Friday, April 15, 2011

Panties That Say "No"

Often a guy will think that because a woman is wearing sexy panties, she must want to have sex. It may even be used as a defense for rape: "but your honor, why else would she be wearing black, lacy underwear? clearly she was horny." If a woman's undergarments are used as a basis of assumed consent, could they also be effective in communicating non-consent?

Enter the What Would Your Mother Do? conversation underwear that communicates that sex isn't happening that night. The line is supposed to reinforce abstinence among teens, but the actual panties don't say anything about sex being shameful. Sure, they may be a bit too flirtatious for my taste, though I kind of like the one that says "not tonight;" I might go for ThinkGeek's "403 Forbidden" panties if I wasn't in the mood that night. I may also wear a pair of simple, black panties with a message such as "private property: no trespassing" or "authorized personnel only" as a way to communicate that you need an invitation to take those off, and if you do it without my consent I will defend myself.

I have no problem with the availability of panties that communicate what you're (not) up for on a certain night. Surely, it's harder to withdraw consent after it's given than it is to say no and then change one's mind. However, the latter is problematic if it always happens - I do wish women would stick to their guns a little better when it came to saying "no," and not giving in every time a guy argues his way into getting some. It's like giving a child what they want every time they throw a tantrum, it spoils them. Of course, guys shouldn't be "throwing tantrums" in the first place.

To clarify, items of clothing that say "I'm not opening my legs tonight" don't necessarily imply that the wearer is abstaining until marriage, or because sex is bad and she never wants it ever. But sometimes when you get dressed up to go out, you know you don't want to have sex that night, maybe because you're not into casual sex or you and your partner just aren't at that level yet and you want to wait. And that's fine! I don't see panties like this as enforcing a binary that either you never have sex because it's icky or you have it all the time because it's not icky. I see these as simply communicating "it's not happening tonight."

Monday, April 11, 2011

Analysis of Sucker Punch

On Friday a friend of mine invited me to see Sucker Punch. Being a total dork, and having not seen the dude in a while, I jumped at the chance. And boy was that a good decision. I never expected it to be such a kickass feminist movie.

A little synopsis: After accidentally killing her sister in an attempt to defend against an attack by her stepfather, a young girl is locked away in a mental institution. Suddenly, she finds herself being forced to work in a brothel and dance in a burlesque show. When she is forced to dance in rehearsal, the music transports her to a fantasy realm where she is told how to escape to freedom. She is given weapons and fights a bunch of huge beasts, before her consciousness returns to the dance studio. Her fight for freedom becomes even more desperate when she realizes she will lose her virginity to a rich patron of the club.

It was easy to examine this movie through the lens of Marxist Feminism. It didn't take long for me to realize that all pretty much all the people in power - the people at the institution, the people running the brothel, and the stepfather - were all men. There is one exception, the female dance teacher, who could very well symbolize women who work with men to oppress other women in order to gain power. The girls had one male ally, who helped them gain the tools to escape. The patients in the institution, as well as those forced to work and dance in the club, are young women. These women have to perform in burlesque shows, have sex with male patrons, clean the facility, and work in the kitchen, without any pay and all for the benefit of their male captors. At one point, a girl was sexually assaulted by the cook. This world the protagonist finds herself in is a vivid manifestation of the patriarchy, where women's place is literally on stage, in the bedroom, and in the kitchen. The young women fight in a fantasy realm, one that seems as though it would usually belong to men, and it is there that they physically fight for their freedom (in some amazing and visually stunning action sequences, mind you).

In terms of intersectionality theory, or the theme of race, the main characters were all white. True, in the group of girls fighting to escape, there were two nonwhite girls, but they were usually (literally) on the periphery of whatever was going on. The main character was very pale, and the girls she worked with the most were also white. I also couldn't help but notice that the Asian girl was always the one operating high-tech machinery in the fight sequences.

It is worth mentioning that the girls were all young, slender, attractive, and usually scantily clad. However, this was mostly within the context of the brothel and burlesque, and while they did wear heels and skirts while they were fighting, it wasn't overt sexualization. I didn't see sexy girls doing glorified sexy fighting, I saw five girls kicking some serious ass and brutally slaying their enemies. Yes, it was violent - very violent. These girls didn't earn their freedom through sit-ins and asking to be let go, they fought. It's a fantasy action movie, what do you expect? I was okay with it, hopefully that doesn't disqualify me from being a "real" feminist. And of course, the movie was made by men, maybe to some people that makes it not a feminist movie. But to me, I saw a crapton of feminism in this movie and I highly recommend it to both nerds and feminists.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Manufactured Consent vs. Real Consent

To put it basically, manufactured consent is when someone gives in to sex when they don't want it. This is typically achieved through coercion from the other party. Examples are:

- "Come on, I did X* for you. You're not gonna return the favor?"

