“There are two kinds of woman,” Michael, who worked grill in the kitchen started, “The woman, and the ho.”
I was 20, working my first serving job at a small burger joint in Columbus. At the time, I rolled my eyes and argued with him. He defended his statement. But retrospectively, Michael was right… in a way.
There is this Western thought that has been past down for hundreds of years that says there are only two kinds of women, just like Michael stated. Either the saint or the whore. Anytime a woman acts within the social roles defined for her, she is a saint. And anytime she acts outside those guidelines, she is deemed a whore.
It has to do with this idea of modesty. A woman was/is valued for her smallness. In all realms: the physical space she occupied, as well as the social and mental space. Modesty was/is the ability to hide yourself in plain sight.
Jill Halstead discusses the phenomenon as it occurred historically in the musical realm. “To present one’s work to be displayed and performed to the public was seen as immodest in a epoch when women were valued for their timidity, naïveté and lack of assertiveness.” (The Woman Composer).
This idea that a woman who is immodest (read: takes up space) is a whore, has continued to veil how we think of composers and musicians to this day. If a woman writes a symphony, she is a try-hard. Or aggressive. Or unnatural. The bigger the audience the woman has the more public questions her promiscuity. Britney Spears. Taylor Swift. Name any widely known female musician, and it is rather certain that she has been judged against the saint/whore paradigm.
But it has a little to do with sex, and much more to do with this idea of modesty. If she has presented her ideas in a public way (immodest) what else is she capable of doing?