Change of Perspective

Musings on Writing, Reading, and Life Narratives

Fiction writers and literary critics speak of point of view. Social scientists are more likely to discuss perspective. But both of these terms refer to essentially the same construct: the consciousness behind the perception and narration of experience. Each individual’s point of view is unique, and point of view shapes the stories people tell to themselves and to others about themselves and their relationships with their environment. The same event narrated from two different perspectives will produce two different stories.

A change of perspective can expand our perception and reframe our thinking about our experiences. We can all benefit from an occasional change of perspective.

[Return to MetaPerspective]

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Perspectives on Women

The Feminine Critique

"Women can't win," declares Lisa Belkin in an article about women and work. Studies done by Catalyst, an organization that monitors women in the workplace, have found

that women who act in ways that are consistent with gender stereotypes — defined as focusing “on work relationships” and expressing “concern for other people’s perspectives” — are considered less competent. But if they act in ways that are seen as more “male” — like “act assertively, focus on work task, display ambition” — they are seen as “too tough” and “unfeminine.”

Victoria Brescoll, a researcher at Yale, has found that, whereas men who express anger gain stature and clout, women who express anger are judged as being out of control and therefore lose stature. Joan Williams, who runs the Center for WorkLife Law and wrote the book Unbending Gender, says, “Women have to choose between being liked but not respected, or respected but not liked."

In an opinion piece on politics and misogyny columnist Bob Herbert tackles the issue of women and politics. He says, "With Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s win in New Hampshire, gender issues are suddenly in the news. Where has everybody been?" He goes on to point out "the toll that misogyny takes on society in general, and women and girls in particular."

Pornography, he says, is a multibillion-dollar business. Violence against women and girls also pervades society and is glorified by extensive and graphic news coverage, but these stories "seldom, if ever, raise the issue of misogyny." Widespread sexual mistreatment of women in the military and the dehumanization of women and girls by legalized prostitution in Nevada are further examples.

We’ve become so used to the disrespectful, degrading, contemptuous and even violent treatment of women that we hardly notice it. Staggering amounts of violence are unleashed against women and girls every day. Fashionable ads in mainstream publications play off of that violence, exploiting themes of death and dismemberment, female submissiveness and child pornography.

When I saw the title of Herbert's piece, I thought he was going to discuss the incident of Hillary Clinton's moist eyes in New Hampshire. That incident is not as representative of misogyny as the examples Herbert gives, but it does once again point up the double standard that strong women face. Hillary, in her characteristic pantsuits, is often criticized for acting too much like a man. Then she tears up, and suddenly she's criticized for acting weak and weepy, just like a woman. So which is it: too much like a man, or too much like a woman?

Sorry, fellas, but you just can't have it both ways.

© 2008 by Mary Daniels Brown



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