- "You know, withholding sex isn't gonna get you what you want any faster."

- "Gee I'm sorry, I thought you liked me! No no, it's okay, we don't need to have a relationship, we can just hang out and be friends. Here, let's see what's on TV."

- "Come on, you said you wanted to earlier! You're such a tease."

- "Now now, you have to have a good reason why not. 'I don't feel like it' is not a good reason."

- Philosophizing, or using logic "You know, I believe in saying yes to every opportunity. Just live in the moment and seize every opportunity, and have fun! Don't put such personal restrictions on yourself, just let go . . ." (the idea here is that their way of thinking is correct, and you're wrong, stupid, or immature for not thinking that way).

*X can be in reference to paying for a special dinner, buying someone a present, treating them well, pleasuring them sexually, or doing anything that, in their mind, "earned" them some nookie in return. This plays off the commodity model of sex, which frames sex as something that is given away for free, or used as payment for favors, material goods, emotional security or affection. In the same way, people often assume that all women use sex for their advantage: they withhold it until they're given what they want, and only then do they give it up in return.

In these ways, the victim is made to feel bad, selfish, or just plain evil for not giving in. They are finally led to believe that giving in is the right thing to do. Often, this coercion comes with a very taken aback reaction to any aggressive defense - again, demonizing the victim for saying "no."

I would equate this to when my parents signed me up for soccer. My dad said I didn't have to, but he said "I'd like you to," and he kept saying it, each time a little more forcefully, emphasizing the importance of making the choice that would make him happy. I eventually gave in, knowing that was the only way out of the argument. I knew that "Yes" as the only answer my dad would accept, and he was going to keep pushing until that was the answer he got. I ended up playing soccer for two and a half years, not because I liked it, but because it made my parents happy and I didn't think they'd even let me stop without a legitimate reason.

In the same way, manufactured consent is when the victim is coerced to the point where they know that not having sex is not an option with their partner - they know their partner will keep pushing until they get a "Yes" no matter how much guilt they have to layer on to get it.

Real consent, on the other hand, is a genuine and enthusiastic agreement to participate in any sexual activity. Real consent is given, affirmative, and continual; something you give not because you feel obligated, but because you really do want to have sex. This should be the only accepted form of consent.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cross-Dressing for Prom and Graduation

It's April, and for many high school kids, that means prom and graduation are just around the corner! This also means that every year, preceding those events, is a small slew of articles about girls wanting to wear tuxes to prom, and pants to graduation, in schools that forbid them from wearing anything other than skirts and dresses. When I first started seeing these articles, I was shocked that schools in this country still have such rigid gender roles written into their policies. So, it's time to counter a lot of the arguments for these ridiculous and outdated rules, and write in support of these young women who dare to break the mold.

Argument 1: Students need order! If cross-dressing is allowed, all hell will break loose and guys will start coming to these events in dresses just to make a mockery of the school, and there will be no way to stop them!

Reality: I'd like to know of one school where this was an issue. Really, my guess is it's pretty easy to tell who's cross dressing because of gender identity, and who is doing it as a joke. And most (responsible) parents are heavily involved in the preparation for these events, including overseeing exactly what their kids are wearing. You mean to tell me a mom is going to shell out all that money just so her son can wear a dress to prom as a joke? Or that a dad would actually let his son walk across the graduation stage in a dress just for the fun of it. Nope, not likely. In fact, in parts of this country where these gendered policies exist, I'm willing to bet that most parents of transgendered teenagers wouldn't let them cross-dress for these events either.

Chances are, if these dress codes were changed to allow for trans students to express their gender identities (if they so choose) at these events, little would change. The vast majority of guys would still wear masculine clothing, and the majority of girls would wear skirts and dresses, with a few of them wearing nice slacks and blouses for graduation if they don't have the time or money to buy a new outfit for the ceremony.

Argument 2: These schools just want girls to look nice! What, should we really allow these young ladies to wear JEANS to graduation?

