So to conclude our discussion on women in society, I want to lead off by saying that I don’t believe that the majority of people are cognizant of their mistreatment of women, or even that they actively mistreat women at all. The whole point of writing about this subject is to come to terms with the fact that there are latent aspects to our lives that we often miss. Sure, we don’t really say things like “that woman is my object of pleasure” or “she’s incapable because she is a shy person.” That’s not really how we think. But what we do miss out on are brilliant people who are overlooked because they meet these standards.
“You should be a model” is a phrase I love to comeback to, because it’s a positive idea. It’s saying that a person is attractive enough to be able to go into modeling. Which is quite a compliment. But it also bypasses the idea that a person is capable of other things. Of course, saying something like “you’re attractive” has the same connotations; it implies that the first thing that was noticed about a person, or the only thing worth saying about a person, is how they look. Which is objectifying—both to men and women.
There are several paradoxical aspects to this. Objectification is the most prominent, because society requires that women try hard to look good. Not mentioning a woman’s success at looking good could hurt her self esteem—think of the time you see a girl at a dance with painted nails, hair all done up, and an expensive looking dress with matching shoes. She put effort into that. She deserves recognition, since it’s obvious that she went out of her way to impress someone—even if that someone is herself. If you did something special and it went completely unnoticed by everyone around you, wouldn’t you feel bad?
The phrase I have come up with to be as neutral as possible is “not to relegate you to a life oriented around your appearance, but that [item that has been worn for intentional purpose] looks really good on you.” And even that isn’t fully neutral (plus it is really wordy, which can sound weird). The reality is that it is impossible to be fully neutral. There is no “one true way” to say something that does not risk upsetting someone, whether it is consciously or unconsciously. So just try to be reasonable. Be aware of how something that is said could impact a person. Consider the ideas of others. Put that well-evolved empathy to use and work to treat people more equally—both men and women. Tomorrow, I will probably take a brief hiatus from this gender analysis, and then get into the roles of men in society on Monday. So don’t freak out when I talk about something else! If you have any ideas that I may have glossed over or not extrapolated on, please comment and let me know!