Most of us spend the first decade of our lives completely oblivious to the histories our bodies carry. You aren’t seen like a man or a woman, you’re just a child. And, then it happens. We hit teenage years and we’re all introduced to what our bodies really mean. I don’t mean how they work – that happens too - but I’m talking about what our bodies entail. How women are treated and expect to be treated by men, how men should carry themselves – everything to do with the division of the genders. It comes in a rush and sometimes we’re taught shame and sometimes it’s pride. Everything we’re instilled with in respects to sex and sensuality is poured on us by the greater social audience that has come to watch our youth. The older generation grabs a seat and orders their popcorn as the newer generation comes into sexual being – with new ideas, new concepts and new body products! Ha!
This idea is perfectly epitomised by the progression of the feminist movement in the last 50 years. I want to really tackle this, so tune in to my next blog for a closer look at the effects new wave feminism has had in recent decades – e.g. the MeTooMovement and the me no more movement. Feminism itself has always been focused on empowerment and respect, but at the moment it’s kind of a battlefield between the old and new. I’ve seen some recent discourses that suggest the two concepts of respect and empowerment are now mutually exclusive – as if some women can’t demand respect when they use sex and sensuality as a form of empowerment.
A quick disclaimer/ explanation before we crack in (why do I seem to always have to do these?). When I refer to the feminist movement, I’m using the blanket term ‘feminist’ to generalise the multi-faceted versions from extreme to passivistic. Basically, for those of you that don’t already know, feminism just stands for the belief that men and women should have equal rights. If you think that, congratulations, you’re a feminist! You’d be surprised how many people don’t know they’re closet feminists because their scared of some of the connotations the word has – ‘angry lesbians’ is the one I seem to encounter most often.
But no, alas, a feminist is just a normal person who wants equal rights for all genders. We like a hydrating body scrub and body moisturising lotion as much as the next person. Although, we do like to say ‘Down with the Patriarchy’ more than is strictly necessary.
So, the feminist movement of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s really focused around women in the workplace. Primarily, getting women into workplaces and allowing them the same wages for the same work. It’s the defining feature of how people see feminism. We look back to the suffragettes and we think of the vote. We look back to the feminism of the later 20th Century and we think of the wage gap, women in science, women engineers. Women with opportunity. The criticisms they faced were many, but they persevered and for that, I (and many women around the world) owe them the opportunities I have.
- I want to add another careful caveat here. It’s another topic in its entirety which I hope to breach at a later point. But, for now this will have to do. I’m speaking as a white woman in regard to 21st Century feminism. The suffragettes were unabashedly racist. Even more so, white women have arguably perpetuated racial stigmas against black women in order to perpetuate their own goals. Like I said, a topic for another day but, none the less I think it’s important to recognise anything like this in broad discussions of feminism.
I want to argue that this wave of feminism from the 21stCentury prioritised respect. They wanted respect for their gender, respect from their co- workers and they wanted laws that enacted these ideals. When you look at the criticisms they encountered, it makes a hell of a lot of sense. People – mainly the co- workers and Bosses™ they worked with – made the argument that women fill lesser roles in business and get paid lower wages because it fits their abilities. However, prominent thinkers such as Bourdieu have argued that humans can only fill and utilise their potential through the opportunities that are given to them. For example – studies found that workers with a mentally engaging job progressed cognitively in a 10-year span compared to those who were left in mindless areas of work. So, if you leave a woman to only ever be a secretary, then you stifle the potential she has for anything more. Feminism originally pushed for our potential to even be recognised.
And we’re still fighting for this. To this day, women are paid 14.6% less than men for the same job. It’s not the gap of the 60’s but people argue it doesn’t matter anymore? As if there should be no questioning why there is even the smallest difference?
But, new wave feminism has come with its own goals and its own ideas. Where older versions of feminism demanded respect for the average worker – which makes sense looking at the times behind us – I like to think new wave feminism considers the marginalised. It has the ability to have a place for women like the sex worker, stripper or sexy social media ‘influencer’.
That’s one of the reason’s Sass + Co. Body wants to endorse freedom of choice for all women. Why shouldn’t we empower women to do what they want with their own bodies? Your Body - Your choice! There are millions of great arguments around this – not the least of which is that women have been sexualised and then punished for it for generations. We live in the time where women can strip off, wear whatever they want or use sex as currency…. It’s a choice that gives you a feeling of control in your day to day life. A feeling we all deserve – so, I say go her! And, so does new age feminism.
Now, feminism’s original goals stand tall. I think, sometimes, new wave feminists get a bad rap from the older generation because they fought for respect and believe SEXY women undermine that whole battle. I totally get it - but, let’s question what underlies that argument. Women should be able to make bank, feel/look hot AND demand respect, no matter what they do with their bodies. Sexuality is forced upon us, so why shouldn’t we use it to our own advantage and to express ourselves how ever we feel?
We will stay meek no longer.
In this day and age, one of the most important things is women empowering other women. That’s why Sass + Co. Body is such a great company. The founder isn’t fussed with using sexuality to promote women’s power and amazing body scrubs. It tells us all to hold our heads high, no matter what we may choose to do with our bodies. Literally, have you ever met better body products tinged with politics? I sure haven’t.
Next week I want to take a deeper dive into modern feminism in this cheeky little mini- series about empowerment. Stay tuned and stay sexy girls! what ever “sexy” may mean to you.