You feminists just want to tell women to do what you want, instead of letting them CHOOSE (and we all know girls *choose* the girly stuff)

Bumped from the Open Suggestion thread, so that we can have a general discussion about the various issues surrounding how choices can be constrained by socialised expectations:

lala, on June 15th, 2008 at 1:53 am Said

I’m an engineer and pretty much always the only woman (or occasionally, one of two women) in any workplace setting. I also frequent communities that revolve around technical subjects both online and off.

Now whenever I, or another woman, or even another man starts talking about encouraging other women to join in technical subjects, people seem to get very hostile.

Some of them will say that women don’t have the brains for it, but then claim that they aren’t being sexist because they love admire women’s natural abilities to nurture and manage social settings so that everyone is happy. I have science to throw at those people, so I can deal with them.

However, many will take the attitude that women aren’t /choosing/ to participate in technical subjects and therefore we should leave that alone. Women don’t want it, so why don’t we leave that alone? What’s the problem?

I myself used to be a woman who identified myself as “feminine” and things like computers were simply incompatible with my identity. I was damn miserable then, even suicidal, and I can’t express how amazing it was when I discovered I could throw off that restriction and actually live a life for myself.

It’s also really annoying that they are creating a hostile environment for women, but at the very same time as arguing that there is nothing but a lack of personal interest that is keeping women from entering the environment.

lala, on June 15th, 2008 at 2:04 am Said:

Actually, I just thought about this for a minute more and realized something (sorry for the double post). The attitude that I just complained about above seems to be one of the biggest reasons for the rejection of feminism. I think it’s one of the main reasons that the mainstream belief is that feminism is obsolete. Women are now /legally/ allowed to do everything men are, and therefore any difference between men’s positions in life and women’s positions in life must be because women chose for it to be that way. And feminists are just trying to control women and tell them what to do against their will.

Now I really, really would like you to address it.

P.S. I just saw a similar display of this problem on a forum. A woman said that she had asked the manager of a store to change a sign that said “Boy’s toys” to just “Toys.” The forum filled up full of abuse that she was being a “politically correct dictator” and insistence that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that sign because little girls themselves are the ones who choose not to play with trucks and action figures.

People seem to think that when a feminist objects to things like this it is solely because they are personally offended. The social conditioning that feminists wish to remove is not taken into consideration.

As a couple of people have already noted in comments, this is a great topic suggestion. This is huge. So please share your thoughts and any great links you have bookmarked addressing the thorny issue of choices and how they are constrained and how they may be criticised.

About tigtog

writer, singer, webwrangler, blogger, comedy tragic | about.me/vivsmythe

51 comments on “You feminists just want to tell women to do what you want, instead of letting them CHOOSE (and we all know girls *choose* the girly stuff)

  1. I find that this is something that comes up a lot when we’re talking about beauty standards for women, particualrly with things like body hair– it’s my “choice” to shave/wax, etc, therefore it’s not a valid topic for feminist discussion.

    I think the important thing is to stress that NONE of our choices are made in a bubble– they are always influenced by the way we’re brought up, and by the normative standards for whichever cultural group we inhabit. Even if we try to work against those normative standards, our choices are still made in relation to them. None of us are free, in that sense.

    I think it’s pretty clear that most people– including strong, intelligent people– tend to prefer certain choices if they are positively reinforced by society. It’s not just a choice between being an engineer and being a childcare worker, or between shaving your legs or not, it’s a choice between “Do I want people to treat me positively or negatively?” knowing that working in a male dominated environment, or adhering to non-normative beauty standards will reveal many layers of misogyny that are normally kept hidden (note: I’m not saying that misogyny is any less prevalent in any of these environments, just that it often comes into sharper focus when you go against the grain, and that is difficult to deal with).

  2. Oh man, I was drafting a blog post on this last week. This is one of my feminist pet peeves. Sure, you can choose to get married, choose to have five dogs, choose to go to uni and study arts, choose to go to uni and study engineering. Just because we ‘choose’ to do those things does not mean we shouldn’t examine those choices and what might have influenced them. Example: I happily chose to study languages and arts, because my parents encouraged me to study what I wanted to. But even though I am happy doing what I do now, because of that degree, and I freely chose it, I sometimes really wish somebody had pointed out to me the benefits of doing a degree that led to an actual profession, where I could still indulge my love of languages, writing and analysis I got from my Arts degree. Not only is it more highly paid, but you have specific skills to market yourself with. I firmly believe that people are not encouraging girls to really examine all their options, and they are not making the traditionally male options truly available to women.

