Somebody just sent me a New York Times piece by a former supermodel named Paulina Porizkova. Ms. Porizkova says that she never called herself a "feminist" when she lived in socially advanced Sweden but that women are so downtrodden in the U.S. that she now applies the term to herself.
Porizkova was born in Czechoslovakia and thus only experienced liberation when her family moved to Sweden. Her idea of what constitutes liberation for a woman is interesting:
As high school approached, the boys wanted to kiss us and touch us, and the girls became a group of benevolent queens dispensing favors. The more the boys wanted us, the more powerful we became. When a girl chose to bestow her favors, the lucky boy was envied and celebrated. Slut shaming? What’s a slut?
Condoms were provided by the school nurse without question. Sex education taught us the dangers of venereal diseases and unwanted pregnancy, but it also focused on fun stuff like masturbation. For a girl to own her sexuality meant she owned her body, she owned herself. Women could do anything men did, but they could also — when they chose to — bear children. And that made us more powerful than men. The word “feminist” felt antiquated; there was no longer a use for it.
So for Porizkova realizing one's potential as a woman is not having opportunities and making professional and personal choices but rather feeling "more powerful than men." She seems to reduce sexual responsibility and indeed love to knowing that you can do a lot of fun stuff on your own.
The idyll ended when the supermodel went to Paris:
Instead of feeling celebrated, I felt patronized. I claimed my power the way I had learned in Sweden: by being sexually assertive. But Frenchmen don’t work this way. In discos, I’d set my eye on an attractive stranger, and then dance my way over to let him know he was a chosen one. More often than not, he fled. And when he didn’t run, he asked how much I charged.
It is certainly easy to imagine a man's instinctively fleeing after Porizkova dances over to him and announces he is "a chosen one." The supermodel, however, comes to the U.S. where, remarkably, a worse fate awaits her:
It turned out most of America didn’t think of sex as a healthy habit or a bargaining tool. Instead, it was something secret. If I mentioned masturbation, ears went red. Orgasms? Men made smutty remarks, while women went silent. There was a fine line between the private and the shameful. A former gynecologist spoke of the weather when doing a pelvic exam, as if I were a Victorian maiden who’d rather not know where all my bits were.
In America, a woman’s body seemed to belong to everybody but herself. Her sexuality belonged to her husband, her opinion of herself belonged to her social circles, and her uterus belonged to the government.
I don't know what Porizkova means when she says that a woman's uterus belongs to the government, and she should have explained this better, but I do admit that some of us backward Americans do blush when someone talks in a social setting about that fun thing one can do alone.
In her Swedish Eden, Porizkova thought that the word feminist "reeked of insecurity" but here is what happened to the poor supermodel in the U.S.:
But the American woman is told she can do anything and then is knocked down the moment she proves it. In adapting myself to my new country, my Swedish woman power began to wilt. I joined the women around me who were struggling to do it all and failing miserably. I now have no choice but to pull the word “feminist” out of the dusty drawer and polish it up.
My name is Paulina Porizkova, and I am a feminist.
And also a really spoiled brat former supermodel who expects to "feel celebrated" 24/7.
Supermodels can be notoriously spoiled, but the perplexing thing is why the New York Times published this rant that makes claims that have no supporting evidence. American women are not "struggling to do it all and failing miserably," though I can imagine that a truly obnoxious woman might suffer some social rebuffs.