Reality: Wearing pants does not mean wearing jeans or dressing casually for girls anymore than it does for guys. If girls wore pants to graduation, they would still be nice pants, khakis or slacks, and not ripped jeans like the people perpetuating this argument seem to believe (or want others to envision). Looking nice shouldn't mean looking feminine.

Argument 3: It's tradition!

Reality: Well that may be, but just because something has been done for decades doesn't mean it's okay. Our culture - fuck, our world - has had many sexist, racist, and downright brutal traditions for centuries, and sadly, many still exist (think segregated proms). It's still tradition for a woman to be handed off from her father to her husband at her wedding, symbolizing the transfer of property - tradition? Of course. Sexist? You bet. We need to stop perpetuating sexism, racism, and heteronormativity under the guise of tradition - some traditions need to be done away with.

We need to start implementing policies that acknowledge transgender students, allowing them to express their gender the same way cisgender students have been able to do for centuries. Forcing them to dress not in accordance with their gender identity and ignoring their needs in school policies only allows them to continue to be marginalized and invisible. So this year, when a news article pops up about a girl who may not be allowed to attend prom because she feels more comfortable in a tux, be sure to show your support for her!

On Covering Up

In an episode of 18 Kids and Counting - or was that 17 Kids? I forget - anyway, on an episode of the Duggars' TV show, Michelle Duggar preached the importance of women covering up and keeping her boys from seeing scantily clad women. In another episode, when the kids did get to watch TV, one of the kids felt the need to cover up the cleavage of a woman on the screen. Why? Because men shouldn't be tempted, and it's women's job to prevent such temptation.

To put it simply, men expecting women to cover up just so they don't see thigh and chest skin is just as problematic as men expecting women to wear skimpy clothing so they DO see skin. In both cases, women are expected to dress in accordance with what men want, rather than what they want.

I'm not opposed to skimpy clothing, or more modest apparel, but I do advocate that women choose the way they want to wear based on their own morals and beliefs, rather than cater to those of men. For example, while I am content with wearing shorts and tank tops in the summer when it's warm and I want to stay as cool as possible outside, after my experiences with rape and sexual assault I have thought of adopting a more modest way of dressing just as a way to avoid rape in the future. I know it's silly, because I was hardly scantily clad when the events took place, but sometimes I feel desperate for a way to feel safe again. Other women view sexy clothing as a means of empowerment. Whether either way of dressing is empowering, or which is more empowering than the other, is a topic of much debate, and I'm not going to get into it now.

This expectation to cover up still regards women as sex objects, only in this case they're regarded as inherently sexual and need to de-sexualize themselves so men don't get turned on. It puts the burden of preventing "bad" things on women, treating them like the moral gatekeepers of all things sexual. It also assumes that men can't control themselves - Michelle Duggar said boys need to learn self-control, and the only way this can happen is if women don't tempt them. Well that's silly, anyone can learn self-control without temptation, that's like learning healthy eating habits in an environment free of any bad foods. True self-control is being able to actually see cleavage without acting on the arousal that may come with it. But I guess that's too hard, men don't want the work of learning such willpower, they'd rather leave all that stuff up to women.

If anything, this should be an insult to men - I remember being really insulted when my school decided that the only way to prevent obesity was to remove junk food from the school cafeteria. We couldn't be trusted access to soda and chocolate, so they had to take it out of our hands. I, being a responsible consumer for the most part, and nowhere near in danger of becoming obese, was outraged. I didn't care if I didn't need soda, on the days where I felt myself about to doze off in class, being able to guzzle down a Coke to keep me awake for the rest of the day helped a lot.

This "boys will be boys" attitude, or the idea that men can't handle even the sight of cleavage without losing control, is a huge aspect of rape culture. With this discourse, we can easily dismiss most rape cases by saying "well, she tempted him, what did she expect?" It supports the "rape schedule," or set of safety rules imposed on women, putting the burden of rape prevention on them rather than teach men not to rape. We hold women accountable for what happens to them, rather than hold men accountable for what they do to women. Of course, men must love this system, they can do almost anything to women as long as they can pin it on the woman for somehow "asking for it." Now you must see why rape victims feel compelled to cover up, so they don't "attract" any more violence, and if they do, they're less likely to be blamed for what happened.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Outsourcing of Domestic Work and the Increase of Class Oppression

The occupations of seamstress, prostitute, cook, nanny, and maid have been around forever - sometimes under other names, such as servant or slave, but the tasks have been the same. For centuries, wealthy people have been able to hire people to do things traditionally assigned to wives and daughters, allowing those wealthy women time and a little freedom to pursue their own whims. Since the beginning of feminism, as women have left the constraints of the home in pursuit of non-domestic tasks, someone else had to take up those tasks, and domestic and sex work became more common - but no less oppressed.

