Friday, November 04, 2005

Today's Yesterday Woman

"What's a Modern Girl to Do?" asks Maureen Dowd in this past Sunday's New York Times Magazine. Apparently, in this day and age, not much. Feminism, says Dowd, has suffered a massive blow in that the forward momentum of the female empowerment movement at the start of the Feminist Revolution in the 70s has now reverted back to about 1955. Dowd is no lover of the hardcore feminism of the 1970s in that feminists wanted (according to her) more of a conformity to a uniform lifestyle. Dowd writes:
What I didn't like at the start of the feminist movement was that young women were dressing alike, looking alike and thinking alike. They were supposed to be liberated, but it just seemed like stifling conformity.
Though I would take a bit of an exception as to when this "feminist movement" that Dowd speaks of started (see Wikipedia for a history of feminism from the 1850s on), Dowd goes on to say that what she dislikes about what's happening now to women in America is just as bad:
What I don't like now is that the young women rejecting the feminist movement are dressing alike, looking alike and thinking alike. The plumage is more colorful, the shapes are more curvey, the look is more plastic, the message is diametrically opposite - before it was don't be a sex object; now it's be a sex object - but the conformity is just as stifling.
Dowd is promoting her new book, Are Men Necessary: When Sexes Collide, to be published in December. I'm not sure if I'll read her book when it comes out, because the essay in itself scared and depressed me to no end. Advanced critiques aren't so great, either. But still, Dowd's premise might be apropos: Apparently women are making great strides backwards, back into the dark ages, though it can be argued that even the 1970s Feminist Revolution didn't bring us too far forward anyway.

Glass ceilings, lower wages in high and low positions, sex sells. It's hard to be a woman in a 'liberated' Western world. Granted, it's hard to be an unliberated woman in a small Third-World backwater as well, but when I was growing up, I actually had the nerve to believe that I could, as a woman, have a career, make my own money, and make my own way. I was never big on the family thing, but the career was something I wanted badly. Of course, it was a career in acting, but hey, it was something I loved to no end, and I was pretty damned good at it, too.

As to the family thing, well, the sexual thing, I missed the chance at full-on sexual experimentation and debauchery. I could have done some wild and crazy things, but both Jesus's and my mother's voices were way too loud in my head when I had the chance. It's like that sometimes. And as I approach 42, I'm about to miss out on the family thing, too. I think that's suppose to mean that I'm not fulfilled as a woman, and maybe that's true. The little box that is suppose to be a woman's life makes me wanna punch something sometimes.

Dowd also talks about the games that women are suppose to play in courtship. She writes that her mother gave her the book How to Catch and Hold a Man by Yvonne Antelle and how her friends are now clamoring to borrow her out-of-print copy of the precursor to the the 199o's book, The Rules. I tried to read the latter book. I thought I was going to be ill. I can't play that game of look coy, look hot, flirt, be skinny, be tall, be thin, be dumb, I've never gotten the whole thing down. I've never liked to play the game. Therefore, I will probably end up sitting in front of my t.v. for the remainder of my life.

So, what's a 21st Century Woman suppose to do?

Well, let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Let's take a quick look at what women are facing right now. Reproductive rights are under attack, and while not likely to be overturned in America, these rights could certainly suffer major blows. Playboy Club bunnies, clad in new sadomaschist chic, are back and while I wanted to be a Playboy pinup when I was younger (and still do), there is a part of me that objects to the image of women that bunnies project. Religious zeal is hotter than ever, and with many religious tenets, there rests the idea that women are second-class citizens, unclean at certain times of the month, and liable to death at the whim of the village elders. Political leaders in our country claim that they have won a "moral mandate" upon the 2004 election, even beyond the clear blunders of waging a war in Iraq and inept leadership in America. If "moral mandate" is code for "Christian or fundamentalist mandate," we'd be well advised to remember exactly what evangelicals and some other Christians believe about the delineation of the roles of men and women (but if you really want to be a Christian, you can always check out "Christian feminism," for a hoot).

All I'm saying is that I personally don't want to be a 1955 lady. I want women to move forward, into a new 21st century, a new century that I dreamed would be different from all the centuries that preceded it (unless, of course, Jesus does come back and then, everything is pretty much moot). Today's Yesterday Woman is a myth that should be ripped to shreds. Move forward, ladies, and never look back in fear and trepidation. Easier said than done, granted.

Malcolm X, after he traveled throughout Africa, came back with an insight regarding women.
"If you are in a country that is progressive, the woman is progressive. If you're in a country that reflects the consciousness toward the importance of education, it's because the woman is aware of the importance of education. But in every backward country you'll find the women are backward, and in every country where education is not stressed its because the women don't have education."

While Malcolm X would not have condoned a promiscuous lifestyle, his insight is apt. Progressive societies need thriving, educated women, ones that are aware of the value of knowledge. We've come too far and have much too far to go to stop educating ourselves and moving forward.

While I wouldn't want to live under the conformity of rigid feminism, neither would I want to live under the conformity of the sex object. Neither role is fully appealing, and neither role is fully fulfilling. As soon as I figure out what exact role, if any, that I would want to conform to, I'll let you know.

After all, what's a 1964 Girl to do?


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Dr. Laura.
Many thanks to the people who buy into her right-wing speak.


Carl said...


Elderta said...


