"Aging Gracefully" ≠ Never Changing

 

There is something wrong with the way we look at women aging. On a feminist website, there’s an article titled “Meryl Streep, 1979 and Now, Same Dress.”

My first thought was “I love Meryl Streep! She’s so talented and classy and…” Then, I did a double take. The only line in the “story” besides the two pictures of her in the dress was “She is gorgeous!”

Look, I love Meryl Streep. She’s considered one of the most talented actors of all time. My problem has nothing to do with her. The problem lies in the idea that women should be able to fit in dresses worn over 30 years ago, and feel comfortable.

This isn’t a new idea. Many women have dreams of fitting in their wedding dresses for their 10th+ wedding anniversary. Such absurdly high standards have been internalized by our society so deeply that we don’t ordinarily question them.

Besides the issue of weight, which wearing the same dress is indicative of maintaining, there is also the concept of women not otherwise aging. We expect our celebrities to remain stuck in a time capsule. Yet, when they get plastic surgery there are scolding articles written. If they don’t choose to get plastic surgery there are different scolding articles written.

Essentially, it is a losing battle because women will always be seen, first and foremost, as visually appealing ornaments. Even in the case of one of the most renowned actors of all time, whose beauty is not the reason behind her fame, but exists nonetheless. Recently, a pro-women website decides that the most amazing aspect of her personhood is the fact that she can still wear a 35-year-old dress.

Greatness comes from pure talent, not a dress size. Meryl Streep is an amazing woman. But not because of her dress size.

http://viralwomen.com/post/meryl_streep_1979_and_now_same_dress

http://wp.me/p3eIPI-HA

Micaela Gardner

Scarlett Letter

21st Century Scarlet Letter

 

Last week, a story came out regarding a teen who after attending a Florida school for 3 days after moving from Oregon was punished in a disrespectful way for violating the dress code she didn’t yet know about.

She wore a skirt that was considered too short, and she was taken to the nurse’s office right after first period, and was forced to wear the “shame suit.”

The shame suit is a huge, neon green shirt that reads “Dress Code Violation” across the front and baggy red athletic pants. The 15 year-old was not offered the option to go home and change and was instead, forced to wear this outfit, which the school openly admits is used to embarrass and publicly humiliate students who violate the dress code.

Dress codes are commonplace and make sense. While they are abused in a manner as to police women’s bodies in an unfair way, the point of this story has nothing to do with whether or not the code was violated. Rather than allowing the student to go change and fix the problem in a reasonable way, the school has instituted a cruel punishment that far outweighs the violation itself, even acknowledging that the code is based on a shaming system.

Once again, the idea that women’s bodies are something to be controlled and feared is reinforced. A terrible message is sent to this student as well as the rest of the student body (no pun intended) that it is okay to shame women for what they wear. I wonder how often the male students are forced to wear the shame suit?

We are always talking about women’s twisted relationships with their bodies as a society. Unfortunately, this story is another confirmation that our institutions do nothing to help, and, in this case, actually worsen the situation. The teenage years are formative and the relationship a teen has with her body is already a complicated one. A body is nothing to be ashamed of. Although what are considered appropriate outfits for appropriate times do exist, the outfit forced upon this girl was not appropriate.

Makes me wonder if The Scarlet Letter is assigned reading at this high school, because it seems that the faculty needs to brush up on their reading.

Student Forced to Wear ‘Shame Suit’ for Dress Code Violation
http://www.wkrn.com/story/26453658/student-forced-to-wear-shame-suit-for-dress-code-violation

Micaela Gardner

Sluts and Curves

Sluts and Curves

 

 

A key issue that has become increasingly covered by the media in recent months is school dress codes for girls. Although there have been issues regarding social control over what girls wear since always, it is important to note that this is a problem, which has become reported on much more, and thus talked about. Such attention has highlighted some very troubling implications about societal beliefs on females and sexuality.

One of the most telling stories as of late was about a girl getting kicked out of prom for her dress making the father chaperones think “impure thoughts.” On May 14th, a story published at the local Washington D.C. CBS blog told of how a 17-year-old girl was immediately stopped at prom to measure her dress. Understandably, at 5’9 finding a dress that would hit longer on her than, say, a 5’4 girl would be more difficult. However, after doing the “fingertip length” test, the female teacher who initially spotted her cleared the teenage girl and told her to be “careful” and to “make sure [the dress] stays pulled down.”

The girl, who blogged under the name Clare on the site HannahEttinger.com, went on to tell about how the fathers on the balcony above were ogling her while she was dancing, and talking among themselves. She was called off the dance floor by the same female teacher and was told that even though her dress passed the test, the fathers were complaining her dancing was “too provocative” and they were concerned the young men at prom were going to have “impure thoughts.” Even side-stepping the issues of slut-shaming, making it the female’s responsibility to control males’ thoughts and the underaged objectification, there is another issue that this incredibly inappropriate incident brings up–body shaming.

