Monday, August 27, 2012

My Thought's On For Harriet's "Why Would I Want to Be A Lady"

Sigh...I just read an article on For Harriet called "Why Would I Want to be a Lady?" It was written by the editor and creator of the blog. I do subscribe to it but I don't read many of the articles because I'm trying to get away from being outraged all the time. I think that the article echos a lot of what young women today think and there was a point, as a teenager, when I did think the same way. As we grow up we are exposed to so many ideas and I think that with young people sometimes whatever is new is valued more. They think that people in the past were so flawed (e.g., racist, oppressed, uneducated, lacking exposure to diversity, without access to today's technology etc.) so their ideas and conventions are probably misguided and should be abandoned in favor of new ideas. That is probably true about many things.

But ideas spoken and written on paper may not have the intended effects when enacted in someone's life. Unlike the old ideas and ways of life, these new ideas have not been lived enough by the people endorsing them or studied to see if they actually lead to better lives. What I'm saying is that our elders have lived through many things and they can tell us what they think worked and did not work, what they think we should have kept, and what new things may be better. Should I trust a younger person when they say we will all be better off doing something that is so different from what was going on in the recent past? How do they know their advice will lead women to have happier lives? For example, how do we know things will be better if the institution of marriage is eliminated, women just raise children alone, men and women start looking and dressing the same, being overweight is the new standard of beauty etc?

The writer states she is an "an ardent feminist in part because many of the character traits I possess naturally are often ascribed to men". Some of the criticisms I'm hearing about feminism is that women were told they would find fulfillment in careers but many did not. Some put off having families and they are regretting that. Others thought that acting like men would help their romantic relationships but their love lives are unsatisfying or nonexistent. I mean isn't it better to take advice from someone who has been happily married for many years over that of a single young person with no marriage experience or someone with open hostility towards men? Many men I talk to today are fine with women working, voting, and having equal rights but most prefer highly feminine women in the traditional sense. We should afford basic respect to people as human beings but just being a woman doesn't deserve high respect neither does just being a man (e.g., only certain people will be followed as leaders, deferred to, given special treatment, admired, sought after etc.). This sort of respect has to be earned and each woman must ask if her behaviour deserves such high respect. I think that the goal of some is to have that high respect and the power and benefits that come with it. A lady gets more respect than the average woman and a gentleman gets more respect than the average man.

She also states, "I'm not a lady. The fact causes me no distress. I'm too vulgar and assertive to ever be classified as such. My hemlines too short, clothes too tight, and language too crass. And my demeanor is not at all demure. Still somehow I manage to live a joyful, fulfilling life without the distinction. I do, however, aspire to be kind, genuine, loving and thoughtful." It's really strange to hear a woman proudly admit she is not a lady and embrace all the negative things associated with not being a lady. Being called anything but a lady is an insult! Furthermore, what is the value of being vulgar, wearing short hems, too tight clothes, and using foul language? Someone who reveals their flesh to the world is less oppressed than someone who doesn't? Someone who can express themselves without vulgarity is caving to patriarchy while the one embracing men's foul language is not? Do such women consider their actions or just do whatever they feel like at the moment, sometimes because it's too much work to consider benefits, risks, and long term consequences? The writer sounds as though she doesn't care about impression management (but I think everyone does). I'll post some articles about it below.

Sometimes people have almost an air of superiority when they state "I don't care what other people think I just do what I want," as if those who do consider their actions and image are weak, oppressed, or slaves. It just reminds me of that story of the grasshopper and the ant where the grasshopper played all year while the ant stored food for the winter. When the winter came the grasshopper had nothing and starved. It's hard work preparing, planning, and controlling yourself so that you can get rewards in the future. It's called delayed gratification. It's easier (or lazier) to just not care and do whatever but it doesn't guarantee a good or stress free life in my opinion (you may be happy now but unhappy later). There are just different stressors. People who delay gratification and control their behaviour feel free behind closed doors, among people they trust, on vacation, or when they have accumulated enough power and resources. As long as you don't go overboard it's really not that hard. Well all in all the article was not surprising and this is the way many women think. These women look down on those like myself yet they are conforming to feminist norm as well as masculine norms as a form of protest. I prefer being a lady and having everything I want including high respect. I'd be curious to know if the author notices that other women get more respect than she does and why she thinks that is? I wonder if she would actually care?

P.S. I also want to say that women AND men deal with high expectations and it's not just a woman's burden. Men are expected to act in certain ways and are rejected by women when they don't (e.g., only certain men are "good men" and they are hearing there aren't many around). So I think it's not fair that the request that women "act like ladies" is something done by the big bad men and ignore the fact that ladies ask that men "act like (good) men" all the time.

