My Girl Power Utopia

We talked in class about our utopic girl power world.  For me, this would be a world where I’m not hyperaware of my gender every time I’m talking to a man.  One thing I’ve learned from this class is the extent to which interactions are gendered.  When I’m talking to a man, there’s either an element of flirtation, or a power imbalance where I feel slightly intimidated or even silenced, as if I shouldn’t bother chiming in because he won’t listen anyway.  In a girl power utopia, men and women would talk to each other as two PEOPLE first, not as a MAN and a WOMAN first.

In my girl power utopia, people would be aware that everyone makes mistakes, and that completely tearing someone down for saying something that came out un-PC is not the most productive way to go about things.  We are all born into a culture of ready-made prejudices about people of other genders, sexualities, and races.  Sometimes offensive comments are going to slip out.  Rather than attacking people for being un-PC, I think it is more effective to calmly explain to them why their comments are hurtful.  That way, they won’t just keep on displaying negative behavior because they resent you for telling them off.  They will also probably take you more seriously.  At Amherst, it’s hard to come forward and express your opinion when you know that a dozen people will without fail attack you with words, and will probably do so in a personal and unforgiving way.  Arguing belligerently never causes anyone to change their mind, even if the points are very valid.

Along similar lines, in my utopia people wouldn’t laugh it off when someone said one of their comments was offensive.  I was in a group of guys and said something about the world being more difficult for women, to which one guy responded, “What?  You mean the glass ceiling?  I’m pretty sure if there was a glass ceiling, all the men would be below it looking up.”  I couldn’t believe that one of my guy friends would say something like that.  When I told him it wasn’t okay, he said, “But my girlfriend thinks it’s funny.”  He laughed every time I tried to make a point, and the conversation went nowhere.

Finally, in my girl power utopia, it wouldn’t be normal to see advertisements of half-naked women, splayed out at awkward angles and making suggestive facial expressions.  That would be something that would cause us to stop in our tracks and think, “Something’s wrong with this picture.”  In the utopia, when you swapped men in for women in advertisements, it wouldn’t be shocking, because men and women would both be represented as being grounded and taking up space, kind of like Rosie the Riveter.

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One thought on “My Girl Power Utopia

  1. “Rather than attacking people for being un-PC, I think it is more effective to calmly explain to them why their comments are hurtful. That way, they won’t just keep on displaying negative behavior because they resent you for telling them off. They will also probably take you more seriously.”

    SO TRUE, especially at a place like Amherst. A few days ago a friend of mine commented on how Beyonce’s new music videos weren’t really feminist and what followed was an 80 comment or so thread about how wrong he was about her. I’ve had similar experiences attending cultural events and someone who isn’t part of that culture may something without realizing that it’s offensive, and someone will make a huge deal out of it and end up embarrassing the person in front of everyone. Not that we shouldn’t call out people for making a mistake, but we have to do it in a constructive manner. I think that a lot of times what holds feminists/activists/etc back is their refusal to cooperate with others for a greater good. At this college, we demonize athletes, we attack white males, and we portray the administration as the enemy. A lot of this has to do with how fed up we are with these people in power/privilege. Yes, that anger is good, but it could surely be used in a better way. There has to be a better way of educating each other without launching attacks.

    I know that there’s a fine line between trying to educate people and being condescending, and it is one that we must thread carefully. Certainly “talking down” to people about what they did wrong is not the solution. We have to construct our dialogue so that everyone is included and feels respected. I envision that as my utopia for moving forward.

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