I posted this at Renegade Evolution's place, but thought I should give it a home here, too. And correct some spelling and grammar. *ninjaeditor*
Personally, I see THIS as the problem. There is a madonna/whore complex. Real women are affected by it. It permiates a lot and pops up often when you least expect it.
The question begged then is, how do we make it less powerful? Well, no, that's secondary - sometimes I think the first question SHOULD be (but often isn't) what feeds into this false dichotomy.
I personally think a lot of first wave feminism did. There was a perception that women were "more moral" and many sufferegettes (if I'm remembering my history right) banked on that as a reason why they should get the vote - they would serve as a moral backbone for the countries since the menz couldn't.
Ironically, THAT angle is very insulting toward men. Oddly enough, they were some of the biggest supporters of it. 8(
So we have virgin and whore.
Virgin is: moral (whatever that's been defined as this year), natural (ibid), nurturing, asexual, non-violent, and now (via first wave feminism) intelligent, successful, and ambitious. Viewed positively, she is the "angel of the household and the boardroom". Viewed negatively, she is Hilary Clinton. Her power hinges on being beautiful, remote, and untenable in reality. She is celebrated as the superwoman and fails by drinking, desiring sex, or somehow being out of step with what is "moral" or "natural".
The whore is: immoral or amoral (whatever that's being defined as this year), unnatural (ibid), aggressive, sexual, violent, loud, takes up space, demanding, powerful, and self-sufficient. Viewed positively, she is strong, sexual woman. Viewed negatively, she is the object upon which people play out their fantasies of dominance, consumption, and violence. Her power hinges on being an outsider, on shock, manipulation, and sexual allure. She is celebrated as the actress and fails by showing vulnerability or unattractiveness.
Any virgin can and does become a whore by disagreeing with the "people in charge", whomever they may be. And the gods help those who aren't attractive or who are overweight; there's no room in either archetype for either of THOSE traits.
I'd argue that many of the "positive feminine traits" celebrated by many woman's rights and feminists groups fall under "virgin". The woman who breastfeeds her child and doesn't shave and expects other women to do the same, for example, is fitting into the "natural woman" aspect of the virgin. The women who scan agression as "masculine" and nurturing as "feminine" are coding the "whore" as both undesirable and not even female. And so on and so forth.
But I'm still left wondering, how do we break this false dichotomy? Honestly, there are things off of both lists that I WANT and that I try to embody, and that's my small way, but I find myself wishing there were bigger ways to act.
FWIW, I'd say the male examples are the effeminate and the macho man - for any MRAs out there who want to explore their own untenable archetypes that are used against them to control them. Sometime I want to get a listing of the characteristics of those archetypes and see if they scan to virgin and whore the way I think they will. ^^