Related Articles:
What is impression management? (interesting. Yes it can be used dishonestly but it doesn't have to be. You can use impression management to make sure that people know your authentic self instead of risking that they rely on stereotypes)
Communication strategies: impression management: MUST READ, excellent tips! Learning impression management techniques is just another way to improve your communication skills. Good communication skills can get you what you want in life and is essential for success. Now that I think about it a lot of advice women and men get about how to act around the opposite sex (e.g., PUA sites) are all about impression management. So is advice about how to act in job interviews, how to look productive at work, how to get along with coworkers, how to make's all about impression management. Some people are good at this naturally, some have to learn a lot, others can just add some useful tips. There is nothing shameful or weak about it, it just takes the desire and dedication to make the best impression you can. I have no doubt in my mind that the most successful people in the world have worked on their impression management or have been trained in it (or they have hired people to help them with it e.g., agents, stylists, PR people etc.).

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Rewards and Punishments for your Chosen Style

Education really can change the way you think about the world. It's really amazing the way taking one class, introductory psychology, 15 years ago could have changed the way I think about human behaviour so much! In that class I first learned about behaviourism and operant conditioning--the idea that people will do and continue to do things that will bring them rewards or avoid and stop doing things that bring them punishments. People do this and so do animals. So basically when people say they do something just because they "like it"  I don't really take that seriously. Instead I just accept that they are getting some reward for that behaviour so they keep on doing it. The reward could be external (e.g., attention from others, money, praise, etc.), or internal (e.g., it feels good to their senses, makes them feel happy, calms them etc.). Sometimes people don't even realize that they are getting rewards or that they stopped doing other things because they were receiving punishments (e.g., frustration, lack of attention, boredom etc.).

In my writing I often talk about doing what's right for you in your given situation (because what is rewarded or punished varies by situation) and doing things that are beneficial (rewarding) and not harmful for you (punishing). This fits with my last few posts because defense mechanisms (previous post), understanding the pro-woman line (previous post), and acting feminine in order to be treated better (previous post) all make sense under operant conditioning. There is no labeling women as strong or weak, smart or dumb, leaders or followers, independent or brainwashed, basically no judgements about the validity, righteousness, or intelligence of their ideas and choices. As long as what they are doing brings rewards and avoids punishments their behaviour makes sense. The person is not attacked (no ad hominem attacks). BUT what one can argue is about is whether a person is behaving in a way that will get the BEST, most FREQUENT, and most LIKELY rewards from PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY MATTER (e.g., have power to make their lives better). Their choice of behaviour can be criticized on these grounds because their actions may be against their long-term best interests. I think this may best be explained with the examples below.

Example 1) A young woman dresses like a male gangster because she feels afraid of her neighborhood and sad and angry about her life. She says she does it because she likes it, it is her way of expressing herself, and a lot of people do it:
 Rewards (pros)
-she feels powerful and invincible when others fear her
-safe, protected, and accepted when in a group of friends dressed the same way
-pride and confidence when others admire her style and dress in the same way (because others think she's cool)
-comfortable because the clothes are loose and warm
-safe and protected when she passes men on the street who ignore instead of harass her

Punishments (cons)
- she feels anger and fear when police follow her around and harass her because she looks like a criminal
-disappointment and hopeless when she is turned down for jobs
-frustration, disappointment, and hopelessness when teachers have low expectations from her, fail to encourage her, and punish her more harshly than others
-sadness, loneliness, anger, and rejection when family and past friends criticize her appearance and behaviour and abandon her
-sadness and loneliness when people stare, avoid, or negatively stereotype her
-fear and anger when other people challenge her and act aggressively
-feels inadequate and unattractive when men don't pay attention to her

For some women the enjoyment of the rewards will outweigh the punishments and they will not change. Basically for the woman who dresses gangster, feeling safe, protected, and powerful outweighs the unpleasantness of being avoided and thought of as a trouble maker. However for others the punishments will be too much and they will abandon their gangster style. For other women the fear of the punishments will prevent them from ever attempting to dress like a gangster. In a safe environment this behaviour would be against a woman's best interests because it would unnecessarily get her in trouble with parents, some friends, teachers, strangers, and the police.
Saana Lathan, Gabrielle Union, and Nia Long, I just call them
EBW Gold! They are just gorgeous!!!

Example 2) A young woman dresses like a girly-girl because she wants to be liked by other women and men and does not currently feel liked or attractive. She says she does it because she likes it, it's her way of expressing herself, and a lot of others do it.
Rewards (pros)
-she feels powerful because she can get others to treat her well and do things for her
-cared for and adored because people treat her like she is delicate and precious
-pride and confidence because other women admire and compliment her
-attractive and desirable because men notice her and ask her out
-pride and confidence because she looks a lot like the women who are held up as ideal by society

Punishments (cons; so I did finally come up with some drawbacks to being ultra-feminine)
- she feels disappointment, frustration, and sadness when some people assume she is weak, unintelligent, or brainwashed or another negative stereotype because she dresses in a traditional manner (e.g., whitewashed)
-sadness, disappointment, loneliness when other women criticize, insult, and ridicule her out of jealousy
-hopelessness and frustration trying to maintain her appearance and live up to beauty and fashion standards
-discomfort from wearing certain things (e.g., nylons, high heels, uncomfortable garments etc.).
-annoyance and discomfort from the unwanted attention of some men

