Are privileged women turned on by sexual objectification?

According to a recently made survey which involved 25,000 people in 23 major countries, yes they are.

Roughly, the narrower the gap between men and women in economical and socio-political terms, the less the women of those countries embrace the importance of feminism in those achievements. 

As if this weren’t already bad enough, it seems they also romantize toxic masculinity. 

Let’s go down to numbers and sordid details:

– Only 1 in each 10 German women considers herself a feminist. In Turkey, for instance, that number doubles. 

– In Germany, 2 out of 10 women disapprove of the #metoo movement. The Danish women are the champions in this depressing panorama since 2 out of 5 fear that this movement against rape culture and sexual harassment creates obstacles to enjoyable relationships between men and women. 

– More than a quarter of German women think that wolf-whistling is acceptable. This number is only outranked by Denmark in which a third of the women are pretty much O.K. with this toxic male behaviour. On the other hand, in Turkey, only 5 in 100 women find the same sort of male entitlement acceptable. 

In conclusion: more women in Germany feel offended by being called a feminist than by being catcalled by guys on the street. 

And all these findings do not come as a surprise to me since they really do match my experience.

Me, as a woman growing up in southern Europe, who disliked being seen as an object on display and having judgements of strangers being thrown at, always found amazing how some female tourists from Central and Northern Europe found charming the toxic behaviours of Latin men.  During some “girl talks”, quite a few confided to me that, unfortunately, in their country men were not as “passionate” or “warm” like the Portuguese, Italian or Spanish ones. That German, Swedish or Danish men hardly ever told them how good they looked and seldom did they give them  compliments. Apparently and according to their narratives, hardly ever men took the initiative to courtship so, it was refreshing, for them, being in a country where women were “appreciated”.

Let’s talk then about female appreciation and focus on a survey made last year which included most European countries and focused on the time each gender dedicated to household chores. Let’s take the example of the forever masters of wolf-whistling, Italy!

In Italy, 81% of the women performed daily tasks such as cleaning and cooking. Only 13% of the men did the same. In all the other Mediterranean countries the numbers aren’t very different while, in Germany, the number of women in the same circumstances lowers to 72% and the percentage of men who seem to enjoy domestic chores raises ro 29%. Not surprisingly, that number of “cold” but highly active males when it comes to domestic tasks is even higher in Scandinavia. 

Yes ladies, to your disgruntlement, one thing does not seem to come without the other.

“Hot-blooded” guys who feel entitled enough to wolf-whistle strangers on the street but who are devoted parents and companions and who are equally fiery about sharing annoying tasks with their partners only exist in your minds. 

So, it seems that women who are for long exposed to more social equality between genders tend to mistake “appreciation” for objectification and submission. 

To make it simple, the traditional concept of seduction implies the active use of specific lines and codes which foresee the surrender of the target who is, naturally, the woman. Praising is the main tool. Praising her eyes, her lips, her body or her intelligence. The source of inspiration for the appraisal varies according to the level of  training and smartness of the seductive agent who is, obviously, the man. 

Therefore, in a culture where “decent” women have to be seduced, the charm of the seducer relies on his ability to praise the prey and his value is based on how successful he is in turning a “saint” into a ‘whore”.

The secret of seduction is never telling the truth, even less in a direct manner. Everyone sticks to innuendos. In order to get to the point of the whole seduction process, men and women play roles, cover their true intentions, send mixed signals and act according to a script defined by ancestral habits. The man is active, the female is passive. He plays to win and if he wins, she is taken and then becomes one of his “conquests”. These mises-en-scène take place on the street, at the working place, at the supermarket, at school, on the metro, at the doctor’s office.

With or without women’s consent.

Female consent isn’t even a variable to be considered in these equation. Because in a culture in which women have to play “hard to get” in order to be seen as “honorable” – even when they are interested in the man in question – what’s the real value of a “no”?

Thus, the questions that arise here are several:

Why do women who, through the feminist ideology, have achieved so many social and political rights, feel the need to be treated like a object, by being praised by stranger men? 

Why do they think that equality between genders is a threat to the relationship between genders?

Why can’t they conceive “passion” without subordination?

And most importantly, why do they show contempt towards feminism, the exact same ideology which grated them all the rights they now enjoy?

Is privilege creating a cultural retrocession when it comes to the way women see themselves in the world?

It is likely that the conquests achieved in the realm of female rights are too recent to contradict the solidly founded archetypes based on legends, fairytales and centuries of gendered-based narratives. In more equalitarian social circumstances, the need for men to play the male traditional role and the women to play their “feminine but not feminist” part tends to be less therefore, it seems that these women start missing being treated as subordinates.

Looking at the results of this survey, it seems there is no middle ground. As a woman, either you are treated like an object/ prize/ princess and praised, seduced, wolf-whistled or catcalled, or enjoy real social rights like smaller gendered gap, equal employment rights and universal nursery care.

In such dimension where women would prefer to be seen as objects of desire and take for granted the social rights feminists have fought for, there seems to be less and less room for healthy interactions between two adults who share the common goal of reaching whichever type of intimacy with one another and be clear about it, in a state of equality.

That’s why feminism is still necessary. Even if privileged women think it is not. 

For more details about the above mentioned surveys , check YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project (https://yougov.co.uk/topics/international/articles-reports/2019/05/01/about-yougov-cambridge-globalism-project) and https://www.ine.pt/scripts/wm_v_final/index.html?lang=pt

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Queuing up

Tote bags in one hand, wallet under the left arm, supermarket trolley ready to roll.