Nowadays, while having clothing custom made is reserved for the very wealthy, almost all of us buy our own clothes. This is common across social classes, and the people who do make their own clothes do it for religious reasons, or do it because the market does not offer the kind of clothing they desire. Sadly, this has a direct relation to the existence of sweatshop workers. As the demand for cheap, mass produced clothing has increased, so has the functionality of sweatshops, both overseas in impoverished countries and in the southern United States where migrant women slave away in the same conditions as the little girls in China, and have the same low level of political power. Notice that these sweatshop workers are also women - who better to take up the tasks that would be done by the women buying these clothes for their families?

The same goes for maids. Again, the ability to hire a maid is now held by many middle class women who require help with the cleaning because of the demands of their jobs. Again, these jobs are held by women in the lower class, and often immigrant women in many parts of the country, who as Barbara Ehrenreich highlighted in her book "Nickel and Dimed," these domestic workers are not making living wages. It's a fact that women are more likely than men to live in poverty, because they are less likely to be given living wages. Blue collar jobs are held by both genders - while women may dominate the realm of domestic work, men occupy the realm of construction and factory work. However, men's work is still valued over women's work - it's only been little over half a century since most women cooked and cleaned and sewed for free, so some may wonder, why should that suddenly warrant a high wage? Besides, people still have this idea that men are the only workers with families to feed, while women don't need a living wage because they're depending on a man's wage and are only working for supplemental income or "pin money."

When people go out to eat, they are going somewhere where someone else will cook for them - something originally designated for women in the domestic sphere. When people go shopping, they are buying clothes, soaps, and other things that used to be made in the home. This ability to buy products rather than labor to make them may be liberating for women, giving them more time and fewer domestic responsibilities, it means there are now more cooks, chefs, waiters, and retail workers working in those roles. It may have expanded the job market, but the jobs provided are "low" jobs - jobs with little pay that require a lot of emotional labor and dealing with entitled customers who often oppress the workers as much as the corporations that employ those workers. Make no mistake, they may have better conditions and paychecks than those in sweatshops, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Keep in mind that the people who do serve others by doing feminine work typically go home and do the same things they did at work. They can't always afford to buy the clothes they make, or eat the food they prepare and/or serve. They can't afford to hire maids. So they go home after all that underpaid physical labor and do the same things for their own families. They do more domestic work so that some women can do less, or none at all - so that those women can, in turn, pursue their own passions and their own career goals.

Prostitutes also factor into this. Once again, they perform the work of a man's romantic or sexual partner - wife, girlfriend, fuckbuddy, whatever - but their work is commodified and they are oppressed as well. If a woman works for a pimp, she of often beaten and forced to have sex with clients she does not choose or get to negotiate with, and her earnings are taken from her in full or in part. If a woman works in a brothel, she is locked away from society, paraded in front of clients who choose who to sex up, and has to fork over more than half her earnings to the brothel owners. Freelance prostitutes constantly face the threat of rape (and you can't "rape" a prostitute, it's only considered theft of services, because her oversexualized status makes her body a full-time commodity with sub-human status in the eyes of many people), murder, pregnancy, and STDs - because when an industry is criminal, there are no universal, enforceable standards placed upon it. Many men who solicit prostitutes are married or have romantic partners, but they are not satisfied, and seek that satisfaction from women who, in their eyes, exist purely for that purpose.

Keep in mind that prostitutes are either forced into "the life," or they choose it out of desperation. No high school girl says "when I grow up, I wanna fuck people for money." Well maybe some do, but I'm guessing it's pretty rare.

Notice how men are still largely absent from these tasks, whether they're in the home or done as a service to others. Men still only control the means of production, for the most part. Even households that start off with the intent of being egalitarian in terms of housework usually see the tasks slowly shift to the woman of the house. These are the men who say "nah, I don't want to help you with the work, hire a maid instead," and these are the men who drive to male-owned brothels to get the sex they feel entitled to when their wives no longer satisfy them in bed.