Once again for some women the enjoyment of the rewards will outweigh the punishments and they will not change. For someone who takes this route the attention, approval, and favoritism outweighs the cattiness from other women and the hassle of maintaining their appearance. For these women (like myself) the appeal of the rewards outweighs the punishments because the people most important to me will be supportive. For other women the fear of the punishments will prevent them from ever attempting to dress like a girly girl. It could be the case that this behaviour could get a woman in trouble in a dangerous environment where it is better to go unnoticed or where jealous women have the power to make her life miserable.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mistaking Coping Mechanisms for Normal Behaviour

I'm still thinking about my Last Post, the pro-woman line, and the way that people cope with undesirable situations. I think that a lot of people are damaged or fearful and they have developed coping/defense mechanisms that allow them to deal with these issues. They developed these behaviour patterns because something horrible happened to them or someone they know or they were living under very harsh conditions. For instance, some people drink, do drugs, or over eat to cope with their pain while others starve themselves or overwork to feel powerful and in control. Others overcompensate by working out excessively, getting plastic surgery, or wearing too much make up. Some women gain weight or wear baggy clothes in an attempt to protect themselves from sexual advances and abuse. Some men adopt a threatening appearance and mannerisms so that others will not try to take advantage of them. Other people withdraw and act antisocial to protect themselves from harm while others are too passive and try to appease everybody so that they are not rejected. As I mentioned in my previous post, some women make themselves pretty, or even reveal too much skin in order to avoid the negative consequences of not being attractive (e.g., lack of attention, not being asked out, not getting special treatment etc.).

A lot of the time these people don't realize that they are using coping mechanisms but instead insist that their behaviour is "normal", it's just the way they are, or it is just their preference. In some cases people who do not engage in these coping mechanisms (because they have not experienced the same damage or fear) are told they are "abnormal" for not expressing the same behaviours! In other cases, because these coping mechanisms are used by influential people (e.g., family, friends, neighbors, celebrities, politicians, academics) other people who don't have the same fear or damage adopt the mechanisms and it become a trend. Then when asked about the behaviour people will respond, "I do it because I like it not because of anyone else".

These are some things I think some women started doing as a coping mechanism but they have now become a trend and "normal" behaviour merely expressing someone's preferences:

  1. Excessive or frequent plastic surgery- Originally used by accident victims and those born with deformities and then those with below average looks. Then it was adopted by wealthy celebrities who's careers depend on their looks. Now done by anyone to fit with high standards of beauty, including very attractive people who are perfectionists and see flaws where they do not exist. 
  2. Maintaining a below average weight- Originally the undesired state of people who were deprived of food or ill. Then adopted by individuals with anorexia who needed to feel in control (a mental illness). Then adopted by the fashion industry as beautiful and achieved through starvation, bulimia, or drugs. Now adopted by some women who see being underweight as beautiful and desirable to men. 
  3. Casual sex and being promiscuous- Originally only adopted by prostitutes or against a woman's will. Men were encouraged to do this prior to marriage. Then this was promoted after the advent of birth control. Now adopted by some women to get attention, affection, or love when they don't think they will get it otherwise. Also done by women who have been sexually abused and mixed up about love, sex, and the value of their bodies. Adopted by others because feminism taught them that women can and should do whatever men do. Others do it because it has been labeled "normal", "healthy", and "harmless" and they are told it is no big deal (i.e., slut shaming is wrong).
  4. Excessive make-up- Originally worn by prostitutes to distinguish themselves from other women. Worn heavily by actresses so that they could be seen on stage and on camera. Also worn heavily by women with bad skin or deformities. Now used by regular women for enhancement. Also used by some to express a certain style (e.g., goth, punk, gyaru etc.)
  5. Excessive drinking and doing drugs- Originally done by women of ill repute or at least by other women behind closed doors at parties (never before the general public). Also done by women to cope with abuse or trauma. Now done for similar reasons but also because it has been deemed "normal", "fun", or "because men do it so women should be allowed too" (e.g., ladettes). 
  6. Becoming workaholics- Originally done by women out of necessity to care for their families. Also done by women to prove that they could do the same work as men. Now done by some women who do find it fulfilling. However done by others because they feel pressure to do so and that it is "normal" to devote yourself to work, 14 hours a day, 6 days a week. 
  7. Excessive shopping- Originally done only by the wealthy who could afford it. Now done because it is seen as "normal" or even "good for the economy" to regularly consume, get the latest and newest thing, and keep up with the Jones'. Also done by addicts who cope with stress by shopping and may end up in debt or become hoarders. 
  8. Hair straightening- Here's a big one. Originally done by Black women because their natural hair was insulted, they couldn't get jobs, or they were mistreated if they did not have straight hair. This became a trend and then "the norm". Done today because it is the norm and sometimes women with natural hair are still teased and rejected. Similar statements can be made about using skin bleach. 
  9. "Mean mugging" or making one's face look mean- Done originally when someone was feeling angry or sad. Worn by women (and men) who live under constant stress or unpleasant circumstances because they feel bad. Then adopted by women (and men) because it kept men and other people from bothering them even though they were not unhappy. Then adopted by the hip hop industry as a sign of defiance (also punk and metal communities, rebellious teens etc.). Now adopted by fans of this music and considered "the norm" or "keeping it real" for Black people. Black women who do not mean mug are sometimes called "whitewashed". 
  10. Wearing dresses and feminine clothing- Originally done (I'm guessing) to distinguish women from men and women were only allowed to wear women's clothing. Then fashion was created and women dressed to be attractive to men and it fueled an industry.  Only people dressed in men's clothing were allowed to do certain things (e.g., vote, walk alone at night etc.) and men and women had different uniforms. Now women wear dresses and feminine clothing because society generally approves (some feminists don't), they get rewards for doing it (e.g., attention), and they may find it more attractive because it is so visible, heavily advertised, and more varied than men's clothing. There is no knowing if we are socialized to like it or if we like it because it looks good. 
  11. Supporting feminism- Many women (especially White women) supported it because they wanted to work, be treated as equals, and be protected by the law. Many supported it because they expected that it would make their lives better. Now some women support it because they agree with modern feminism. Others only support it because they feel they owe feminists for major things they did in the past and they are told that anything less is condoning their own oppression. Others have learned that they may be ridiculed or mistreated if they self-label as feminists so they resist that label. 
The point of this post is to say that some behaviours were started by people because they were hurt or desperate for protection but those behaviours became a trend and are now considered "normal". I touched on some of these issues in my posts about Victim Mentality, Some Black women are labeling themselves handicapped, and We don't live in bubbles (controversial posts so be warned). If you have not been hurt and are not desperate for protection then there is no need to adopt those defense mechanisms. We all have to examine the reasons why we do things and expect others to act in certain ways. Are you imposing defense mechanisms on others and telling them that behaviour is "normal" (e.g., dysfunctional behaviour is acting Black)? Are you adopting dysfunctional attitudes and behaviours because other people (damaged, at risk, and fearful people) are pressuring you to do so? Are you following a trend started by people who lived under totally different and dysfunctional conditions from you (e.g., thinking they are living during slavery or more racist times or living when women had no rights or protection)? Are these defense mechanisms actually helping you or harming you and are they actually necessary? You may just be shooting yourself in the foot for the wrong reasons. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Do Ultra Feminine Women Lead Horrible Lives: Part II

