Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s oped in the NY Times is called “What Should a Powerful Woman Look Life?

And that’s perfect, because people don’t know. But they absolutely know what powerful men to should look like.

And that’s how we know women don’t have real equality.

Since we don’t know what powerful women should look like, women are scrutinized in ways men aren’t. They need to look powerful — that is, they need to look like men — but they should also be conventionally attractive.

And that’s how we know women don’t have real equality.

…An archetype for a powerful woman doesn’t exist in our culture. Without a monarchy, we don’t have queens, as Europe does. Our nation was founded on Christian ideals, and we see our God as male. By contrast, India abounds with powerful goddesses. Our holidays that honor leaders are about men — the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Presidents’ Day and the Fourth of July for our founding fathers. Our most prominent national celebration of women is Mother’s Day — hardly a hats-off to women’s roles as statesmen. (Consider that last word.)

I want to pull quotes out of her article and expound on them at length — how piquant they are, what perfect illustrations. But really, I’d just end up quoting the whole thing. So you should just go read it.

But I want to refer men to the experience of what it’s like to swim in this ocean of patriarchy. It sucks. And every time I say out loud, “being a woman is harder than being a man,” men will gladly tell me about how women get preferential treatment in certain circumstances blah blah blah. But, look, men — especially white men — just take for granted that they have access to all the positions of power. Women have to push and insist and wade through knee-high bullshit feedback about their appearance and the sound of their voices, held to a different and more expensive standard than men, criticized for being things that people assume they are (“high strung,” “high maintenance”) whether or not they actually are those things, whether or not those things are legitimate points of criticism. So, when we arrive at a position of power, we’re covered in the residue of the struggle we endured to get there. And then we’re criticized for our failure to remain unsullied by the struggle. Because the people in power didn’t have that struggle and therefore don’t even believe that it exists. 

When you make art, the art is made of you. It’s inseparable from your biology, which is inseparable from your experiences, which are inseparable from patriarchy… unless you intervene at some level, take the time and energy to hose off the bullshit and get back to yourself. But once you’ve taken that time, your male colleagues have advanced, and they assume it’s your fault you haven’t advanced as far because you aren’t willing to work as many hours. But if you want your art to be authentic, it’s absolutely imperative that you hose off the bullshit or it will end up in your art. And then your colleagues will say that you haven’t advanced as far as they have because your work isn’t as good. Which it isn’t. Because it’s covered in bullshit they and the rest of the dominant created and perpetuate.

Dude, that oped simultaneously broke my heart and put wings on my soul.

Seriously, go read it.


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