Now, I'm not bashing feminism for these reasons, nor am I advocating that women return to the home and reclaim their domestic tasks of cooking, cleaning, childcare, and satisfying their husbands. I certainly can't condemn women who hire babysitters or go clothes shopping. Rather, the people who work in these fields need to be given the respect and dignity they deserve from their employers and their customers, not to mention reasonable working conditions and living wages, whether they're sales associates, immigrant seamstresses, or prostitutes.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Relevation: A Short, Personal Story

Last night I went to a fancy event. Well, it wasn't that fancy, but it was at a fancy place and I tend to relish every excuse to get gussied up, so there you have it. Knowing the weather was going to suck, and we were walking, I decided to sweep my hair back in a neat bun - something that could withstand wind and rain. After a few attempts and finally achieving a hairdo I was happy with (the bun was still crooked but the hell with it, I'd given up), I realized that my face looked especially elongated. Having read tons of magazines during my adolescent years, I'd seen several articles about the best hairstyles and cuts for one's facial shape - each one was meant to make your face look closer to the "ideal" face shape. Girls with oval faces were constantly told to wear their hair in ways that would make their faces look rounder. And there I was, not wearing one of those styles, and while I still looked amazing, my face was as long as ever.

And I didn't give a fuck.

Seriously, what does it matter what shape my face was? Why was an oval face less pretty than a round face or a heart-shaped face? Does beauty really only come in one shape? I looked bangin' overall, so did my face shape make all that irrelevant? Bullshit, of course it didn't. Real beauty comes in different shapes and sizes, there can't be one ideal that excludes tons of women just because they weren't "made right."

Liberation as Privilege

Access to family planning. The ability to hire a nanny. Enough money for a second car. These are all things that are pretty much necessary for a woman to become fully liberated and able to work and live as she pleases - and they are also things that are only within reach of middle and upper class women.

While all women have access to condoms - though some may be more subject to shame than others when they go to buy them - the ability to get birth control, Plan B, and abortion if necessary means a woman is completely free from forced pregnancy. She can get an education and work without having to drop out or quit because she's knocked up. However, reproductive healthcare is a class privilege. Not all women can afford birth control - if their condoms break, they're SOL. Some women live in religious areas where few pharmacists are willing to dispense birth control, and getting their pills can be next to impossible unless they have the time and means to travel to the pharmacies that will give it to her. Same goes for Plan B. Some women live in places where there is no "local" clinic, and getting an abortion means taking a few days off work - which may take a chunk out of her paycheck that she can't afford to lose - and traveling across the state, or to another state entirely, which may be too costly, not to mention she needs to find someone to take care of the kids if she's already given birth. Some women may live near clinics but still can't afford the procedure.

If a woman wants to full-time, she has a few options: she can have no kids, or she can have kids and take them to daycare or hire a babysitter. Women with school-aged children and who don't require sitters during the day are still held back by always being the one to leave work and stay home with the kids when they're sick, and they're usually the ones who are expected to be home when the kids come home, or face the judgment women face when they leave the children to "fend for themselves" after school. Of course, this is more of a worry in neighborhoods of low income than in suburban neighborhoods.

Ironically enough, single mothers and lower class women had been doing this juggling act long before second wave feminists began their struggle for work equity. They had to, they needed the income to either support their families or support themselves - which was rare, since before second wave feminism women lived with their parents until they got married, but there were circumstances that led to women living on their own - out-of-wedlock pregnancy, divorce, widowhood, loss of parents, etc. These women typically held "feminine" jobs; they were waitresses, nannies, seamstresses, maids, and in worst-case scenarios, prostitutes - and in such jobs there is no need to demand equality with one's male coworkers because they simply didn't exist. There is a need for adequate pay and working conditions, and an inherent level of oppression in such jobs, and despite workers' movements, such problems still have not seen resolution.

When a woman has to work the "second shift," or the domestic workload waiting for a woman when she gets home from work, she is robbed of energy and less able to perform in full force at work. The other option is to hire domestic help, which is only an option for upper class women. When the cooking, cleaning, and childcare is solely a woman's job, her job prospects are limited and she only has so much energy for when she does work, meaning she's less likely to be promoted or given a raise than her male coworkers, who for the most part have fewer responsibilities outside work and have more time and energy to put into their work performance.

Not to mention, technological innovations that have made housework easier, and thus have freed up time and energy for women, are in themselves only accessible by those with enough money. Housework is easier for women in the upper and middle classes than those in with lower socioeconomic statuses.