I am standing in a supermarket queue on a rainy Saturday morning. It seems that,when it rains, there’s a higher propensity for shopping so, the queue is longer than usual. The same appears to apply to me since I usually only fill up a basket but, this time, I needed a trolley. The pace is pretty fast and there’s really no reason to complain for waiting too long. I’m, definitely, not used to that. Where I come from, waiting in endless checkout lines is part of the whole experience of going shopping at the weekend. People are used to waiting and,even if they mind, they do not really tend to complain. At least, not loud enough for the bad service to change.

At the checkout, there’s a woman in her mid-fifties who is mostly efficient but who still manages to attempt a smile before repeating a formula which isn’t yet completely familiar to me.

In the line, waiting with me, there are half a dozen people, some of different origins among the majority that is most obviously German.  The young couple in front of me, with their trolley full of different types of sodas, crisps and appetizers which allow me to guess that they will be throwing a party of some sort, speak in Turkish. I can also hear English spoken with a Spanish accent coming from the end of the line and the man who’s paying is, at the same time, enthusiastically speaking on the phone in a Slavic language. However, they all keep a reasonable distance between themselves. Maybe because no one from the adjacent queues seems particularly interested in jumping in line and everybody appears to resist the temptation of pushing the fellow customer in order to hasten the pace.

It’s my turn to put my shopping on the conveyor belt right behind the divider that the young Turkish mother placed on the belt with a smile. I have been noticing that, here, placing the divider on the belt once you’ve have emptied your trolley is part of the tacit knowledge shared by decent supermarket customers.I remember that once I have forgotten to do it and the lady behind me gave me a look of disapproval which, for a couple of minutes, kept me wondering about what I could have possibly done wrong. After a few times at the supermarket, I realised my mistake and never repeated it ever since. That’s how primates learn and I am not an exception.

After amonth in Germany I guess I will no longer do what isn’t expected of me while queueing up.

I move the trolley forward and go to the end of the checkout counter. My bags are open and I’m ready to clear my stuff as fast as possible, like everybody else.  The lady behind the cash register greets me in the same fashion but there’s no smile on her face. She tells me something in German which my A.1.1 level still doesn’t allow me to understand. It’s pointless asking her to repeat so I say in English that I don’t understand hoping that she’d be tolerant enough with my lack of knowledge of German which always makes me feel guilty. Instead, she gets visibly upset, raises her voice while repeating the same sentence. That wasn’t exactly helpful and the only thing I know is that I am a source of some sort of disappointment to her. So, in a sudden movement, she gets up from her chair and places my trolley right at the end of the counter so she can throw the goods in it, directly after registering them. The trolley, placed in an oblique position, geometrically fits the design of the counter and then, I realise I am not supposed to waste time putting my shopping in the bags while standing in the line.  That should be done afterwards, and that’s why there’s another long counter by the window. That is what all the customers with trolleys are doing. How could I have missed that?

Mental note made, since it is my goal to completely assimilate the German supermarket organization culture once and for all.

Reharsing an escape

My imagination decided how fast the trees passed by. I evaded fictitious obstacles and winded through a road which curves only I knew.

I was under my father’s desk. A massive, dark brown piece of furniture in the centre of the study room, ornate with twisted columns so shiny and smooth it was hard to believe that are were made out of solid wood.

 I was 4 years old and I fitted perfectly inside the cubicle between the two lateral sets of drawers.

The saucepan lid that I turned around a non-existent axis made a perfect make-believe steering wheel. I felt safe. I was on the run. I felt safe despite being on the run. I, definitely, felt safe because I was on the run.

I could be the driver of my own wooden car for hours and enjoy landscapes only I could see. Sometimes, I used to take Bolacha with me – a red, plushy clown, half my size, dressed in a tartan overall. But mostly, I liked to drive alone.

This is my very first memory of wanting to escape.

I was 6.  On Friday afternoons, I was particularly happy. No more school and a whole weekend ahead of me. The idea of what a weekend could be and the expectations of doing something special like going for a walk somewhere new or eating ice-cream at my favourite parlour were enough to make me happy.

On Friday afternoons, I loved to throw empty plastic bags out of the kitchen window. If they were light enough, on windy days, they’d quickly set off from out of my sight. It was such a pleasure watching them inflate and fly away! I wondered where they’d go and who would see them apart from myself. I liked to imagine they’d go high enough to land somewhere else and twirl around distant trees.

I wished I was one of them to take off from the brown window sill of the kitchen window up into the blueness of the sky.

Obviously, this was before their odysseys inspired Herzog and Sigur Rós and emblematic short films anddefinitely long before plastic bags were considered highly pollutant. So, I was allowed to empty the drawer from all the transparent ones and free them into an exciting and unknown world.

I was 13. I was crossing the Portuguese border into Spain by car. Our final destination would be  3 days away, in distant Germany, where I had never been. On the front seat, next to the driver, my sister started to cry, like she always did as soon as she left the country. On the back seat, a thousand tons are lifted from my shoulders and the air feels lighter and the horizon broader and I couldn’t be happier. I had never been freer. The further and faster we’d go, the better it felt. From the back window I saw the sign that draws an imaginary line between the two countries vanish in the distance, and despite I then felt as light as a flying transparent plastic bag in the wind, I was already dreading the day I’d see it again.

But, in the meantime, I would have a couple of weeks to fulfil my dream of travelling abroad, beyond the small Spanish border towns where, sometimes, we used to shopping during the summer vacations.

I was absolutely positive that everything I would find along the way, between Lisbon and Frankfurt, would be so much nicer than the place I came from. All those places, whichever they were and whatever their name was, meant freedom to me.

Hardly did I know that, almost 30 years and many simulated homes later, it would be in Germany which, for the first time, I would stop wanting to escape.