The slut, the spinster and the perfect woman: Martha Mosse at TEDxCoventGardenWomen


Translator: Hanna Lukashevich
Reviewer: Ilze Garda Good morning! My name is Martha Mosse. I’m a feminist performance artist. My work is about control and oppression, but also about breaking
the boundaries of our prisons. In particular, the indefensible
prisons of our bodies. Looking back, I realize
I’ve always been a feminist. I just hadn’t labeled it yet. My first realization of gender
inequality was when I was 18. I was travelling
through the desert in Dubai with my parents and brother. We were going to a literary festival. I fell into a conversation with a highly-respected
female war correspondent, who started telling me a story about several years earlier when visiting
a traditional household in Afghanistan. Upon arrival, she was told
to go into the kitchen and help the women cook dinner, while her two male
junior film crew members were invited to relax with the men
in the main room. After hours of cooking,
preparing a huge feast, the women pushed the platters
beneath the beaded curtain that separated
the kitchen from the living room, the women from the men. After the men had finished eating, they pushed the trays back
beneath the curtain, and it was only then that the women
were allowed to eat what remained. I cried when I heard that story. I cried, because I realized suddenly how pointlessly unfair and limiting
the world can be. I also cried because I was acutely aware
that this was now it: that once you have recognized
gender inequality and the need for feminism, you can’t unsee it. I began identifying myself as a feminist in my second year at university
when writing my dissertation. The essay was an analysis of the labels
‘slut’, ‘spinster’, and ‘perfect’. For it, I read many of the great classic
and contemporary feminist texts: The Second Sex, The Female Eunuch, The Beauty Myth, Living Dolls. (Laughter) It was through reading these books
and thinking these thoughts that I suddenly began to feel braver. I felt more able to voice my opinions, and I felt in good company. It was also through doing this research that I started to develop
my current performance art practice. I recognized the danger in certain labels, and I wanted to explore
and highlight this danger in relatively neutral environments. As most people are unaware
of what performance art actually is, it exists outside of a label. So, my work analyzes the danger
of these three specific labels. And they are the reason
why I will always label myself a feminist. I’ll start with ‘perfect’. Perfection masquerades as a compliment. It poses as an achievable idea,
but it is a lie to aspire to. So much of both the historical
and contemporary economy has relied upon the ideal. The fashion and beauty industries
flaunt falsified examples of the perfect skin, eyes,
lips, hair, bum, nails, tan; none of which any woman has,
but all of which, apparently, we need. (Laughter) The health and fitness industry relies upon women and men
being dissatisfied with how they look. So they develop workouts
that claim to get you the perfect body. But what is a perfect body? I contend that perfection is subjective. It’s different for everybody. So how can total physical
perfection be possible? It can’t be, right? The danger with advertising
an impossible ideal as achievable is that it only encourages and makes
women and men feel like failures. But even if you are lucky enough
to have been born with the genes that can even begin to approach
the physical ideals of perfection, the next hurdle for you to overcome
is the threat of remaining unmarried. So, my next label is spinster. For a woman, as she ages,
it is thought that she is decaying. Her body clock is ticking, and as her looks fade, apparently, her purpose, her possibility
of finding happiness is lost. The man equivalent
of a spinster, a bachelor, is depicted as enjoying a party lifestyle
and high-rise appartments. He can perfect his now swarf
and silver-fox-looks with expensive beauty products
and charm women half his age. A spinster is pitied. She is condemned to sit alone
surrounded by cats, mourning the loss of her youth. (Laughter) No matter how happy or successful she is,
Hollywood superstar Jennifer Aniston is continually portrayed
by the world’s media as sad or failed because she hasn’t yet had a baby. The intention is that if a woman
hasn’t married or have children, then she has failed at being a woman. To be ‘left on the shelf’,
as the phrase goes, is often assumed that a woman must have done
something wrong in her younger life, or that she must be wrong. There must be a reason for that. Perhaps, she was a slut. The slut is an overly promiscuous woman who fails to fit into society’s narrow
parameters of ‘sexy’, but not ‘too sexy’. (Laughter) Judging by media representations,
women should dress elegantly, show some skin,
wear red lipstick, don’t work. Mainstream pornography,
which is widespread, is continually bombarded
with sexual scenarios where the woman has sex even if she doesn’t want to
or isn’t ready. The soft and hardcore porn industries advertise sex as so immediate
and so unintimate, that younger generations of boys and girls are starting to think
that that is how it is done. Yet, despite these oversexualized
images of women in porn, in lux mags, in music videos,
in a national newspaper, when a woman follows
this example in real life, she’s mocked, criticized,
verbally, or even physically, abused. Once again, she fails. And the failure is her fault. According to an Amnesty survey, one in three people
blame a woman for being raped. They ask if she was drunk,
if her skirt was too short, if she was too flirty, as if any of this means that she loses the right
to the control over her own body. SlutWalks, a kind of performance art,
are trying to reclaim the word, but it remains part of the backlash
against female sexual liberation and the control that it gave women. The word ‘slut’ segregates women from men. It segregates women from women. It dehumanizes and objectifies us all. The labels ‘slut’, ‘spinster’,
and ‘perfect’ are commonplace. They offend, limit, and intimidate women. They take away the power
and pass along the control. The blatant sexist messages
contained in each are so ingrained that most people, I hope, are unaware of the hurt, fear,
and isolation that they breed. They keep women caged. They keep the status quo. It’s because of labels like these that I find it so vitally important
for women and men to identify themselves as feminists. Neither of my parents ever conformed
to traditional gender roles. They both brought my brother and I up.
They both worked. So, my brother and I grew up
in an unlabeled house. I currently own two power drills. (Laughter) I built my first piece
of flat-pack furniture when I was six. And I still use these skills
in my performance art practice today. My favorite room in the house
is the kitchen. When we allow labels to limit us, then men and women, boys and girls
fail to achieve their true potential. But sometimes, asserting an identity can encourage us to be who we wish,
act as we want to be. In my case, an artist. A performance artist. Feminism is not a reductive label. Do not let a hostile media persuade you that we cannot be feminists
or that we should not be feminists. It’s not a reductive label. It is an invitation, a celebration,
an opportunity. It has encouraged men and women
from across the world to be braver, louder, more independent. It has forced enormous financial, political,
human rights, and social change. Feminism is about fairness
and equality of opportunity for all. So aren’t we all feminists? I’m Martha Mosse. I’m a feminist performance artist. Thank you very much. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “The slut, the spinster and the perfect woman: Martha Mosse at TEDxCoventGardenWomen