    Even if women are more ‘fitted’ for caring jobs – it stares ME in the face that we ENCOURAGE women to be caring little souls all the time. My mother never said to me ‘You should look after other people, put them first, and not ask for what you want.’ Never. But she has exemplified it for me and I have picked it up – and I have only realised as an adult, when my habits are formed.

  3. […] from Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog – please comment there * * * Bumped from the Open Suggestion thread: the various issues surrounding […]

  4. Thank you, tigtog!

  5. Tobes has a post up about this right now where I’m arguing with Anonymous in comments about biological determinsm and technology. He thinks girls don’t like techy stuff because our wee little lady brains don’t like complicated stuff.

  6. Thank you for the link, Red Queen. That blog post mentioned another thing I hear a lot which seems to be tied to the main issue:

    If we do something to help women stop being marginalized, then women are getting “special rights” and men are being oppressed.

    That line “I hope they have a similar program for males! That’s true equality,” is like sandpaper on a wound. I hear that stuff all the time and I don’t even know how to deal with it.

  7. That line “I hope they have a similar program for males! That’s true equality,” is like sandpaper on a wound. I hear that stuff all the time and I don’t even know how to deal with it.

    I have a friend who has a great response to this: if you have a cold bath, and you want to make it warm, you don’t add more cold water. You only add hot water.

  8. Beppie- that is an awesome line. I may have to steal it.

  9. Man, oh MAN am I tired of dealing with this particular issue!

    The attitude that I just complained about above seems to be one of the biggest reasons for the rejection of feminism.

    Men claim that certain things are “tradition”, but then demonstrate WHY they are a tradition by saying that things have to be done according to the tradition or they aren’t playing. They create the environment that BREEDS traditionally-minded women through their hostility and rejection of women who AREN’T traditionally minded. Its like a kid who has the only basketball goal AND ball on the block, so all the neighborhood kids play by HIS rules or else he won’t play…but if anyone tries to change the rules, his counter is always “That’s the way we always play”.

  10. In addition to the bathwater illustration, you could say if your right arm gets injured and requires surgery, you’re actually doing your left arm (not previously injured) a disservice by giving it surgery also for “equality.”

  11. ubntucat, I like that one. Not only is it foolish to do surgery on the left arm, it’s also foolish to say that you shouldn’t do surgery on the right, becuase, while the right has been injured, you’ve favoured the left arm anyway.

  12. Just want to throw in a quick word about the double standard regarding other choices that women make:

    * the choice to have an abortion is certainly not regarded as beyond criticism
    * the choice to be a working mum is certainly not regarded as beyond criticism

    And my favourite switcheroo in the last decade: in the 70s, 80s and 90s only feminists were discussing Female Genital Cutting as an issue of the oppression of women. Traditionalists in the West tended to downplay it as a combination of “their cultural tradition” and “the women choose to do it to themselves”. All of a sudden we have a swing to where Islam is demonised, and simultaneously the “choice” of women in North African culture to undergo genital cutting for themselves or their daughters is being criticised up the wazoo and assumptions are made that it must be the men forcing them to do it, even though men in that culture are nowhere near the procedure (of course the tradition is tied up in patriarchal modes of female submission, but the women in the culture are the major enforcers, just like in other hierarchies of female submission – better a little power than none).

    Not only do the traditionalists not see the double standard, but they outright deny that men in the West pressure women to do anything through the remote bestowal or withholding of hierarchical approval. Only Other Cultures Do That.

  13. Re: “Well, there should be the same thing for men, too!”

    My argument against that goes a bit like this:

    Me: Well, you’re more than welcome to advocate for that, if you’d like. Would you like me to put you in touch with the resources the women used to advocate for more of X?

    Person: Oh please! If we did that, people would be screaming about sexism!

    Me: … kinda like you’re doing right now? Things like breast cancer advocacy and The Orange Prize and Women’s Shelters and Women in the Legislature Funds did not arise without controversy or complaints of sexism. There is more press about the evils of the Orange Prize and its sexism than there is support of the Orange Prize. Either advocate for what you want, or stop saying “Omg, someone will protest”. Someone *always* protests.

    Person: blah blah blah, you’re wrong

    Me: Obviously you don’t really want to work for this, you just want it handed to you.

