The Female Thing

Envy. Sex. Dirt. Vulnerability.

Four  words that Laura Kipnis uses to analyze the female condition. Overall she talks about the struggle women face with balancing feminism and femininity. Feminism being the mentality of standing up for yourself and claiming your right to equality; refusing to be called sweetheart or honey.  Femininity being the defining factor of womanhood whether it’s in the form of a push up bra or make up.  She hits the nail on the head, “”The main reason that feminism and femininity are incompatible is that femininity has a nasty little secret, which is this: femininity, at least in its current incarnation, hinges on sustaining an underlying sense of female inadequacy. Feminism, on the other hand, wants to eliminate female inadequacy, to trounce it as a patriarchal myth.”  It’s a constant balancing act for women but besides this aspect of the female condition Kipnis does an amazing job intertwining the four themes and tying them back to the ultimate “female thing”…the vagina.

Envy.  Women envy men because they are dominant, powerful and rule the school, so to speak, obviously hence our pursuance for equality.  Femininity is a consumer driven response to a woman’s sense that something is missing…between her legs.  Having a penis in our society gives you all the power. It reminded me of a Friends episode where the girls are reading a relationship about being their own wind keepers and Phoebe  refers to some cookies Chandler is eating as “phallic man cakes.”  (disclaimer: I love Friends)  But this whole chapter was probably the least interesting but

Sex. Now this is where the book personally picked up because I don’t know about you but in all my 21 years no sex education class ever mentioned the female orgasm, never and I mean NEVER. Kipnis on the other hand gives you a full frontal view, not literally, but jeeze did I learn a lot. Apparently in medieval times they thought the woman had to orgasm in order to get pregnant…imagine how happy those women were!  She also goes on to talk about how nature really doesn’t do women any favors in our anatomical placement seeing as the clitoris is the primary source of our pleasure and vaginal orgasms are far and few apart.

Phone app…who knew?

Dirt.  When you think of the dirtier sex obviously men and their stinky socks all over the place are the first thing that comes to my mind but some people may think otherwise.  Kipnis talks about the second shift and how women are supposed clean up after their dirty male partners.  Women are always assigned to the private sphere because apparently Mr. Clean is supposed to be our only friend…oh and Swiffers.  It turns out that women are also seen as dirty because yet again nature is not our friend, good old Aunt Flo or the crimson tide, whatever your little nickname for menstruation is.  I guess because we bleed monthly that makes us the dirtier sex, still seems debatable to me but maybe that’s because I grew up with two brothers.  Apparently there are many religions and cultures that women are isolated or limited during their times of the month.  For years and years periods are topics of disgust, talking about tampons publicly is actually one of my favorite things to do because people get so uncomfortable.

Vulnerability.  There is so much value placed on the vagina (I would say female genitals but realistically there’s not much value placed on the clitoris, just ask my ex) but the more value assigned to it, the more vulnerable you are to it being robbed or thieved.  I was thinking about it and realized that the vagina is really a vessel for taking things in and putting things out.  It really is a tool for men to remain in power but it’s not something that we can change.  I really loved how Kipnis covers a bunch of topics while always relating it back to the female thing.  I applaud Kipnis for exploring multiple perspectives and never pushing her opinion.  Great read and I highly recommend it.

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