I see feminism as being the natural, inflammatory response of a society that needs to flush out an excess of fashion designers.
Officially, feminism is about wage discrepancies and political power, yet it only seems to arise in places where women are made to feel neurotic about their physical appearance. Eventually, they reach a fork in the road where they either have to become a feminist or have that extra rib removed. By nature, women are designed to be sensitive towards what men think and feel about them. It hurts to feel that you aren’t perfectly beautiful and lovable the way god made you. And- even if you are a celebrated beauty- it hurts to feel beautiful only because you match certain objective standards that could be met by anyone. It makes you interchangeable, a commodity. I think people become feminists from the perception that men are shallow and incapable of true love, therefore it is dangerous to risk being dependent on them.
Here in West Virginia, there is really no feminism to speak of, but no need for it either. Thin or fat, old or young, neatly dressed or wild looking, the women seem unselfconscious about their appearance. They are confident that simply being alive and female will suffice to attract men to them. Judging by the number of children they have, it seems they are right. It is strange, but, while living here I have yet to hear a single man or woman praise or critique anyone’s appearance, including their own.
Of course this may stem from the fact that hillbillies devote less of their brain to imagining how other people see them in general, probably a necessary trait for thriving in secluded areas where admirers and applause are hard to come by. From what I can tell, they derive less pleasure from making a good impression, and less pain from making a bad one. Hence, the classic Appalachian front yard, filled with sofas, rusted pieces of metal, and semi-broken toys. Once I asked a neighbor about her landscaping style. She explained that storing junk in your front yard creates more space inside your house, and keeps the backyard free for games and picnics.
Putting your worst foot forward also creates a sort of protective psychological coating, similar to the No Tresspassing signs that adorn every property. It tells people upfront that you aren’t going to bend yourself out of shape to put on the ritz for them, and if they want a cup of sugar they should go elsewhere. Which is an important vibe to put off. Living in the same mountain crevice can get rather intimate and you really need to have a bit of a barbed wire feeling about you or your neighbors will be cleaning out your fridge before you know it.
But anyway, back to feminism….
The myth of sexism, I think, is that it flourishes among backwoods country people and square religious Midwesterners. My observations, however, have led me to believe the opposite, that sexism- like many contagious diseases- begins in the largest, most cosmopolitan cities who then export it through movies, music, and fashion to the rest of the country.
Of course, this depends on your definition of sexism. To some, sexism is defined by the genders having complementary roles rather than identical ones. To me, it is a mental disease that causes women to have low self-esteem which they then attempt to fortify through male approval. Sometimes they do this through excessive focus on their physical appearance, and sometimes through trying to adopt masculine traits that they don’t actually possess. The classic movie heroine, gunning people down in a leather bikini, would be doing both. In a non-sexist society, females can be pudgy and have no greater ambition in life than to create an “Under the Sea” theme for their child’s birthday party. And their husbands can feel very, very proud of them for doing this.
James is very proud of me for making this picture.
Of course, the urban worldview causes psychological stress to men as well. They may no longer feel that being a good husband and providing for their family is enough, but instead feel pressure to worm their way towards the top of the human pyramid. These pressures may also exist in the country, but they are not as strong. It is much less exhilarating to sit atop a tiny pyramid and much less painful to live at its bottom.
Which is why I don’t see sexism as being a problem, in and of itself, in our society. It is just one of the many inevitable side effects that occur when a whole cluster of people try to source their self-esteem from being better than each other. We could start a social movement to make all sexist sentiments go away, but since they would probably be replaced by ideas just as offensive, why bother?
On the other hand, while I don’t recommend trying to wipe it from the planet altogether, I do think there are two little steps we can take to diminish the power of sexism in our own spheres and thus render feminism unnecessary.
1) I think a number of “mental diseases” could be cured just by people expressing themselves more honestly and more frequently. One thing I have noticed with men especially, is that it tends to be the most obnoxious and also the most sexist of them (Donald Trump) who are always running their mouths, while the “better” men tend to remain quiet. This sometimes gives the impression that Trump’s thoughts are representative of men in general. As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
2) On a personal level, we should relish the poisonous ideas of our group mind to the extent that they spur us on towards greater mental independence. After kicking their babies out of the nest, eagles remove the soft filling to reveal a bed of thorns. When the little birds try to fly back to mommy and daddy, their bodies get cut up and bloodied. Likewise, our group mind is filled with ideas that tend to cut into our self-esteem, and the older you get, the less they seem to flatter you. Perhaps this is by design. These thorns push us, once we are ready, away from the mucoid comfort of conformity, and out into the big blue world to perceive and believe what no one else has before.