Being a woman is hard. This statement is overused, but there are days where it’s one of the truest statements you can make about women.
For as long as I can remember, women, and those who identify as women, were always classified as two things: a respectable woman or less than respectable woman. If you were considered respectable, you are seen as pure, God-fearing in some way, submissive, classy, and quiet. If you were less than respectable, you were seen as loose, loud, aggressive, and masculine in some cases. A woman can go from someone deserving of respect to trash in less than a second. The moment you put on a bold lipstick, people will already form some kind of opinion of you. The biggest thing you can do as a woman to really piss people off is to be comfortable in your sexuality and expressing it however you see fit. The moment a woman shows off her sex appeal in any shape or form, she is written off.
This kind of treatment to women is not just in normal culture, it happens in all forms of subculture. When I say subculture, I mean the off color things, the fandoms, the cosplayers, the geeks, the wrestling fans, the sex workers, etc.; every one of us has taken some kind of hit in some way shape or form. It’s either someone assuming that we’re not for feminism or equality because of how we dress, or thinking we’re not as intelligent because of our choices in sex partners. It’s crazy how fast someone can knock you down a peg based off of something as small as a costume design or what you do for a living.
While scrolling through The 434 Facebook Page, I came across a snapshot of a tweet by Cara Maria of the MTV reality show The Challenge.
This tweet caught my eye for many reasons but one of them was because Paige, a WWE Women’s wrestler, responded in the best way possible!
Maria’s tweet and the one she made right after are very problematic in many ways, but I’ll just stick with two points.
Dressing sexually as a woman and a specific kind of woman.
Limiting this for a bit to women wrestlers in the WWE, they deal with specific issues on a discriminatory level. They’re women athletes who are wrestlers and each of those identifiers come with some form of issue that causes some overlap or becomes interconnected and cannot be viewed separately. This is intersectionality. Intersectionality is about a person facing multiple discriminatory issues when their identities overlap. For example, as a black woman who cosplays and deals with the cosplay community, I tackle issues on being a woman who cosplays and being a black woman who cosplays. The two issues are similar in how I’m judged for wearing a sexy costume or having my nerd card asked for before I enter a geeky conversation. The two issues become different when my skin color is concerned; the lack of exposure, being told I’m too dark to cosplay whomever, black girls aren’t into this kind of thing, etc. I can be for women equality in cosplay AND for black women equality in cosplay. My black womanhood and my womanhood are overlapping. That’s intersectionality.
For women, a lot of factors or issues can overlap one another. Factors such as our gender identity and expression and our sexual identity and expression can overlap and we can face discrimination on all fronts. Women can be discriminated against or face issues based on being a woman; being viewed as the weaker sex, less than respectable when we’re not submissive, seen as too emotional, etc. Women who express their femininity/sexuality can be discriminated against or face issues such as being told they’re too loose, project a negative stereotype of women (too sexy or 1950s housewife), verbally and physically assaulted, treated with less respect than other women, and ignored. When you’re a woman who displays comfort in being a woman and being comfortable with your femininity/sexuality, you get excluded from certain conversations or rights. You’re seen in a certain way that makes people like Maria feel like they can put you down. As a woman cosplayer, if you dress in a sexier costume, you’re seen as less creative than other cosplayers (cosplayer identity), it’s assumed you’re doing it for male attention (woman identity), and you’re seen as sexually available to all (sexual identity). A woman is the owner of her body and what she chooses to do with it is up to her. Point blank; period. If she wants to dress sexily, express her gender, show off her femininity, fine. What she chooses to wear does not take away her right to respect.
Using sex work as a slur to put women down.
When it comes to sex work, everyone has their own reasons for getting into it; whether it’s for financial reasons, proud of your body, love being sexual and want to get paid for it, empowerment, whatever…as long as it’s willingly and you’re in a positive mindset who cares! There shouldn’t be anything wrong with it, but because of all the stigmas that come with being a sex worker, there is always a problem. Keeping this in the context of women and referring back to my earlier statement, the moment a woman is deemed as a less respectable woman she is written off immediately. She could be doing great things with her life, but the moment something sexual comes out, she is knocked down a notch. By being comfortable with your femininity or sexuality, people like Maria take this as a pass to mock you because you’re not viewed as being on this high pedestal women are placed on.
There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH SEX WORK and it shouldn’t be used to disqualify a woman from womanhood or be used as an insult to degrade women! A woman is allowed to be whatever she wants to be and that shouldn’t take away her womanhood. It shouldn’t take away from her strength, her intelligence, her power, her emotions, her personality, etc. She shouldn’t be degraded because of how she chooses to display or use her sexuality.
In the 19th century, there was an ideology about women called the Cult of True Womanhood or Cult of Domesticity. To be a “true woman” you had to represent the values of piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity. If you were not all 4 of these values, you were not a true woman; you were less than. This opened up the flood gates for all kinds of abuse and violence to happen to women of color, women who were bold, and women who sexual because they wanted to be. Sadly, this way of thinking still affects women of today. We’re constantly fighting for respect and equality on some of the most basic of things, but are constantly knocked down because we step away from those 1 of those 4 ideals we’re supposed to embody on a 24/7 basis, or we embody them in our own interpretation that doesn’t line up with the traditional.
In the context of women and intersectionality, it’s a thing and I need for people to understand that it’s a thing. The issues women face can be similar, but in the end, a lot of them overlap with various backgrounds, and that’s okay! Woman can be for multiple issues that affect their world and not just one, so don’t expect women to be for one side and not many.