Well some comments about Part I made me look for more information so I had to make another post about it.  Reading these four articles has been so beneficial for me. It just affirms that my thinking does make sense and those who are so opposed to feminine traits and appearance just don't think the same way I do or have not been exposed to the same ideas. As I have said in previous posts, I disagree with modern feminists about many things but I know they have done many beneficial things too. I am so happy that I've finally learned about the pro-woman line of feminism!

1) Makeup, oppression and being yourself : Notice she says wearing makeup to impress a guy is a "wrong reason" to wear it. But isn't it more empowering to entice the men you want (by making yourself highly attractive) rather than just expecting them to magically sense you are better than the other women around? This is an indirect and feminine way to start relationships. Some feminists endorse the masculine and direct way of approaching men yet they look down on the indirect way! Asking guys out is unnatural and unpleasant for most women yet they encourage this! Yes, take on the burden of pursuing men and you are fighting patriarchy but if you get your hair done and wear lipstick you are a slave to patriarchy...right...

2) The pro-woman line: Wow I totally agree with this part "The Pro-Woman Line sought to explain contradictory behavior. For example, feminists applied it to makeup and other beauty standards. The "anti-woman" argument was that women participate in their own oppression by wearing makeup, uncomfortable clothes, girdles, or high-heeled shoes. The Pro-Woman Line said that women are not at fault; they just do what they need to do in a world that creates impossible beauty standards. If women are treated better when they wear makeup, and are told they look sick when not wearing makeup, a woman who wears makeup to work does not create her own oppression. She is doing what society requires of her to succeed." Basically that whole underlined part is a key reason why I want to become an elegant Black woman; because I like it, I think it's better, and it will help me succeed in getting what I want out of life!

3) Excerpt from (very good read!):  Regarding the pro-woman line, "We don't believe that women are brainwashed or conditioned, or that we oppress ourselves. Rather, we do what we have to do to get by in a world that is still run by and dominated by men. Wearing make up, acting flirty, even getting plastic surgery or botox—all are the result of our oppression, and a way of coping with it, not the cause. We don't put on make-up because we feel compelled to due to advertising, but rather because we are treated better when we do. We get compliments and attention—and when we don't wear make-up people tell us we look tired or sick. Beauty magazines don’t brainwash us into dieting, dressing up, or making up—rather, they are how-to manuals on getting by, getting love and getting jobs under male supremacy...The other side to the Pro-Woman line is that despite everything, women are always fighting back and resisting in some area of their lives. We don’t mindlessly submit to the demands of male supremacy. We women fight back all the time—just not on everything, and often not together in a coordinated, organized way. "

4) The personal is political (BEST THING EVER!): "'There are no personal solutions at this time. There is only collective action for a collective solution.' Again this is pretty challenging. It proposes that women cannot really change their situations on their own and indeed, they should not try to do so if it would put them at risk – “when they can’t win and the repercussions are worse than the oppression.” The only way to effect real change is to work collectively. An individual woman deciding to stop wearing makeup might be living up to her own feminist principles so good for her, but it will not change anything, or improve matters for women who are in situations in which it is not possible to stop wearing makeup because they might lose their jobs or be made more miserable in some way. The only possible solution then is to work with other women, which is never easy." I cosign 100%!!!!

