In the articles by Rachel Simmons and Kate Harding, they both discuss the issue of the hook-up dating culture that is becoming more and more common, and more specifically so, how it effects the lives of young women. Simmons, as a columnist for Teen Vogue, looks at the issue from the perspective of the young girls who sends her emails and are very upset about what this kind of “dating” implies; hiding their feelings regarding the relationships to make the guy stay. Simmons is very sympathetic towards the girls, she understands that they want a change somehow, but she blames the sexual revolution and the sexual freedom as the cause for this, and suggests that the solution to this problem would be to go back to the old dating standard, because there was “something about that framework made more space for a young woman’s feelings and needs”.
As support on why this hook-up culture has a mostly negative effect on young women, Simmons also brings in a lot of statistics and examples from a study on the hook-up culture, done on college students, by sociologist Kathleen A. Bogle. In contrast, Harding’s article, as a response or critique to Simmons, takes on a more pro-woman line in her discussion, and shines a new light on the whole issue. For example, Harding thinks this hook-up culture isn’t either intrinsically good or bad, but perhaps a great option for some girls while a bad fit for others. In addition to this, she also suggests that it might not be a good idea to go back to old dating standards either (for many reasons), but that it might not even be the hook-up dating culture that is the culprit in making these young women feel bad about themselves and their relations, but that it is in fact the “intense pressure on girls and women to focus on getting and keeping a guy, rather than on getting and keeping whatever they want”. By not just dismissing the hook-up culture as bad for all women, Harding instead goes out to find the cause for why so many young women feel this isn’t working for them: problem) they are not supposed to talk about their feelings regarding the relationship, why) because of the sexist and androcentric society in which we live in, men’s feelings and concerns comes first. So basically, instead of putting the blame on the hook-up dating culture, maybe women should stop trying to satisfy their men’s wants before their own – that will at least put the two partners at the same starting place.
While I was looking through my Twitter feed the other day, I stumbled upon this article/blog post titled “16 Things I Want My Daughter To Know”, and because I had recently read these articles by Simmons and Harding, I recognized after reading this one, that it surprisingly took on an anti-women line. In the article, the author Christine Burke takes up some life lessons, advice and other general things she wants to tell her daughter before she turns 18 and has to “fight for herself”. She wants her daughter to be “confident, plucky and strong” and in this list from a mother to her daughter (right now 9 years old), she gives some examples of things she yet has to teach her to become this. Of course, this is just one woman’s list to her daughter, but it’s out there on the web for everyone to read, and right now it has 98K likes and 21470 shares on Facebook for example… While it starts out well (1. Girls should never apologize for saying NO), the rest of the list is mostly centered around appearances (5/16 points on the list) and how to deal with men (3/16), including some remarks in the article of learning how to “distinguishing between a douchebag and Prince Charming” and learning how to make that “Thanksgiving stuffing her father’s side of the family eats (it’s DISGUSTING but, dammit, she needs to know….)”.
The problem that I see with this list, and the article as a whole, is that it implies that this young girl, in order to become confident and strong, has to focus and work on her appearance (dress in heel, wear a dress and red lipstick, have good shoes and handbags, a nice haircut, remove other body hairs etc) and how to get the right man (remember though, his mother loved him first, the right man will stand beside you, not in front of you and he’ll give you an orgasm – it’s not all about him!). This list is androcentric even though it’s written by a woman for a girl, in that it sexualizes the girl and takes the focus away from her as a strong, confident young woman, and instead puts in on her appearance and thus, her ability to find the right man. Looking at this from a pro-woman line however, this list could have been improved with just a few changes. Instead of defining a strong and confident woman out of her looks and her choice in men to begin with, what about some advices on how to appreciate and love her body and looks no matter how she decides to look or dress? A tight dress and spike heels is definitely not for every woman… Instead of assuming that this 9 year old girl will grow up and love men, what about some advice on getting to love whoever you want, does it have to be a man? Instead of implying that these are the things every girl would want to know in order to become strong and confident, what about some advice on how to find these things out? Instead of giving advice on how to move around in a sexist society, what about some advice on how to acknowledge it and how to work around it, find a way to beat it, and help this young girl see the problem with a sexist society (that you’re supposed to take care of your looks and appearance, and that your goal in life is to find the right man). I think that to preparing a young woman to fight for herself in the real world, these more pro-women line kind of advices would’ve been much more helpful in order to make a strong and confident woman.
(Originally posted on 2014/10/20 for Melanie Klein’s class blog “Women and Popular Culture”)