Monday, October 1, 2012

Hey professor, that skirt is too short for me to take you seriously

     *This post is a work in progress because my understanding of gender equality evolves and grows everyday. I would love for you to contact me with questions and comments. 

       Gender inequality in our society is something that I have paid a lot of attention to in the last couple years. This  semester I am taking a Women's Studies/ Sociology course titled "Gender and the Law." I also have a first year seminar about social identity, justice, and community. One of the main social identities we analyze and discuss is sex. 
      There really isn't any disputing the fact that sexism is alive and well. Men are praised or overlooked for their promiscuity while women are disrespected and gossiped about for theirs. What can be done about the double standards that exist for women in American (and many other) societies?
       The other day we studied an employment discrimination case that involved a woman not being promoted because she was not "feminine" enough. She would have been promoted to partner in an accounting firm. My professor said that "One of the criticism's her employer brought up was that she cursed and that 'professional women do not curse.' Fuck that." My professor's language made the whole class crack up but it caught my attention in a different way. I did not like that she cursed. I asked myself why. Cursing is such a double standard when it comes to sex. A man is just a man when he curses but a woman becomes trashy and foul-mouthed. Do I perpetuate this inequality by not swearing? 
    What about the fact that I dress modestly? It is recognized that a girl who covers up her body is usually more respected by men than those who keep their bodies on display. Is this not a double standard? Why can't I walk around in a tank top and short-shorts and be judged for what I say and do? Why do I have to hide my body to gain respect from men and women alike? Why is there a connection with clothing choices and honor only when judging a woman? Shouldn't we be judging women on their character and not what they do or don't wear? The girls that choose to cover up aren't even judged for their words and actions. They are just judged positively based on their choice to dress modestly.
Is gaining gender equality a game that needs to be played by men's standards, i.e. not cursing, covering up, etc. or is it rebelling: dressing how we want, and cursing if we please, until it is the norm? 


  1. I would say it is "unprofessional" to curse in the work place regardless of gender. That she was not promoted because her cursing was deemed, "less than feminine", was, from a legal standpoint, a grave error in judgement by the accounting firm. It does imply cursing is fine, or more acceptable, for a man, but not acceptable for a woman. It does imply a double standard in the firm's workplace, regarding cursing. The lady had grounds for a law suit. No doubt...
    If a man came to work in speedos and a tank top in an office setting, it is highly likely he would not be looked upon with the same respect as a man in a three piece suit. Same thing, if a woman came to work in a bikini and a female coworker was dressed in a suit. These are extreme examples of how "what you wear to work", WILL make an impression about you on your coworkers, both male and female. Right or wrong, that is just the way it is... When the examples of dressing for the work place are less extreme, regarding a sexy look, that is when it gets tricky. A skirt a foot above the knees may be regarded as "too sexy", and therefore unprofessional, by one coworker, while another coworker would regard that length as fine and therefore a professional look. Same thing with a man with his shirt unbuttoned halfway down his chest. Fine for some, and "who does he thing he is?!", for others.
    One cannot stop people from thinking what they will. I would say "dress for success" at your job, and wear whatever you please when you are on your own time.
    Interesting topic, Jessica!

  2. Hi, Jessica.

    PART 1 OF 2
    In the concept of "gender equality," 
      --  "Gender" is not the same as "sex" and "sexuality."
      --  "Equality" is not women and men thinking, feeling, and behaving the same.

    Gender equality is about social opportunities.
      --  Social opportunities are artificial and are created by a society.
      --  Gender equality is about  all people, women and men, being treated with dignity and respect for qualities they are born with and cannot change.
      --  Gender equality is not about sex or sexuality, it's about opportunity.

    Gender equality is both:
      --  Something you have done to you
      --  and something you do.

    A social reality:  If you want to be treated respectfully, treat other people respectfully.

    Adding to Viewpoint

    In your blog entry, you mix inborn human emotion and sex drive with artificial, man-made social structure and ask if those two different things should be treated the same.  Here is a way to look at that.

    You must know by now that women think and behave differently about sex and sexuality than men do:
      --  Men tend to think of women as a way to get sex.
      --  Among other things, women tend to think of men as a way to get attention and to get love. 
    -- Men are disproportionately more vulnerable than women to having thoughts of sex override other thoughts that are more suited to the moment they are in.

    Men in some Western societies are brought up to become sexually aroused when they see, for example, a woman's shapely legs.  These societies have made the display of a woman's attractive legs a sexual signal.
      --  Other sexual signals are uncovered breasts, behinds, and crotches.

    But all societies, not just Western ones, have also set up the more that sexual behavior is appropriate in certain places and not appropriate in other places.
    -- By mores, societies impose on their members responsibility for behaving in a certain way.

    This set-up is to let members of society know when it's okay to be sexual and when it is not.
    -- When a sexual signal is given at a time or place that society has set up as non-sexual, that sexual signal is socially inappropriate.

    Two reasons these society-made boundaries exist are:
    1. To make it safe for all people, women and men, to function in society.
    2. To help people keep on track, doing non-sexual things when it's important to the society that non-sexual things get done.

    In the Western world, this societal arrangement makes it so that women and men can cooperate together in the presence of each other to accomplish various goals without sex or sexuality disrupting accomplishing the goals. Those goals are things such as work; exercise; enjoying movies, art and sports events; worshipping in church; and getting an education.

  3. PART 2 OF 2
    In the Western world, women and men are given mostly-mutual responsibility for controlling sexual expression when they are out in public together. For example, the women agree not to deliberately attempt to induce (or “tempt”) men to think of them sexually when it isn’t the right time, either by the way the women dress or by the way they behave, and the men agree not to behave sexually to the women when it isn’t the right time.

    Note:  There are exceptions, but the exceptions, too, have rules of behavior to promote safety and control for both sexes. For example, an exception is when women such as movie stars display their bodies and emphasize their sexuality in public as part of the fantasy of movies.  Then it is not acceptable for an audience to make undisguised sexual remarks or to touch a movie star who is walking into an Academy Awards ceremony. Equally, it is not acceptable for an audience to speak sexually to or to touch an underwear model while she is working and is undressing, dressing, or on the runway. End note.

    In some societies, in India and the Middle East, for instance, the responsibility of controlling sexual expression falls lopsidedly on women: Women are required to partially or completely de-sexualize themselves when they are out in public and they have to control themselves in the way and to the degree that is required by their societies in order to be allowed to participate in their societies. The men there have responsibility too, of course, but not to the degree that the women have.

    The artificial construct of behavior in public by women and men towards each other (mores), no matter what society they are in, is important and needs to be paid attention to in order for that society to function.  

      --  If women want men to behave respectfully to them,
          one of the things that women need to do
    is to be respectful of the physiological effect they can
          (not necessarily will, but nevertheless can) have on men
          and not stir up those feelings when it's not the right time.

    In short, a woman who goes out in public dressed to show body parts that are considered to have sexual connotations or who behaves in a sexual way when sexuality is not appropriate is being a tease.

    Thank you for letting me chime in on your interesting question.