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28 July 2009

Do You Empower Women or Exploit Them?

I’ve covered the issue of objectification of women previously, and I was met with resistance by quite a few women. This surprised no one more than me, as I fully expected that women would be able to see the fine line between art and exploitation. The vast majority of my female readers have seen through the illusion of empowerment and recognize exploitation. A number of women can not see beyond the curtain where a man is pulling the levers.

We can talk psychology, sociology, and genetic differences versus sexist perceptions all day long, but that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in the real world. There is the academic and hypothetical, and then there is the male mechanic who sees me as an easy mark. I can change the oil, change the spark plugs, and put on a new water pump as easily as I can pump the fuel into the tank, but he doesn’t know that about me. He assumes that because I am female, I don’t know the difference between a double overhead camshaft and air bags. Why does he assume that I, a woman, know nothing about the workings of the internal combustion engine? or anti-lock brake systems? or transfer of energy from the engine to the wheels via the transmission and driveshaft?

Why are women still paid less than men for the same work?

Are we of less value than males? Obviously, corporate America thinks women are worth less than male workers. The Equal Pay Act is one small step in the right direction.

Why are women still photographed draped half nude over the hood of a car in an advertisement?

Because sex sells. The ad says, “buy this car and you may get to fuck a woman like the one in this picture.”

Why is pornography a billion dollar a year industry?

Because sex sells, women are willing to sell it, and people are willing to buy it.

Why, in this the 21st century, when women are running entire countries, are we still fighting against sexism in America?

See previous questions/answers.

I might as well ask, “Is there life after death?” The answers to the foregoing questions will be different or those who attempt to justify disparate treatment of women. Some will even deny that women are treated differently in areas where gender should not be an issue, like jobs or intellectual ability.

Some will say that the women are adults and as adults they can do anything they want to do. They deny that there are any victims here because the alleged victims are active, willing participants.

Many will deny that sexism exists. Often, I think that our sexist views are apparent to everyone except ourselves.

Why the hell do I care what other women do?

Because the conduct and views of all women affect all women.

All blonds are not stupid. All brunettes are not bitches. All redheads are not possessed of a fiery personality. All menstruating women do not turn into crazed Nazis once each month.

Part of the problem is the persistence of stereotypes. We human beings love our stereotypes don’t we? The stereotype helps people cope with the world. It is easier to dismiss the conduct of a person as typical than it is to try to understand on an intellectual level. Thinking is hard. Stereotyping is easy. People like easy.

“So,” you ask “What has all this to do with art?”

“Everything,” says I.

How we portray women, especially how women portray themselves, in art and writing goes a long way in either (1) supporting sexist stereotypes or (2) promoting women as intelligent valuable human beings. Are you empowering women or exploiting them?

The choice is yours. Choose wisely.

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