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Living Beyond The “Femme Fatale” Image

1947 words - 8 pages

Outside the confines of the home, a woman is dangerous. She is beautiful and attractive yet the invitation can leave many a man deranged and devastated, like dried twigs whose life was sucked out of them. This is the femme fatale stereotype that dominated popular culture prior to 20th century. The woman is the enchantress, the vampire, the seductress, the witch and the prostitute – antagonists that can destroy the morality and stability of human society. Hence, women had to be confined in the home, subject to the principles and interests set by their husbands. They had no freedom to pursue their own desires, and whatever they seek to achieve was or had to be in line with the family and be ...view middle of the document...

Only the femme fatale engages in sexual promiscuity or sexual liberty. Fears of this femme fatale image intensified when contraceptives were launched to protect women and give them control over their bodies. Opponents argued that “making birth control available to unmarried girls would mean lowering…standards and destroying….culture.” In response to the issue, the national government supported the call for women’s rights to use contraceptives. However, Federal Mandates required doctors who prescribed pills to conduct complete physical exam and medical check-up for the woman. This was very discomforting and it forced young women to lie about their objectives; many women pretended to be preparing for marriage, even though it was for consensual sex with their partners, out of fear that their request for pills will be rejected because it violates moral concerns. In response, activists supported doctors who were willing to prescribe contraceptives without delving into issues of morality. For them, supporting contraceptives it is not the issue of losing dignity like the femme fatale. Rather, the issue is who should have control over their bodies. A second example is how Mexican women challenged traditional limitations imposed on their social activities. Now, Mexican society sought to protect women not only because they are weak from advances of young men during social gatherings but also to preserve the patriarchal structure in society. Once girls are free to choose their mates, they are upsetting the natural order. Hence, to prevent them from descending into the femme fatale image, traditional values required young girls to be subject to their parents especially when it comes to engaging in social activities that involved members of the opposite sex. Hence, prior to the Second World War, young Mexican women were required to have “chaperones” or adult guardians so that their virginity can be protected and the family dignity preserved. However, female activism after the war changed these standards that majority of the first generation immigrant mothers refused to apply chaperoning on their daughters, and treated it as a thing of the past. A third example of successful female activism is the leadership of women in the political arena. Eleanor Roosevelt, for instance, maintained her femininity as the First Lady yet strongly pushed for justice on women, the freedom to vote, and to pursue a career of her choice. This is more of a positive contradiction of the femme fatale image. It should be understood that the idea was not for the women to glory in promiscuity or rebellion. This move showed that she was not dangerous to society if she explored non-traditional roles. Being free does not mean that she is now a femme fatale. Rather, it was a move to establish a woman’s dignified control over her body and her life; it was her primary duty to decide for herself and protect herself from the possible consequences of her decisions.
Aside from liberating...

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