This post is a reply to a comment earlier this month from a very distressed young woman named Ellen. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to reply sooner but family crises intervened. Ellen commented on the third in a series of posts I made regarding two calendars recently published, one in the U.S. and one in Australia, that feature women in IT dressed up as fancy whores (my term) or Screen Goddesses/Geek Gorgeous (their terms). The third post, Let Them Eat Cake – Beef vs. Cheese, compared the two calendars to the hot firemen’s Flame Calendar (pun intended). In that post, I discussed why beefcake adds to the perception of a man’s career competency, but cheesecake only detracts from a woman’s. This is known by the term “double standard”, a beginner’s concept in gender studies.
Ellen’s comment is below. I have edited it only to correct for spelling:
I’m a 19 year old female student studying Computer Science at NSW University, Sydney Australia. I have been reading your blog for several months now after becoming involved in women’s groups on campus. I’ve been impressed with your blog up until recently, but I am very disappointed with your postings in relation to the IT Goddess calendar. I am unsure why you are personally attacking these women for successfully drawing political attention to a serious problem in Australia. I don’t view the calendar as sexist – to me it celebrates women and their diversity, captures public attention though parody, and highlights that IT roles are not just for 18 year old autistic Asian boys. I cannot believe you wrote this statement: “….I would not guess that Sharon and Sonja worked in IT. But then, I have not spent many hours up late reading the goddess IT web site to discover more about their fascinating personalities…” I considered you to be a seeker of truth, and thought you would have at least checked the site out properly before casting your opinion. Only the ignorant would compare the geek gorgeous calendar, fireman’s calendar with IT screen Goddess calendar. It seems that you are only “skin deep” after all – strange that you should be attacking other women for a supposed lack of depth. (to me, the calendar is anything but “skin”) Third, I am disappointed that you seem to “talk” a lot, but I don’t see any evidence of any great achievements, unlike the women you are lambasting. You appear to be an academic that doesn’t have a great deal of real world/commercial experience. I don’t believe you speak for normal women, nor have any appreciation for their emotional and social drivers. Most disappointing is that you are poisoning young women’s opinions in a very arrogant manner instead of constructively approaching a serious issue. I am now of the belief that your opinion carries little validity. You do not behave like an information professional – you are definitely not representative of the way young women think. In fact I view you as probably being a very dangerous old woman. “Overqualified” probably means redundant (or not qualified for anything. I would feel comfortable being photographed in most of these poses for a charity I believed to be worthwhile. You have overlooked this important point. Your views seem outdated and irrelevant. I am suspicious of your stated objectives, and wonder if your hysterical and uninformed views are based on jealousy. Why not post a pic of yourself so we can decide whether jealousy motivates you….or perhaps you think that is sexist also? I expect you to vindicate [sic] me personally in your blog (per your bitchy style), as it is clear you are unable to engage in any intelligent discussion on this matter. OR to delete my comment. I did not have any intention of purchasing the calendar, but have now purchased it to spite you and women like you. Instead of preaching, how about leading by example?
ellen • 8/5/06; 12:39:35 AM
I fear the Ellen has stopped reading Thus Spake Zuska and therefore won’t see this post. But maybe other young women who share her distress will. Ellen said “…you are definitely not representative of the way young women think. In fact I view you as probably being a very dangerous old woman…I would feel comfortable being photographed in most of these poses…You have overlooked this important point.”
I would agree with Ellen that I am not representative of the way all, or even many, or possibly even any, young women think (see my caveat in this regard under the “About” tab). I am not representative of the way all older women think. I have never claimed to be so. I am only representative of the way Zuska thinks. The world is welcome to listen, consider, and agree or not. Ellen, I know you that you would feel comfortable being photographed for the Screen Goddess IT calendar; perhaps you would even feel proud to be chosen for it, and that makes me really sad. If you were my daughter, I would not feel happy thinking of your picture on a pin-up calendar, being ogled by adolescent boys and pervy men who felt they could discount your intellect and accomplishments because all that really mattered about you was your tits and ass. The problem with such calendars, Ellen, is that you can’t impose your meaning on them for the rest of society. The rest of society is going to see you as a fancy whore, maybe a fancy whore with some IT credentials, but still a fancy whore. Go back to my example of Hedy Lamarr; how many people remember her for her intellect?
What makes me seem dangerous to Ellen? Is the danger in the “poisoning of young women’s opinions”? In what manner am I poisoning them? Well, we can round up the usual suspects in such cases. I probably stand accused of the following: I am a man-hater, I am a lesbian, I am anti-sex, I am anti-femininity, I am humorless, and I want to encourage all young women to hate men, become lesbians, reject sexuality, cut their hair short, stop wearing makeup, dress in ugly clothing and wear flat sensible shoes, and never, ever, ever laugh again.
(Although I would like to point out that most lesbians I know do have sex, so I doubt they will be happy with me for recruiting anti-sex lesbians. I’ll never get that toaster oven now. )
I am, in truth, a dangerous old woman. I do not ask women to hate men; I ask much, much more of them. I ask them to love themselves so much that they will not subject themselves to men and debase themselves in the manner our society demands of women and presents as admirable and good. I ask them not to be anorexic and bulimic; not to admire style over substance; not to value appearance over ability. I ask them to believe that young girls would want to grow up to be just like them, not just like Kate Moss or Paris Hilton. I ask them to understand their sexiness as something more complex than airbrushed physical beauty. I ask them to feel their competence and ability as some of their sexiest attributes. I ask them to hold potential life-partners to exceedingly high standards, including perceiving their competence and ability as sexy. I ask them to believe that if they were to be photographed in their laboratories at work, they would be beautiful, beautiful women, and they would not need to dress up as fancy whores to be admired and imitated by young girls. I ask them to be strong young women who grow up to be dangerous.