My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture, and things in the broader realm of the Gothic and darkly Romantic. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

Goth is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, the expression of that in Goth rock. It looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Siouxsie, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, et al) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. The Gothic should not be limited by what is already within it; inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Gender Roles, Feminism & Femininity

There's a worrying trend in modern Feminism, a trend that women who still like traditionally feminine activities are somehow lesser feminists, and somehow betraying their gender. This doesn't seem right at all, especially as Feminism was all about equal gender rights, and tearing down the concept of gender roles, not about simply replacing outdated roles with different, but equally restrictive ones.  

In most Western countries, the basic concept of gender equality is mainstream, most girls and women believe they can do anything boys and men can do, but there is still a cultural concept of what they should do, and some activities are still seen as masculine and feminine. I think the very idea of linking a task to a gender is restrictive. While it is acceptable to realise that men and women are different if equal, and there will be a tendency towards slightly different ways of thinking, that there is still a lot of cultural conditioning from early infancy, and there is social pressure on little girls to like cute things, the colour pink, fashion, then make-up, boys, etc. and to place the greatest value on their social lives, and social pressure on little boys to play with cars, to like bathroom and gross humour,then play with construction sets, or toy weaponry, and get into sports, and there is more pressure on them to place greatest value on material things and careers. This pressure is actually restrictive, because if one falls out of what is socially acceptable, the behaviour from the group tends to go from beyond shunning to bullying. I guess the majority of my readership are Goths, and have thus encountered what can happen if you step outside the mainstream and accepted roles.

When we realise that an activity is what it is, and that demographic stereotyping (whether based on gender, race, or anything else) is culturally invented, then it becomes a lot easier to allow people to have free choice and follow what they enjoy and not judge them as doing something wrong for doing something that goes against our cultural expectations. That said, we should also realise that some women and men do activities traditionally associated with their gender because they enjoy them, not because of having been pressured into them by a belief that they are feminine or manly, and that the choice is an educated one. Having probably faced pressure to stay in traditional roles, and also faced with assumptions as to the reasons behind us not wanting to, it seems rather hypocritical of non-tradtionally feminine Feminists to then judge women who do want to do something "girly", or assume it is because they have not learnt yet that there is a box for them to think outside of it. There are women who are not aware that they are being subjected to cultural, social and advertising pressures, or who don't know how to resist them, or don't want to because they are afraid of being shunned but there are also women who are doing those traditionally feminine things as a choice.

There are women who are strong, feisty, independent women who go on to choose to be house-wives because they feel it is good for their children to have a stay-at-home mother to raise them and they are affluent enough, or careful enough with money, not to need to be dual income. There are also men who choose to stay at home and be house-husbands while their wives work for exactly the same reason. There are also a host of other family arrangements that are neither of those things. There are girls who like pink cute things because they genuinely like those things, not because all their friends do or because that is how they see girls in adverts or on television. There are boys who like football because they think it's fun, not because it is the stereotypical activity for young boys in the UK. Feminism says that women are beyond stereotypes, but so is the whole of humanity, and creating a stereotype of the modern, emancipated woman is damaging, especially if it puts off younger Feminists from participating in social and political activism because they feel they won't be accepted if they're feminine as well as Feminist.

Part of the problem is that the dichotomy that holds feminine things to be weak, and masculine, or rather macho, things to be strong. Some women feel that to be strong they have to be strong like men, but unfortunately the strengths of men in cultural definition are often reduced to a sort of macho toughness, emotional coldness and a certain amount of subtext around domination, sexual promiscuity and material wealth... These stereotypes are very unhealthy for men - while they might not be overtly oppressive, they are very dangerous and insidious, and provide a cultural drive into destructive behaviour - think of frat boys drinking themselves into hospital because they didn't want to be seen as a "lightweight" or men who fight in the streets because to some the culturally acceptable response to being insulted is to start a fight over it. Violence is glorified rather than seen as a last resort to use to protect one's self and family.

When women take these stereotypes on, they are often doing so because they have partly ingested the idea that feminine things are weak and inferior. Traditionally feminine traits are not inferior, they're not weak. Being caring is not a weakness, being emotionally open is not a weakness, being communicative is not a weakness. Also, being submissive or being domineering aren't inherently male or female traits, and outside of BDSM power-play, are often signs of unhealthy insecurities or arrogances, and ones that have become culturally institutionalised in unhealthy ways, and in more ways than that of patriarchies where women were seen (and in some places still are seen) as possessions.

I am no less tough, determined, independent or equal because I choose to wear frilly shirts and cook things. Feminism was originally about having the freedom to make the choice, about self-determination and legal and political equality. We're now in an age where social pressures to fit to stereotype are a lot more visible because of modern media, but at the same time, an increasing number of people are aware of that, from subcultures, through feminism and gender equality to LGBT rights and the pervasive stereotyping of racial and national groups. If you take a path that is really your choice through all that miasma of social and media pressure, then that is applaudable.


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