In high school, students are mandated to take a health class, which includes, among general nutrition, drug prevention attempts and sex ed, a unit on eating disorders and body dysmorphia. This girl was punished for having a developed body and being tall. If she were, say, 5’2 with a petite, boyish frame, then this would not have happened to her. Instead, because she has a healthy, womanly body, she is being punished for men being attracted to her body.

How is someone, especially a young person, supposed to feel about her body when authority figures and her school is telling her that even though she is breaking no rules, her body is the subject of thorough discussion, and, worse, punishment? We complain all the time about how the media is influencing girls to have insecurities about their bodies and eating disorders, but when the opportunity arises to combat this shame, we fail miserably.

Not only does this send a message to girls that their bodies are commodities on display for others to talk about and critique, it is telling the boys that it is perfectly natural and okay behavior to monitor and control the female form.

Micaela Gardner

How I Met Your Mother

How I Met Your Misogyny

Allow me to first preface this article by openly admitting that I have a soft spot for sitcoms, even the mediocre ones. There is something oddly comforting about a story that is (sometimes) funny, and oscillates safely with resolved story lines and perhaps not fairy tale endings, but contentment. The best stories are the ones that can be funny, heartfelt, painful, dramatic, and shocking–but the “comforting” sitcoms I tend to gravitate to aren’t the best stories, they’re televised junk food.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*
How I Met Your Mother is a show, not about the mother that the protagonist, Ted, beds and weds, but rather his journey getting there. It’s a fairly cheap (yet forgivable) plot device that allows narration to speed things along to get the most out of the paltry 22 minutes of television. The female characters in the show important to the story and/or are the main characters include Lily Aldrin: college and close friend of Ted, Robin, the on-again-off-again girlfriend and friend: Robin Scherbotsky and The Mother (whose name you learn, rather unnecessarily in the last few minutes of the series’ finale): Tracy McGrady.

Since the start, one of the largest problems I’ve had with the show is the treatment and depiction of the female characters. Lily is an artist who teaches kindergarten, but aspires to do more with her painting. When she does try to pursue her dream of becoming an artist by breaking up with her fiancé and moving to San Francisco, it turns out to be a completely terrible experience that shows her that she belongs home, with her fiancé, changing her dream to fit around the man in her life. Robin is a career woman, a news anchor, who at the beginning of the show is on, an unwatched channel at weird hours.

Throughout the show, she blossoms in her career and becomes more prominent and gets more opportunities, including getting a job in Tokyo. This job is depicted as ridiculous—there is a chimpanzee on the show as her fellow anchor, for example. She returns to the U.S. within the same episode to attend Ted’s wedding. Later on, when she is dating a man named Kevin, who was formerly her anger management counselor, they break up because she neither can have children nor wants them. She gets married and divorced, in part because she travels too much and her husband dislikes having to accompany her everywhere. In the end, she has become an accomplished career woman, but is romantically alone, until the last few minutes of the show in which Ted arrives at her door with the same romantic overture that he used in the pilot. Since he is a widower with children, it is implied that they get together and she ends up having to take care of his teenagers despite never wanting children. Essentially, all of her impressive accomplishments are outshined by getting back together with her ex-boyfriend.

Lastly, there is The Mother. Everything we learn about her is mentioned in passing. She is finally introduced as an active character in the last season of the show. She is an intelligent, interesting and funny woman who would have added a lot to the show had she been introduced earlier. With the use of flash forwards, we find out how her relationship with the protagonist develops though we know nothing of her career or much of her history. Then we find out the ultimate twist: she bears his children, they grow up to preteens (their ages are never stated) and then she dies of cancer. Her role on the show is to propel the storyline, add a twist on the story, and bear the protagonist’s children. That is all.

To punctuate this blatant sexism, Robin’s ex-husband ends up impregnating a woman whom he refers to only as “Number 31” (because he vowed to have sex with a new woman every day for a month, and she was the last), who ends up getting pregnant. We don’t see nor know anything about the mother of his child, including her name, except that she was the womb for his child. After he has this baby, his views on women change, though remain just as misogynistic. Instead of the usual, objectifying women, he lectures two girls at the bar he frequents that they should put on more clothing and that they shouldn’t be drinking that early in the day, even though he is at the bar drinking.

Individually, these story lines might be acceptable, but cumulatively, it sends a very negative message about women. The first is that if a woman has children, she owes them everything, whereas the father does not. Moreover, if she doesn’t want to have children, there is something wrong with her, and somehow, she will end up mothering if she wants to or not, because that’s what women do. The concept also exists that there is something wrong with a woman if she wants to pursue her dreams (creative or occupational), even if it means foregoing, other opportunities.

She is punished for this; especially, in her love life. Lastly, this show ends up being about all the male characters. Ultimately, everything the women in this show do either propels the males’ storylines forward or position the women standing behind their men. Everything I feared about this show, all of the subtle sexism that already existed and the problems I had, multiplied in the finale.

In conclusion—thank you, How I Met Your Mother, for reinforcing antiquated ideas about male/female relationships, and further bolstering legitimate fears women face every day.

Take a bow.