"Hanisch firmly rejects the idea that women who are in the movement, feminists we might now call them, necessarily know better than women who are not in the movement. Indeed, it’s very important that “we” should listen to “them” because they probably have damn good reasons for not being in the movement. Then instead of asking ourselves what is wrong with women who don’t want to be feminists, we should think about what might be wrong with our own thinking and actions; otherwise we will fail."

This is really blowing my mind because I totally agree with this! Basically this is what The New Elegant Black Woman is all about. It's about my dissatisfaction with my life and the fact that I was not getting what I wanted so I needed to change something to make it better. I am all about participating in the system, learning the rules, playing the game, and trying to win even when others want or expect you to fail. In my opinion I was doing some traditionally masculine things to get by and succeed (e.g., becoming educated, working, not having children alone and staying home) but other non-feminine things were not helping me (e.g., not smiling, being argumentative for no reason, looking androgynous, devaluing useful feminine things like cooking). So I started reading and trying new things so I could come up with my own "how-to manual that would help me to get by, get love, and get jobs under male supremacy!" What I kept reading over and over was that my femininity and feminine energy was necessary to get what I wanted (I knew I was clueless about it) so I chose to embrace that while still going to school and working. I needed to get rid of some behaviours and change some things about my appearance while keeping other things and adding new things. 

I only have one life and I want to succeed and be happy for as much of the time as possible. I have not chosen to devote my life to fighting for a cause through my behaviour or dress so instead I am focusing on coping and succeeding with my available resources (I may support a cause later on but not through my appearance or comportment). My succeeding at becoming highly educated, working in a previously male-dominated field, not being the dependent property of a man, and having my own opinions are all ways that I fight because in the past women were barred from doing any of that! My success will inspire other women and show them that they can succeed even in a patriarchal society and the more of us who succeed the better things will be for women. Furthermore, by becoming successful by society-approved means that may actually give women power (e.g., buying power, political influence, entrance into decision-making institutions). I encourage those who do not want to be activists and have minimal resources to not spend their lives fighting (often in vain) to change society. Seriously, why does someone struggling each day to get by need to carry the burden of changing society? That is the responsibility of those who's basic needs are satisfied and can carry that burden. These people will change society through political action and that requires power. So for many Black women, instead of trying to fulfill certain anti-woman feminist mandates that could actually harm them (e.g., acting and looking like men), they may be better off taking the pro-woman line, coping, and trying to succeed using available resources (e.g., education, birth control, using tried-and-true relationship advice etc.). 

This is a very thought provoking video. It is pretty overwhelming and I am just left with the question 'What I can I possibly do about this?' I don't think making myself look less attractive, dressing like a man, being more aggressive, going into a masculine field I don't like, or abandoning my manners will change any of this. So why not stop pestering women about those things? They are not the important issues! They are only things that individual women do to cope and achieve what they need and want in life! They are not responsible or the cause of their oppression! I don't want to hear one more word about a woman doing something and that action "setting women back 100 years."

I think these problems can only be changed by using power and only so many people in society have it. Individuals however can have some power when voting. They may also have power by influencing those around them, sometimes just by having others observe their behaviour and success. I may eventually develop some power because of my career (that was only possible due to my education). Others have power to influence because of their celebrity, some use it for good like in the video, but others use it to harm (e.g., misogynistic rap music). I think that those without power should only be responsible for protecting themselves and taking care of their basic needs not saving all women or fixing society.

I am not advocating apathy but what I am saying is that some people (e.g., with power who have all of their basic needs met) can get away with protesting, trying to fight the system, and going against the norm but for those without power the consequences may be devastating. I suppose those who are in most desperate need and the most oppressed are more willing to risk everything for change, I just don't think they should have to because it costs them so much. Can the homeless man on the street really fight poverty? Can a child really fight child abuse? Can a deathly ill person really fight for better health care? How can they? They have so much to cope with or so little power already how can they be burdened with fighting for causes? I hope you understand what I'm saying. So should poor, disadvantaged Black women be burdened with saving women or Black people...I think not.

Related Articles:
The clothes make the man, the woman, and the slave (Sad slideshow. Female slaves were sometimes punished by having their hair cut and having to wear masculine clothing, goes on to worse things)
How do I look? Thoughts on feminism and white middle-class femininity (very interesting!)
The Happy Feminist discussion about feminine appearance: Interesting questions raised. This stood out for me, "The irony for a lot of women is that people keep making a big deal about how you look, but then if you become concerned about how you look (in response to these reactions), you are considered a typical representative of the frivolity and vanity of your sex."
Confessions of a fun feminist (interesting because it highlights the reason why many women don't want to be labeled "feminists" is because they want to do as they please and not be restricted to looking and behaving in feminist-approved ways. This is also similar to the reason why some Black women want to give up their "Black cards", too many restrictions and obligations that may actually harm the individual)
Lipstick, waxing, and heels- oppression or choice?
Do high heels empower or oppress women?
How traditional feminism is oppressive to women
Is fashion empowering or oppressive?
Ladettes, liquor, and being lady-like, Article 1, Article 2, Ladette Video (This is the type of behaviour I'm talking about that some call "progress" because they are acting like men, but they are choosing detrimental or trivial activities to emulate. This is not helpful and should not be the goal of equality).

