Arthur Golden’s best seller of the ‘90s, Memoirs of a Geisha, has been sitting on my bookshelf for ten years—waiting for me to retire, dandle grandchildren on my knees, putter in the yard, and finally sit down to read. When reading about a different culture, it’s easy to be critical—especially where gender roles are described. The idea of women trained in the art of pleasing men—as entertainers and sexual companions—strikes Westerners as immoral—although history records that French courtesans were highly trained.
In a male-dominated society, women pretty well must please men in order to gain the financial security of marriage or mistress. In our country, the equal rights movement of the 1970s opened the door to more career opportunities for women, but paradoxically, women have been increasingly judged by their youth and sex appeal ever since. Sure, women can be news announcers now—as long as the wrinkles don’t show. Even the women broadcasters on PBS had facelifts a couple of years ago when high-definition television became the norm.
Breast implants–the painful equivalent of the old Chinese practice of foot-binding, and previously relegated to Las Vegas showgirls–are now commonly endured by upper-middle income housewives as well as career women—even in Utah.
Maybe Muslim women, revealing nothing more than their faces in public, are the truly liberated females on the planet. No tummy tucks, boob jobs, diets, leg shaving, or pantyhose—no need to even comb their hair before going out.
Modern American women may have more job opportunities, but we still live in a male-dominated society where beauty counts more than brains and ability.