  1. This woman was so well spoken and informed. I love how she had to take a deep breath after bringing up victim blaming regarding rape, like the disgusting ideology actually physically wounded her.

  2. This women generalizes abut everything. She is all about stereotyping people and then complains when other people do it.

  3. The dude is the perfect guy and here is what every man wants…Martha Stewart when she's at home…Jacqueline Kennedy when out to dinner….and Linda Lovelace when she's in the bedroom…bottom line

  4. oh god! all we need is a boring middly Champagne socialist feminist who went on exotic holidays with mummy and daddy such as Dubai to some fucking convention. I hope she dies childless and alone with her fake friends who actually fucking hate her.

  5. Meh, women need to completely ignore the opinions, needs and wants of males, and worry about themselves—-the biggest failing in women is the toxic need for acceptance.

  6. I'm all for equality and Independence for all genders. The thing is you got all that sort up in developed countries. The problem persists in 3rd world countries but you keep lobbying and pushing new ideologies in developed countries which tells me you will never be satisfied. The idea is that feminism worked in a few countries into eliberating women and what you should do is concentrate your actions towards countries where women are still looked upon like 2'nd class citizens.
    You don't have a common voice and each group keeps militating towards different goals respective to that country/region.
    What you should understand is that once you get your needs met somewhere/some country you are no longer needed there. You tend to do more wrong by keep existing and try to see "what else can we get?". You made feminism your existence and when the so called eliberation war is over you should cease to exist.
    But no! Let's make another wawe! What wawe number are we on? 2'nd? 3'rd? 4'th? Trust me, you don't need to lead the world, but want to. Look at some of the most powerful women Merkel, Clinton, they tend to have no sign of womanhood in them. Even the american women didn't vote for Hillary, yet when Obama ran, the black community was there.
    You want equality but God forbid someone telling you that you're useless from a point on. Look at India and what feminism did there.
    The Dowry prohibition act interviened with their culture and now a woman can get her husbands entire family(from children to old people) in prison for taking Dowry. Entire families commit suicide. Ain't that a successful feminism story?

    Long story short: know your purpose, do the job, leave/live!

  7. As a man, I like this talk. Feminism also liberates men from shaming of us all which is causing us all, in the end, a lack of love and tremendous social problems.

  8. I am sorry, but don't agree with this. They don't care what I think, I don't care what they think. We will never agree on this.

