Scholastic or Sexual Liberation?

Today, we find an intriguing new controversy in 21st century within the battle for female equality in education and leadership: scholastic vs. sexual liberation. There is a distinct argument across the gender battlefield regarding the portrayal of women as either scholastic or sexual in nature. Namely, that a woman cannot be both wholly scholastic and sexual in representation simultaneously. In other words, intelligent women are not overtly sexual, and obvious sexuality may be interpreted as ‘lacking in intelligence.’ The most interesting part? This battle is being waged by women against other women. 

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During women’s suffrage and validation mid-20th century, claims arose that women with the right to behave and receive the same treatment as men were “unsexed” and had lost their femininity.Women rose back with the Second-Wave Feminism, or new efforts towards sexual liberation as well as political and occupational rights, in the early 1960s. The purpose of this movement was to allow women to be freed from socially oppressive sexual roles and to allow women to make their own choices about the nature of their sexual experiences.  The resulting ‘Sexual Revolution’ ushered in many new facets of being ‘female,’ including: premarital sex, contraception, public nudity, pornography, alternative and experimental sexuality, and open eroticism.

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However, this movement also acted as the driving force behind the splitting of Feminism into the many factions we see today. Women who were concerned with equality in education, the work place, and politics saw the sexual revolution as a new movement that slowly began to undermine the first wave of female suffrage by focussing on sexuality in lieu of scholastic validity. On the other side, feminists who drove the sexual revolution claimed that women who valued their rights should express them sexually as well as scholastically. Soon, a heated conversation across Feminism that still survives today arose as to where the lines between liberation, sexual freedom, and absolute promiscuity resided. 

89fbeccbc818349d4312f323e962b1e086f99a6b31294084fae6f517f140eea5 (1)This debate surrounds the issue of over-sexualized images and behavior of women overshadowing the true scholastic value of a woman’s mind. For example, women who overtly use their sexuality such a Playboy Bunnies, lingerie models, and some voluptuous celebrities, are often deemed to be less intelligent. Yet, many of these ‘promiscuous’ girls can be found within MENSA. On the other hand, if a woman dresses conservatively and keeps her sexuality ‘behind closed doors,’ she may be viewed as more likely to be intelligent, but also may be judged as ‘less feminine’ and not as enjoyable as a sexual partner. Furthermore, the women represented with both beautiful figures and minds are deemed “unrealistic” and supposedly provide an impossible expectation for young girls and men alike. These women are judged as ‘fake’ and an impossible reality. Interestingly enough, women have had as much agency as men in creating these lines by which other women are judged. In fact, the dispute amongst sexually and scholastically focussed feminists has created a very controversial situation for young girls as to how they may exercise their rights as women and feminists, the exact antithesis of the origin of Feminist dialogue.

This page will take you through some interesting multi-media conversations happening about this conflict in identity for 21st century women. Please select the first tab in the drop down menu to explore some of the research behind this topic! Check out Lorna’s page “Women in Education Today” to get a more indepth view of how this issue has specifically impacted education today as well!

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