Sunday, November 19, 2017
Perspective

Sizing up the gender jeans

RECOMMENDED READING


In the past several months, American women have been engaged in intense public hand-wringing dialogues with themselves over whether they should "lean in" to be more aggressive careerists; whether it is okay to even mention a woman's gender when writing about her scientific accomplishments; whether an obituary can discuss the deceased woman's domestic skills (and in which paragraph such information belongs); whether women at Ivy League schools should seize the opportunity to find husbands among their intellectually equal classmates (or whether this is a deeply regressive antifeminist impulse); and whether a female CEO is betraying the sisterhood if she outlaws telecommuting.

As a man, I have been happy to sit back and let the ladies hash these things out among themselves. But a question has been gnawing at me, and I decided to respectfully address it to All Women at Once, in the person of my professional feminist academic friend Gina Barreca, whom I have on the phone. Gina, why is the feminist movement, now well into its dignified middle age, still in the throes of an adolescent identity crisis?

Gina: Take off your pants.

Gene: Excuse me?

Gina: Take off your pants. I'm taking off mine, too.

Gene: This would be a lot more exciting if we were at least in the same city.

Gina: What does yours say on the back?

Gene: It says "Levi Strauss and Co., Original Riveted. Waist 34, length 32."

Gina: Mine are also jeans. They say "Adriano Goldschmied." Period.

Gene: Your point?

Gina: No women's jeans would ever — ever — have a size on the back for everyone to see. If the waist-to-length ratio is a little high, we'd worry that people will think we're fat. If it's a little low, we'd worry about being judged scrawny. If it suggests the exactly mathematically perfect 0.8 waist-to-hip ratio that supposedly defines hotness, we'll worry that people will think we're bragging. This is all because women are burdened by a self-enforced but culturally imposed sense of shame.

Gene: You have completely changed the subject.

Gina: I have not. Bear with me. When men go shopping, they look for clothes that fit them. When women go shopping, we look to fit into clothes. It sounds the same, but it isn't. Men are entering a place that is tailored for them; women aren't. The clothes industry is notoriously indifferent to how we really look and what we really want. But when we can't fit, we blame ourselves. Worse, we shop with prescriptive guilt. "I need to be a size 8 by Marcia's daughter's bat mitzvah." Have any men ever thought, "I need to be a 42 short for the holidays"? The point is, as long as we keep trying to fit ourselves into what's out there, constantly trying to figure out what is wrong with us, we're doomed to live in an existential angst — or, as you put it, an adolescent identity crisis. Same with the workplace and our roles as professionals, lovers and mothers. What we need to do is grab the existing fabric of society, rip out the seams and sew it back together in a way that fits us.

Gene: Nicely done!

Gina: Thank you. We need to begin with mandatory quality child care in all places of business. Mandatory flexible hours, offered to everyone, men and women. A system of workplace job assessment and promotion that values quality of work, not the number of hours put in.

Gene: That's it? That's your prescription?

Gina: We get those two things done, the identity crisis is over.

Gene: Can I put my pants back on?

Gina: No. You look silly. I like that in a man.

© 2013 Washington Post Writers Group

Comments
Oh, Florida! We should all be thankful for the lady accused of shoplifting while dressed as a turkey

Oh, Florida! We should all be thankful for the lady accused of shoplifting while dressed as a turkey

he other day, I had a lovely chat with a lady who was arrested on charges of shoplifting ... while she was dressed as a turkey. I guess you could say that she’s been accused of doing the wrong kind of stuffing.The lady’s name is Irene Leonhard and sh...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Perspective: How the ‘Shalane Flanagan Effect’ works

Perspective: How the ‘Shalane Flanagan Effect’ works

When Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon this month, her victory was about more than just an athletic achievement. Of course, it’s a remarkable one: She’s the first American woman to win in 40 years, and she did so in a blistering 2 hours...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Perspective: A link between alcohol and cancer? It’s not nearly as scary as it seems

Perspective: A link between alcohol and cancer? It’s not nearly as scary as it seems

By AARON E. CARROLLThe headline had some of my friends in a panic.Citing evidence, the American Society of Clinical Oncology warned that even light drinking could increase the risk of cancer.Once again, we’ve been told that something we eat or drink ...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/17/17
The bridge wobbles. So do you. That’s when the trouble starts.

The bridge wobbles. So do you. That’s when the trouble starts.

Only one countyOut of all America’s 3,141 counties, only one — Howard County, Iowa (population 9,332) — voted by more than 20 percentage points for Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016, according to FiveThirtyEight.com.The three wealthiest people in the...
Published: 11/09/17
Updated: 11/17/17
PolitiFact: Explaining the Virginia election results

PolitiFact: Explaining the Virginia election results

As late as a few hours before the polls closed on Tuesday night, pundits were thinking Republican Ed Gillespie could pull off an upset in Virginia’s open-seat gubernatorial race.When the votes were tallied, however, they showed that Gillespie’s bid r...
Published: 11/09/17
Organic agriculture can help feed world, but only if we eat less meat and stop wasting food

Organic agriculture can help feed world, but only if we eat less meat and stop wasting food

Mammals were largely creatures of the night until the dinosaurs were killed off by an asteroid some 66 million years ago, a study finds. The findings, described in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, illuminate a pivotal transition in the history...
Published: 11/07/17
Updated: 11/17/17
PolitiFact: John Kelly, the Civil War and the slavery compromise that almost was

PolitiFact: John Kelly, the Civil War and the slavery compromise that almost was

he uproar that followed White House chief of staff John Kelly’s comment about the roots of the Civil War stands as Exhibit A of the potential problems that come when an official uses shorthand to talk about the country’s history of slavery. Here is t...
Published: 11/03/17
Updated: 11/04/17
Was George Papadopoulos just a ‘volunteer’? PolitiFact reviews the evidence

Was George Papadopoulos just a ‘volunteer’? PolitiFact reviews the evidence

President Donald Trump and prominent allies have repeatedly referred to former campaign aide George Papadopoulos as a mere "volunteer" after news broke that he had pled guilty to lying to the FBI in its Russia investigation.Press Secretary Sarah Huck...
Updated one month ago

Wolves know how to work together

Nearly ½ of Americans told the Pew Research Center that they trust only "some" or "none" of their neighbors.More than ¼of the farmhands in the United States are immigrants working here illegally.The first ninepresidents of Princeton University owned...
Published: 10/31/17
Updated: 11/09/17
Perspective: National Book Award winner says it’s self-interest that leads to racist policies, and then racism

Perspective: National Book Award winner says it’s self-interest that leads to racist policies, and then racism

Ibram X. Kendi was not surprised to see Donald Trump elected president.Unlike many Americans of every political position, Kendi saw the 2016 election not as a shock but as a swing of a historical pendulum he has spent years studying and writing about...
Updated one month ago