Friday, July 09, 2010

Marxist feminist Fridays!

Wall Street Journal:

A new generation of Czech women is coming of age that is embracing femininity and sex-appeal while at the same time fighting for, and winning, more equal treatment in the realms of business and government.

"Women's political influence is growing. Why not show we are women who aren't afraid of being sexy?" says Marketa Reedova, a 42-year-old Prague city councilwoman now running for mayor who also appears in [her party's pin-up] calendar.

Because if one thing is certain, the Czech old boy's club wasn't born and raised in that briar patch!

Of course, there's another story here relating to women's official roles under the state socialism of Czechoslovakia, which proscribed the kind of woman-as-sex object that comes out so strongly in commercial media. Marketing campaigns and soap opera-style intrigues are a lot more compelling than state propaganda, so it's not surprising that you hear these stories about Eastern Bloc women pining for the very media portrayals that Western feminists object so strongly to. They were stuck with some pretty dull stuff, comparatively.

As political circumstances change, so do the kinds of behavior which are encouraged and proscribed. Appearing in a pin-up calendar under Communism might have been an act of defiance, associated with the decadent West. But now it's an expectation, because a woman's body is the go-to selling point when you don't have any other ideas -- to paraphrase something I overheard recently. Once you're linked into the capital circuit, everything revolves around exchange, not any particular idea about inherent worth, which is what the old regime used to legitimize its rule. So instead of a group of men in the politburo deciding what a woman's role should be, they're all on Wall Street, using women to drive whatever they're selling, whether its a commodity or political reform or whatever.

The point about the Czech old boy's club is that old boys aren't exactly threatened by the prospect of women taking off their clothes. This is something we have to keep in mind anytime stripping, etc., is sold as a feminist act. It may be feminist for other reasons, depending on the situation, but as a "challenge" to men, no. Even when men in power have explicit rules which prohibit such behavior in public, they will have others which apply to themselves in private. I can assure you this is as true for communists as it is for mullahs as it is for Christian conservatives! For men in positions of authority, nothing really changes from one regime to the next; the implications in this case relate more to the broader society, and how women's roles are being redefined under capitalism.


Ethan said...

It may be feminist for other reasons, depending on the situation, but as a "challenge" to men, no.

I have a friend who stripped when she found herself, in her late teens, trying to raise her pre-teen sister while living in a car (after writing "87 Honda Civic" as her address on job applications ended up not working very well, for some reason). It did wonders for her, but of course challenged men not even a tiny little bit.

The distinction you make here is very clear to her, and to me, but thank you for pointing it out.

JRB said...


Your friend sounds pretty awesome, and has all of my admiration for her strength. Thanks for telling me about her. I won't forget her story.