    Person: RAWR.


  14. I get this all the time.

    I wish I could avoid repeating “no, no, feminism is not like that all, it’s..” and just pass the bloke a handy pamphlet with the answer printed out. It’s horrible that the SAME OLD misunderstandings plague feminism still today.

  15. ‘… if you have a cold bath, and you want to make it warm, you don’t add more cold water. You only add hot water.’

    Good response. But methinks the seasoned anti-feminism campaigners I deal with would only come back with something like:

    ‘First, you feminists complained that the bath was too cold. And now you want to complain it’s too hot!’

    Or … ‘But what we’ve all ended up with is an empty bathtub.’

    Or … ‘What happened to real men? They used to take showers.’

    Or … ‘Be careful! I saw Psycho, too.’

    Or … ‘And when the taps don’t work, who do you call?’

  16. I have come across this issue a lot especially as someone who grew up as a “tomboy” and who often gets comments like “you are so different from other girls”. This comes after hearing my interest in science, technology and professional sports.

    What frustrated me was a conversation with my 3 roommates, all women. They were discussing how wonderful it would be to live in the 1950s. I had to mention the position of women at that time and also the deplorable state of race relations. So my roommate decided to give me an example from the movie “Mona Lisa Smile” saying that a character in the movie chose to be a housewife. I tried to explain that although it was a choice, for many women they had no choice because society expected women to behave a certain way and if they chose differently they would be met with much disapproval.

    Obviously a lot has changed since then but what worries me is that someone who fails to see how society in the 50s constrained a woman’s choice would never see it today. Growing up I always got the typical “female” gifts even though nobody asked what I really wanted. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles gave my brother toys or baseball cards and me dolls and makeup. I hated dolls and makeup growing up. These things happen but we don’t realize it because it’s so commonplace. But I’ve often been told, “Well, you’re just different.” Maybe I am, I don’t know.

    I wish we encouraged a love of science in girls, because growing up chemistry sets, science books and tools were gifts for my brother. I love science but I always thought they were “boy things”.

  17. The 50s might have been a great time if you were a heterosexual white male… or a traditional white female.

    Being a non-traditional male, and an Asian-American at that, I don’t think I would have dug the 50s.

  18. Josha, I completely understand. Along those lines, I get an awful lot of people on the internet expressing surprise when they find out I’m a woman. Why? Because…”You’re so logical and scientific.” Sigh.

    I even witnessed someone expressing surprise that another person was a woman because…”She is such an intellectual.” Double sigh.

  19. I was always a tomboy. Today I am a scientist. I have a Ph.D. in physics. I work as a research scientist in the aviation industry.

    When I was a little girl, I remember feeling very guilty for wanting the things that boys wanted – erector sets, modeling sets, mechanical sets etc. I felt guilty and shameful for wanting those things instead of being happy with the dolls and more “feminine” toys that I was given. I was so terribly unhappy though, even angry to see my male peers treated so differently.

    I begged and begged for months for a radio set. I thought there would be no greater fun than to arrange all of the tubes and the complicated little switches and wires in the housing; to harness the energy of radio and finally to listen to my very own radio that I made with my own hands!

    At christmas, I got the radio. But it had already been put together for me. My father had done it for me. He didn’t understand that for me, it was the kit that was exciting – not so much the part about having a radio.

    The same thing happened when I finally got the model airplane i wanted one year for my b-day. My dad let me work on the airplane for about an hour before I had to go to bed. After that, I wasn’t allowed to touch it. A week later my dad “surpised” me with the model airplane that had been completely assembled and painted. I was crushed. I felt like crying but how could I when my father had been so nice to me and had built this nice model airplane for me?

    Fuck ’em. By the time I went to college, “women’s lib” had finally changed some things. I majored in physics and math, despite the ridicule I put up with from classmates and even university proffs.

    Anyway, fast forward and here I am with my own great big toys to play with. These are toys like superconducting magnets; infrared cameras, superduper calculators, model hydraulic systems. I buy kayaks and go-carts and I’m building my own model airplane in my garage right now. And when I’m finished, I will be able to fly in it 🙂

  20. Beppie, on June 16th, 2008 at 2:32 pm Said:
    That line “I hope they have a similar program for males! That’s true equality,” is like sandpaper on a wound. I hear that stuff all the time and I don’t even know how to deal with it.

