Tuesday, 15 February 2011

French vs. American: Notions of femininity

If you are promiscuous are you a less capable mother? If you pose nude, wear sensual clothing do you deserve less respect? Should your intelligence be questioned? If you are an intellectual are you less sensual? What about less motherly? I answer 'no' to all of these questions in theory but when I do catch my own thoughts occasionally and ask myself if they are true I find myself buying into particular notions.

In France there seems to be a place for woman as intellectuals, as professionals, as mothers and any combination of those and many other labels that generally describe our day-to-day lives. I see a clear difference in the United States. Women can be intellectuals but then they are less capable as mothers, they can be mothers but then they are not adequate as professionals, etc. How did these different cultures evolve and why? Why are French notions of femininity more encompassing?

If I were to be filmed for Girls Gone Wild would that radically alter my intelligence and years of education? No, but I would definitely be seen in a different light would I not? Somehow it would make me less worthy of respect. I understand the need for a check on sexual excess as I think we all do, but where is the line drawn? Apparently for us it's drawn right down the middle regarding a number of issues. If you are perceived to be sexual in anyway you are somehow less in another part of your life.

Take Hillary Clinton. People just can not seem to get over the fact that she is a woman! I understand that with being a woman in the very public and political eye that people would be genuinely curious about things like 'does she cook? clean? prefer this brand of clothing over that brand? does she make Bill take out the trash?' and other questions of that nature. Yet, shouldn't those topics be reserved for, like, not trips abroad on government business (there's been more than one scandal over people asking her what clothing brands she prefers, what her husband thinks, etc.) We can't quite grasp that she's given birth AND she can be involved in politics and that one does not make her less qualified or legitimate in doing the other, in theory at least.

Like it or not clothing, makeup, and appearance in general is an important part of being a woman in this world. I just don't see how it should always be made relevant to government business. There is a time and a place. Just as people want to know about her clothes and 'style' people want to know about Obama's favourite football team, basketball team and other typically male things. Yet no one would dream of asking him about anything to do with his kids because those type of questions go to Michelle.

So, why can't we be more in more than just theory?