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Don't fear the polka-dot: A Valentine to thoroughly questioning sexism - Dude, it's a journal!
July 4th, 2011
11:52 pm


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Don't fear the polka-dot: A Valentine to thoroughly questioning sexism

A while back on ONTD_F, a tumblr post was linked. ("Don't Fear The Dowager: A Valentine to Maturity")  It's a rather short piece by a writer from Jezebel, and it talks about trends toward the infantalization of women largely through the aid of many childish hobbies and styles well beloved by hipsters.  While there are some very real conversations to be had about the social tropes of women as childish (and the fetishes ensuing from there), and the very subtle pressures of self-degradation and encouragement of women to make themselves less intimidating in order to not scare men away, and the ways those trends can manifest from those attitudes, but this article didn't effectively touch on any of that.  What it became instead, was a lot of bitter mis-aimed ranting, largely aimed squarely at women and making all sorts of assumptions about why women do what they do.

Not only does she make the ridiculous (maybe satirically hyperbolic, but no less awful) assumption that all of these kitten-loving, ribbon-wearing, cupcake-baking grown women are all "In it for the peen" (Lesbians aren't into this stuff apparently), but she also puts the cart before the horse in berating women who she perceives as degrading themselves through these childish chosen aesthetics, rather than bringing into question the social norms that might lead to these things being popularly seen as attractive and non-threatening and therefore suitable for women.

She confuses the accessories of infantalization (Etsy jewelry, pastel jumpers, whoopee pies, all things that aren't necessarily degrading and are perfectly legitimate things for adults to enjoy in an independent context) with the concept itself.  I've seen this a lot in feminist discourse; taking tropes commonly associated with sexist forms of oppression and vilifying them and the women who employ them, whether or not those women actively choose those tropes and accessories independently and freely. 
This happens a lot in discussions of porn, the sex entertainment business and sexuality; once again putting the cart before the horse and seeing inherent degradation in things that can indeed be honestly enjoyed by adults.  This isn't to conjure up the often mocked "Any choice a woman makes is a feminist choice" brand of feminism, which is a problematic thesis in itself, but a lot of this sort of rant is completely misguided anger and a failure to address the actual problems.  In the porn discussion, a lot of the criticism comes off making it seem as if certain types of clothing, makeup or sex acts are inherently degrading- making those things the center of conversation rather than the problematic chauvinistic themes behind a lot of pornography and its marketing system, as well as the very real issues of human trafficking and commodification of human bodies.  These things not only miss the point by failing to engage with the nature of the sexism in the porn industry, they also actively degrade the sex workers within the industry and helpfully let all women who enjoy those degrading things (Like facials, or anal sex, or S/M, or pole dancing, or 'stripper heels') that they're doing their sexuality wrong.

And that's ultimately what Julie is saying here:  "You're doing womanhood wrong".  This becomes clear at the end when she suggests that women who adopt this manic-pixie cutesy personality (ignoring whether or not this is an adoption of trends and not an individual's expression of personality) make it easier for men to disrespect them. 

And there it is; blaming sexism on women for expressing themselves in the 'wrong' way.  And the fact of the matter is, if a man is going to treat a woman in a sexist manner because she is wearing a miniskirt and converse rather than a pencil skirt and pumps, then he probably didn't have respect for her to begin with.  Among the associations of frozen yogurt versus wine and dinner-dates versus walks in the park as inherent signals of liberated womanhood versus degraded pseudo-girlhood, the actual issue,- socially enforced sexism by men against women,- is left woefully untouched.

(Picture of "Fro-yo" because it is more delicious than wine, and arguably healthier too.  Choosing this over alcohol is what my womanhood looks like and I regret nothing.)

(4 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:July 5th, 2011 04:04 pm (UTC)
Lesbians aren't into this stuff apparently

As a kitten loving, ribbon-wearing, cupcake-baking, decorates-entirely-in-pink, glitter-enthusiastic lesbian...

I must kindly disagree, Article Writing Lady.
[User Picture]
Date:July 6th, 2011 06:24 pm (UTC)
Hell yeah!
[User Picture]
Date:July 5th, 2011 04:49 pm (UTC)
You basically said everything I think whenever I hear this sort of argument. Well done.
[User Picture]
Date:July 6th, 2011 06:25 pm (UTC)
Wow, awesome. :D It's like I have ESPN or something.
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