The Problem of Being Female

I have always felt a little strange with the whole idea of placing women upon a pedestal. And yet with all its glory and idolatry, women continue to have diminished roles within society due to lasting traditional views and criticisms.  Really more than anything though, there continues to be a struggle in the minds of men and society as to the image of women.  It’s as if they don’t really know how to define them, as if they are an enigma.

Women are typically put into archetypical roles such as the “pure”, “saintly”, “virginial” maiden (who is most commonly put upon a pedestal), the nurturing mother figure, the spinster, the temptress, the witch, etc.  The list goes on!  Women are idolized yet hated at the same time.  How can this be logical?  For so long in the Church, women were the instigators of evil thanks to Eve, yet in the middle ages and the times of courtly love, women could be idealized as the personifications of the soul; they were the gateways to salvation and the ultimate Truth.  The best example of this is Dante’s adolation of Beatrice and his entire journey to seek the redemption of his life in the Divine Comedy.  Yet at the same time, women are the “embodiment of evil” in so many other cultures and religions that they are forced to be in minimal, perhaps miniscule roles within their society.  In India and other countries, female infanticide are still prevalent because girls are considered less than people, but the authorities don’t do anything.

Being regarded as a demi-god is no better though.  In the Middle East, women are “sacred” and therefore strongly discouraged and sometimes barred from going to school and getting an education because they will lose their holy natures.  So in the midst of being “sacred”, they have to submit and obey the strict rules of a male society while not knowing any better.  Even if you entertain the idea of woman being “sacred” in such a way, it still comes across as ridiculous.  If something is sacred then how can it be justified that men (who are not divine by nature) have rational grounds to be in control of a concious sacred thing?  Apparently there’s nothing more sexy than a goddess in servitude…

Women are perceived as symbols for their actions, or rather the projected virtues of another person upon them.  Carl Jung said that,

“[…] a symbol loses its magical or, if you prefer, its redeeming power as soon as its liability to dissolve is recognized.  To be effective, a symbol must be by its very nature, unassailable.  […] it must also be sufficiently remote from comprehension  to resist all attempts of the critical intellect to break it down; and finally, its aesthetic form must appeal so convincingly to our feelings that no argument can be raised against it on that score.”

So then, if we apply the idea of women as symbols to Jung’s description it can be shown that women cannot possibly remain as such.  Not only can women possess flaws (or losing their “redeeming power”), but the degree of their beauty (physical or inner beauty) varies from each person that meets them.

Essentially what I’m trying to say is this: women as a whole are not perfect, neither are they evil.  I guess it just bothers me  that there is so much inconstancy in the view of women to distinguish them as things rather than people.  History has shown the mindset that being female is synonymous to being property, sexual objects, and whatnot.  It’s only been recently in the 20th century that women have been given a voice to vote and even then that’s okay in a few democratic countries.  There continues to be issues regarding women’s rights.  I really hate that title.  I understand the concept that’s being expressed, but the fact of the matter is that the term “women’s rights” serves as yet another way to seperate women from being considered human and a part of society.  You never hear about Hispanic rights, Native American rights, or African American rights, or anything like that.  They are all unified under “civil HUMAN rights”.  To exclude a group of people from this term alienates them so that they feel at odds against society.  Gloria Steinem illustrates this point so perfectly in her satire piece “Womb Envy, Testyria, and Breast Castration Anxiety: What if Freud were female?” with the gender roles in society being flipped so that it is a matriarchal society where men are seen as the inferior and weaker sex.  By this reversal of gender roles does Steinem show the level of injustice towards people being treated in this way.

So I say this as a woman: yes, we are biologically different than men, but that doesn’t make us evil or divine, or more susceptible to either of those two respectively.  We are neither goddesses nor demons to be abhorred and suppressed.  We are human.  Yes, we have implications, just like everyone else, but it should not be brushed aside or heavily emphasized to make us feel like a separate entity of the world.

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