Friday, August 17, 2012

Do Ultra Feminine Women Have Horrible Lives? Part I

I want to start off this post with testimonials from two different women about how their lives improved after they decided to embrace and express their femininity. These women changed their lives because they wanted to and this blog did not inspire their changes. The comments have been condensed a bit but you may follow the links to read the original content. Benefits of being more feminine have been highlighted in pink, negative consequences of being a "strong, independent Black woman" are in blue :)
Testimonial #1: I too used to be considered strong and independent. Even though I looked feminine, I was not treated as such because everyone just assumed I was tough because I'm black. I'm 5'5 and I weigh 110 so guys were initially attracted to me, unfortunately, after a couple months they would leave me. It took me a very long time to figure out where I was going wrong. One day I was at work and one of the girls asked me to lift something heavy, which wasn't a problem at the time because I was used to people asking me to do stuff they would normally ask a guy. That's when it clicked, it was like a light came on in my head. People were treating me as if I were a man. Men liked me but they did not stay with me because I didn't possessed a lot of feminine qualities. They would never buy me jewelry or flowers or take care of things for me. Some of them even expected me to go 50-50 on dates when the bill came. I used to get frustrated because I didn't understand why men treated me differently. My girlfriends were having way better luck than me and I just didn't get it until that moment where I was lifting that heavy box at work. I soon realised that real men didn't like strong independent women, especially strong independent black women.
I decided to put an end to it. I became more girly and feminine and I noticed right away that men were being nicer to me. I was shocked. All I did was acted more feminine and girly. What I would do was watch a bunch of movies (particularly Bollywood movies) where the women were ultra feminine, and I started to mirror their behaviour and mannerism. Suddenly men were buying me things, taking me on expensive trips and helping me with all sorts of things. I felt like they wanted to protect me. The more feminine I became the more men were nice to me.
That was two years ago, now I'm in a happy relationship with a really nice guy who gives me a lot of attention. He takes care of me, and I don't have to work as hard anymore, I just work three days a week because I wanted to keep working so that I can maintain some level of independence. But it's always nice knowing that I don't have to work because I look at my female co-workers and I can tell that they're all over worked and stressed because they are all 'strong independent' women who are single and miserable like I was two years ago. Maria :) (original post)
Testimonial #2: I grew up with my grandmother and she was one of those strong black woman who was forced to take care of 8 kids all by herself after her husband died. She would teach us to be independent because she was alone for so long she forgot what it was like to be a woman.
I use to describe myself as independent and strong but it obviously worked against me when it came to relationships. In my country there are a lot of Indian women who are so feminine and growing up I was teased for trying to be like them. I always admired these women because in my family there were no feminine women to look up to. Eventually I decided to ignore everyone and started being more feminine. Now men are much nicer to me and men of other races find me attractive. They admire my femininity and they want to protect me and take care of me. My quality of life improved a lot and I finally found a really nice guy who enjoys taking care of me and spoiling me. At work my co-workers are jealous of me because I have a wealthy fiance and they can't even get a date. I try to help them but they won't listen, well, at least not yet. But overall, I'm a much happier person. Anonymous (original post)
Everything highlighted in pink is very appealing to me and these are things that many women want. I really don't like experiencing the things highlighted in blue and some women feel the same way. Others seem to actually like the blue items though. But for me, those are very compelling testimonials about why enhancing and expressing femininity may be beneficial to women. But of course these are just two testimonials and I'm wondering if there are testimonials out there saying the exact opposite? I along with others are more convinced by scientific studies, surveys of what many men prefer, and the wisdom of marriage counselors, match makers, and dating experts (who have actually helped and interviewed many people in a systematic way). So, the only way I would be convinced that being more feminine is a bad thing is if these multiple sources say women who are more feminine lead worse lives than those who are more androgynous or masculine. Also, the contradictory evidence has to be more prevalent, unbiased, and credible.

I think that whenever someone feels forced to do something and they have no power to choose then they may be unhappy whether the pressure is to be more feminine or more masculine. It will be easy to point to women who are miserable because they were barred from their desired profession, forced to marry and have kids, or forced to do all housework and I would expect those women to be miserable. But it can be equally miserable if you are forced to do everything yourself, expected to not show emotions, ridiculed for wanting marriage and children, chastised for liking certain fashions, and ridiculed for trying to look good.

I tried to find articles stating women with more feminine traits are disadvantaged in some way but I couldn't find anything and gave up. There were articles that we are all familiar with about disadvantages in society experienced by women in general, but not specifically more feminine women. I did find articles (some with scientific references) that stated some advantages of being feminine and they are posted below. Some of the articles are about what men prefer in women and they are important because they reassure feminine women that their appearance and traits are desirable and can get them the men they want (i.e., unless you want to date and marry women don't listen to them when they tell you to look more masculine).

