Whilst reading an article about exercise in Vogue on a five hour car trip this weekend, the second sentence caught my attention:
"Here we all are, trying to shape a body worthy of this season's long and lean dresses, maybe even a midsection viable in knit, while not letting vanity interfere too egregiously with our regularly scheduled responsibilities as lovers, mothers, workers, and friends."
There's a reason I don't typically read fashion magazines anymore: while Vogue portrays powerful, successful women in the fashion industry and elsewhere, its articles only give importance to the average woman in terms of her relationships with other people. We are lovers, mothers, workers, and friends, but never autonomous human beings with unique desires, individuals who love themselves for the way they are regardless of other people, or agents who accomplish things independently. Apparently, our biggest goals and joys in life are to serve the men, children, and friends in our lives. I'm not arguing purely against relationships here (I believe that relationships give life meaning and importance), but would you ever find this statement in a magazine for men? I think not. Why is women's value constantly depicted solely in terms of other people? Can't we ever be good enough on our own?
At the Steele family Thanksgiving this weekend, I encountered more of this offensive attitude towards women. I was having a conversation with a friend who came over for pumpkin pie and we were talking about school. Good ol' Grandpa Steele comes over and says, "Oh, probably talking about boys, are we?" And I responded, "No, neither of us need a man to complete us. We're perfectly fine without them and they are not the only subject of our conversations." So Grandpa Steele responded, "That sounds like a women's liberation movement kind of statement," with that sarcastic and judgmental tone typical of many men from his generation when discussing those dirty words, "feminism" and "women's liberation."
First of all, what the hell did his statement even mean? Seemingly sexist as he is, my grandfather has always told me that I can achieve anything I put my mind to, that I will go far in life because of my hard work, and that I can have any job I want if I try hard enough, regardless of my gender. So why is the idea of my being an autonomous, independent woman who is not dependent on men so revolutionary to him? Isn't my statement representative of essentially the same things he's been telling me my entire life? I guess it's okay to be successful as long as you still acknowledge men's prominent role in determining your happiness and recognizing that, contrary to what you may believe, you're still dependent on them underneath it all.