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Chapter 11: The Backlash Myth

March 30, 2009 | NeW Staff

Since the end is near for our virtual weekly book club reading of Christina Hoff Sommers’ book Who Stole Feminism?, we will be taking suggestions for the next book. Feel free to post your ideas under the ‘Comments.’

In Chapter 11, I found Sandra Lee Bartky‘s summary of contemporary American women and their lives particularly interesting. According to Bartky, we live in a prison, a sexual prison.

“The woman who checks her make-up half a dozen times a day to see if her foundation has caked or her mascara run, who worries that the wind or rain may spoil her hairdo, who looks frequently to see if her stockings have bagged at the ankle, or who, feeling fat, monitors everything she eats, has become, just as surely as the inmate [under constant surveillance], a self-policing subject, a self committed to a relentless self-surveillance. This is a form of obedience to patriarchy (Dr. Sommer’s emphasis).”

What do you think? Although, Bartky’s commentary may be off base in summarizing that all these concerns illustrate an obedience to patriarchy. I do think her point brushes the truth, i.e. that our culture is over sexualized. It seems to me, though, that the symptoms of this diagnosis are found in instances such as the tragic suicide of a teen girl because of “sexting,” not the day to day up keep for a healthy body and professional appearance. Perhaps Bartky would be okay if  women ate junk food all day and walked around with caked foundation, mascara dribbling down their faces, hair tangled and unkempt, with stockings bagging at the ankles. I think they would be laughed out of any professional atmosphere. That women are concerned about their appearance is NOT the problem. The problem is that women think they are only worth their “appearance.” This is what needs to change. Would you agree or disagree?

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