    My response to such tone-deafness is as follows:

    “I think you should have a similar program too – just as soon as men earn only 71 cents of every dollar that a female earns….”


    “…. all you have to do is give up your tenured faculty position, the way most women have to do and I’m sure there would be interest in starting such a program….”


    “I think there is definitely room for a men’s affirmative action here – just as soon as you show that men are 50% less likely than females to be published in peer-reviewed journals…”

    Hit them with facts. It hits them where it hurts. One of my most favorite whine is when they say that they are being discriminated against. I tell them that I could only wish to be so discriminated against. I’d automatically receive an increase in my standard of living. I’d also greatly increase my chances of winning any elected or appointed office in the land and I’d never have to stand in line to pee.

  21. The boys toys/girls toys is one that really burns me, because it creates a no-win situation for every single little kid. ALL kids like toy cars, toy critters, toy people, and toy houses. And if they weren’t constantly told which ones of those toy things they were ALLOWED to play with, everyone would have more fun.

    HypeJersey – I really feel for you. I feel like men “help” me in the same ways your father “helped” you ALL the time. Because of course, what I secretly want, unbeknownst to me, is to have everything done for me, learn nothing in the process, and not be able to find all the pieces later when suddenly I have to take care of everything and they’re not around….


    The last part was a rant. But hey.

  22. Hype, the trouble is that they come back to this statement that this post is about. Women make less money because they “choose” to leave their careers, and because they “choose” to pursue careers that don’t pay as much.

  23. Oh! This is something I have trouble with – hope you folks will be able to help explain it to me.
    I tend to think we all have our own values and priorities, and we need to understand that other people’s values will be different.
    But then, how do you go about arguing against patriarchal values? I might(*) think women should be the equal of men and not subservient or marginalized, but I don’t think I have any right to try and push that view onto others? Particularly, to the extent that sexist attitudes are internalised by women I’m not sure what you can say except “that’s not how I choose to live”?
    I guess telling people that they have a choice in the first place is important, that there is an alternative, and as I think a couple of you have said, not stigmatizing and pressurizing people(particularly children) into accepting sexist attitudes themselves? Is that all you can do?

    Thanks for your help,

    (* – and I do.)

  24. @ Hugh

    but I don’t think I have any right to try and push that view onto others?

    Telling people that they are being sexist is not pushing your point of view. It cannot be left to something like that because sexism is wrong. Would you stand quietly while someone used a racial slur, or told a black joke in your presence? If you have the courage to speak out about that, then you should have the courage to counter sexism with the same kind of vigor.
    Of course no matter what you say, if the person is not ready to own their privilege you will get a hostile response but it may maker her/him think twice before they say something sexist again.

    I have been dealing with a troll infestation on my blog ever since I started speaking out about colluders. For me women who actively work to support the mens rights movement push me right around the bend. I see them as internalizing patriarchal values to point of exhibiting signs of self hate. I am wondering now to what degree their upbringing played a role in deciding to become political active in this cause. Clearly they were taught not to respect themselves or anything female for that matter but the fact that they cannot realize that this is counter to their needs is absolutely astounding to me. They cannot even acknowledge that they would not even have the ability to be politicized women were it not for feminism.

  25. I don’t think it is a misunderstanding at all.
    It is stubbornly clinging to the myth of white male superiority, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.
    It is the active persuit of myth over reality.

    Every civilization rises toward understanding reality, and falls when it clings to myth.
    History keeps on echoing and we keep on not learning.

  26. @ Renee

    Hi, and thanks!
    I see what you mean, but does the same apply if the sexism isn’t being directed at other people?
    Umm, your ‘colluders’ sound like a good example – if they are inflicting their sexist values on other people then absolutely it would be right to stand up against this, and I would hope I would do what I can about it. But if they’re just choosing to live their life according to these values I’m not sure I have any right to say anything? I think this might be particularly sensitive because being of the male persuasion, I really wouldn’t want to go around telling women how women should behave, especially in the name of feminism.
    Equally with male friends, although I’m having a harder time putting that into words, so I’ll leave that out for now.


  27. Well, Hugh, sexism and any other form of discrimination hurts actual people, you have to decide what you consider more important, ‘not inflicting’ your opinion on other people, or letting people being hurt (keep in mind you are in a position of power regarding the discriminated people).

