Nothing like a an opinion piece to start an in depth conversation.
As I mentioned yesterday on my Facebook page, I had a comment from a male reader in the UK, in relation to my Huffington Post article “Strong, Independent Women”, which turned into a lengthy debate.
So today, I’ve chosen to publish the conversation as I found it incredibly interesting. Today’s article is infinitely longer than my usual stuff.
An opinion can never be wrong. It is merely that. An opinion. And I respect the readers thoughts and feedback on what I wrote.
So here it is:
READER: “My comment was deleted so obviously I’m not allowed to tell you exactly why.
But no, you’re not a strong, independent woman.”
AMY ANKA: “Thank you for your feedback. I was not insinuating that I was a strong, independent woman one way or the other. I asked the question, and you answered with your opinion. That’s fine. We are all entitled to them. Thanks for reading.”
R: “You’re welcome. If my comments don’t get deleted again I’ll explain why I have answered this way. The problem is that you have thrown so many different things at this blog post each point you make could have its own thread. Anyway, I’ll respond to a few to start with ..
Twilight and 50 shades – what is it about the female characters that make a vampire (who’s hundreds of years old and still hanging round school kids) and a good looking billionaire (he had to be very rich and good looking, didn’t he? Would 50 shades have sold so well if he was a street sweeper?) obsess over them and worship them? Nothing.
Since 50 is just fan-fiction based on Twilight .. they have the same problem – the female characters aren’t well written, there’s no depth, and from the part of Twilight that I watched before I couldn’t take any more (sparkly vampires? are you kidding?) the girl has to be one of the most insipid characters I’ve seen in a film.
It’s fantasy, nothing more, that an average woman would have someone powerful, rich, good looking utterly devoted to them. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’re framing it as these men controlling the women .. who’s really in control in a sub/dom relationship?”
AA: “Point taken in regards to plots and characters. And yes, I stand by my claim that these women are both in controlling relationships.”
R: “Relationships they revel in – ooh, the drama – with plenty of alternative options around them that they have already dismissed because of their preference for the “bad” boy or the “rich” boy.”
AA: “The complexities of a controlling relationship are too in depth to go into, however it’s not so simple to walk away, and there often aren’t alternatives when the abuse is so deeply entrenched. What keeps all women in controlling relationships is fear. You should google Simon Gittany, who was recently convicted of the murder of his fiancé. It’s got nothing to do with these women being attracted to a “rich” or “bad” boy, and more to do with the incredible charisma of these men, and the control exerted by these men to keep these women off balance.”
R: “OK, next one – your section on being vulnerable and filled up.
Totally submissive? Hardly the case for every woman. Some women love being on top – are they being submissive? And for the ones who actively enjoy having the man on top and don’t want to reverse positions – are they being dominated or having sex the way they want? Maybe it’s just different for different women.
And how about control of when and where it actually happens? For example, with every girlfriend I’ve had – if they didn’t want to have sex – guess what? – we didn’t have sex. Who’s in control there?
Have you heard of ‘enthusiastic consent’? I’ve seen several discussions of it. There are those who would argue that unless the woman clearly and regularly states that she wants to have sex and she wants to continue then the man is effectively assaulting her. Would you support this? In some cases it seems that we may as well have a meeting beforehand, agree to a contract stipulating exactly what will and will not happen and that before every move proceeds .. she makes a statement that the agreed action is still acceptable.
No more flirting. No more seduction. No more having a few drinks and blaming alcohol. Things would have to be stated explicitly and agreed with no confusion at all about what was going to happen.
Would this control make you feel better about sex?”
AA: “I think you read a little too much into what I wrote and took it way out of context. I said women need to be submissive and vulnerable in order to have sex with a man. They do. They have to open their legs (or get on all fours, or climb on top, etc), and let a foreign object enter them. I didn’t make any mention of preferred sexual positions, locations, frequency, or levels of enthusiasm. I’m merely explaining the basic mechanics of how a male and female have sex with each other. And I do stand by my claim that women do need to be vulnerable and submissive when they have sex. It is the truth. I did not go into anything other than that.”
