What do Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus, Catholic cardinals and Fifty Shades of Grey have in common? They all seek to define women in ways that lack equality, balance or common sense. Other people, mostly men, have been telling women who they are ever since the apple incident in the garden. What men seem to forget is that there were two sets of teeth prints on the apple, and that should have made us equals right out of the gate. But we have come a long way, baby. Unfortunately as with all fights for equality, extremism rides on the fringes of a movement, a fact that especially now, we would be wise to remember.
This year a group of Catholic cardinals will meet to discuss women. There will be no women present for the discussion, though a report about who we are and who we should become will be made available after the meeting. And, in the spirit of liking girls too, the Cardinals have created a little contest whereby you can make a one to two-minute video of what you think to be an important women’s issue and send it in to the Vatican for review. I kid you not!
If you know Christian history, you can attribute the exclusion of women in the all male hierarchy of the Catholic Church to Thomas Aquinas, whose document Suma Theologica is the basis for a catechism that teaches women are temptresses and seductresses. Therefore they should never be allowed to preach the word of God or hold any leadership roles. The translation of that holy diatribe indicates that women are sexually insatiable, asking for it all of the time, sucking every good man she meets into her vortex along the way, and well, they just shouldn’t be allowed to join the club, lest they create disaster in the form of a world-wide sexual implosion.
It’s not just the Catholic Church that keeps women, second-class citizens, it’s that the military model upon which this big church was built, is still evidenced in corporate hierarchy and structure. Business as usual is also a boys club, but with an occasional “some girls allowed” mentality. Though a woman doing the same work as a man is worth only .73 cents to his dollar.
Some have argued that Miley Cyrus makes a feminist statement with her unabashed sexuality. I don’t particularly like her. I think she’s gross and while I support her right to express herself as she sees fit, to me there is nothing about her that demonstrates competence beyond self-promotion. That makes her less of a heroine and more a part of the problem. Yet like Miley, I believe my body is my own. I don’t want a government in my uterus and I don’t want to explain myself for how I choose to dress.
That brings me full circle to that meeting of cardinals. It’s not news, really. Only a short time ago, Congressman, Darrell Issa paraded a group of all male religious leaders before congress to discuss women’s birth control with nary a woman in sight. The fight for equality takes a long time and it is going to be tinged with extremism on both the front lines and on the opposition’s push back. Women wanting to be seen as strong, confident, smart leaders have difficulty getting out the message when Miley Cyrus is over in the corner humping a wrecking ball with her tongue hanging out, all the while postulating our empowerment through slut-dome. Push back to that example is the congressman from Montana who wants to ban yoga pants in his state because they are too suggestive. Suggestive of what? Oh yeah that “we are so insatiable” theme. To my first point; extremism rides on the fringes of a movement and if we are honest, we have to admit that we are all trying to find the line and the crossover.
Between prude and slut is the line of my comfort zone. For instance, I won’t go see Fifty Shades of Gray because it’s about a rich white guy who thinks it’s sexy to tie up women, employ enough force to result in bruising and once again underscore the myth that we need to be oppressed because of our imagined sexual insatiability. I fear the truth about Fifty Shades is that it normalizes violence against women by dressing it up and calling it erotica. I refuse to be a sheep and go “Oh wow, what a cultural milestone.” The film is a microcosm of the macrocosm: Rich white man, proliferating the subjugation of someone for personal use or pleasure. I won’t buy into marketing that tells me I’ve missed the point and that Fifty Shades of Gray is about something else. It’s not. A hundred bucks says that both Cyrus and Kardashian will tweet what an “amazing” film it is, and of course will taint the word “amazing” for me forever.
While women have made great strides in the past hundred years, we have a long way to go. Genital mutilation, honor killings, sexual exploitations and a gender biased worker compensation that keeps women poor, continues around the globe. Women in the United States rank only 27th in the world when it comes to health and well-being.
Kim Kardashian has a right to stick her naked butt into the camera and call it art if she wants to, but I don’t think she helps the cause of moving women forward. I guess I stand somewhere between the right to wear yoga pants and Kim’s right to be an ass.
I could be wrong, but most of the women I know think as I do about this: Kim’s ass pointed at the camera, Miley’s permanent tongue hanging out to the world and the cardinals video contest for women are not symbols of liberation anymore than Fifty Shades of Grey is a symbol of erotica. These are symbols of stupidity, a far swing in one extreme direction while we continue to search for and create an authentic equality based on intelligence, competence and kindness. Until women gain that stature, we will continue to be a world out of balance.