    But you are right, the situation with women is more complicated since you are in a more privileged position than then. Since they are the ones suffering the sexism, and not you, maybe it would be better if you listen to them and their objections. But that isn’t the case with your male friends.

  28. “So my roommate decided to give me an example from the movie “Mona Lisa Smile” saying that a character in the movie chose to be a housewife. ”

    Oh, god, that’s just….

    Crap arguments that rely on anecdotes as “proof” are annoying enough. Crap arguments that rely on censored or fictionalized anecdotes as “proof” are, like, a thousand times even more annoying.

    But what’s even more annoying than that? Bad interpretations of fictionalized anecdotes.

    (For those of you that haven’t seen the movie or missed this…) There was obviously a huge chunk cut from the movie, and I’m suspecting it was where Julia Stiles’ character agonized over whether or not to have an abortion. What with it being 1950 and abortion being both illegal and dangerous.

    Even without that, it’s still fairly clear that Stiles’ character isn’t saying that she doesn’t want a life outside her husband’s, but that, given the choice between being his wife and having a career, she chooses him. Which is so very not the same thing as “choosing to be a housewife.” That’s what her friend (Kirsten Dunst) choose, and that did not work out well.

  29. Thanks Noir. And ah, I see what you mean. But I’m still struggling to see what you *can* do?
    If someone(I was thinking a woman initially, but I suppost this works equally well with a man) believes that the only proper role for women is to be deferential and housewifely, granted it’s because they’ve been constantly surrounded by patriarchal values all their life, but what is there you can say to that?
    Since it’s a value judgement, you can’t say it’s factually inaccurate, you can’t prove them wrong. You can say it’s harmful to women, but again there’s a value judgement involved – presumably their idea of what constitutes “good” for women is very different from yours.
    Of course if they’re saying women *must* be like this, it’s a different situation, but otherwise I’m having trouble finding anything to say other than “Well, that’s not my opinion”?

    And thanks for your help, folks!

  30. I’m a scientist and have had so much trouble with people from the maintenance department. They are very lax about making sure the ventilation is correct in my lab and keeping the humidity proper for the equipment. Someone heard one of them bragging that he was turing off ventilation to my lab to see if i would notice. If people want to be homemakers or whatever that is fine with me. They should make sure they get a 401K set up though because they might end up like my sister, having their husband tell them that they are no longer attractive so he is leaving her on her 50th birthday. But I can’t do my job when people around me hate me for who I am because I am not a doormat.

  31. Hugh, the problem is that sexism isn’t a matter of values, is a system that oppress women and doesn’t let them be full human beings. And it’s perpetrated and perpetuated by people. Those biases that you call ‘values’ are what constitute our sexist society.

    So when someone says that ‘women are just made to be housewives,’ they will instill that to their children, or anyone who they have influence to. That’s how they will educate their daughters, that’s how they will judge women (they judge the women who work under them, who are their colleagues, or their students). I don’t have to explain how much it hurts women to have their possibilities limited, and to have to adjust to a sexist-society’s standards.

    What we can do to fight this is challenge those biases and promote better options for women. Of course you can’t change someone way of thinking if they aren’t open to hear you, but you can at leas try to to show them how their visions aren’t reasonable, or hurt people.

    And by the way, totally related with this thread, look at this post about ‘the difference in aptitudes between genders’ on the now very-infamous blog (known for its sexism) of Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2008/06/glory-vs-relati.html#comments (Can I link this? Just delete this if it was wrong.)

    And look at the comments:

    There’s good data in professional and graduate programs. Women are at parity with men (or outnumber men) in medical schools, while they are a small minority in science graduate programs. Medicine, at least the academic aspect, is a lot of science, so it’s not that they can’t do the science. So we have to ask what the differences between the fields are. Yes, compensation is different, but medicine is a more people-oriented and empathic field.

    Re: Hopkins and Summers, the differences between men and women go beyond breasts and penises. As a statistical average, there are many physiological differences: in hormone levels and sensitivity to those hormones, in fat distribution and metabolism, and in propensity to acquire certain disease. I think the suggestion that the brain is the only structure immune to selection is the truly radical idea.

    That’s hard science. You know, I’m doing a biochemistry major, which is a science, and a very not-empathetical one. And yet, 90% of my classmates, and colleagues are women. Over here it’s a pretty ‘womanly’ field.

    No, sexism, of course it’s not the cause for the lack of women in some areas.