Of course there are certain traits (e.g., rational thinking, ambition, control over emotions etc.) that are often described as masculine and lead to more success in the workplace, but even feminine women can possess these traits in the workplace. But work is work and you should modify your behavior among family, friends, and potential partners. Certain feminine traits (e.g., openness, good communication skills, cooperation, caring) are also important to success too.  I know that being extremely passive, never taking risks, and being totally dependent can have negative consequences but so can the exact opposite! I do not believe that suddenly women will lose their rights to work, vote, and be treated like human beings if we all start wearing dresses and lipstick, stop swearing, and let men open doors. So unless I see really compelling evidence that looking and acting ultra-feminine (within reason, I mean I don't plan on walking around in a ball gown and tiara lol) will hurt me I will continue to feel secure in my femininity.

Related Articles:
Being flirtatious, not friendly, gets women better deals
You can be a charming woman
Men prefer women with make-up on
How to flirt like a Southern lady and be irresistible
How to be irresistible to men
Why men love feminine women
Do you wonder how to be more feminine?
Interesting article because it proposes that there are drawbacks to certain forms of femininity (i.e., appearing oversexed)- How American women lost their femininity

I had to post this because I found it interesting since I prefer cute/pretty boys lol -Why women don't want macho men (MUST READ seriously confirms everything I feel, it's almost eerie),  Men with feminine faces more likely to be a hit with womenWhy women now prefer Johnny Depp to Sean Connery, and Women prefer feminine men. I do prefer a narrow rather than round face and full lips but I do agree with the images they posted. Maybe my tastes aren't so strange after all lol! I wrote about this in my previous posts Maybe I have a sensitivity to masculinity and Prestigious males are very attractive to me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

10 Essential Habits of Positive People

I just read another great article on Lifehack called 10 Essential Habits of Positive People. I like the site because it just reminds me of things I already learned and know but sometimes forget. Life skills and tools are great but only when you remember to use them so these reminders are good for me. I recommend the site to anyone who needs reminders and quick lessons about how to improve their life. Here are the 10 habits and I recommend that you read the article in full. Beside each point I will briefly mention where I have used/attempted to use the habits in my own life :
  1. Positive people don’t confuse quitting with letting go. I let go of negative behaviours, thoughts, goals, and influences. I have let go of the need to give certain people a chance (e.g., rappers, reality TV, bad role models) and reject the pressure to support these people. I don't keep trying to have a relationship with people who don't seem to like me. 
  2. Positive people don’t just have a good day – they make a good day. I don't believe in waiting or wishing for good things to happen. I have to make good things happen. For example, I have to do things to attract a man and go places to meet a man of the quality I want. If I don't go out and make myself attractive I don't expect to be noticed by anyone.
  3. For the positive person, the past stays in the past. I am trying to forget past misfortunes and mistreatment and focus more on what positive things are happening now and the great things that lie ahead. I know some Black history (who really knows all anyway?) but I will not let that hinder my aspirations, bring down my mood, make me jaded and bitter, interfere with my life choices and who I associate with, or limit my life in any way.
  4. Show me a positive person and I can show you a grateful person. I will focus on the positive things that have happened to me and the people who have helped me. There is ample proof that I am successful, people care about me, and others think I am worthwhile. I do have a lot. 
  5. Rather than being stuck in their limitations, positive people are energized by their possibilities. The future is bright for me now that I have graduated and I will try hard to be confident and trust that I know what to do in my future job and relationships. 
  6. Positive people do not let their fears interfere with their lives! Sometimes I procrastinate out of fear but I always do what is necessary in the end...I'll try to procrastinate less and get things done faster. 
  7. Positive people smile a lot! I do now :)
  8. People who are positive are great communicators. I strongly believe in this and in adopting a style of communication that is understandable and acceptable by the largest number of people, especially those who have the power and influence to improve your life and give you what you want (e.g., teachers, parents, the mainstream). Speaking properly is essential and using slang, curse words, and poor communication will limit your ability to be successful in many fields. Having good manners will also facilitate communication and good relations with others because it communicates that you had a good upbringing and that you respect others. Maintaining your appearance and looking approachable, friendly, and like the mainstream will also communicate that others do not have to be wary of you. 
  9. Positive people realize that if you live long enough, there are times for great pain and sadness. I believe this but I have to work on not believing hard times will last forever. 
  10. Positive people are empowered people – they refuse to blame others and are not victims in life. Readers of this blog know that I STRONGLY believe this and that having a victim mentality will get you nowhere. I believe that I have control over my life (not complete but enough) and I can change my circumstances without needing to wait for my parents, family, strangers, the government, or society to change first. I do not expect others to save me or sacrifice their own interests to help me. I have to save myself. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

It's Not Easy Being Submissive/Passive

So what does it mean to be submissive? Here are some definitions (not talking about that kink stuff):

