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Expression of Self and the Modern Woman

I have been going through some transitions in my life and especially about my career and how I wish it was more about my passions. More specifically my passion for writing. Hence the blogging web site. My mulling over some of the dilemmas worked into other thought patterns of where we are as women today. The question has been asked of me recently in an English class and again in a grant proposal. I do not like labels and do not want this expression of thought to label me a feminist. But I am afraid it will though it will be based upon your definition of that label. And though I speak of Hillary Clinton this is not a political debate for or against her running for president. I was asked to read the book “What Do Women Want?” by Erica Jong and write an essay about it. Not a book report but an essay of what I got out of it and how it made me feel. The first thing I realized is the reason why I do not read books like this…they stir me up way too much!

An awarding winning novelist, poet and essayist, Erica Jong has become a female representative for women’s rights whether that was her intention or not. Expressing her opinions and observations in her bestselling books, she has approached such subjects as women and power, relationships and of course; sex. Documenting the changes for women over the decades and her opinions of the outcomes, Ms. Jong has raised the questions: what do women want and are we really getting it? According to Ms. Jong’s book What Do Women Want?, it is bread, roses, sex and power. Maybe. I know that women have fought, suffered and argued their rights to equal pay, help in the home, monogamous, loving relationships, and to be seen as powerful, creative partners who do not have to give up everything to be who they are. Women have gained so much, lost so much and still to this day by many are perceived to have a place in the world, by her man’s side.

Women are the divine holders of creation, disputing cloning, the bringers of life. Finding time for a career, expressions of creativity, just time for the self, have always been in opposition of the responsibility to children and mate. In Creativity Versus Maternity Jong states “Besides, it had taken me years to free myself of the guilt I felt toward the men in my life when I shut myself away to write. How could I ever deal with the guilt created by a creature who would actually need me for its physical survival?” (Jong 125).

Whether this guilt is created by society, religion, the man of the house, or ourselves, it is still a strong force to be reckoned with. Mentally and physically women are still struggling with this balance that can only be created by becoming the ideal “super woman” who can find the energy and time to take care of everyone’s needs and still feed her own to be a part of this world in some creative expression besides giving birth and being the woman behind the man. If she does not create this balance then she is failing and worse; if she finds it within creating a home for her family she is now persecuted for not contributing beyond this image of mother and wife, a failure to her potential. It is true that women have fought hard for the right to access the paid workplace but the contributions of the at-home mother which are just as, if not more, important than those given to the economy are not acknowledged even by those who think a woman’s place is in the home. Either way, women are put in the position to make hard, sometimes unpleasant, choices if she is to go beyond being pigeon holed into a stereotype.

Postponing marriage and childbearing has become more accepted by society now, as they reap the benefits of having more women in the workforce. This gives women more time to establish their outside-family paths and hopefully take their time to find someone who is willing to take a more true hand in sharing family duties as their partner. Then there are those who find it necessary to let go of the ideal of family to be at their full potential. Then again, there are those who let go of their identity as women to reach the goals that are meant for men.

A man who reaches his goals no matter the consequences is considered successful. A women who reaches her goals no matter the consequences is considered a bitch. Women who aspire to great heights, same as their male mentors, have only their examples to follow. “Be not ashamed, woman…You are the gates of the body and you are the gates of the soul” – Walt Whitman. Though there are few men who have recognized and publicly expressed their findings of their female counterparts, there are even fewer women who have discovered who they can really be.

And so, Bill Clinton found such a woman, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Representing most American women as a working mother, she was also a woman who had confidence in who she was and what she believed in. Her strength was visible and outspoken. HRC had refused to pretend to be the power behind the man. She had brains and was not afraid to admit it. Her unvarnished persona brought admiration and fear. She was doing it all and having it all and even those who were just like her hated her. “I liked Hillary Clinton’s fuck-you attitude from the start, and I was initially surprised to find myself in the minority.” (Jong 11). Because of her refusal to play the ‘female-role’ for political wives she was taken from the public eye during the second presidential campaign to be revamped to fit the mold.

HRC has definitely become a symbol for feminism, whether she meant to be or not. Whether she is an equity feminist or gender feminist seems to be up for debate. According to US statistics, most of the major battles for equality has been won. As far as salaries go, in many ways women are doing better than men. It is in the gender feminist arena that the struggles seem to continue. For HRC the audience was not only made up of men, but of women too. And so she gave in to America’s discomfort with powerful women and changed her look and demeanor. A softer Hillary returned wearing pastels and referring to her husband’s opinions instead of her own. Her greatest sacrifice for this makeover was giving up her maiden name. It was the final chip that was struck from the administration’s hands to smooth out the sculpture.

