If there’s anything I should know by now, it’s that people will always extrapolate wildly from studies of animals to suit their own agendas. Current case in point: Helen Rumbelow’s op-ed in the UK Times. Rumbelow has looked at the results from a new study on chimpanzee behavior and come to the completely illogical conclusion that when female chimps exchange sex for meat, they are really telling us that women cannot be “feminine” if they want to get ahead in the professional sphere.
What can we take from [the study on chimpanzee behavior]? More than a good steak recipe. It’s the idea that the behaviour of our furry cousins has a lesson for us human beings, too. It does – but to the hundreds of thousands of slutty ape fans out there, you are getting the wrong thrill from this story. The real moral is that 1970s feminism may have had a point – and no, the link is not just about hairy legs. If women want to succeed in a man’s world, they may have to decide between femininity and success. It may be time to stop wearing dresses and start wearing the trousers. It may be time to choose
“Slutty apes.” No comment on that one. And “1970s feminism” was not about hairy legs, Ms. Rumbelow. It was about equality. While I believe women reserve the right to be as hairy as, say, chimpanzees if they so choose (as I sometimes do), that is not the point of feminism in the 1970s or any other decade. But why quibble over idiotic details? Let’s get to the heart of the matter.
Women are now constantly told they can have both – be glamorous, desirable and feminine and get to the top in macho professions. Forever we are hearing the mantra that women “bring something different” to the boardroom and should be celebrated for that difference. I think this could be a big mistake.
I have to take issue with Rumbelow’s implicit assertion that wearing dresses are feminine, and wearing pants must conversely be masculine. I hate pants. Jeans I can deal with, but I never wear dress pants. I have a huge collection of skirts and dresses, from just above the knee to ankle-length. I have a particular love for wrap dresses. It’s not about wanting to present myself as “feminine”. If that was my goal, I’d probably refrain from waxing rhapsodic on the beauty of baseball with my co-workers, since a love of sports is viewed as being a sure sign that you have a penis. No, the reason I wear skirts is that I like them — and because, at 4’11″ finding pants that fit me is an impossible task that is never worth the effort.
Rumbelow also seems to think that all women who wear skirts do it to present themselves as “desirable.” This is particularly amusing/infuriating to me because I hate garnering any kind of unsolicited male attention. So to postulate that by wearing skirts, I am subconsciously sending out signals to men to look at my legs — to ogle me, to hit on me — makes me clench my fists and gnash my teeth.
Slowly, we have realised that women can’t “have it all” in the sense that we can’t be full-time mothers and have full-time careers. Perhaps the post-feminist experiment has failed in the boardroom too. Perhaps it is now time for us to realise that we can’t do two absolutely conflicting things in a man’s world.
Again with the “post-feminist” bullshit? Come on, I know people can do better than that. This is the second piece I have come across in the past five days touting that we are in a post-feminist world? I guess people are trying to motivate us to work even harder. It’s working, at least in my case. Skirts do not equal femininity, because women do not turn in their vaginas when they don pants. And femininity does not equal a lack of seriousness in the workplace. If it does, I will just give up right now, or at least make Rumbelow pay for the severe hemming that any purchase of pants on my part will require.
As for the “we can’t do two absolutely conflicting things in a man’s world” statement, I say “WTF?” Conflicting by whose standards? I eschew makeup and love skirts; is that conflicting? I love skirts and have career ambitions; is that conflicting? Skirts equal femininity and hence not conducive to challenging the status quo, and let’s just leave it a that? I don’t think so. And tell me again where the hell the chimps figure into this? Too many questions, too much inanity, too little actual critical analysis of notions of gender. Bring on the slutty chimps.