1) Adjsubmissive - inclined or willing to submit to orders or wishes of others or showing such inclination; "submissive servants"; "a submissive reply"; "replacing troublemakers with more submissive people"
unassertive - inclined to timidity or lack of self-confidence; "a shy unassertive person"
obedient - dutifully complying with the commands or instructions of those in authority; "an obedient soldier"; "obedient children"; "a little man obedient to his wife"; "the obedient colonies...are heavily taxed; the refractory remain unburdened"- Edmund Burke
humble - marked by meekness or modesty; not arrogant or prideful; "a humble apology"; "essentially humble...and self-effacing, he achieved the highest formal honors and distinctions"- B.K.Malinowski (source)

2) adjective: meek, passive, obedient, compliant, patient, resigned, yielding, accommodating, humble, subdued, lowly, abject, amenable, docile, dutiful, ingratiating, malleable, deferential, pliant, obsequious, uncomplaining, tractable, acquiescent, biddable, unresisting, bootlicking (informal), obeisant. Most doctors want their patients to be submissive.
antonym: difficult, awkward, stubborn, intractable, unyielding, obstinate, headstrong, uncooperative, disobedient (source).

3) Definition: allowing others to have control over you; 2. willing to submit to the wishes of others
Synonyms: compliant, acquiescent, docile, meek, obedient, passive, servile
Antonyms: domineering, controlling, oppressive

Usage Examples:
The submissive woman let her overbearing husband control her. (docile, meek, passive). The submissive servant did exactly what he was told. (obedient, compliant). Because she had a submissive personality, she always went along with what others wanted to do. (passive, docile, compliant). I don't like her submissive manner, and I sometimes wish she would just stand up for herself. (meek, servile, acquiescent) (source)
I'm feeling kind of weird right now (negative comments will be deleted and not read so don't even bother). I'm worried that I'm too submissive/passive and that explains some negative experiences I've had in the past and recently. It's not like it's ruined my life or anything, but it kind of gets you to agree to things you don't want to if someone pressures you enough. You feel like saying "no" isn't an option or that the consequences would be worse if you did refuse. But after you do whatever it is you feel mad at yourself for giving up and not protecting your best interests and angry at the other person for pressuring you. You end up feeling powerless, weak, and not even an adult because this submissive response pattern just sneaks up on you, unless you are on guard and expecting to be pressured to do something (Note it's very hard to be on guard when you really care about someone, you trust them, or you have been drinking).

You see or hear of other women who always think they are right or refuse to listen to anyone else and wonder how they can be so loud with their opinions when it's so possible they could be wrong or hypocritical? How do you know you are not making a fool of yourself or if your opinions/behaviour isn't really abnormal and there is something wrong with you? It's like they were wronged before and they developed this hard shell of grandiosity but I just don't have that. I know a lot of things but I know I don't know everything, and we don't even know how much we don't know. Why are these women so sure they know what is right? Why do they respond so quickly instead of taking the time to think, agree to disagree, or just accept that there is no definitive answer? I am open to listening to different points of view before deciding on controversial things, I am open to hearing the advice of those with experience, and I defer to the expertise of those who have worked longer in my field. There is a fear of being wrong so until I am sure I'll state my opinion but there is always room to be convinced otherwise. Is it easier to be this way or easier to just say "I know in my gut I'm right and that other person is not as smart as I am"?

I've always been like this but I've still managed to become successful and stay out of trouble. Being submissive is a feminine trait but not something I had to learn and I don't love it. It's just something some people are while others are more dominant. In some areas people can be dominant (e.g., at work) but very submissive in romantic relationships. It's weird that way. I knew I was passive and not very defensive when given constructive feedback from those with more experience/training, but being submissive kind of explains a lot of things. Whenever I'm angry at someone it often gets turned inwards as self-criticism or self-doubt (good grief...just like in this post) or I do something passive-aggressive (e.g., like writing this post). I know how to be assertive but I just didn't remember it when I needed it. I am angry now but I can't turn back time.

This is strong language but I HATE people who keep pressuring you and wear you down for their own selfish needs. They will convince you that you are crazy, deficient, insecure, a prude, or otherwise flawed for not doing what they want or for not agreeing with them (I have learned this is called gaslighting; Article1 really good read, Article 2). I think this is why I want a prestigious and successful man because then I would be able to trust his decision making more. I wouldn't have to worry that my submissive/passive nature will lead to our downfall because he had poor character and a history of poor decisions. To prevent this from happening I am careful choosing men and my standards are high because this is the only way I can influence who has power over me. I don't want to be led astray or hurt by the wrong person. I know a prestigious man can still hurt me, but at least I could look back and know I chose someone who didn't have glaring red flags. Maybe that's why I don't like men who are too masculine and dominant because I couldn't stand up for myself with them in the past.

I have to work on being more assertive and less submissive. This will actually be going against my nature and trying to be something I'm not but this is what's encouraged by most people. It's easier sometimes to let people control you, but if they make you do things you don't want you feel horrible after. There is such a thing as being too submissive/passive. I wrote about this before in my post about Assertiveness Training for Black Women...I need to read that again.