“I hope she’ll be a fool –– that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”
Daisy Buchanan on her unborn daughter, The Great Gatsby, 1922
At 11, when I was made to read the Great Gatsby, this line didn’t really phase me as I was too young to understand that I was part of a system set up to fill the needs and pleasures of men. Only in recent times have I found myself wrestling with this statement.
As an entrepreneur, I never felt anxieties surrounding the ceiling of my success. The ceiling of my success was set only by me, my drive and how fast I could learn and adapt. Making the shift into a working environment saw my anxieties shift as I started to feel that my so far smooth journey of acquisition of knowledge and the ceiling of my success was now no longer solely determined by me, but a system and structure developed for the patriarchal woman.
The challenge for women has been set: Conform or interrupt a tradition, as old as the rib from whence we came (depending on your belief system, of course). Thankfully, there are signs of this conformity beginning to depreciate and the realisation that exploiting a flawed system does not mean exploiting yourself.
Women are done being overlooked and marginalised. Instead, we are closing the gender gap and getting as educated as our male counterparts, en route to the nascent world of gender equality through speaking up and making our voices heard. We are taking back our sexuality. We are building on our economic capital.
We are staking our claim in fields previously dominated by men.
We live and work in a world where more and more women are using their sexual capital and/or attractiveness to acquire other forms of capital, be it social or economic. Why shouldn’t we be allowed to exercise that right? It could even be argued that the combination of physical and social attractiveness is sometimes more beneficial than holding an actual college degree – Or is it?
Erotic capital is “the combination of physical and social attractiveness” explains sociologist Catherine Hakim. Her deeper explanation was widely criticised as her argument came across as looks being more important than substance and that a female using her looks to get ahead in life could not be surveyed. Furthermore, how can you survey something that leaves so many people on the periphery?
I see erotic capital as derogatory if bestowed on us by a man, sexist if abused, but powerful if self-actualised and used as a method to cope with being exoticised daily.
This is not using your youth and good looks to find a blesser or seduce your boss, but a weapon and equalising tool in the war against inequality. Misuse it and it becomes derogatory, even dirty and a downplay of employer discrimination.
Greek Poet Homer tells the story of the Trojan war in a grand style long poem Achilles, one of Greek mythology’s foremost warriors, features in prominently. He possesses strength, bravery, military skills, pride, and honour –– all the qualities the ancient Greeks prized as virtues –– but is also shaped by weakness from years of fundamentally being objectified by his peers.
Our anger from being objectified can breed weakness and further perpetuate stereotypes that are still holding us back and make filth of what is beautiful about being a confident woman. The tensions between our weaknesses and virtues when using something like erotic capital is ultimately what will determine success or tragedy. Our resilience and emotional intelligence gained from overcoming obstacles that men will never understand is our virtue. As a woman, you have something threatening and enviable to men.
My human truth is that I love being a woman. Difficult and frustrating as it may be, I love that I set my own standards for beauty and feminism. I love that my pendulum can swing between femininity and or masculinity, however, I so choose.
Do you ask yourself where you are in the system and challenge the environments set up for you?
Marea Lewis is the Strategic Business Manager at Fort.