Susan Faludi in her latest book “The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America” (2007) discusses how and why the September 11 attack resulted in restoring “traditional” values of manhood, marriage, and maternity in the US. From what I gather, the consequences are quite apparent: the women, once again, are viewed as weak and needing protection.
Another thing is apparent to me: Susan Faludi has no idea that here in Sweden we never really parted with those traditional values in the first place. It is not that Swedish men OR women openly subscribe to the view that women are weaker, less competitive or less reasonable than men – that women are less than men. (That would be non-Swedish and so old fashion and so narrow minded and… ). Yet it doesn’t mean that people don’t host these ideas, sometimes despite what they might believe about their own values.
My two colleagues (a male and a female) are conversing at lunch about the food and what it can do to one’s figure when I hear the male colleague saying: As a girl you should think about… and he is not referring to the daily intake of iron. At which point I explode on the inside (probably because I, as a girl, have to think about so many things and my poor little brain simply gets shortcircuited) but politely ask if he as a man doesn’t have to think about his figure or health?
Again at the lunch table, this new discussion evolves around the story of Tom Cruise allegedly using high-heels not willing to put up with the fact that Katie Holmes is taller. (Despite my aversion to the tabloid press, it is proved to be indispensable in providing the topics for small talk at work). One of my male colleagues is indignated by this despicable act that clearly signifies betrayal of all men. When I ask him why the idea of T. C. wearing high heels is so unacceptable for him, the answer (unsurprisingly) is: Because he is a MAN! How could I ever even dream of hearing something in the line of: Because there is nothing humiliating in the fact that a woman is taller than a man and the problem obviously lies not in the man’s height but in his head and our culture? I sense we are light years away from a thought like this descending on us and being expressed in the open and pull the second thread (after all, this statement sounds as discriminatory for males as for females, from the same feminist perspective): why is it inconceivable for a woman to wear high heels but not for a man? I learn that women in high heels are pleasant to look at and elegant while men are clearly not. (Which adds one more item to my to-think-about list of a girl: I have to think of pleasing the eye of my male colleagues and men in general).
This is the world I live in and in order not to sink into a quiet desperation at lunch time I simply have to shut down my hearing.