R: “Since your blog had so many points thrown into it of course it was left to interpretation. I gave you my interpretation and provided my own context.
I’m aware of how sex works, thanks. You have applied a subjective view of basic mechanics. When you eat – are you invaded by the foreign object? If you have an injection are you being submissive to the syringe?
I too stand by my claim. I know women who are not vulnerable or submissive in the slightest when it comes to sex.”
AA: “Understood. However from a biological perspective women are the ones who do need to be open and vulnerable. It is not a matter of invasion, but rather of being submissive in allowing the act to take place.”
R: “Found the issue – I attempted to discuss dating behaviour and judging and got instantly deleted.
Different topic then and I’ll make this my last one – “are women stronger but the male ego would have us believe we are anything but?”
Do you really think men are deliberately holding women back? There are women at the head of all kinds of professions holding senior posts and have more power and money than men working for them. How come these women have made it if men really want to keep women down?
Concerns about women in STEM – girls are doing better than boys in school, more women attend university, more women are graduating with higher scores in many courses .. but still many women are not going into subjects like science or engineering. Why is it? Why do certain subjects hold little or no interest for so many women? Is it really because they weren’t given science sets or building kits as children? There are many arguments about this and the effect of our upbringing.
Why is it that there is so much female interest in fashion/makeup/gossip in TV and magazines and little female interest in science and tech. Who do you find hidden away in their rooms obsessed with computers or playing video games, building things or taking things apart? Are girls being “prevented” from doing this? Really? I don’t think so.
Why are there tomboys who resist all of this stuff?”
AA: “I don’t know how to even respond to this comment, however I will respond to one question “Do you really think men are deliberately holding women back?”
In my article I asked questions, rather than made statements. And yes, in certain cases, it’s not that I feel as though men hold women back, but I do wonder (hence why in the piece is was presented as a question), if in some cases, men’s egos are convincing women that we are not as strong and independent as we actually are. Have a look at someone who feels threatened. What do they do? They attack. And say for arguments sake, a man feels inferior due to a combination of his own low self-esteem, and being in a relationship with a strong, independent woman. He is going to attempt to undermine her to make her doubt herself, and in turn make himself feel more confident. It’s a terrible combination, and so in these instances, yes, I do think that men would have women believe they are anything but strong and independent. It’s actually emotional abuse, and abuse (physical, emotional, etc), is prevalent in one in three relationships. And before you say men can get abused too, I’d highly recommend a book worth reading by Lundy Bancroft called “Why Does He Do That”.”
R: “Yes, there may be many situations where women are unusual and they receive a less than warm welcome as they enter professions and get promotions having to prove themselves to the men they work with.
So? Men do this to each other. Women do this. See what happens when men enter “women’s” professions – do the women immediately accept and welcome? Hardly. While there will always be bigots of either sex .. there will also be the expectation from any group that someone entering for the first time has to prove themselves.
As for abuse – it’s interesting that you seem quick to dismiss abuse of men as a lesser issue compared to what women experience.
Women can be extremely guilty of mental, emotional and physical abuse – whether of men or of children. Men are rightly criticised when they attack smaller, weaker women – even when there has been extreme provocation. But why don’t we see women’s abuse of children – far smaller, weaker and even more vulnerable since they are utterly dependent on them to survive – as something that should also be vilified in the same way? And before you say it is – look at child abuse and DV campaigns – how many have you seen that highlight this issue with the mother/wife attacking the child/husband?”
AA: “I’m not really referring in particular to women being accepted into their chosen professions or careers, and rather just talking in a generalised manner as a whole. I really feel as though I articulated what I wanted to say, and it’s a topic that can be discussed with no “right or wrong” conclusions being come to. It is an opinion piece after all.
