Wednesday, January 14, 2009

This is why I hate reading the news

I know what the reaction will be to this post: I'm hysterical, and humourless, and a feminazi bitch who needs to get a life and focus on what's really important, with the understanding that, of course, what's really important cannot be the niggling sense that the society in which I live is sexist, and wrong, and wants to treat me like a thing.

And I don't give a shit, because I'm angry. Windows Live Today proclaims that Brazilian supermodel Gisele is 'off the market', and in California a man tried to sell his 14 year old daughter for booze, meat and money. If you can't see the link between these things then you aren't paying attention.

Oh, I know, I’m going to get told I’m being ridiculous, that a piece of gossip is nowhere near as bad the horrific fact of child smuggling, and if you’re saying that: shut up, you’re missing the point. These things are different aspects of the same phenomenon, to wit: the way our society treats women as things, as objects, as pieces of meat. Of course a man selling his daughter is worse than the seemingly innocuous phrase of ‘off the market’, but they are linked, the one allows the other.

Why? I mean, I am seeing the inevitable ‘but they’re just words’ response, and think it’s bullshit. It’s never just words. If it was, we wouldn’t get upset when kids swore. If it were just words ‘slut’ wouldn’t be an insult. It’s a cliché. But clichés are sometimes true. Words have power. Words carry connotations, they have weight. And besides, ‘of the market’ is just a horrible phrase.

The dominant narrative today surrounding women is one of availability, specifically sexual availability. I'm sure everyone has come across this idea (if you haven't, what rock have you been hiding under). Sure, some people try to deny it, but really, it's there. It's horrible and it shouldn't be, and it's something that shouldn't be true, but it is. The world screams at us to be thin, to be polite, to 'smile honey', to have a socially acceptable amount of hair, to dress sexily (but not too sexily) and so on and so on and so on...

Being wolf whistled is a compliment. You were just groped? What's the big deal? You're a woman, your body is public property, get with the program already. Unless you're married, in which case your husband can get upset on your behalf. Point being, the insidious, horrible implication: single is 'on the market', available, available as property, as an object, as a thing.

It may start small, but don't kid yourself: this is the thinking that lets a man sell his own daughter.

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