Monday, February 28, 2011
Jane Trumps Taylor
As you know, part of the residue left in Mongolia by the Russians are holidays. Teachers Day was previously discussed on this blog and Woman's Day is fast approaching in early March. In a stab at revamping the library before the big wigs from UB come to visit next week, my counterpart decided to have the students do posters for Woman's Day. She authorized them to raid the substantial collection of outdated magazines for pictures and the ninth graders, armed with scissors and glusticks, jumped right in. I gave them instructions to find 'real womean' and not models. After a little while I went over to check up on their progress. Peering through the mounts of paper that littered the table, I observed that the vast majority of pictures they had glued to their paper were full length cutouts of young women on the red carpet. Mildly frustrated, I held photos of Patsy Cline and Lindsey Van aloof and tried to explain to them that what we wanted were photos of women doing things. They nodded obediently and returned to their cutting. When all the scraps had settled later, I pulled out their poster and stared at it. There were no less than 5 pictures of Taylor Swift, only 2 women of color and none, besides the picture of Opera I made them add, over 130 pounds or 26 years of age. This sent me into a sort of mental tailspin. Granted, it is difficult to find photos of women who do not resemble Keira Knightley's cross-eyed manikin-like ilk in most publications, a fact frustrating in itself. But the idea that all these girls (there is only one boy in the class) rapidly sought out pretty women and ignored the smarter, more able portrayals of females was troubling. Ok, ok it was only a poster. I know it's not like these young ladies outright told me that they are being molded into Heidi Klum worshipers and anorexic fashion fiends as they mature. But it still bothers me. They gravitated so swiftly and unwaveringly towards the pretty teenybopper icons and that to me communicated that what they have been taught to value in women is purely aesthetic. Just then Suvda ambled into the room. A sassy 40-something who will tell you loud and proud what she thinks, she looked at me after hearing my conundrum and voiced an issue I had been skirting in my mind. "You sound like a feminist!" she declared. I was perplexed for several reasons upon hearing this. Firstly, I am not a feminist. I love my bras! They are pretty and they make me perky. You can bet your sweet ass that I have no plans to burn them. And some of my best memories of former boyfriends is of them holding the door open for me. Secondly, how is wanting young women to recognize traits that aren't related to physical beauty classified as feminist? Isn't that just normal? Shouldn't the value of the mind be what we take for a granted, a simple fact, as opposed to some sort of labeled and separated set of ideals apart from the norm? Shouldn't it be backwards at this point in modern history to believe that women are valued based on their dress size? I smiled at Suvda and returned to gluing Jane Goodall to my own collage. I am still not quite sure what to make of this whole experience. I do know that I am rather reluctant to allow myself or other to slap a label on my beliefs. But regardless I hope that through our time together these young women will grow to see their fellow females as allies and friends, rather than just a catalog of pretty faces.