Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

False Progress Empowerment Cannot Be Achieved through Self-Objectification

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

False Progress Empowerment Cannot Be Achieved through Self-Objectification

Article excerpt


A woman has to be the one to say this, and it's time: We females cannot have it every which way at once. Too many of us are trying to. It is hypocritical, it defies logic and it won't create progress.

Every day brings news of women speaking out courageously against assault, against gender bias and bullying, against body shaming and objectifying, while calling for equal treatment, for professionalism, for "body positivity" and acceptance.

These messages, however, are often muddled. Some of them - as currently practiced - are mutually exclusive.

Had I written this 10 days ago, instead of beginning "Dear Sisters," I would have addressed myself directly to Jennifer Lopez's vagina. I'm sure she wouldn't mind because she certainly put it out there at the Super Bowl. On the Jumbotron.

Empowerment via a stripper pole is just one of the mixed messages I'm puzzling over. You too?

I first noticed the term "body shaming" in a viral post in 2016, from two young women angry about objections to their strutting around in butt-baring bikinis in front of little children at a public beach. "We won't be body-shamed!" the girls said.

But the objecting parents were not, in fact, trying to make the girls feel ashamed of their healthy bodies; they were raising questions about when and where revealing those bodies might be inappropriate and disrespectful of others.

Multiply this conflict by a few million. It surfaced some months before the major media made a big, mocking deal, in early 2017, about Vice President Mike Pence's refusal to dine alone with any woman other than his wife.

A Los Angeles Times columnist wrote, "If professional women and men cannot be alone together, women are the ones who will pay the price." Experts declared it "gender discrimination."

The next year brought Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court - and the advent of #BelieveWomen. I'd be fascinated to find out if Mr. Pence's practice is now spreading. Frankly, it should.

If we women must be able to meet alone with male colleagues and must also be believed on any assertion we make about what was said and done at those meetings, well, it's not women who will "pay the price" - it is men. …

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