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Thursday, March 8, 2012

International Women's Day




Google's designers obviously struggled on how to represent women in their logo today. Typically feminine icons which would have been used in the past (a lipstick for the "l"?) are now de trop


Well today is International Women's Day and whilst we are tempted to ask why there is no International Men's Day we already know the answer, of course.  

We sat down to write a piece about all the international women we have known with a short introduction about the place of women in society but in the end we entirely focussed on the latter. Odd, you might think, from someone' whose blogs objectify women as decorative sex objects.  However, whilst Triple P does, indeed, appreciate an attractive lady presented for such purpose that doesn't mean that we think that is women's only role or, on the contrary, that portraying them in such a way is negative. Trying to remove provocative images of women from advertising, as some EU MPs are trying to do, is obviously hopeless as many women want to be portrayed provocatively (or feel that they can be provocative).  If women didn't like the sorts of images in this post you can bet that advertisers would change them rather than risk revenue. This doesn't mean, as the MPs think, that men (or women) will only regard women as sex objects as long as they continue to be shown in this way.  People are not as stupid as that!  Which is why we don't need politicians telling us what to look at.  Women are supposed to be sex objects: it's part of their design! Pretending that this isn't so will not change men's attitudes. If all women dressed in identical boiler suits, wore no make up and had the same short haircuts men would still differentiate between them on the basis of looks.  We cannot remove this from the equation.  More importantly, some of these boiler suited women would flutter their eyelashes, wiggle their hips and try to stand out from their sisters in order to attract men. 


Aimed at women


Men do not feel the need to trumpet their existence or bemoan their state on a special day.  This view, we admit, is a little unfair.  Whilst, no doubt there will be groups of men-hating "wimmin" holding bitter little meetings today there is a need, certainly, for some reflection on the way women are treated, especially in some developing (and even not so developing countries).  The fact that women aren't allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia is truly mind blowing. Agent Triple P used to work at a famous insurance market where women weren't even allowed to enter the building until the early nineteen fifties.  Interestingly, the first woman to be allowed in wasn't a pioneering businesswoman, or even the Queen, but the actress Linda Christian, the wife of Tyrone Power.  Thus glamour succeeded where business could not and this, it seems to Triple P, is part of the fundamental dichotomy of being a woman and why we will never have true equality between the sexes. 


Aimed at women (and Zakkers!)


To put this in context Triple P was bought up, essentially, in an all female household,  He had close female relations who were strong characters, working in largely male environments, mostly as journalists (as was Triple P's mother).  From an early age, therefore, he was quite aware of the fact that women could do things that others said only men could do.  As a result, we have always been attracted to strong, forthright, even bossy, women and have no interest in simpering "girlie" women.  What has become clear over time, however, is that there are different types of women who want different things out of life.  We would also argue that this is not so much the case  the case with men.


Aimed at women


Triple enjoys the TV series Mad Men, set at a time (the early sixties, when Triple P was small) when most women wanted to find a good husband, settle down and have children.  The character of Peggy (played brilliantly by Elizabeth Moss) wants more than this and realises that she can do  everything the men can, if they will only let her.  Whether such a woman would really have existed at this time or whether the character is there to show up the ludicrously sexist attitudes of the time with the benefit of hindsight (and provide a positive role model for women viewers) we are not sure (we suspect the latter).  There is no doubt, however, that Triple P has seen a real change in the way women are treated over the last fifty years.  This has all been to the benefit of many of the women in Triple P's life such as:, a friend from college (who became a nuclear physicist), his sister (a counter-terrorism expert) and his friend B (a construction engineer).  None of this would have been possible if they had been born twenty years earlier.   B, being a German, still has some problems from older German men.  Triple P worked on setting up an office in Frankurt once and was amazed by the negative attitude of German businessmen to women and young women in particular.  In contrast, Italy, where Triple P was also working, was very much more open to women in business.  


Aimed at women. Megan Fox for Armani. 


There are, however, two key issues for women in obtaining the full equality many of them want.  The first, we are afraid to say, is children.  Women were designed to have children; there is no getting around it.  Triple P worked for a man who would only hire women in their fifties and older as he didn't want the expense and hassle of replacing younger women, permanently or temporarily, when they inevitably left to have children.  However much governments legislate (which they do a lot) or encourage the provision of childcare facilities at work (which they don't do enough towards) any man hiring a young woman will have this in the back of their minds.  Not just men either.  One of Triple P's female relatives who is a senior (childless) business woman was bemoaning the fact that one of her staff wan't in again because of something to do with her baby.  "Either have children or a career!" ranted Triple P's relative.  So, although we realise that women are responsible for the continuation of the species there is still quite a lot of suspicion from men that they aren't serious about work.  


Max Factor lipstick advertisement 1955

The second problem women have (women would say they only have one problem; which is the attitude of men!) is briefly put.  Men will never treat them equally as long as they continue to define themselves by the way they look.  Hair, make-up, clothes, handbags and (especially) shoes really aren't important.  Most men hardly think about this (unless they are young and trying to attract women).  Now, whether women's fixation with adornment is somehow genetic (they have to attract men in order to breed) or dictated by society (you aren't equal to us so you might as well pretty yourself) is also a moot point.  Some feminists argue that the whole fashion and cosmetics industry is designed to keep women down.  We don't think it is an organised male conspiracy but we do feel that it does contribute to them being taken less seriously by some (not all - there are no definites here) men.  


Tom Ford lipstick advertisement 2010. Progress?


So women really can't win.  Some want to have careers that mirror men's but have this genetic urge to breed which means that they are not regarded as equals by many men.  Women who stay at home and have babies often now feel unsatisfied when they see their sisters with interesting jobs while they spend their days mopping up sick (househusbands, we are afraid, will always be a tiny minority, largely because they are looked down upon by other men).  Women who dress and behave to please men these days find themselves derided by other women.  It is interesting to see the comments on the internet, for example, whenever there is a new picture of model Kelly Brook falling out of her clothes at some junket.  Men's comments tend to be simple (we are simple, or, rather, straightforward): "she looks fantastic" women's tend to be nasty and vindictive "when is this stupid untalented woman going to stop flaunting herself?"


Aimed at women


So true equality is impossible (because of the nature of, and necessity for, sexual attraction) but that doesn't mean that inequality should not be tackled in areas where things can change (like letting women own property, vote, stand for political office, be paid equally and, yes, drive!)  But, on the whole, at least women now have more of a choice as to which direction their life might take than the did fifty years ago. Whilst we deplore the sort of political correctness that insists on "chairperson" we think that the recent French government  declaration that all women should now be referred to as madame, rather than differentiating between those who are married or unmarried, is right and sensible.  Men, on the whole, have less choices as to how their lives might go; they can't opt to be a mother and they can't, on the whole, use their looks to advance themselves. They just have to work their whole lives.

Time for an International Men's Day, after all?


4 comments:

  1. Many interesting points Triple P! There was a definite distinct difference in opportunities for women born before WW2 and after and I think another 'step change' occurred mid to late 70s. Also, a lot of women like looking at glamorous women, the stats must justify that style of advertising!In 1998 in Germany I was told 'Fraulein' was no longer used (certainly not by me!) using 'Frau' seemed bizarre enough.
    Fraulein! Bitte fetchen sie mir die Typing! I don't think so!

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  2. In about 2002 I employed a (half German)chap who had worked at a German bank in London before. We soon discovered he couldn't use a word processor or send emails as "We had girls to do that at the bank".

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  3. To be fair my experience in setting up the German office was about 1989 so maybe things have improved there!

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  4. Spookily...http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,820361,00.html

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