Warning: This is a snarky post.
It’s difficult to ignore the absurd contradictions involving women in American culture, most of which involve the maintenance, presentation, or regulation of our lady parts.
In popular culture, girl and woman power are often celebrated. If you watched enough television, you would be lead to believe that women own their gender and express their power by proudly referring to their “va-jay-jays” in public, tittering at the spate of cultural references to douches (who invariably are men in world of prime time), and, of course, feeling empowered enough to enhance their breasts or have their vaginas rejuvenated (yes, that is a real procedure). If you are not embracing your gender in the ways mentioned above, than you are probably old, detached from your very female nature, or, possibly both – think of Marie Barone in Everybody Loves Raymond who was completely unaware of the fact that she had sculpted a giant vulva in her art class.
While woman power is celebrated in popular culture (at least as a marketing tool), it is feared and regulated in virtually every other aspect of society. The breasts that are so appealing squished into Victoria Secret’s latest bra are borderline obscene when hidden under a blanket feeding a baby in a public space. Healthy (working) breasts routinely are the topic of controversy, but sick breasts raise millions and are the subject of “cute” bumper stickers like “Save the TaTas.” The “V” word is much worse beyond the confines of television programming. While refusing to say vagina in state legislatures (a legislator in Florida caused quite a ruckus when he used the term), politicians make a whole lot of assumptions and rules about regulating women’s reproduction.
I realize that none of this is news. But, last night, I got really annoyed as the presidential candidates pandered to my lady parts while ignoring reality. I am not moved by references to “gender equality” or “peace.” I am not particularly interested in how much they respect their mothers or whether they are smart enough to wear a pink bracelet on national television during Breast Cancer Awareness month. None of this makes me feel like the candidates care about the gap in women’s wages, women’s struggles to manage motherhood and work, or a culture (and cultural practices) that often celebrates violence against women.
What’s a “girl” to do?
We can vote, of course. Obviously, this is not enough. It seems that gender matters only every four years for a brief window. We need to do more to. Holding male and female politicians accountable to women voters is a start – and I don’t just mean when there is new abortion legislation. We need to make a more concerted effort to ensure politicians do not forget gender issues the day after the election. If you are a social type, get involved in a group advocating on your behalf (and I mean do more than send money). There are some great groups out there trying to make the world a better place for women and, frankly, they could use a helping hand. If you have kids, check out momsrising.org. You can get a recipe, learn the terrifying facts about what’s in Jimmy’s school lunch, and print up some guidelines to give your boss on Open Flexible Work (spoiler: none of the guidelines explicitly mention women’s need to get home by 5pm to prepare dinner for the family). Sniping aside, moms of all political stripes are interested in early childhood education, paid sick leave, and better parental leave. Women have shared interests around which they can mobilize.
Feel like you need to identify as progressive or conservative? There are plenty of groups for you too! But let’s agree to do something. I don’t think I can stomach the pandering to my lady-parts four years from now.