Selling Ourselves Short

…and aren’t we just adorable!

Kristen Visbal’s Fearless Girl is now installed, on Wall Street, in a permanent — or not — face-off with Arturo Di Modica’s bull. But why a girl? Why not an actual woman? A female bullfighter, perhaps? Or a ripped woman wrestler or kick-boxer? But no, we’ve got a girl… with pigtails, yet.

Di Modica is fussing that the little lady detracts from the essential meaning of his work; if she does, then perhaps she’s doing a better job than I think because all I see is another weak attempt to show men “how strong women are” that fails miserably.

The first attempt was the collective wearing of pink, often fuzzy, “pussy” hats worn in the Women’s March. In a group made up entirely of women who might be orienting their efforts towards creating solidarity around… some good cause that I can’t think of, maybe pussy hats would do the job. But if one is at war, (and one is at war, make no mistake) one requires a helmet, not a ski cap; one wants to appear threatening, not cute.

I’m imagining that both of these well-intentioned attempts at displaying the promise of women’s power were thought of by women and I’m further imagining that it is precisely this kind of misunderstanding of men that has gotten women into the very iffy position in which they find themselves today, poised to be thrown, human rights and all, over the cliff.

The most likely reaction to either of those aforementioned presentations of ‘women’ is “Awwwwww….” Both project the energy of a child who, no matter what she may think, needs protection. That is not the reaction we need from men if we are to retain any of the rights we have fought so hard to obtain.

Think for a moment about which gender is bigger and stronger and known to have a tendency towards violence and then ask yourself why it is that women have been — throughout the centuries — the ones who have been rigidly forced, in everyday social situations, into all kinds of restraints, some of them, like bras and corsets, quite literal, taught to act like and look like ‘ladies’ at all times, regardless. Oh, men are told to act like gentlemen when a structured social situation demands that but it is definitely not something that is required of them “at all times.” Quite the contrary, as the current resident of the White House has so clearly demonstrated.

The only place women have caught a break and been relieved of the usual standards of decorum that have been forced on them is during childbirth.

We’re scary when we give birth because we can actually do that; our bodies nourish life within them and push and push and push that life out into the world. Anyone can stab someone; anyone can shoot someone, and apparently anyone with enough money and connections can take away someone else’s human rights, but only women can give birth and that fact alone makes us, at a primal level, subtly and unconsciously terrifying to men. That latent force in us is the kind of power that we should be displaying if we want men to take us seriously. We need to show our remarkable strength, our fearlessness, and our determination to do what must be done. The images we present to the men of the world need to display in no uncertain terms exactly how formidable we are!

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