Tag Archives: Women’s studies

Tired of Being LadyLike: Occupy More Space

26 Sep

ImageI used to be obsessed with being ladylike.

Like many young women, I was classically trained: legs crossed and posed slightly to the side for a girlie touch, posture always upright (stomach in, shoulders back), voice never too loud, and I could curtsey on cue if I needed too (just kidding—but not really). I was careful to ensure that in all that I did, I seemed classy and put together as I believed a lady should.

Yet, these ladylike rules display a power structure that favors men and expects women to step aside…and I mean literally step aside.

Taking up Space: Women vs. Men

Women give up space very easily.  A few years ago my friend Jeremy and I were walking down a narrow walkway. There was a guy coming toward us. He was a few yards away, but I stepped aside to let him pass, Jeremy did not. So I told Jeremy to move over so the guy could walk by, he responded, “No, I’m walking.”

I thought to myself, “Damn, Jeremy is so rude.” Yet, the guy coming toward us didn’t move either. Neither was willing to step aside, so they kept walking toward one another until they were so close, they almost kissed. Then finally, they moved out of one another’s way. Neither of the guys felt the need to give up space as quickly as I did.

Were they both rude? Or were they not trained to step aside as quickly as I was? My Women’s Studies professor discussed this in class, explaining that usually when walking, women are more likely than men to yield to people passing by. We are more likely than men to step aside, surrender shared armrests, or move over to make space for others. This shows a physical display of power whenever we readily give up space.

You may think: Well, moving out of the way is being polite. I think so too. I think it’s nice to move out of the way or at least share the sidewalk, armrest, or park bench. However, why is it that women learn to be polite in a way where we to give up space while men are not expected to be polite in the same way?

Also, compare how women sit versus how men sit: legs crossed vs. legs wide apart. In addition to give up space, women usually take up less space, as it is the ladylike thing to do. Our mothers always tell us to cross our legs when we sit (even when wearing pants). I always sat as I was taught, while my father sat right beside me—with his ankle on his knee or sometimes with his legs wide open, taking up all that space he pleased.

Finally, think about the posture of women vs. men when standing. I’m reminded of a day in Modern Dance class two years ago. After telling the class to line up for our across-the-floor moves, she gives us all disappointing look.  She walks over and pushes the girl in the front of the line, saying, “Don’t stand like that!”

The girl was standing how many women stand: one knee slightly bent, with most of the weight on the straight leg. Like this:

how women stand

“Why do women stand like that?” She asked us. “Stand firm on two feet!” she demanded.

She went on to explain that women often stand in this position, while men usually stand firmly on two feet. Then she asked us: Who do you think it’s easier to knock over?

Just something to consider.

A person’s physical presence is sometimes crucial to their success. Your presence impacts your experience in the workplace, in personal interactions, when giving a speech, and when teaching a class (and I’m sure in other ways I cannot think of right now). My advice: like my dance professor said—stand tall, take up as much space as you want, and observe the ways in which the women and men around you occupy space.

3 Things My Boyfriend Taught Me About Feminism

9 Jul

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My boyfriend is not a feminist. He will probably never claim feminism, he hated his Women’s Studies course in college, and no matter how much I point it out he cannot recognize his male privilege. Yet, some of my most crucial lessons on feminism are from him. Since the day I came out to him as a feminist, he has taught me these three things:

1. The Matter of Paying the Check

One day my boyfriend, Ryan,  had the nerve (the nerve!) to ask me, “How can you be a feminist and always expect me to pay the check?” At first I was quick to dismiss the subject with a quick “that’s the way it is,” but I thought about it and realized that he had raised an interesting point. Men are expected to pay the check partially because they are expected to handle the finances. Some women argue that in a push for gender equality, women must demand to be treated equal financially, and paying the check is included in that equality. They suggest going Dutch or taking turns paying. Others suggest that the one who makes the most money should pay (and since my bf and I are both drowning in student loans, we should probably stay our butts at home).

Honestly, I get that whole gender equality argument for women paying. Power to the women who pay! But I won’t be reaching for the check. I won’t even pretend to. Being wined and dined makes me feel appreciated. I’m happy as long as the guy isn’t expecting anything physical in return (I know some guys do—but those are the guys you let pay and then toss to the reject pile).

2. The Importance of Car Maintenance.

Car maintenance is a feminist issue! My bf didn’t say those exact words of course, but he showed me that women need to put more effort on learning about their cars.

When my car got a flat, the first thing I did was call AAA. Ryan got irritated, saying that I need to learn to change a tire on my own.

I wasn’t convinced.  “Well then what the heck do I have AAA for?” I said.

Then he presented me with a scenario: what if you get a flat and your phone is dead?

He then explained that I also need to learn the basics about my car so I don’t get ripped off by mechanics. According to Ryan and the Better Business Bureau (I looked it up), a mechanic is more likely to pad a bill when the customer is a woman.

Often times, young girls are not taught about cars like young guys are because our society doesn’t expect or demand girls to know about anything that involves getting our hands a little dirty.  As a result, we run the risk of getting ripped off by mechanics and auto repair shops.

I know this isn’t the biggest issue facing women, but if you want to save money on costly repairs and feel empowered, here are my suggestions:

~Call up a friend who knows something about cars and have them give you a lesson on the basics. You should at least know how to:

  • Check the oil and add more when needed
  • Check the water (also called coolant)
  • Change a tire
  • Change the windshield wipers
  • Learn the basic terminology so you can understand what a mechanic is saying

~Google and Youtube whatever you don’t know

~Read the manual (I know it’s boring but it has some information about the car that can save you a bit of money)

3. The REAL definition of feminism

When I told Ryan I was a feminist, he then asked, “Okay, so what’s feminism.” Having already taken a class, he knew the definition—but he likes challenging people’s ideas. I fell right into his trap.

“Feminism,” I told him, feeling all proud that I was going to instruct him on something (I didn’t know he had taken the class), “is believing in and fighting for equal rights for women.”

“No it’s not,” he told me. “It’s not just about women.” He explained that a lot of people get that definition wrong and don’t understand that the real definition of feminism is believing in equality for all people.

Now, I don’t like being wrong, and I certainly don’t like being corrected. So I fought him on  it, explaining that women are the ones who are not treated equally in society. I went on about sexism and double-standards and all that—but in the end, he was right (well, we were both right—he was just more right).

Feminism does focus on women’s issues, but it is about equality for all, social justice, and human rights. It touches on issues of class, race, gender, sexuality, and political influence.

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