HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY
Thought I'd share a picture of my lovely grandmother on this day to celebrate women. When my brothers and I were little, we'd go to her house everyday after school, and she'd prepare us Chinese treats and make sure we finished our homework before watching TV. As my brothers and I got older, we gradually learned more and more about her life, and how complex and courageous it was.
I thought of her and the many women who pioneered a better life for our generation as I was listening to this interview about the Miss Representation documentary that premiered at last year's Sundance Film Festival. I don't really identity myself as a feminist, or at least not in the strictest sense (as defined by Betty Friedan in her book the Feminine Mystique). However, it doesn't really take a feminist to acknowledge the negative affect that the over-sexualization of women in media has on our dignity and self respect as human beings; and it does make me wonder what sort of legacy we will leave behind for our children.
Caroline Heldman talks about how our system has been set up so that women compete against other women in order to gain male attention. In the interview, she states that the amount of time women spend on thinking about their bodies and habitual body monitoring over a lifetime is the same amount of time it would take to pursue 3 PhDs. That's not to say that all of us without 3 PhDs under our belt should feel bad about ourselves either- a woman's worth is no more defined by her academic achievement than her physical appearance; but it should be alarming that the amount of time we spend looking in the mirror and hating ourselves is not only an incredible amount of time wasted but is also actually causing us to backtrack.
As we allow ourselves to determine our worth (or the worth of our moms, grandmas, teachers, friends coworkers, strangers we see on the street) by our physical appeal to men much set by unrealistic portrayals of women on covers of magazines- we should be none too surprised to live in a society that has erased and degraded our middle aged and older women, women who are often the people who can have the most profound affect on our lives and society.
I definitely know that I am not immune to this in the way I value myself and others, and it's sobering to think what a shame that is. I'm not saying that I'm going to burn all my magazines tonight and throw all my make up down the drain, but it does remind me that I don't need to let these things have power over me, and reminds me to stop and open my eyes to images of real women with true worth. Women like my grandmother, or aunts and mom and teachers who have poured our their lives and sacrificed their time and energy to love me.