deoridhe: (Default)
[personal profile] deoridhe
I posted this at Renegade Evolution's place, but thought I should give it a home here, too. And correct some spelling and grammar. *ninjaeditor*

Personally, I see THIS as the problem. There is a madonna/whore complex. Real women are affected by it. It permeates a lot and pops up often when you least expect it.

The question begged then is, how do we make it less powerful? Well, no, that's secondary - sometimes I think the first question SHOULD be (but often isn't) what feeds into this false dichotomy.

I personally think a lot of first wave feminism did. There was a perception that women were "more moral" and many sufferegettes (if I'm remembering my history right) banked on that as a reason why they should get the vote - they would serve as a moral backbone for the countries since the menz couldn't.

Ironically, THAT angle is very insulting toward men. Oddly enough, they were some of the biggest supporters of it. 8(

So we have virgin and whore.

Virgin is: moral (whatever that's been defined as this year), natural (ibid), nurturing, asexual, non-violent, and now (via first wave feminism) intelligent, successful, and ambitious. Viewed positively, she is the "angel of the household and the boardroom". Viewed negatively, she is Hilary Clinton. Her power hinges on being beautiful, remote, and untenable in reality. She is celebrated as the superwoman and fails by drinking, desiring sex, or somehow being out of step with what is "moral" or "natural".

The whore is: immoral or amoral (whatever that's being defined as this year), unnatural (ibid), aggressive, sexual, violent, loud, takes up space, demanding, powerful, and self-sufficient. Viewed positively, she is strong, sexual woman. Viewed negatively, she is the object upon which people play out their fantasies of dominance, consumption, and violence. Her power hinges on being an outsider, on shock, manipulation, and sexual allure. She is celebrated as the actress and fails by showing vulnerability or unattractiveness.

Any virgin can and does become a whore by disagreeing with the "people in charge", whomever they may be. And the gods help those who aren't attractive or who are overweight; there's no room in either archetype for either of THOSE traits.

I'd argue that many of the "positive feminine traits" celebrated by many woman's rights and feminists groups fall under "virgin". The woman who breastfeeds her child and doesn't shave and expects other women to do the same, for example, is fitting into the "natural woman" aspect of the virgin. The women who scan aggression as "masculine" and nurturing as "feminine" are coding the "whore" as both undesirable and not even female. And so on and so forth.

But I'm still left wondering, how do we break this false dichotomy? Honestly, there are things off of both lists that I WANT and that I try to embody, and that's my small way, but I find myself wishing there were bigger ways to act.


FWIW, I'd say the male examples are the effeminate and the macho man - for any MRAs out there who want to explore their own untenable archetypes that are used against them to control them. Sometime I want to get a listing of the characteristics of those archetypes and see if they scan to virgin and whore the way I think they will. ^^

Date: 2007-03-09 03:32 pm (UTC)
thene: Happy Ponyo looking up from the seabed (Default)
From: [personal profile] thene
It's not a dichotomy; both virgin and whore are being set up as alternatives to a third, invisible woman, who is called 'wife'. This is really obvious if you read old books much at all. Just as an example, I was rereading Les Miserables lately, and it struck me that Hugo was describing both his virgins and his whores as being failures - only half-women, if that; he says that all the nuns in the world are not equal to one mother, and that the whores start as Mamselle Nobody, and end as Madame Everybody. It's being a faithful wife that's held up as success. So I'd suggest that both the modern stereotypes - in positive and negative aspect - are a rebellion against that third figure, and all the submission and fidelity she still represents, shining out of every romantic comedy or bridal catalogue, saying that women can't be complete, natural and sex-positive all by themselves, but only by worshipping a man. There's so little neutral space for women; a lot of people sniff at the old slogan about feminism being 'the radical notion that women are people', but there's an awful lot in it. People, not virgins or wives or whores. Whoever heard of that?

(I got into a ranting session about the male side of ideals on DJRQ the other week. I keep meaning to reply to that again too, gah >< That whole thread was great, all about female body image, rah!)

Date: 2007-03-09 04:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jcrow.livejournal.com
So many things to say and so little brain power to say them properly! *gonk*

One thing I'd want to say: overweight doesn't cut you out of either category. I've known some very successful overweight virgins and some very successful overweight whores. What it came right down to was the attitude behind the actions. Granted, a lot of the attitude was bluff and false vanity, but to the eyes of others, they played exactly into the stereotypes. It continues to puzzle me that if you say "I'm sexy" enough times with enough confidence, people start to believe you even if they don't initially agree with you.

It's rather uncomfortable to consider I've been virgin, whore and wife in turn through a very short lifespan. O.o

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