Call it liberation, emancipation, sexual equality -- we are living under a grand delusion.
Women (and some men) believe we have made tremendous strides in the past 60 years. Rosie the Riveter returned home at war's end, raised a family, went on the Pill, joined a Women's Lib group, returned to school, got a divorce, got a job, took a lover, retired to Boca, and is now a happy grandma.
Her grown daughter has been the victim of domestic violence, and her 20-something granddaughter is getting breast implants. Welcome to the Brave New World of post-feminism.
Because we have broken through a few glass ceilings, because men are helping a bit with the housework, because in a few places we can get an abortion, we tend to think everything is improving. But take a hard look at what is happening around us: in films, on television, in magazines, on the internet, and in real life. Have we ever been immersed in so much nudity, so much violence, so much mysogyny? Have we ever been swilled so much pornography? Have females ever been so extensively used for sheer titillation and commercial gain?
We look in revulsion at Muslim women wrapped in scarves and veils. We pity them, and we despise the male chauvinism that imposes that on them. But here's the catch: they are not caught up in our Western cult of exhibitionism and vanity. They are not openly competing with each other for men and men's favors. They are even, to a large degree, protected from assault and rape because they are virtually invisible. Home is their domain, husbands are their guardians.
Somewhere, between that repressive culture and our own permissive one, there must be a middle way. We must understand that an internet hooker, a porn star, a naked fashion model, is not a liberated woman but a subjugated one. She is being exploited, or knowingly exploiting herself, for the sleaziest motives, and whatever she earns for that is shameful money. Prostitutes have more integrity.
Let's be honest -- we have taken women out of the factory, out of the kitchen, out of the maternity ward only to turn them, again, into sex objects. Sixty years ago, they were pin-ups or calendar girls; today, they're advertising gismos and media bimbos. This isn't progress -- it's promiscuity parading as freedom. And the biggest danger is that this shallow, cynical view of women ends up making them thoroughly interchangeable, dispensable and, ultimately, vulnerable.
This is not simply a feminist issue; this is a question of where we place our values. As long as we encourage and reward women solely for their entertainment value, we are turning them into dolls and puppets. We are denying their human-ness, and our own. We are creating a seraglio society.