Construction of Femininity
23 April 2014
One does not usually hear a story of a single-mother clicking her red, glittery heels together and chanting the mantra “oh, please make me poor—I want the government’s ‘free’ money,” yet that appears to be what the government thinks when the issue of women and welfare is brought up. In fact, any woman who deviates from the standardized social norm falls victim to the government’s battle-axe. The primary reasoning for this position can be attributed to the power obsession of the patriarchy, and the mechanisms for securing deviant women as the “other” are vast. Girls are socialized starting very young to grow up dreaming of a white wedding full of flowers. The most important component to this fantasy is the perfect, white male waiting at the end of the aisle. The young girl, now becoming a woman, will walk out of her parental home straight into a home with her husband, where she is then expected to bear children (but not too many) and be perfectly content with her husband’s wishes. Any deviance from this fairytale makes a woman an outcast. The fact of the matter is that some women are born knowing that they will never be able to bend themselves to fit this perfect mold society expects them to fit into. Coyote expresses her love of the wedding experience, but bluntly remarks that she “wasn’t even cut out to be a flower girl and everyone knew it,” (Coyote, 89). For those women who may not yet have the self-esteem to verbalize their difference in opinion with society’s dream life, the struggle can be crippling. Any woman who bears a child outside of the traditional nuclear family conditions is at risk of being considered weird or soiled by society and the government, too. Sexual preference is a particular facet that has been under heavy scrutiny recently. Homosexual women are made to feel ashamed and unfeminine due to their ‘unnatural’ sexual preferences. How does a woman deal with this criticism? She rebels, or she conforms. Either way, she is destroying the beautiful meshwork of her personality from the inside-out. Living in a society where “women were unavailable to women sexually, what [one does is] sleep with the man…” (Gilbert, 79). A sort of suppression occurs of the true Self in order to live the easiest, most accommodating life possible. There are causal effects that result from dealing with society’s criticism of an independent woman. Perhaps the most focused on effect is the bearing of a child by a woman who does not have financial or educational means. Of course, a man is never in the picture when these types of situations are described because the presence of a man in American society connotes power and security. Young minority women have the highest rates of teenage pregnancies—a fact that the main players in the political realm love to capitalize on. The result is the demonization of women of color. The Matriarch image for the African American woman is an excellent example of this: an angry, Black woman rabidly attempts to run her own life, but will ultimately end up eating out of the economic palm of the government’s hand. Patronizingly, politicians then demonstrate a “concern linked to the perception that African Americans are unable to control their sexual urges,” (Jordan-Zachery, 82). The Beauty Myth perpetuates a woman’s need to sexual attention in order to feel validated and loved, so the uncontrolled sexual urges become implicated with the notion of single motherhood which is then implicated with poverty. Bam! A feminization of poverty occurs with a flippant wave of a policymaker’s hand. The effect of this link between reproduction and welfare is very damaging to a woman’s psyche. Once she finds out she is pregnant, there is a societal push all around to terminate the pregnancy so that the young girl may have all of the opportunities that she was meant to have that are assumed to not exist once a child is brought into the picture.