updated 11 Dec 2011, 10:22
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Mon, Dec 05, 2011
Jakarta Post/Asia News Network
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Women, drink enough milk and rule the world
by Margaret Agusta

Since when has a woman ever been less than a woman? Is there any such creature in existence? Good news though; just in case this issue was of some concern to someone somewhere, a well-known milk brand is happily informing women over the airwaves all over Indonesia that NOW they can be "more than a woman" simply by ingesting more calcium.

According to the television advertisement: "Now a woman can be more than a woman. She can be a teacher, a manager, a chef."

OK. Fine. I just don't appreciate having anyone imply that I should be ashamed that I am not "more than a woman".

I am not even sure what that implies. Does it mean that as a woman I am not quite human, perhaps sub-human in some way? Does it mean that as a woman I am wanting by comparison to men? Or does it mean that as a woman I am limited to certain career choices? Does it mean as a woman I don't do nearly enough for my family or society?

The thing is that women are already teaching their children, managing households and jobs and cooking. They also are doing plenty of other things.

Yes, we are women. I, for one, don't feel the need to be "more than a woman". I am just fine the way I am.

It seems that a lot of other women, and a smattering of men, also took offense at the phrase "now a woman can be more than a woman". It certainly created an uproar on Twitter. It seems the general sentiment was that the commercial was "demeaning" and "condescending" toward women.

I can understand why. Hardly a day passes that women don't hear things like "a woman can be more than a woman".

There are constant reminders in conversation that "women" are different (from men I presume), such as women are "more sensitive", "too emotional", too quick to overreact", "too dramatic", "unreasonable" and "act crazy".

If you are a woman, I am certain these phrases seem all too familiar. You have probably been hearing them in your daily life from your relatives, friends, spouse, partner and boss; especially when you question or disagree with something they are saying or doing.

Chances are, when you hear these things said frequently enough, you begin to feel as if there really is something wrong with the way you are behaving; that there is something faulty about being a woman - something off or not quite right. So you back off and don't press the point, which is exactly what the person who uses those phrases hopes you will do. You have not only been unfairly criticized, you have been manipulated into "being a good girl".

The Huffington Post writer Yashar Ali recently pointed out in an article titled "A Message to Women from a Man: You are not 'Crazy'" that this sort of emotional manipulation is a particularly insidious kind of social control called "gas lighting".

Mental health professionals use this term to describe manipulation aimed at confusing others into thinking their reactions are off-base and inappropriate so that they will behave in the way the person doing the manipulating wishes.

Just like the phrase "a woman can be more than a woman" was meant to manipulate women into thinking that calcium would do more for them than maybe strengthening bones; thus motivating women to buy a particular kind of milk.

Within this context, the reaction by the "tweeters" on Twitter seems much more rational than emotional to me. Like myself, most of the women were asking themselves and others whether it was all right for anyone to perceive them as less than anything, especially less than a woman.

I agree with them. I find this particular attempt to sell milk insensitive and widely off target. It annoys me enough to choose not to buy the product. I usually do not react that way. Generally, if I like a brand of milk or anything else, I will try their new products. Not this time.

After all, doing so would bring with it the risk of acknowledging that I am "less than a woman" and embarrassing myself publicly in the process.

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