  9. I was called a slut way before I had even kissed somebody. I was around 11 years old and I felt alone and ashamed for weeks. They made me feel it was my fault. They controlled me like this. Through shame. This is how they silenced and isolated me. So that I would not be myself anymore. Because they wanted to stay in control and were afraid of change. Shame on a society that allows 11 year old girls to go through this alone.

  10. the slut(spinster)(perfect wonen)?. is this how lust(love) same?. feminist? slut is no love for no one! right. (the bottom line is here),no one is perfect!

  11. the word you are looking for is equalist, otherwise you are still segregating men and women from eachother

  12. The more i watched about feminism, the more i think about how twisted people have made womanhood to become. feminism is far from the true nature in the biology of woman. a woman is the nature she is. feminism is a made-up concept going further and further away from truth that liberate women.

  13. I feel like she didnt really say anything new. All of this has been heard a million times. I was waiting for a conclusion with a new idea or whatever but it didn't come.

  14. Who made up these labels for women? Where does this type of thinking originate? When did it originate? Does the church have anything to do with it????? Could they possibly been seeking to have control over women and womens bodies and productive abilities? Why would they want to do those things to women?????

  15. 1 in 3 people believe rape is the fault of the victim (if the victim is a woman.)

    well, that's too many.

    but NOBODY believes a man who was raped. and that's fucked up too.

    this isn't about men vs women. this is about being decent human beings.

  16. lmao lots of people here don't even understand what "feminism" means and think they understand it by imagining its meaning.

  17. Why don't we come up with a NEW label I think i shall call it a EQUALIST SPELL CHECK is confirming the fact that before NOW this word does NOT exist so I must define it, to claim it as my own so here it is.
    EQUALIST- Definition An individual or plurals a group of individuals that through individual aptitude, intelligence, or conclusive thoughts has determined that despite a multitude of different qualities, colors, height, weight, sex, cultures, languages, abilities, disabilities , including but not limited to physical or mental condition in comparison to any and all other though often mislabeled as superior and inferior , greater than or less than simply do NOT apply each member is granted the status as EQUAL in this society only being limited by their own imagination and individual drive to pursue happiness and or contentment living in peace and understanding of All others even IF the before said others are NOT unenlightened to have yet shed the ignorant thoughts of racism, sexism and bigotry in ALL of its many forms.
    We should all respect each other as equals PERIOD.

  18. that tiny bit of green hair color and boy clothes don't cut it for a feminist, takes away all the feminist credibility

    go shave your had, pierce your nose an be generous with that black lipstick

  19. I love this video, and I love that it makes so many people mad.
    Maybe one day they will take a look at why they hate women so much. One could only hope.

  20. wonderful talk. and wonderful talker! she has a great presence! really great. and i don't why but she really reminds me of carey mulligan.. she talks exactly like her! hehe

    she is so right in all she says.. all these feminism ted talks makes me so sad that they are needed. but they also give me this will to keep fighting the battle because i know i'm not alone in being treated like less in this world.

    i am a sinlge 26 year old woman. and just for that thing alone….. oh boy how many times have i been asked WHY i'm single. 26… people tell me i'm soon 30 and if i want to get married, i should really find someone soon because after 30 it just gets hearder and harder…. like wtf? and guess who said this to me? my own 4 year older sister. shocker right. it just kind of speaks to how we get shaped by society to think and feel about genders that even women thinks all this is normal. my sister and i are VERY different. she doesn't even believe in feminism. and i do strongly. (obviously) it saddens me that i'm " the spinster" at only 26 years old. it makes me want to vomit just the thought.

  21. I am a spinster … and i was even told i was barren .. i was also told that since i had no children, my life was easy and without problems … and that i was selfish ..

  22. Women who are still single like me should look at it that way : no risk of being cheated upon and getting diseases, no risk of being overwhelmed with taking care of a house and children and ensuring that everyone is happy, no risk of finding oneself divorced after years of battle and mean acts and having to provide and take care of children without help, support or money and the risk of having no retirement or a very small pension because you started so late … not such a bad prospect in my view

  23. Before buying on gearbest, know that it's thieves.
    They do not repay,
    on google search for "Thieves Gearbest".

  24. Over the past 50 years, there have been MANY voices and groups representing "feminists" and "feminism." Not so much for mens rights activism. I do not advocate for rolling back women. I do very much advocate for recognition of the fact that men are faltering and falling with scarcely an objection. The notion that this doesn't matter is immoral…and dangerous.

  25. The funny thing is I happen to know two spinsters living in Spain. One has two cats, the other seven(!!!). Stereotypes are stereotypes because they are grounded in reality I guess.

  26. Amazing speach. We need to make people aware of what real feminism is because their radical picture is created by religions and media that are not telling the truth.

