SInce I have an odd lack of overflowing opinions lately, I dug up a draft (that’s why it talks about France in the present tense) and added a little to it. Voilà:
Lauredhel at Hoyden About Town and Shakesville does a great job of explaining something I’ve never been able to express intelligently before. You know when guys (thinking of a girl they like who makes them feel helpless) complain that women have all this power and it’s not fair and why would we need feminism when women are running the world anyway? They’re mistaken. Let’s use me as an example. I get hit on a few times a week here [edit: towards the end it was at least once a day]. Like three guys in my dorm have professed their “love” for me. I must have so much power! I must like, run France by now! Except I don’t, because instead of having sex with them in exchange for stuff, I tell them I have a boyfriend – then they give me a quizzical look, keep trying to get in my pants, and I finally just say no and walk away and make yet another mental note that having a boyfriend isn’t enough in this country – and then they walk out of my life forever. Unless they decide to try to get into my pants again a couple weeks later, in which case the above is repeated. [I got way more cool stuff from my female friends there, who are definitely into dudes.]
If I’m not willing to perform the duties of the sex class – whether that means having sex with them or giving them the impression that I’m going to have sex with them – my “power” vanishes. They don’t even want to talk to me. If they do keep talking to me, it’s only out of denial of the fact that I’m really not going to have sex with them. (I’m only talking about the guys who hit on me in the first place, by the way; there was a very very small handful of guys who treated me like a friend the whole time, which I appreciated.)
But can you ever get stuff just for being attractive, without having to have sex or play a part or fulfill other demands? Yeah. It is true that people treat attractive people better, or at least, that’s what I learned in high school psych, and it’s confirmed by how my friend got out of paying a penalty fee by being pretty recently. But men and women can be attractive. If women get stuff for being attractive more often, the most reasonable explanation would be that it’s because there are more heterosexual men than homosexual men, and more men than women are in financially/politically powerful positions from which they can bestow perks. In other words, because men control the real power. So if women get more “pretty perks” than men, it’s probably just evidence that things are still far from equal. There’s also the issue of female beauty being far more valued in our culture than male beauty. That could have something to do with it too, but just thinking about how willing I am to bend over backwards for a guy I have a crush on makes me think the availability of perks really does have more to do with who has the power to hand them out.
Sometimes pretty perks do turn into financial or other kinds of power, kinds of power that I think carry more weight than mere sexiness does, but this apparently doesn’t happen on a wide scale in a consistent way or else we’d see the results – more women in positions of non-sexual power.
To sum up: a) Women are rewarded for playing the role of a sex object, but of course, that requires playing the role of a sex object. b) Men and women are rewarded for merely being attractive to people in power, and more men are in power than women.