Sunday, February 3, 2008
The Female Thing: Envy
One of the most interesting things about this book is the way it turns problems within our patriarchal society around onto women themselves. We are not just victims of society, but in fact we play into the patriarchy, either subconsciously or purposefully in an effort to get what we want.
Kipnis makes an important distinction in her study of the female thing. She draws a line between feminism and femininity. Feminism is the theory that women should be equal to men, and assumes that things can change, and is the political and social attempt to help gender progress. On the other hand, femininity is “the method for creatively transforming female disadvantages into advantages, basically by doing what it took to form strategic alliances with men: enhancing women’s appeal and sexual attractiveness with time-honored stratagems like ritual displays of female incompetence aimed at subtly propping up men’s sense of masculine powers” (Kipnis 5). Femininity, therefore, assumes that things can’t change, and attempts to make things better within the rigid framework of male-female gender relations.
Sure, these two ideals are at odds, but I myself seem to navigate them rather gracefully (if I do say so myself.) I might get one of my guy friends to help hook up our cable, but I’ll also get rightfully angry if a man hoots and hollers about my “fine ass” while I’m crossing the street. In some ways, the times that we live in now are more complicated for women than ever; as women become more powerful in the workforce, and men are being emasculated by the minute, it’s difficult to straddle that line between helpless young woman and angry feminist with a sturdy agenda.
Kipnis argues that these two conflicting ideas have created an identity crisis within the female race, and points to women’s magazines as the primary culprit for perpetuating this conflict. But that’s for another entry.
So my question is: where is the good balance between being feminine and being a feminist? I have a feeling that might be something that takes my whole life to figure out.