I can't even stomach to think of Dr. Laura. 2 steps forward, five steps to the side, I can't take it!

And Carl, you know that men ARE necessary... for a few things at least!

I have nothing against men; they are what they are by advantage of birth. What I want is for women not to go backwards any further. I want all of humanity to go forwards. It's the damned 21st century after all, goddammit! GOD DAMMIT!

Anonymous said...

What do you think about Prop 1, coming up on 11/8 in NY?

I see a lot of cons, some pros, and still researching. Any insights?


Anonymous said...

Great to see your blog. You encourage me to start my own if just for myself.

When I read this it didn't really depress me, just reaffirmed for me that I've never bought into the illusion of what other people's version of reality is.
Did that make any sense?

Never bought into the games either El.
My daughter's the same way and we've talked alot about this issue.

Did that make any sense?

Anonymous said...

D'oh! 2 questions about making any sense, didn't make any sense. Sorry;)


ragingcoconut said...

Hi El!

This is my first visit to your blog. Nice job!

Fantod said...

Hi Elderta! Lovely blog, by the way. :-)

Did you happen to read Anna Quindlen's piece in Newsweek's successful women issue? Also, I swear that she had an essay a few weeks ago (but I can't find it online now) that seemed to touch on many of the same themes that Dowd is talking about -- how the Women's movement has changed -- but wasn't as dark and dismal as Dowd's analysis seems to be.

Red Tory said...

I haven’t read Dowd’s book yet, but have read some reviews of it. Are men necessary? It’s a valid enough question I suppose and one that’s quite intentionally provocative. From what I understand and from her own columns, Dowd has a few serious “issues” when it comes to relationships — personal, familial and otherwise. Therefore, I’m not sure how much I would value her opinion in this regard. She is very much a societal caricaturist (much in the same way as David Brooks is – although Dowd is funnier and generally more incisive).

The unanswered question here that’s begging to be asked according to Dowd’s zero-sum formulation is, “If men aren’t necessary… then are women?” I really wonder what value this kind of flippant pop sociology has.

Carl said...


Re: Prop 1

I'm voting for it. I think it's ridiculous that the governor has that much influence over a budget before it's even passed. He should propose a budget, let the legislature fight it out, and then get involved after they've settled their discrepancies.

The way things work now, they simply don't work (this year's budget notwithstanding, we've seen some 20 straight budgets passed way late).

Anonymous said...

here comes a monkey wrench:

men are the way they are because of....women! it's true of every species that the male behaves the way it does because the female demands it.

food for thought....


Elderta said...

Anonymous said...

What do you think about Prop 1, coming up on 11/8 in NY?

I see a lot of cons, some pros, and still researching. Any insights?


NOI, I was thinking of this in the last few days, and I'm glad that you sparked me into thinking more about it. Carl says he's voting for it, but many of the commentaries I've seen have suggested a no vote. Most of these sites were against Sidney Sheldon, the NYS house speaker, and accused him of cronyism and trying to solidify his hold over the state asseembly, and that's most why they are advocating a no. Unfortunately, I don't know that much about the NYS budgetary process to say clearly what to do at this point. I would tend to vote yes, because it's hinges on whether the Executive Office can get its act together and pass a budget on time, something that Pataki wasn't able to do for the last three years. But, here's a good pro and con on the bill:

What are you thinking of doing?

Elderta said...


Thanks for dropping by. I think it depressed me because I'm prone to depression, and I haven't had a date in three years. Both quite depressing. Haha.

Elderta said...


One of the reasons that Dowd is getting panned for her book, is because this essay and the book colors everything darker than it may actually be. I'll try and look up Quindlin's piece, I'd like to read it. Dowd is kinda of a downer most of the time anyway, I find.

Elderta said...

KEv and Martin,

You two are certainly necessary! :)

Elderta said...

And on a last note, I have become my father. His favorite movie is "Pretty Woman." Though it's not my favorite movie, I watched the female version of that movie three times today. It's called "The Wedding Date," and though I don't recommend it, I must say that Dermott Mulroney is certainly necessary, too.

That is all.

Anonymous said...


Prop 1...still not sure. Sheldon isn't my favorite guy, but I don't hate him. I'm from WNY, so our politicians end up giving up caring about things that are important to this area in favor of his pet projects. Not a lot of benefit around here.

WNY is basicly what Silver uses to wipe his butt, but if it benefits the state and Dem party as a whole, so be it, I suppose.

This could come back and bite us all in the ass if the Repubs get control of the legislature. It really will if we give our legislature this power and they screw it up!

Good could come out of this if the power they get doesn't corrupt. What are the chances of that?

Thanks for the info, for sure!

I'm more likely than not to vote for it since the labor unions support it. Not a union member, but I know who supports the common man and who doesn't.


ragingcoconut said...

re: Prop 1 in New York State

After much thought, I am going to vote in favor of it. The pros outweigh the cons for me.

P.S.--I am also going to vote yes on Prop 2.

lizgold said...

If men weren't necessary, they wouldn't be so danged annoying! If only we could keep them in a shed outside or something...

The blog looks great -- Tanya, you are a most excellent writer. And I almost put that very same Dowd quote on my email sig [mini-blog for the lazy].

Elderta said...

one could keep them in a shed, but I fear that's illegal.

And thanks for the support on the writing. You know how I am about that! Haha! Come back again!