Societal Views Of Femininity In America

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Dr. Christina Sisti:

“To live in a culture in which women are routinely naked where men aren’t is to learn inequality in little ways all day long. So even if we agree that sexual imagery is in fact a language, it is clearly one that is already heavily edited to protect men’s sexual–and hence social–confidence while undermining that of women.” Naomi WolfThe Beauty Myth

Perhaps the most telling aspect of a society is how it treats women. American women are valued for their looks. Within this interpretive context, skin color, body type, hair texture, and facial features become important dimensions of femininity.1
The position of women in America is that of Other, the object of desire, never its subject. Women cannot begin to claim, to explore, to develop their own desires and sexual selves because there is no way in language as it is structured and managed to speak about feminine desire.1
An opinion article in the New York Times describes the experiences of Paulina Porizkova, a former supermodel, and feminist.  She writes,

“In America, a woman’s body seemed to belong to everybody but herself. Her sexuality belonged to her husband, her opinion of herself belonged to her social circles, and her uterus belonged to the government. She was supposed to be a mother and a lover and a career woman (at a fraction of the pay) while remaining perpetually youthful and slim. In America, important men were desirable. Important women had to be desirable.” 2

Women are hobbled from birth by societal expectations for their place in the community. We cannot speak our desires regarding sex yet are viewed as sexual creatures to be taken but not to take. Our silence is expected.
To be female and disabled causes further discrimination and oppression. American society idealizes the female body. The idealization of the female body marginalizes those who are physically or intellectually disabled because disabled women do not fit in.
Disabled women suffer more than disabled men from the demand people have “ideal” bodies because in patriarchal culture people judge women more by their bodies than they do men. Disabled women, often do not feel seen (because they are often not seen) by others as whole people, especially not as sexual people.3
Women with disabilities face a double-edged sword. In the article Disabled Women in Relationships states: It would seem that a disabled woman may operate under a double silence, excluded or marginalised from the position women take up as passive and receptive and silenced in regard to their sexual beings, even within the constrained place women are pressed to occupy, how submerged and silenced is their sexuality?4

REFERENCES

1 Collins, Patricia Hill (2004).  Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and The New Racism. (1st ed.) New York, NY: Routledge.

2 Porizkova, Paulina (2017, June 10). America Made Me a Feminist. The New York Times,Sunday Review.

3 Ty, Eleanor Rose (2010). Globality and Asian North American Narratives (1st ed.). Minneapolis, Mn: University of Minnesota Press.

4 Fine, Michelle, Adrienne Asch (Eds). (1998).  Women With Disabilities: Essays in Psychology, Culture, and Politics. Philadelphia, Pa: Temple University Press.

This article is extracted from the Research paper titled ‘America’s Public Policy on Sexuality: The Repression of Girls in Vulnerable Populations’  in Chapter 4 of the Safety Report by SAFIGI Outreach Foundation ‘Safety First for Girls’.

About SAFIGI:

SAFIGI Outreach Foundation Ltd is a not for profit organization based in Zambia with a vision to raise a generation where girls are empowered, equipped and fulfilled in every aspect of their life, for the development of the entire world. To know more about SAFIGI’s goals and activities, visit http://www.safetyfirstforgirls.org

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