    Engineering, computer science, and even math, pay much better than psychology, sociology, literature, nursing, teaching, and women’s studies. Yet men predominate in the former, women in the latter.

    Aren’t we amazingly privileged? I wonder why women aren’t showing so much interest in those fields which very inclusive colleagues. Really.

    Why women are in worse paid jobs, and men don’t want to do them? Huh. Genes and hormones, I’m sure.

    Those are pretty little interesting bias, aren’t they? I seriously wanted to hit something reading that blog.

  32. Ah, that makes a lot of sense – thanks for your help!


  33. Sexism has also affected me a lot in my childhood.A few of the scars left by it I`m only getting rid of now.But it changed me in a different way them in you girls,instead of being ashamed by not liking girlie things,as the explanation I received for HAVING to be the way they told me to was that this was how God wanted and that this was how I was supposed to be,I actually became skeptical and despized all of the things of the soul,thinking they were as nonsense as what people told me about them;just so I`d be free to be who I am.

  34. Like Beppie said. Sure, women can do those things, but they’re constantly told either overtly or subliminally that if you do those things, you’re not being feminine, it makes you less of a woman, put that how you like. I was once asked what I wanted to do for a living, I replied, I want to be a death metal singer. I was told ‘you’d need to take male hormones to be able to do that.’ Yeah, why not just shit all over me and my aspirations. Don’t even consider the fact that anyone can learn to sing like that, because it’s too much for your everyman’s brain to handle.

  35. […] Here, at the Feminism 101 blog. Below is an excerpt from the first comment: I think it’s pretty clear that most people– including strong, intelligent people– tend to prefer certain choices if they are positively reinforced by society. It’s not just a choice between being an engineer and being a childcare worker, or between shaving your legs or not, it’s a choice between “Do I want people to treat me positively or negatively?” knowing that working in a male dominated environment, or adhering to non-normative beauty standards will reveal many layers of misogyny that are normally kept hidden (note: I’m not saying that misogyny is any less prevalent in any of these environments, just that it often comes into sharper focus when you go against the grain, and that is difficult to deal with). […]

  36. Maybe it’s minor compared to the career and pay issues everyone’s been talking about here, but I want to say “what Beppie said in the first comment.”

    I’m a straight dude in a relationship with a wonderful, brilliant, accomplished, feminist woman. (I had to pause after typing that. She really is wonderful.) Anyway, it’s summer, people wear shorts, and my gf “has” to… shave her legs.

    It pisses her off.

    It pisses me off.

    We talked about this a few times, and it comes down to: yeah, it’s sexist as anything, of course she can choose to let a little fuzzy light brown hair grow where it naturally does, it looks perfectly fine, and… she is just sick and tired of the stares and dirty looks and the odd comment every now and then.

    Sure it’s a choice. But people in this part of the world have a really intense patriarchal aversion to visible hair on the legs of women. And that’s what this is about.

    I think it’s possible to take an extreme position (not that anyone here has done so) that freedom means making every single daily choice in a vacuum, that being influenced by society in any way is inherently oppressive, and so on. I don’t buy that (hypothetical) argument.

    But I totally get what Tigtog is saying about choices. Even in little things, there is this great big patriarchal thumb on the scales.

  37. Some related awesomeness (read the whole thing):

    “Feminism is rebellion against the powerful, resistance against passivity, and a call to action to overturn the comfortable way the world is run—-for men and some comfortable women. In a sexist society, there is no way to avoid sexism. Therefore, feminism requires that you analyze every thing and make conscious choices. Feminism isn’t about telling women what to do; it’s about letting them know that all the things they’ve been denied are possible. ”

  38. Um, hi!

    I’d first like to say how much I have enjoyed reading so far through this blog and these comments. It helps bring light to the issue, but also helps me put to words what I’ve seen and thought of.

    Well, about society’s pressure as a child, this, preconditioning to your gender role, since I’m coming from it quite recently (I’m 16), I do see a lot of lipservice to “You can be whatever you want!” but praising girls who choose nurturing, or caring, or toned down careers. It’s why sometimes it’s difficult talking about a possible career in Biology with people who want to know what I want to study. Most people start spouting medical colleges, assuming that is what I meant, (When no, when I mean Biology I mean Genetics! Biological Behaviorism! and others), and when I clarify, smile and stay quiet for a bit, as if reassessing me. It’s really annoying, and it’s tough, but I don’t want to ask them why they assumed medicine, mostly because these people are my parent’s coworkers, or well meaning people. I find it much easier to denounce sexism in my peer group, even if then I don’t (There is slightly more sexism in Latin America).

