Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Well-Behaved Women

I have been reacting badly to this bumper sticker in our parking lot, but didn’t think it through until yesterday.

Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History. It’s supposed to sound like a feminist admonition, but it comes across as a personal complaint hiding behind feminism for cover.  Well-behaved men seldom make history either.  Badly-behaved women or men are likewise unlikely to “make history.”  Very few anyones make history.  It’s not a particularly meaningful standard.  Too much luck involved.

Is she saying “I have unappreciated greatness, primarily because society thinks women like me should pipe down, or make cookies, or be nice. But you’re wrong, all of you.  I act this way not because I am obnoxious, but because I am great.  You just don’t get it.” It has a similarity to"They laughed at Columbus.  They persecuted Jesus.  Einstein's teachers thought he was stupid."  From those partial truths, every person laughed at, persecuted, or looked down upon claims an equivalence to those great figures.

So there is some sort of bad behavior this woman wants a pass on for which she believes she is being put down by The Man. Temper? Volume? Sex? Bossiness? Staying out late? Drinking? Those are indeed areas where men still do get some slack in some places that women don’t, I suppose.  Good cover has to be based on something.

Yet somehow I think it’s just cover. 


Texan99 said...

There's certainly something to what you say, but women traditionally have gotten a big dose of the message that what makes them valuable human beings is their docility and non-aggression. If they're not ready to give up the tacit approval of their nice submissiveness, they'll have to face the lost opportunity to stop being submissive. If they are ready, they'll have to face a lot of "you're no lady" treatment. It's a tough barrier for many women to face.

The traditional bargain for a long time was to be protected and nourished, stay out of the fray, and be invisible to history. I don't think it's entirely a bad idea to stir women up with the hard truth that, if they want to be visible to history for a change, they have to give up the protected status, even in the face of outrage.

Sam L. said...

soooooooooooo...would we call Hillary! well behaved? And is she making "her"story?

Texan99 said...

Hey, there's making waves, and then there's just being an unprincipled jerk in the service of blind ambition.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Like button. Like button.

Amazing how dependent I've become on that.

Retriever said...

I do believe that there is a double standard about acting assertively and aggressively. Women who do so are viewed as bitchy/ballbusters and/or assumed to love women and hate men. The truth is,I found that women often have to behave like Caesar's wife to avoid being trashed. And one resents that men's misbehavior in their spare time is dismissed as youthful high spirits. In my youth this left one on a tightrope, trying to work twice as hard to be taken half as seriously by male supervisors who still put hands on knees and talked about their girl (even when she had a masters degree from an Ivy). One had to be sweet and get really good at making the damn brownies so women who hated seeing other women in authority wouldn't call one an unnatural creep. One had to sit and listen sympathetically as male members of the organization endlessly explained all the reasons why they felt females were unfit for key aspects of the job " but you go ahead and do that part, you are great at THAT honey...."

I hate those bumper stickers too. But speaking as a formerly AngloCatholic woman who was twice rejected in the ordination process, explicitly because I was female, I get pretty rabid about being told to make nice.

To be fair, tho, my overtly misogynistic AngloCatholic home parish at least let me work hard in a soup kitchen we started ministering to street people, and had more serious spirituality than my present Protestant evangelical no denominational church where they just had me teach 4-7 year olds and read the lesson....I tried to make nice because my autistic son needed a church.

I'm just cranky. Try finding a good church that supports the ordination of women that is NOT PC. Off topic, off a secular workplace where I daily behave like a good girl.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

But you don't have that bumpersticker. I'm seeing that as a key difference. One can see the point, but to embrace it as one's sermonette is something qualitatively different.

Texan99 said...

Honestly, what I mostly get from that bumper-sticker is the idea that "well-behaved," for a woman, too often means "behaving in a way that's convenient for men, but disastrous for herself." The kernel of the slogan is that women will consult their own ideas of what is right and just, and not take for granted that men's standards for them (which the men would almost never apply to themselves) are reasonable. The idea isn't that women intend to embrace evil.

Retriever said...

If I had any bumper sticker it would say "Deus Vult". ISIS. Grrrrrrr.