Sexuality & Women´s Rights
This participatory workshop looked at perceptions of women around the world by examining what constitutes "bad women" and "good women" in different cultures. It explored the ways in which culture and society influence our opinion of the place of women.
The participants were asked to "create" "bad women" and the "good women" and allocate to them particular characteristics.
- Dian Van Maasdijk Mama Cash, Netherlands
- Marjan Sax Mama Cash, Netherlands
The "good woman" was characterized as not talking, not moving, having no pen and unable to write, married, wearing her hair tight on her back, wearing a long skirt and covering her shoulders, married, never looking people in the eye, speaking in a low and soft voice, not touching things freely and not looking very happy. The "bad" woman was described as well dressed and casual, she drinks, smokes and chews gum, her hair is loose, she wears high heals, is outspoken, looks people straight in the eye, has a pen and is sexy.
Next the group considered the make up of these different types of women. The "good women" include virgins, religious women, mothers, home-makers, catholics, nurses, wives, care workers, teachers, and generally those that work outside home. The "bad women" were women who work in male-dominated professions, who are sexually promiscuous, strippers, single mothers, professional women, women who are ambitious, pro-choice, love money and desert their children.
Next the means of oppression and control were discussed. Participants compiled a list of the ways in which the classifications of bad and good are created in our minds. The list included: patriarchy, the media, lack of childcare systems, religion, homophobia, violence against women, cultural values, educational systems, neo-liberalism, other women, the family, and the law.
Women who try to move from one category to the other and become "bad" are most likely to experience poverty, rape, single-motherhood, infertility, etc. Women who try to move away from being branded as "bad" will most likely try to become nuns, heterosexual and/or very successful. Generally women will find it very difficult to make such a change in status.
Many of us identified with the "bad women". Society most often has not changed its traditional way of judging and labeling women. It was noted that the characteristics of what constitute "good" and "bad" may vary considerably in different cultures.
Finally we looked at what could we do to combat this disempowering compartmentalization. Some of the many possible strategies that were suggested include: (re)define ourselves, recognize our sexuality and gender roles in society, work to change laws, take risks, recognize our own sexism, watch ourselves and how we evaluate other women, educate our daughters, reconstruct "the good" and "the bad", respect the choices women make, and finally, voluntarily join "the bad side".
2002 AWID Forum, Session #214