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Friday, May 9, 2014

from the vault: high school essay

So here we are.

It's been a while, I know. And I still have nothing new to say. But with the Internet all awash in misty watercolor memories of a seemingly ancient political scandal, and seeing all sorts of fallout articles about how Millennials view feminism, I thought I'd dredge up an old, unpublished gem from my laptop's innards that I think is a wee bit timely. It's a parody essay about feminism, written from the view of an ignorant-yet-trying-to-be-intelligent high school student in 1998. It was rejected - years ago - for publication elsewhere when I initially wrote it in 2007, so hell, why not here?

("Hell, why not here?" is, coincidentally, a rejected tagline for this site.)

I reiterate: it's a parody essay, written in another character's voice. It does not reflect my own opinion, beliefs, or general knowledge. Don't be all snarky and quote any lines out of context. And again, think 1998Oh, and it's supposed to be funny, or maybe it isn't… but that's the way it always goes here at "web…blah…log."

I shouldn't have to qualify a post that much, but it's the Internet, so you know that I do.


They Almost Came an Even Longer Way, Baby: A Report on Feminism
11th Grade
December 8, 1998

Feminism was invented in the 1970s by a woman named Gloria Steinem, based on the principle of “I could be beautiful, but I choose not to be!”  Also known as “Women’s Liberation,” or “Women’s Lib,” it revolutionized the American way of life. Dinners were often late, but the sex was better.  Women decided they did not want to be defined by marital status and preferred to be called “Ms.” and liked it so much they made a magazine called “Ms.,” the first women’s magazine not to have any recipes in it. Another women’s magazine, “Cosmopolitan,” or “Cosmo,” also hit the newsstands, and it began to publish the word “orgasm” more often, which up until that time was only known as “the big o,” or as nothing at all.
Some people wonder why feminism happened when it did. After all, it was not the first women’s movement. In the early part of the 20th century, women banded together in both America and England, fighting for their right to vote. They were known as suffragettes, and featured in the 1964 film “Mary Poppins.” American women finally got the vote in 1920 and afterwards, women cut their hair short and wore short dresses, smoked and became flappers. This was popularized in the 1970 film “The Great Gatsby,” starring Robert Redford before he was a director. Then the men went off to war and women filled the factories. They collectively became known as “Rosie the Riveter,” the image of which became a famous poster, and they even played professional baseball, as was proven in the 1992 film “A League of Their Own,” which, coincidentally, starred Rosie O’Donnell.  But once the men came home from World War II, the women went back to the kitchen and stayed there until feminism came along.
Why was there such a huge gap in between these movements? Why did feminism take so long to happen? And why did the fashions in the women’s movements from 1900 to 1973 get uglier and uglier? 
The latter question begs an answer. Women went from wearing lacy long dresses with big hats to short cute little frocks to overalls and head scarves to polyester bellbottoms and sweater vests to wearing Nikes with skirts. One only wonders what the fashions of the next women’s movement will bring about.
As for the timing of feminism, there is a strong correlation between the breakup of the Beatles and the feminist movement. With no more Beatles to idolize and follow around, young women got bored and had nothing better to do than to look at their surroundings and realize that they were being screwed, both literally and figuratively, by men. The hippie movement was also winding down, and so they too had lots of time on their hands, and because they were already quite skilled in protesting, they took this new message to the streets.  They borrowed big signs from the African American community, who had already triumphed in their fight for equal rights, and marched.  
Some of the things that the feminists wanted were: equal pay for equal work, recognition of the duties of wives and mothers, and no more bras. Many bras were burned in protest. Some men argued that they were just trying to show up the men who were burning their draft cards at the time. But whatever the reasons, lots of fires were set in the early 1970s, mostly due to feminism.
Some women were tired of the concept of traditional beauty, and marching alongside hippies inspired them to stop shaving their legs. Other women felt that they wanted more control over their bodies, so the already popular birth control pill, or The Pill, as it was more well known, became even more popular. And still other women were tired of the preconceived notions of women-as-housewives that were being paraded on the television programs of the time, so shows such as “That Girl,” The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and “Maude” became big hits. They were the same in many respects in that they featured independent women, but they were different in that “That Girl” was about a pretty, single woman dating a pretty boy in the big city, “Mary Tyler Moore” was about a pretty, single woman dating lots and lots of men in a different big city, and “Maude” was about ugly married people who were nonetheless independent presumably because they talked loudly and had abortions.
Feminism was a political hot-button. Many people were afraid that feminism would replace femininity, and that women would no longer be attractive. But they needn’t have worried. Soon contact lenses and hot pants would be invented and women would once again be sexy. Still, it was a little ways away. And feminism wasn’t quite over yet.
The most exciting thing to happen to feminism was the infamous 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King, a woman, and Bobby Riggs, a man, bitter rivals who for some reason both had unisex names, big eyeglasses and unfortunate hairstyles, yet could not find common ground. It was called “The Battle of the Sexes” and even though Billie Jean King won, it didn’t really decide or change anything societally outside of tennis. It did, however, give Billie Jean King a lot of notoriety, more money, and the opportunity to become friends with Elton John and have him write a really good song, “Philadelphia Freedom,” in honor of her, so that is a very good legacy to have.
The biggest issue of the feminist movement was the ERA, or Equal Rights Amendment. It went to Congress many times in the 70s, 80s, and even 90s but never got passed. Some argued that it is easier to just keep paying women 70 cents for every dollar a man makes than to go through all of the trouble of making all salaries equal. In fact, some considered equal salaries to be Communist. This theory is furthered by the fact that feminism was officially dead by the time the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, not long after the San Francisco earthquake, which seems related but is not.
Feminism may be gone, but its effects have lasted a long time. A woman named Geraldine Ferraro ran for vice-president in 1984, but Ronald Reagan was so popular in 1984 that even a famous and beautiful movie star like Meryl Streep would have had trouble getting any votes. Even though there have not been any more female presidential candidates or running-mates so far, many strong, independent women have brought down powerful male politicians by having affairs with them, which has opened doors to young women everywhere. Today, any woman can achieve fame and fortune by dating, marrying, or having an affair with a famous man.  By this method, it is easier than ever for a woman to achieve success. After all, a First Lady doesn’t have to run for President, but she still gets to live in the White House.
Some say that there is no more need for feminism at all. Now the word “bitch” is said on television and in movies all the time and no one gets offended by it. 
Perhaps feminism and the ERA were not meant to be, but women have equality in other fields: for every Best Actor category at the Emmys and Oscars, there is a Best Actress category. That should make women proud. Many women have won awards, in both serious roles where they wear conservative suits and thick glasses and talk in accents, and also in lighter roles where they are pretty and funny and wear great clothes. And at the Grammys and Olympics, men and women sometimes even compete in the same categories, like Best Song and Best Album and equestrian and pairs figure skating. Women have even surpassed men in some areas, such as having more attention paid to their gowns at awards shows and having more pictures of them published the day after. And in sitcoms, the wife is always the smart one, even if she’s not as funny as the husband. There is even one woman, Oprah Winfrey, who is just as rich, influential and successful as the hundreds of men on the Forbes list. That is amazing.
 It is good to know that we live in the greatest country in the world, where women can be almost anything they want to be, except for President. 

Yes indeed. Welcome to me.

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