Performing femininity and confronting sexism(3 Posts)
I think that it goes as follows:
If you are not conventionally attractive and/or don't perform femininity, then your views are not terribly interesting to a sexist man. Anything you say that he doesn't like will be dismissed on the basis that you are a lesbian / prude / jealous of more attractive women / bitter etc. He may not say that, but he will be thinking it, and it will mean he dismisses anything the woman says.
If you are conventionally attractive, and / or perform femininity, then your views are not terribly interesting to a sexist man. He will be too busy thinking about the fact that you are attractive, and if he takes in any of what you are saying he will dismiss it on the basis you are either misguided or thick. He probably won't say that, but will still dismiss what is being said.
Some men will become aggressive to women who say things they don't like. I don't think that looks / attractiveness come into it. Sometimes men can react in a worse way to women are are attractive / feminine saying things they don't like as it challenges their preconceptions and world view.
That's why feminists are incessantly presented as ugly / unfeminine etc. To accept that actually feminists are just like other women and plenty are good looking and in relationships with men etc is just too confusing and worrying for seemingly an awful lot of people.
I have just spent half an hour discussing this as a consequence of reading your post!
I think that there are a variety of different ways of performing femininity , that overlap with issues of class, social backgrounds, interests, various prejudices that people hold etc.
I would make a set of assumptions about somebody in one style of feminine clothing that would be different to those I made about another style of feminine clothing. I would do the same for men about how they present themselves. Unless we had the time to really explore something in depth, I might rely on some of those assumptions when considering what the person was saying and why they were saying it.
So more an issue of the type of femininity than the level of femininity.
Wanted to get your thoughts on this: Are women more likely to get away with confronting sexist behaviour without facing a huge backlash if their outward appearance is traditionally feminine? And is it a problem if outspoken women are feminine? Does this undermine the message we are trying to get accross?
Some background: I work in a very male dominated field where hair-raising sexism is unfortunately the norm. I'm also known for not taking any BS when it comes to sexist and misogynistic comments. The worst reaction I've ever had to speaking up has been some manager doubting my sense of humour - usually it's an admission of guilt and an apology. A female colleague I recently discussed this with has had very different experiences. She has been confronted with incredibly aggressive behaviour as a result of complaining and has since decided to simply shut up.
When I said that this had never happened to me, she said that this was because I was 'Genius Barbie'. What she meant was that I a) have a reputation for technical brilliance and b) am considered conventionally attractive with a penchant for dresses, makeup and shoes. My colleague, on the other hand, is equally great at what she does (but less successful at selling herself) and is a physically plain, very jeans and t-shirt only kind of person.
I don't have a problem getting taken seriously in my profesional capacity. The people I work with consider me an expert in my field. I also like the way I dress - which BTW is more 50s inspired than microminis and necklines at hip level. That having been said: since this conversation I have been wondering whether the way I present myself serves to somehow undermine what I actually have to say about the pandemic of sexist behaviour in my organisation.
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