    Oh, I lost all structure I wanted in my comment, but the basic idea is that, I think these expectations shape girls like me to different careers, simply because our options aren’t fully expressed, as most people think we’ll veer in the traditional direction. Which starts a type of vicious circle of fulfilling expectations.

    • I completely agree. I’m also a 16 year old girl, fairly recently into feminism but i think i have supported it for a very long time. Currently at my school before everyone is discussing what they want to do after school etc. Most girls say to me hairdressers, primary school teachers, nursing and childcare. Jobs focused on appearance and children. I feel this comes from the toys etc you are surrounded with when a child. I grew up with barbies, dolls, dressing up, make up, and fairies. Great, but where can that actually go in the future ? Well, very much effort put into your appearance (barbies, make up clothes) being a mother (dolls) and er, believing in fairies and that one day you can be a princess. Don’t get me wrong there are also girls who would like to do maths, science or otherwise but they are far outnumbered. When i was younger yes i did play with dolls, and girlie things and yes i did enjoy them but i did’nt always know so much other stuff was available. One of my best friends was a boy, and the whole of our friendship we were critized for being friends, by other children, because we werent same sex. Children are taught from the very beginning that there is a battle against the other gender ‘boys are the best, no girls are’, being ridiculed for liking a ‘boys thing’ or ‘girls thing’. Being with a boy as a child opened up a new world of games and things to do girls didnt even know about i found. Ive always liked video games, and have always been ridiculed by boys and girls for liking something that is ‘just for boys’. I have some friends who participate in so called boys things, football, and woodwork etc but people treat them the same way, as if they are odd or manly for liking those things. all this, and everything feminism is against makes me so angry, i just want to see some change, but it feels like the more i find out about sexism, the more i see how awful things are for women. I feel embarassed to say im a feminist, just as i do when i say im a vegetarian, as everyone starts lecturing me or making constant jokes. Im sorry about this rant and how it probably doesnt always make sense haha, i also noticed some people donw below have said very similar things to me so sorry for not looikng first.x

      • Kristen, your post makes a lot of sense. In fact you put your concerns better than many other posts I have seen on the same subject. Don’t get too disheartened. Remember that you and your friend were strong enough to ignore the teasing, and that there are others like you out there.

  39. There’s a lot of good comments here. I especially agree with Noir about the pervasiveness of the patriarchal society we live in, and how that shapes and precludes the choices that girls/women make.

    Women have been trying to right the wrongs done to them for 100’s, even 1000’s of years. They probably came the closest to overthrowing patriarchy in the early part of the 20th century, and if World War I hadn’t intervened, they may have succeeded. Men were scared, really scared. As they should be (and are).

    Women will have an excellent chance of restoring some balance, getting their rightful position back, in the upcoming upheaval–the disasters brought on by global warming, which of course has happened on men’s watch–in fact their swashbuckle romp through history (called “civilization” ) is what brought on this catastrophe. Naturally their response is typical men-stuff: Denial and refusal to take it seriously.

  40. Growing up, I was constantly mocked for not fitting in with the status quo. If I did something considered unmanly or showed a genuine interest in a school subject, I would be mocked, by both boys and girls. For girls, I believe the situation is even more difficult, and the lines much easier to cross. The discussion as to exactly why may lead to the argument of true gender differences, parental influence and gender status quo, but therein lies the proof. Even if we assume that it’s inherently genetic for women to be image conscious and disparaging of ‘technical’ studies, that influence is external to any desire to study those subjects. Therefore, the number of women who had a strong potential interest in a technical field is larger than the number of women who follow that interest in the face of social pressure. That is to say, a lot of these women are coerced out of their choice. To me, that is plainly worth fighting for, even to those who scoff at a more gender neutral parenting.

  41. thnk t s fn trtng wmn s sx bjcts. nd thnk mn wmn lk bng trtd s sx bjcts. Fmnsts jst wnt t rn vrybd’s fn jst bcs th hv n nfrrt cmplx

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  42. I learned so many interesting and exciting things about myself once I realized how cultural conditioning (i.e., patriarchal conditioning) has colored my thinking and influenced every decision I’ve made since I first began to assert my individuality (a hugely ironic term when considered within the framework of any society, now that I come to think about it). I am far less “girly” than I thought I was. The “tomboy” who traded her matchbox cars and tree-climbing days for social acceptance among peers and disapproving elders is resurfacing now, and, ah!, I am so very happy to see her dirt-speckled grinning face once more.

