Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  

Connect

    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 3. 1971

Womens' lib

page break

Womens' lib.

Poster for an anti suffrage demonstration

The conditioning of women has taught them that if they want to flatter a man then they listen to him in awed silence. This becomes a habit and is carried through into all group discussion. This was evident during orientation week when Baxter and Ritchie expounded on and answered questions about "Bullshit" In the whole two hours not one woman spoke. Yet the topics discussed were all within the range of a woman's experience for it was meant to be an introduction to a series on sex. Doesn't this topic concern women? Or perhaps the women present didn't want to spoil their sparkling 1971 image of the submissive, mindless sex symbol that is so sacred to our society. Perhaps they are scared that if they speak or assert themselves they will be labelled unfeminine After all Raquel Welch, an acknowledge leader in the field of attracting male attention, said:

'I think the feminists are the most boring group of females I have ever heard. The women I have seen on television are unattractive and negative even though they may be dedicated to their cause."

Many women are terribly frightened of being labelled unfeminine It is their ability to flatter the male ego which they consider important, as their whole status in this society is measured by that of their male counterpart. Consequently they view anything which may lower their esteem in male eyes with hostility. This is how many of them view the whole concept of woman's liberation. This is of course a complete misunderstanding of what woman's liberation is about. Furthermore, it is to equate femininity and women with submission and inferiority and place the relationship between men and women as one of master and slave.

Such women place considerable importance on the concessions which they feel are accorded to them because of their femininity, such as having doors opened, being given seats on buses and having meals and outings paid for by men. Many women construe woman's liberation as meaning they will loose these symbols of male esteem. But it is not only men who open doors and give up seats. Women stand for older or pregnant women. Most people would not slam a door in the face of someone who is walking behind them. This is merely consideration for other people regardless of their sex. As regards money - if men get paid more for doing the same job then they can afford to pay for a woman when taking her out Because of the fact a person is female it doesn't mean they eat less or their rent is cheaper.

Another common misconception of woman's liberation is that it is concerned solely with bra-burning man hating and the extreme activities of such organisations as Witch and Scum. The mass media seizes on this with glee and interprets the whole movement as being aligned with these views. It does not explain the basis of the whole movement or put these actions—into context. For this behaviour is often an extreme reaction to the underlying problems, a tactical move to gain publicity or to make a number of points by a single symbolic action. Unless an action is unusual it doesn't get coverage and even then it may not be covered fully or accurately. Other positive effects of such actions are its long term effects and the fact that it makes the reasonable more acceptable At one time it was thought extreme for women to have the vote; the suffragettes of the nineteenth century met with considerable opposition Now, due to the statements of more radical ideas on the subject of woman's liberation this has become acceptable even to conservatives. Most papers and magazines have not given a clear picture of what woman's liberation is about, and have so created opposition towards it based on irrelevant grounds.

The aim of woman's liberation is equality between human beings by prevention of discrimination purely (on the grounds of sex. Because the movement's aim to equality they embody this in their own organisational structure. The organisation is not built on hierarchies with permanent secretaries, chairwomen and the other paraphenalia of most established organisations. It shares its experiences and information by each member taking a turn in all spheres of activity. The chairwoman or secretary for each meeting is chosen by lot at each meeting so everyone gets experience. In this way the movement's concept of future society is practised within its own internal structure.

Thus the aim is not superiority. Many do not seem to understand that an organisation which is straggling to remove discriminations is not trying to place itself in a position of superiority. Some males lake this as a threat to their masculinity. This may explain why about 100 Auckland University Engineering Students tried to take over the Auckland group, as well as the vicious manner of interviewing employed by Radio Hauraki in covering the topic. They do not see the reason for their insecurity:

"Men are enchained by reason of their very sovereignty; it is because they alone earn money that their wives demand cheques; it is because they alone engage in business or professions that their wives require them to be successful; it is because they alone embody transcendence that their wives wish to rob them of it by taking charge of their projects and successes. If the wife seeks desperately to bend him to her will, it is because she is alienated in him. He will free himself in freeing her." (Simone de Beavoir)

As long as women cannot live a full life of their own, they will try to live it through men.

A clearer view of what leads some women to woman's liberation could be discovered by watching the recent Miss Wellington contest. It was hilarious. Girls — their hair tortured with shampoo, conditioners. Setting lotions hair spray, colourings and clips; their faces behind the foundation, powder blusher, face shapers eyeliner, mascara, eyeshadow, eyebrow makeup, lipstick and false eyelashes. This is not to forget the swim wear, high heeled shoes, evening dresses soap, toothpaste, talcum powder, deodorants, eau de cologne, perfume and pantyhose. Confident they had done all the television advertisements told them to, they propelled themselves across the stage with preening smirks, viewing the other contestants with pity and jealousy while they tried to smile frozenly where they thought the camera was.