  27. I agree that many of these conceptions exist but I would argue that they are at least as much enforced by women if not more so. Perhaps you want to divorce these concerns from feminism because feminism has blackened its own name by really not representing a struggle for equality at all but rather the subjugation of men. That is why these comment sections can be so negative. It's men being triggered in the same way that women always claim to be.

  28. Nice talk. I mostly agree. But a bit naiive. Women and men are different. It's nice of her parents not to push her in a specific role and let her experiment with multiple things. But it says a lot that she didn't use her pratical skills/interests to become a carpenter / construction worker or something but she became an artist… That's so female of her 🙂 so chliché!
    –> Why didn't you apply your physical skills to be a hard worker and provide for a family? That would be a real fiminist thing to do!

  29. Karen Straugnham addressed this woman's observation about men eating first and how it appeared that men are valued more. She cited the harsh realities of the desert and how if a family lost the man, they would surely starve. We judge with Western eyes.

  30. Feminism used to mean equality… But today’s third wave feminism means privilege and bashing men where ever you can…

  31. So many people in comments angry at faminists because they think men shouldn't be only ones to blame… But faminism isn't only directed against man who degrade women, but also against other women who do the same. Yes, we also degrade ourselves. Yes, WE support the idea of perfect women, WE slutshame other women, WE look down on those who failed to get a husband. It is society that needs to be fixed, not just man, but it needs to be fixed regarding the way they see WOMEN so all humans can finally be equal, AND THAT'S WHY IT'S CALLED FAMINISM, instead of having a more gender neutral name.

  32. Ojalá muchas feministas modernas pensaran así, fueran congruentes, expusieran sus ideas con respeto, sustentaran sus opiniones en hechos como está chica, en vez de lanzar odio en Twitter y causar revueltas violentas.

  33. Yeah – the need for feminism in the Muslim world is high, the need in the West is zero. She is a well-indoctrinated cultural marxist who has been filled with idiotic ideas that equates the West with the primitive Muslim backyards like Afghanistan.

  34. Omg I love this so rare that beauty standards are recognised as being something that effects men and women, also as an infertile 33 year old I feel a massive social pressure to have kids and regularly get treated as a failure in life by both men and women, despite being highly successful in other areas of my life.

  35. The vast majority of hate women get is from other women. Gossip and verbal attacks are the way women bully each other

  36. 2:00 "the world" – I think the you mean the MUSLIMS. You think this happens in the west? Feminism isn't compatible with islam on a fundamental level.

  37. This moron doesn't notice she couldn't express these opinions in a culture where she wasn't equal..
    Feminism is about superiority.
    Mental illness.

  38. I think perfection is when you love yourself. When you love yourself with any body type, any facial features, any age. When you know you’re going to love yourself when you’re 60, and say “no matter my age, I still love myself”. When you have a baby, and gain a little bit of weight, and say “no matter my size, I still love myself”. When you have acne, and you’re going through changes, or it’s just part of your DNA, and say “no matter matter the pimples and acne, I look beautiful, I still love myself”. When you understand, and cherish the importance of your happiness and freedom. That’s what I think perfection is.

  39. If a woman does not have children, she will probably have a sad second half of the life. Its just a bad idea, people need children, they are the reason we have society as it is.

  40. Women like men for how the group to which she belongs perceives him. In general terms, for his "status". And men are ok with it.

    So. We like women who are young, and who haven't slept with hundreds of guys. Deal with it.

  41. Really appreciate this Ted Talk with Martha Mosse! The fighting for equality is not over until everyone everywhere has equal rights and opportunities. That's what feminism really is all about. It's not about putting men down like some insecure men try to spindoctor it.

  42. Nope, I never listen to green/purple/pink hair colored and tattooed woman who is 21 and probably eat more d1cks than food.

  43. Great presentation at all levels.
    A little work needed on those unnecessary pause/play every now and then, she's not lecturing kids.

  44. I agree with everything she had To say. Absolutely everything… But, where are the feminists in the middle east? I mean she started her talk on the most extreme version of sexism.

  45. 1. Jennifer Aniston is not portrayed as a failure in the media.
    2. Women, not men, insult other women who have not had children by the age of 40.
    3. Women choose themselves to wear revealing clothing and stress they should have the right to do it.
    4. Victim blaming is indeed wrong.
    5. Women are the "privileged majority" in most developed countries.
    6. Women expect praise for doing things most men already do and never get praised for.

  46. Lmao God bless Afgahnistan dishwashers aren't equal to men but to have them eat the left overs that's fkkn savage af

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