  43. When I look back and examine the amount of cultural conditioning I was subjected to, I think I got off easy in a lot of ways.
    I never felt penalized for having interests that are not traditionally female until I was nearly 25 years old (and my mother did a 360 and started badgering me to find a husband, oy). As a child I was not interested in dolls or makeup or clothes or jewellery as playthings. But I had no interest in my brother’s dump trucks and laser guns and action figures. I preferred gender neutral toys such as Play-Doh, Lego, books, Lite-Brite, etc. and I never had a second thought about it. I remember when I was a kid, people would give me dolls as gifts and my parents would re-gift the dolls away without a fuss. And I suppose it helped that my background is East Indian; by the time I was eight my parents started drilling into my head that I should become a doctor and that I had to do well in hard science.

  44. Right, and African Americans CHOOSE to have higher poverty and violent crime rates in their communities. Because poverty and violence and drug abuse are just sooo much fun.

  45. I’ve had to think hard in the last couple of years about “choices” I made as a teenager. My group of friends told ourselves and others that we were into corsets and miniskirts because they were cool and unique. Can’t speak for the friends, but I for one realize now that I was actually into them because I had low body self-esteem and assumed that if I couldn’t be sexy in the same way as everyone else, I’d have to do it in an outrageous, theatrical way, because bottom line, I had to be sexy. Why I had to be sexy, though, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you.

    Even though I finally feel confident picking my outfits for comfort rather than sexiness, there are some days when I want to go out and decide to dress up in stockings or a minidress or a halter top, because feeling sexy is comforting. But I also realize that it’s only comforting because I’m living in a patriarchy, and the proper state of being, for which we are rewarded, is sexiness. You could be aware as all hell and it’ll always be there, hovering over you, affecting your choices.

  46. The Boys’ Toys thing triggered a flashback to my own awakening as a male feminist. While I’d long done a bit of passive lip-service to the ideals of a non-discriminatory society, I hadn’t grokked the concept of privilege.

    I was on a date; we went to see Mulan. I was pleased; while there was, of course, a bit of stereotyping of both women and Asians, it was still a far leap forward from Disney’s “Princess Era”, and I could feel fairly glad about that.

    Then… we stopped off at the mall. And walked into the Disney Store.

    The movie had just come out, so of course they were piled high with Mulan merchandise. And on shelf after shelf, what was the doll that Disney’s merchandisers felt best exemplified this movie about a woman in a man’s world?

    Bridal &$&#*( Mulan. Not Kung Fu Mulan. Not Tactical Genius Mulan. Not Bo Stick Action Mulan. No. It’s Mulan all painted and wrapped in a dress so tight every step has to be more of a mince forward and….

    Meanwhile, there was a costume for little boys who wanted to dress up like a warrior from China.

    I ranted. In public. For a full 15 minutes. The thought that these corporate scum were daring to push this crap on my nieces as the feminine ideal (my eldest niece would later go on to do tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, and could probably kick my over-large butt without breaking a sweat) just made me completely enraged.

    I was still years from even hearing the actual word “privilege” as it pertains to feminism and racism, but at least I finally had some insight into the concept.

  47. god knows how many posts and discussions I have read concerning this topic. all i can say it’s because of the victory of culture over nature.

    no one is born a man or woman(except biologically). we become men and women. Kind of what Simone de Beavoir says.

  48. […] “Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog!” we have “You feminists just want to tell women to do what you want, instead of letting them CHOOSE (an… with a great comments thread that sort of ties in with my earlier post, in that it’s about […]

  49. I’m a student engineer, and i just feel the same ! Oo’
    Mainly, guys would love more girls, but mostly because they don’t find a girlfriend.
    On the other hand, most of the same guys will treat the women they see as sluts, talking about their boobs and skirts (student in engineering girls by the way).

    It’s quite hard ! If i put a skirt, i want to be fucked. If i don’t put feminine clothes i’m not supporting the poor lonely guys… I really feel like i’m sitting between two chairs, and hope it’ll get better with time 🙂

    Anyway, i fully support Lala and her obstination ! Science is just so cool, i’d miss it.

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