The contestants in this contest are merely victims of the constant barrage of advertising on TV and in the glossy dream-world magazines. They are merely trying to conform to the selfimage defined and manipulated there whereby they are merely decorative sexual objects. Their success as women is determined by how successful they are in achieving the present image A feature of this constantly changing fashion, shape and appearance is that standards of beauty are continually changing so making it a wasteful occupation in terms of lime and money. There is no one, consistent feature which is at all times considered beautiful What the advertising defines as beautiful is usually extreme so that many women naturally do not have the necessary attributes. All these factors become obvious when looking at an old out of date film or at magazines. The women all look ugly and artificial wearing bright red lipstick and stark eyebrows Furthermore they all look the same.

Yet despite their disadvantages women (the advertising has us believe) can transform themselves into desirable products if they spend money and time on their magic products: 'silk make-up isn't just a makeup stick it's a magic wand', 'such perfume as dreams are made of.

The media has substituted success for sexual desirability, and this for the ability to conform with the image they have created as desirable; all achieved by the use of their products. Then they will ensnare superman ("I'm marrying Marvin, but he doesn't know yet") and so achieve success in terms of their acquisition of another human being.

The key to their problems is 'spending' and 'money' It consists of disguising what they already have by superimposing something else. 'A whole new world of beauty awaits you now. Just fill out the attached card and mail with $1.00. Winter is just a lovely excuse for buying new clothes.'

Most of the expensive magazines spend pages telling women what to do about their fat lower lip, their egg shaped face, sweating hands, skinny legs, lines, flat chestedness and body odour. The greater the promises of the product; the greater the magic and mystery surrounding it; the higher the price. ($25 for ½ ounce of French perfume.) These are answers to problems defined as arising from the girl's lack of physical perfectness But even using all these products is not going to solve their problems. Most women are still unable to conform to the current image and this causes great unhappiness and sense of failure. At that level the woman herself is a product on the marriage market made more desirable by the use of other products.

The other level at which women are subjected to constant advertising pressure is as a consumer of household products. These are protrayed as a means to succeeding in marriage and solving housekeeping problems.

"Would a 19 year old girl with an insurance policy make a better wife? . . marriage, children, a home of her own, roast beef on Sundays? We just hope she gets a man who has a - policy. That's planned happiness."

The housewife is shown in a gleaming house surrounded by clean children, stain free baths, freshly ironed clothes, polished floors, streak free windows, grease free pots and pans, and lines lull of whiter-than-the-neighbours' washing.

Thus this advertising pressure defines woman's [unclear: life] for her and is constantly telling her how to live at [unclear: a] sex object and housewife. It makes the whole [unclear: idea] marriage inevitable and profitable. These [unclear: press] together with their schooling lead women to [unclear: behave] that they must marry - only in that way will they be happy.

There is never a shortage of 'satisfied housewives' to testify how fulfilling their life is washing the floors, minding the children and staying at home. After the Gallery programme on woman's liberation a number of such women rang up a local radio station to advertise their happiness to the world. These women seemed to conveive of Woman's liberation as revolving around them. They saw Woman's Liberation as trying to force them out of their homes to work and saying that unhappiness was the only alternative. This is not what woman's liberation is about. These housewives may have good considerate husbands and be happy in what they do. This is good. Yet this does not apply to many women. The high divorce and suicide rates as well as the high percentage of women in mental hospital populations evidence this.

What woman's liberation does say is that the home is not the only legitimate sphere in which women can live. Women should be able to live their lives free from the continual pressure of society telling them that they are abnormal if they are not happy as housewives.

The emphasis should be on choice, and the present structure restricts this by making women extremely vulnerable and dependent on their husbands. As there are no 24 hour child care centres they are tied by young children. Being unable to work outside the home they are financially dependent. Even if they find a suitable job they are likely to be paid less than men. In most cases they have had less education than their brothers. Society encourages women to put marriage first. It makes it so easy to become a housewife. Compare the time and ease with which it takes to get married with the expense, trouble and time it takes to obtain a divorce.

Children are fed fairy tales like Cinderella which always end in happiness and marriage. The school books show pictures of girls helping mother in supporting roles while little boys take the leading role. Schools teach homecraft and typing to girls, discouraging them from taking science (other than home science) and subjects reserved for males. These being the subject which are later commercially valuable in obtaining better paid and more varied jobs. All along girls are told the main thing in their lives will be marriage and children. Their comparative lack of schooling leads to the position where they will have to take lower paid, more boring jobs which make marriage seem even more attractive. No account is taken of their future working life when their children have grown up.

Yet why must marriage be thought of as their one aim? If men don't think solely in terms of marriage why should women? Marriage for both men and women should be a part of life not life itself.

To increase the oppression there is the fact that if a woman is going to work she is at a further disadvantage. How many women have a husband to do their washing, cooking and child minding for them so as to relieve them of these menial tasks and allow them more time to concentrate on their jobs. Working married men have a wife to take care of such unimportant irrelevancies. Working married women not only have their jobs and themselves to look after but also their husband and any children they may have.

The preceding polemic has looked more at what woman's liberation is not than what it is. It does not examine the areas of blatant discrimination against women in unequal pay and opportunity and in unequal representation in administrative positions, or why women do not take full advantage of the education which is available. Nor does it provide any answers to the problems.

page break

Page of Salient convered in drawings

page break

Page of Salient convered in drawings