhaps I should do even more.

So today I am publicly declaring myself a feminist!

A feminist, who wants to help the struggle to improve on these issues, and who is committed to this cause.

A feminist, I realized, who is woefully ignorant of the history of feminism.

I do know suffragettes got us the right to vote, but I have hardly an idea how; I do not really know what first wave or second wave feminism is and even if we’ve got a third or fourth wave; I am very unsure about women like Christina Aguillera and Miley Cirus: are they strong independent women who are not afraid to show that women have their own sexuality, or are they the victims of the patriarchy still exploiting women for their own financial gain? Or would it be ok for me to not hold either believe and let them make their own choices?

Also, I haven’t got a clue how race and religion impact feminist issues and to what extend they are linked. I hardly know what has been done to provide me with the privileges I now have other than the biggest ones (I can vote, I have autonomy over my body and I no longer need a husband to take any financial or moral decisions), but other than that?

Many questions that I am fairly certain many more (young) women have.

So, first things first. The coming year, I want to educate myself on these issues. Have any tips on what I should read or watch, please let me know. Struggeling with the same questions? Please let me know. Like what you are reading here? Please let me know.

Together, we can get to a more just and equal society!