Ah, women. You know how it is: if we’d just tone it down a little, be more respectful, less emotional, less colorful, less pink, then men would take us seriously. If we just didn’t wear that short skirt, if we wore that longer skirt – but not that long a skirt – we wouldn’t be raped. If we just wore enough makeup to not be wearing makeup, if we just were clear about our interests in guys but not so clear to be sluts…
If we just lived under a constant set of rules that are ever-shifting the target, but boil down to the same thing: if we just twisted ourselves into the way men see other men, they’d treat us with respect.
Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak is the latest accuser in this salvo of women-not-doing-it-right: c’mon, ladies, why are you wearing pink cat ear hats to a march? That’s so frivolous! How can you expect anyone to take you seriously like that! You want to be taken seriously, don’t you?
Dvorak’s afraid that pink pussy ears are too fun, too distracting – after all, media took a photo, once, of a mohawk’d family at a climate change protest, and now that’s what we all thing of when we think of climate change. What hockey sticks? Michael who?1
But this is the norm, right? Dvorak’s just reiterating a constant social message about what women need to do and take care of. We have to be careful that women’s bodies and what they do with those bodies don’t distract men from The Important Things. Women should be careful that their actions can’t be misinterpreted, at any time; we wouldn’t want a photographer taking a picture of a few women wearing pink pussy ear hats and think this was just some kind of fun get-together for knitting enthusiasts!
It’s not too many steps over from making sure you dress the right way so men don’t misunderstand your intent in a bar, is it?
Because ultimately, the messaging is being placed on women. It’s not up to men or journalists or historians to make sure they understand the message; nope, women must properly convey their intent and any error in inference is their fault, and no one else.
Possibly the funniest thing about the whole piece, in that sort of “historical revisionism is funny when people try to use the past to guilt us in the present” kind of way, is Dvorak’s insistence that the suffragettes protested properly:
Protests are successful and effective when they have a clear message, a clear mission. That’s part of what made the 1913 march by the suffragettes seeking the right to vote so memorable
Yes. Those suffragettes. They never had any fun in their rallies.
They never did anything unseemly.
They were never, ack, violent.
Why, they just nicely asked for the right to vote, and since they were so rational and level-headed about it, they just got it! Isn’t that a nice historical fiction we can all learn from?