This week, I have been thinking about American culture, and shaking my head in disgust. For example, I noticed that Oscar-winning actress Renee Zellweger is starring in a new movie. When I saw the publicity shots for the film, my jaw dropped, as it was obvious Ms. Zellweger, at the ripe old age of 39, has had a great deal of cosmetic surgery done on her face. As a result, she now bears a startling resemblance to Nicole Kidman and has all the expressiveness of a Madame Tussaud’s mannequin. But darn it, she doesn’t have wrinkles anymore, so I suppose it’s all for the best! And then there’s another Oscar-winning actress, Gabrielle Anwar, who currently stars in USA’s hit television show, “Burn Notice.” She used to look like this, but now looks like this. Ms. Anwar is certainly anorexic, yet is portrayed as a sexy, irresistible bombshell on the show. No normal woman could ever achieve a look like hers without literally starving herself to death.
Why are actresses refusing to age, and to eat, in order to keep their jobs?
A more pointed question is this: In a world where the feminine principle dominates, do we really think that these women would torture themselves in order to morph into some bizarre, impossible ideal of feminine beauty?
The New Agenda editor Dr. Violet Socks has defined the patriarchy as a vast ocean in which we are all fish, and states that every feminist learns to taste the water at a different time in his or her life. I would like to tweak this metaphor a little, and argue that if we are all fish, we rot from the head first.
In other words, the culture that defines women by their perceived sexuality, youth and fertility is an outgrowth of government. If we change the government, we will change the culture.
150 years ago, black slavery used to be perfectly acceptable; in fact, it was an economically necessary institution for an entire region of America. Now, it is socially abhorrent to think that African-Americans are subhuman creatures who should be considered property, and if violence is perpetrated against a man for the color of his skin, it is correctly termed a hate crime. How did this come about? Certainly the abolitionist movement was important, but until Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves through the agency of government, nothing could really change.
By contrast, women are still slaves throughout the world. Women are raped, beaten and killed every day, and far from gender-based violence being called a hate crime, its incredibly high incidence never seems to penetrate our collective consciousness. I believe that these shocking examples of female disempowerment pass under the cultural radar because womens’ equality has still not been recognized directly by our government and is not enshrined in our Constitution. Thus, it is still socially acceptable to think of women as subhuman creatures who can be considered property of males, and to perpetrate violence against them.
As The New Agenda editor Sheryl Robinson noted, this lack of governmental recognition is also leading to a rather disturbing tendency by Barack Obama’s new administration to throw womens’ rights in the trash solely for perceived political gain. Thus, the Lilly Ledbetter Act passes, but the Fair Paycheck Act is jettisoned. Thus funding for birth control is stripped out of the latest stimulus package in order to court the religious right and gain Republican votes (which was a losing strategy in terms of the stimulus package, but probably a winning one in terms of Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign for 2012). All of this is happening as if on an alternate plane of reality, while Ms. Magazine lauds this President as the most feminist-est ever, and the corporate media gushes over how great Mr. Obama looks without a shirt on, and dissects First Lady Michelle Obama’s fashion choices as if the fate of the universe hangs upon them.
If we are ever to change the fact that the most common role models for women are anorexics whose faces look as lifeless as plastic dolls, and that second-class citizenship is the norm, not the rule for a female in America, we must focus our efforts on achieving equal representation in government, and in the ratification of the ERA.
Only then will real cultural change come for America’s women.
Originally posted at The New Agenda