Ms. Jong sees HRC as a series of self-destructive behaviors but is unclear as to which of these identities is the destructive phase. Or possibly it was because she was treated as though she was one of the many throngs of press, instead of an author and poet, that wanted an interview and was put off by HRC administration. How HRC had been treated in the press, could she really be blamed for being so skeptical? Then came President Clinton’s own self-destructive behavior, or so some thought.

Through the escapades of indiscretions and outright betrayal, HRC became her husband’s protector. Public adulterers in America have in the past been scorned and ridiculed. With HRC’s forgiveness she allowed the public to forgive him too. She stood by him, gave her support and proved that they could rise above what had been political suicide for other candidates. Unfortunately the message that was sent was that if President Clinton could and according to Hillary; should get away with it, everyone else should too. “Hillary almost single-handedly revolutionized the political marriage. America has even seemed to grow up sexually because of HRC’s marital sangfroid.” (Jong 21). According to other various research of written articles and media, apparently the consensus is that President Clinton’s mistake was getting caught.

President Bill Clinton, when answering questions regarding his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, conveyed a similar attitude when he stated that they had not had “sexual relations” since they had engaged in oral sex.” Therefore the second message of Hillary’s stance went out to the teens and preteens of America: what Bill Clinton did was not sex. He said it, she forgave him for it, so there for it is okay. “Some experts theorize that the increase in oral sex—if, indeed, there is one—is because many teens do not consider oral sex to be “sex.” According to Peter Sheras, professor of adolescent development at the University of Virginia, oral sex “might mean what a French kiss meant to us when we were kids.” Some teens even believe they are practicing abstinence if they engage in oral sex instead of sexual intercourse. Many adults are also not clear on whether oral sex is a form of abstinence. A 1999 survey even found that one-third of health educators believed that oral sex is abstinent behavior.

Once again humans are tied together by the balance of life which teeters on the double edged sword of conformity and expression of self. if you look at Hillary’s choice to conform to the presidential administration, you have to look at her motives. What did she get from it? A husband who was a public figure who supposedly supported women, but groped them in private. Yes, but her decisions had to have been based on her own needs and wants. Look at where she is now, running for president. It is her voice now, not her husbands and it is now her time to become all that she can be. But at what cost?

Somehow as we strive to be all that we can be, in whatever arena that is, there are costs. Some are very high and not just affect us but those around us. We struggle to keep our identities and yet still work the system to get where we want to be. I have been known to change my demeanor to deal with a difficult male to be able to get along on a project or work with that person on a daily basis. What am I sacrificing to do that? Do I loose a certain amount of myself or my strength when I do that? Did Hilary? It kept her where she wanted to be to get where she is now, but how much of her original dream did she lose? If her dreams and opinions as a young woman were for the good of the world, then how do we believe she will accomplish those as a woman of power now? Her actions to get where she is were not for the good of the people. But would she be where she is now if she had not given in and did and said what she did? I don’t know.

On the Oprah show, Bill Clinton expressed his admiration for his wife and her aspirations. He admits his guilt and even retracts previous statement that he did not have sex with Monica Lewinsky. He knows that he would not have survived his political career if Hillary had not stayed by his side. He would not have had a book to write without her story, but then neither would she.

Just as art is in the eye of the beholder so is the definition of “we’ve come a long way, baby”. How far women have come and where they are headed is still in the eye of the individual and her perception of her own life and how that life has influenced her view of the world. I hope I can fulfill my dreams without sacrificing myself or others. I hope that I am not naive when I say that as long as we take responsibility for our choices, women and people in general will continue to grow and hopefully will somehow keep the heart of their original dreams alive. Our world depends on it.


Hmmm... I commented here, earlier. Are you moderating?

That was a great pov, I enjoyed reading it. As for Hillary, I judge her as a politician now..and she doesn't 'cut the mustard' for me. She is too conservative for me and she caters to big business way too much for me.

Thorne sent me over here :) Glad she did.

I was behind Hillary until she forgave Bill. I'm all in favor of forgiveness...BUT...hers smacked to me of self-preservation.
I haven't read the book in question, but it sounds like it poses lots of food for thought. Must put it on the "to do" list. Thanks for a thoughtful essay on it.

I have to say, I lost some respect for Hillary when she stood by Bill through it all. And if it was done for self-preservation reasons, I think that's even worse.

Just my opinion...

Hi Lara! Hope you're having a lovely day.

You've been tagged by the Queen of Memes.

I tagged you too, but now I see you've already done the 8 things meme...

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