Notice how in all this, the work of men is largely absent. They don't need to worry about an unplanned pregnancy getting in their way, only the threat of having to pay child support or a nagging "baby mama" demanding he be more involved. A man doesn't have to worry about taking care of the kids, or working the second shift, that's all "women's work." If women can expect liberation and equality, their oppressors - men - need to give up some of their power and take up some of the burden that weighs women down. This may in turn make men somewhat less liberated, but at least it will level the playing field.

Full liberation achieved alongside gender equality requires that childcare and reproductive healthcare be available to all people, regardless of socioeconomic status, so that no person ends up shackled to an unplanned pregnancy, to a person they did not intend to marry but did so out of obligation and responsibility, and no one is kept from a job because they cannot get anyone else to take care of their children. Finally, these childcare professionals, along with seamstresses and anyone else who takes up outsourced women's work, must be paid well and treated with dignity.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Image, Gender, and Public Figures

When a man is in the public eye, his appearance may be mentioned. Teen magazines may talk about the hotness of one actor or another, a politician may be called handsome by the papers as he's running for office. Certainly, attractive male public figures such as celebrities and politicians are praised when they are attractive. At minimum, a man must look put together, well dressed, neat, hair combed, but he doesn't always need a slim figure or perfect nose to succeed in his field, and in fact such physical traits are considered bonus features rather than requirements. What matters is his talent, his intellect, and what he has to offer to the field he is known for working in.

It's different for women.

Female celebrities are constantly scrutinized for their looks. Their outfits and hairstyles are constantly critiqued, especially after award shows and movie premiers. Their weight makes headlines in gossip rags and celebrity news. When a woman runs for public office, her appearance is also under scrutiny. Sarah Palin was called a MILF, and Hilary Clinton was sometimes discredited simply because she was masculine-looking and "ugly" (seriously, I've way too many people, mainly guys, say Hilary Clinton sucks because she looks like a man) - as if a woman needs to be physically appealing before her words are taken seriously. Even Michelle Obama is known for her biceps and dresses as much as she is for the actual work she's doing in the realm of public service, and she's not even an elected executive. The message? If you want to be a successful woman, you had better be gorgeous as well. The fact that a female politician's appearance makes headlines as often as her platform, her actions in office, and her words themselves, tell women, and really men too to a certain degree, that your appearance matters just as much as your intellect, if not more so.

Certainly, everyone needs to look nice. Everyone needs to dress appropriately, comb their hair, look neat, etc. - but it goes further for women. Where all a guy needs is to wear a nice suit, women are under pressure to make the "best dressed" lists, and make sure their dresses are perfectly flattering and show just the right amount of skin - a very fine line to walk. Where a man may make headlines for losing a substantial amount of weight and moving from the obese range to a healthier size, a woman makes headlines in US Weekly for gaining or losing 10 lbs., and everyone speculates as to why - is the pressure getting to her? is she pregnant? has she stopped trying to be a size 2? is she anorexic? what diet is she using?

Clearly, the media's heightened scrutiny over women's appearance sends a toxic message: that being skinny and perfectly dressed is much more important for women than it is for men. It also sends other messages, such as: if your weight changes even a little bit, everyone is going to notice; and if you gain weight, you better have a gosh darn reason for letting yourself go, piggy! It subtly tells women to watch out, people are paying attention to what you look like you you had better give them something nice to look at. Media criticism is almost like a public punishment, making an example of these celebrities that dared to break fashion rules, who dared to gain weight, who dared to go out in public without makeup and perfectly styled hair, scaring the rest of us into compliance with these beauty rules, and giving other women the power to police their peers into obeying as well. After all, the magazine writers do it, they talk crap about women who don't look perfect, why can't the rest of us?

What does this say to women who want to become actresses, singers, politicians, or pursue any other occupation which may lead to a life in the public eye? You had better be skinny and hot, or you might as well forget it. In fact, I remember wanting to be a singer when I was a preteen, and actually gave up not because of my voice or stage fright, but because I was told I was too fat and ugly. This is certainly discouraging to people who don't fit the beauty standard, women who may want to be president but feel more suited to a life behind the scenes because of their appearance, rather than their actual confidence in their intellect and leadership skills - which in itself tends to be lacking in women, for other reasons.

The idea that women need certain physical traits to enter and succeed in certain professions, while men need only to be clean and well dressed, definitely contributes to the glass ceiling that still remains decades after the second wave feminist movement. In order to achieve true gender equality in the workplace and in the public eye, we need to stop holding women to these extra standards of appearance and hold them only to the ones men are held to.