And I do feel as though abuse of men by women is not as prevalent, however I’m not dismissing the fact that it does indeed take place, whether that be women abusing men, or children.
In my opinion though, statistically, woman are far more likely to be abused than what men are, and I do think it has a lot to do with men’s perceived inadequacies of themselves, which often leads to breaking a woman’s spirit in a sense, ensuring that there is little chance for them to become “strong and independent”.”
R: “The reason I answered no .. is based on the fact that you seem to be framing things purely in terms of women being “weaker” than men with stereotypes and cliches – as if you can consider men and women as ‘groups’ rather than just a huge bunch of individuals.
If you really still see things in these terms then how can you be “strong and independent”?
However, if instead you recognise what you do have – you’re the director of your own agency, you have a blog posting your writing on an internationally read newspaper .. then you are strong and independent – you just don’t sound it.”
AA: “Interesting observation. Inner strength and independence are not gained by having a certain social status or career achievement. If we derive our identity and self-worth from “what we do”, isn’t that a little counterproductive? It’s only what I do, not who I inherently am. It’s not a given that purely based on the fact that I have been successful in business, and that I write for an internationally recognised newspaper that I am going to FEEL strong and independent. The message I was trying to get across, from a woman’s perspective, is that very message of aspiring to be a “strong, independent woman”, is constantly forced upon us to aspire to be this woman. Yet men are not faced with the same messages. It is already assumed they are strong and independent. What I was asking is are we in actual fact, already “strong, and independent”? There are a lot of contributing factors that help and hinder your level of “strength, and independence”, and as a woman it’s something that we are constantly working towards. Everybody’s perception of what they deem as strength and independence varies I suppose. But again, I welcome your feedback, and I do thank you for reading.”
R: “I wasn’t seeing “director” as something you “do” – it’s something you have worked for and earned – no? But you raise an interesting point in how people, and maybe men in particular, do tend to judge others and themselves by what has been achieved, what job you do and how successful you have been.
But to say men are not faced with the same message? I disagree. Men are constantly told they have to “man up”, deal with things, find solutions – if they do not achieve something, make money, whatever then they can be judged as worthless.
There’s an article I saw today which covered a survey of women asked if they would date a shorter man – no prizes for guessing what the response was. How many women also draw the line in terms of the man’s job and his wealth? How many poor, or poor and short guys are rejected?.
But if this is just a matter of how you “feel” about something – why don’t you recognise your success as demonstrations of your strength and independence?”
AA: “Sure, I agree with you about men being told to man up.
In regards to women not wanting to date a shorter man? Well I guess that’s going on at a subconscious level and has got more to do with women subconsciously selecting men that will produce the strongest offspring, and aesthetically that’s from someone tall, and fit, and masculine looking. It’s just biology. Same way men are generally drawn to women with tiny waists and fairer hair – the indicators of fertility. Perhaps we’re not as evolved as we’d like to think. But do think it’s unfair that women would be so judgemental and not give someone a chance based on a lack of height or wealth. I also know some men do this with with women also – if they’re not thin enough or beautiful enough. Both sexes are equally guilty of discriminating.
To answer you as best I can in relation to perhaps not feeling “strong and independent” based on career or social achievements? I do think marks of strength and independence are different for everyone. There are lots of aspects in my life where I do possess strength and independence, however I have also been subjected to an undermining of those traits by men, and I understand the complexities behind human behaviour enough to recognise the reasons behind this undermining, and it always has to do with the man feeling threatened. I am not immune to self-doubt, particularly when the other party has a convincing case against why you are not the strong and independent woman you are. So whilst you shouldn’t base your self worth on somebody else’s opinion of you (and the reasons why they have that opinion), I do personally feel as though a lot of the reason why I perhaps don’t feel the way I potentially should, is as a direct result of taking on board the opinion of the men in my life. Which was the reason behind the article.”