As long as they do not make anyone else uncomfortable

Jill Rafferty-Weinisch at Celebrations Beyond Belief explains what the big deal is about Lands End’s repudiation of its own celebration of Gloria Steinem.

But this is just a clothing retailer right? Isn’t it unfair to place the mantle of social justice on a catalog company that sells cute cardigans and water shoes? Here’s my view.

Women and girls are routinely socialized that their rights are acceptable – as long as they do not offend or make anyone else uncomfortable. Our existence is regularly constrained by the possibility we might make someone feel bad, or horny, or angry, or threatened. It has broad and sweeping ramifications in terms of violence against women, educational attainment, workplace equity, the provision of medical care, basic bodily autonomy… virtually every part of our lives.

Because where would we all be if women just weren’t socialized to be compliant any more? What would we do without the adult babygirls simpering and pouting and looking up at us through their adorable eyelashes? What would be do without the constant, automatic efforts to seduce, flirt, manage, wheedle, evade, conceal, and otherwise manipulate? Where would we all be if women just stopped giving any fucks about how acceptable they are?

The current outrage isn’t about a single retailer, or even an individual iconic public figure. In apologizing for having promoted women’s equality alongside chinos and swimsuits, Lands End sent a clear message that women hear repeatedly:

Your rights are not important enough to discuss publicly because the people who feel they aren’t important matter more than you. Those who promote them will be dismissed. Those who bring them up will be castigated. And your protests over that dismissal will be met with weak apologies rather than any meaningful action.

It’s not a new refrain; we can all hum the tune, and it certainly doesn’t go with “Spring’s Must-Have Sundresses for Women and Girls.”

Because women just aren’t in the group “People Who Matter.” That group is reserved for men.

2 Responses to “As long as they do not make anyone else uncomfortable”