Girl on Girl Crime

1 10 2009

Most nights of the week I watch TV while getting caught up on work after Azita falls asleep. Since I work a lot, I end up watching a lot of TV, and since I’m not always watching pre-recorded stuff (although I usually do) I end up watching a lot of commercials. And, lately I’ve noticed that many commercials geared toward women seem to feature a woman hating another woman for achieving something as the punchline. Seriously. Next time you’re watching TV take a good look. There’s the diet product commercial where a group of women hate another woman for being thin. There’s the beauty product commercial where a group of women hate another woman for looking prettier or younger. I think you get the idea. Women supposedly hate other women for being prettier, thinner, younger, smarter, more successful and so on. You can substitute any superlative in that list, and it will work.

I would say that this is just an assumption made by the male-dominated advertising industry (and if you think we’ve come a long way since “Mad Men”, you’re sadly mistaken. I worked in the advertising industry not too long ago, and women’s lib is unheard of still.). However, as much as it pains me to say it, this is no assumption. It’s the truth. I hear it all the time. “I hate her. She’s so skinny.” “She’s so pretty it’s disgusting.” Women hate Martha Stewart because she’s so perfect and Gwyneth Paltrow because she’s so skinny after giving birth to two children (and she does manage to do it all also). You get the idea. Women hate other women for excelling at something, for being born with a little something more than we have, for working hard to achieve something. And, I have to say it’s not just a crying shame. It’s downright criminal.

Whatever happened to girl power? I’ll admit to the occasional pang of jealousy when I see a woman who can fit into skinny jeans. What I wouldn’t give to be in her place, I think, but I honestly cannot understand feeling negatively toward that woman. Rather, I see them as inspiration. “Wow, she looks great! Maybe if I run an extra 15 minutes a day and eat just 100 calories fewer, I too, could look equally great.” When I see a woman who does it all, I see them as a role model, someone I aspire to be like. Yes, I know that Martha Stewart has a ton of help, that people don’t see that and that they think “If she can do it all, why can’t my wife/mother/daughter/sister/etc.?” But really, who gives a damn what people think?

This past year, a woman came pretty damn close to being elected President of the United States. Irina Bokova became the first woman chief of UNESCO. Ursula Burns became CEO of Xerox, becoming the first African-American woman to run a large U.S. corporation. And, that’s not even a drop in the bucket of women’s achievements in the past year. If we’ve really come such a long way, why are we still playing that same old game?

When I gave birth to my daughter this year everything did change, but one thing that remained the same is my feelings on this issue. Actually, it didn’t remain the same, my resolve has gotten stronger. I want my daughter to have female role models, to look up to women who have accomplished things, and not to think “I hate her” but rather to think “I can do that too.” And, I’m going to do my small part to make this change happen. I’ll celebrate the achievements of women, big and small, in my life and in this blog, and my daughter will never hear me put another woman down. I hope that other women who read this can do the same. It’s time we put a stop to this girl on girl crime.

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To Be or Not to Be a Hughlett

1 09 2009

When Roger and I got married six and a half years ago, there was no question that I wasn’t going to change my name. A Safavian I was born, and a Safavian I will die.

My last name just feels like such a huge part of my identity. It is my tie to my father, the person I loved most for much of my life.

It is a tie to my history. The Safavians are the offspring, many generations removed of the Safavids, the ruling dynasty of Iran several centuries ago. I don’t lay claim to the accomplishments or failures of my ancestors, but it’s nice to feel like I have some roots laid down in documented history.

In addition to all of the above, my last name is a tie to the customs of my heritage. Iranians don’t change their names when they get married. In fact, the custom of a woman adopting her husband’s family name is a very Western thing. It is also a very sexist thing. Look it up on Wikipedia (and yes, before you say it, I know Wikipedia is in no way an authoritative source on anything, but humor me for a bit). I quote:

It can be construed as meaning the woman’s father and then husband had control over her, and it means that lines of male descent (patrilinearity) are seen as primary—that a child has no inherited name tying him or her to female ancestors (matrilinearity). Moreover, it means that women have no surnames of their own, but only “place-markers” indicating their relationship to men.

I have nothing more to that criticism other than to say that it sums up the final nail in the coffin of the idea that I would adopt the Hughlett surname when I wed Roger.

Not that Roger actually pressured or even ever brought up the idea. Roger knows me better than that, and I like to think that he loves me precisely for being that person. And, certainly no one in my family really questioned whether or not I would change my name either. Not even Roger’s parents made a big deal out of this.

His extended family is another story. Now, I’m not saying that they make a big deal or even any deal out of this non-issue. I’m just saying that every holiday season, Roger and I take on the big project of sending holiday cards to just about everyone in our large list of family and friends. That’s a lot of cards, but we do it because 1) we have a mutual, freakish love of good stationary, and 2) we both think it’s nice to spread a little holiday cheer. Every year, as we take on this task, we address every card with “Safavian / Hughlett” in the return address. It is pretty clear that we are not “The Hughletts”, but “The Safavian” and “The Hughlett.” Then we buy the coolest holiday-themed stamps we can find, send these cards off, and wait for our favorite part…

our ongoing little contest to see which one of us guesses correctly how many cards people will send us in return addressed to “Mr. & Mrs. Hughlett.” We laugh at it, and the following statement really is mostly jest, but some people really will use any vehicle, even a holiday card, to keep a woman down. And to that I say, Rrrrraaaaar!