[I was planning to publish Part 2 of my blog series “Story Slams Making Waves – What’s the Story, Anyway?!” – but find I must take a different direction today…]
The stories we tell about women and girls:
I confess that I’m oblivious and/or averse to much (not all, but much) of popular culture, particularly as relates to reality TV, or trending news of pop singers, or celebrity scandals or paparazzi-driven news stories, etc. etc. – a lot of it is honestly just too crass or shallow or negative or narcissistic for my tastes. I do have marginal awareness of some pop culture doings that I don’t seek out, though, because I do turn on the TV and see promos/clips of shows I don’t watch, I do see headlines in the newspaper and online, etc.
But I confess that until today I have been completely unaware of “the U.S. booty business,” that “companies are cashing in on growing demand from women seeking the more curvaceous figures of their favorite stars, who flaunt their fuller rear ends,” that sales for “foam padded panties…are up 47 percent in the last six months from the same period last year.” [Denver Post, Nov. 12, 2014, Business section; hard copy headline of Associated Press article reads: “Butt, seriously – From pads to gym classes companies add to bottom line – big time.”]
I confess I never knew, or imagined, there was such a thing AS foam padded panties, other than something like body suit costumes – the best of which was Robin Williams’ for “Mrs. Doubtfire.” Or that there was a market – nay, a demand – for such, with non-thespian women.
According to this article, in addition to buying strategically-padded panties, women flock to gym classes promising to increase “booty size” (by, say, doing 120 squats in 45 minutes – owwwww ); and plastic surgery is increasingly common (“Brazilian butt lift, in which fat is sucked from a patient’s stomach, love handles or back and put into their buttocks and hips [for about $13,000]…This type of surgery, along with buttock implants, was the fastest-growing plastic surgery last year, with more than 11,000 procedures, up 58 percent from 2012”) – because “every girl now wants a booty.” (If it’s in the paper, it must be true, right?…)
So now this, in addition to ubiquitous padded bras and every girl’s cherished dream of breast implants…
What in the world are we telling our girls? And our boys?
Of course human sexuality – sexual attraction, sexual behavior – is natural, normal, & necessary! And visual aspects/stimulation/attractiveness is part of it. And, our 21st-century digital communication-of-everything is highly visual, which understandably enables and even promotes widespread focus on visual aspects of…whatever is being considered.
But I think one – ooh, of many – of the things happening in all this is that bodies are getting more and more objectified – and though not only women’s, primarily women’s, it seems. (The stories that are communicated about women’s and girls’ bodies is the focus of the Denver Post article, and so of this blog post – so men, I’m not ignoring you; you’re just not the focus here today.)
We need to tell the stories of women’s and girls’ vast array of strengths and capabilities and attributes – wa-a-a-a-ay beyond how they look. Now as much as ever.
Tatterhood and Other Tales was published in 1978 by The Feminist Press, one of the best collections of traditional stories featuring “clever, strong, resourceful, and successful females…role models a-plenty for both sexes here. A rich assortment!” (Eve Merriam). New York Storyteller Heather Forest has adapted and masterfully told-and-sung several of these stories – some of my favorite story-listening experiences ever. (And one of my favorite stories to tell can be found in it: “The Search for the Magic Lake,” from Ecuador.) [BTW, definition of “feminist” – One who believes that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities.]
THESE ARE EXAMPLES OF THE KINDS OF STORIES WE MUST BE TELLING – TO GIRLS, TO WOMEN, TO BOYS AND TO MEN.
Girls, and the women they grow up to be, must have the vision and inner knowledge and confidence that they are so much more than the shape of their bodies! So vastly much more!
And boys, and the men they grow up to be, must have the vision and inner knowledge and confidence that they are so much more than consumers of the shape of women’s bodies! So vastly much more!
Storytellers, we need to tell the stories that nurture such vision and knowledge and confidence.
I am not saying that only stories found in such wonderful collections (see below) should be told – any more than ONLY stories about caring for the environment, or ONLY stories about interfaith cooperation, or ONLY stories with any particular kind of valuable theme or plot or character should be told.
But the traditional, cultural, both contemporary-and-even-centuries-old stories of clever, strong, resourceful and successful females MUST be sought, and shared, and celebrated, and engaged with. And they must be common. Preferably ubiquitous. At least as ubiquitous as padded bras, and hopefully much more than padded panties.
“Booty” still means “treasure and valuables,” too (whether ill-gotten by piracy, or not!).
Well, I have valuable THIS-kind-of-booty on my bookshelves and in my story repertoire, and perhaps you do, too!
Let’s all – whether…
- professional storytellers building a repertoire, or
- parents or grandparents, or teachers, seeking books for your children, or
- congregational leaders or librarians or others putting together programs, or
- engaging simply in conversation with others
…let’s all hold onto and dig into and spill out the treasure of telling stories that demonstrate, celebrate, build up, and affirm the autonomous strength and value of girls/women – indeed of individuals, whatever one’s sex/gender.
Let’s tell the stories that build up and affirm each other’s worth, and true beauty-of-every-kind, and thereby reinforce the vital connections we have with each other.
And that tell girls and women – and boys and men – that females ARE valuable treasure, definitely and completely regardless of “booty size.”
- What are some of your favorite stories of strong female characters?
- Do you have some good collections or individual stories to recommend?
A few of my favorites from off my bookshelves (pictured above):
- Tatterhood and Other Tales, edited by Ethel Johnston Phelps
- Wise Women: Folk and Fairy Tales from around the World, retold & edited by Suzanne I. Barchers
- Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales from Around the World, edited by Kathleen Ragan
- In Full Bloom: Tales of Women in Their Prime, by Sharon Creeden
- Westward the Women: An Anthology of Western Stories by Women, edited by Vicki Piekarski
Thanks for reading – Pam