As I said yesterday, I’ve been working with engaged couples from my church. It’s a part of my job. It’s a good part really. I think it’s one of the best ways I can talk to people about themselves and during a time when they are in meaningful life time but while they aren’t exactly in a crisis.
I mentioned Kate Shrout’s article at the Religious Dispatches. If you haven’t read it, take a look. In the last section she deals with the myth of feminine upward mobility. One of the reasons I love scholars is that they are often good writers. They find ways to express stuff about life and people and the things people do. Dr. Shrout wrote about the myth, and that’s what I want to park on in this post.
The myth of feminine upward mobility has to do with achieving princesshood by being given the right things. As she explains, while invoking the example of Cinderella, it is
It is a myth of feminine upward mobility, facilitated through consumption, enacted by women especially on the wedding day. It is about rite of passage—how girls become women—and I, for one, would argue the transition is brought about less by Prince Charming than it is by the Fairy Godmother, the kindly feminine personification of the marketplace. You become a woman by becoming visibly beautiful, and you become beautiful by getting the right stuff.
A couple key points about this myth.
- Women move upward by being given something by someone else. Shrout’s preference is to point to the Godmother rather than the Prince. Whichever you choose, the myth of mobility seems tied to someone outside of our sisters. As true as this is, especially around the subject of weddings, I’m frustrated that the one special day is the one time many women will feel esteemed and valued. It’s sad that females cannot look forward to a life of recognition, appreciation, and esteem, and that those three get crammed into one day. That one day carries so much significance. If it doesn’t happen, if it doesn’t happen in a timely manner, the meaning tied to it is lost.
- Myth has its problems. Some myths are real, and as I think of this one, I’m frustrated by a dozen instances in recent memory where I’ve heard of women being told in one way or another, “You aren’t beautiful unless you do this.” Or, “You haven’t achieved until you’ve accomplished that.” Shrout says that this myth is about women “getting the right stuff.” I hope you think that this myth, as realistic as it may be, is equally unacceptable for the women in your life.
- Women need men to recognize all kinds of beauty. My wife will tell you–I will tell you–that I am “eye conscious.” Dawn says that all men are eye conscious. But she’ll say I’m really eye conscious. I’d never heard that until she told me. In other words, men (including me) like beautiful things. I appreciate beauty. As a man, a part of my life task is to recognize beauty in women, in all forms, and not just physical beauty. I think a lot of men doing that will create a world where women begin to see themselves as beautiful and not necessarily beautiful because of some thing they’ve done, some thing they’ve gotten.
- Faith communities can be gift givers. I’d love to see communities of faith, or positive communities in general, being the voices which give to the women around us, so that their inherent beauty is pointed out, while they are receiving gifts from others in a safe way. I’d love to imagine a church or a temple or a youth group as the place where little sisters growing up will hear that they are beloved because they are and not simply because of something they can do for someone else. I think words like celibacy and singleness come up when a faith community is giving. I think we draw out a person’s creativity and honor a person’s sexuality when a community is giving.