That is all I have to say today.
That is all I have to say today.
I had planned a post on egalitarianism for this week, but Christina’s poignant essay on Monday gave me pause. This is less a response than a musing along similar/related themes.
As some of you know, I worked as a semi-professional costumer/designer for several years. After a heart-wrenching amount of internal debate I have decided not to make it my career choice, although gifs like this make me regret the decision. As a costume designer, as an aspiring “obscenely polished” corporette (:-P), and as a pseudo-Orthodox Jewess (I call myself shomeret mitzvoth or observant), I think about clothing and appearance roughly 870,053 times a day. More if I’m at a theatrical performance or at synagogue on the High Holidays…
The HP headline is not that relevant here. Like every female bookworm with bushy hair in the past decade, I always assumed Hermione Granger was written about me. During freshman year of college, the girls on my hall who Sorted everyone in my dorm decided I was Molly Weasley, which is much more accurate. (Don’t. Mess.) But Hermione is a fashion-awkward brown-nosing do-gooder, just like my teenage self.
Morning is a battlefield.
One hour before class, my alarm goes off. I take 15 minutes to shower, 15 minutes to get dressed and put my things together, 15 minutes to go to my dining hall and eat breakfast, 15 minutes to walk to class. It’s not as regimented as it sounds, but I do have to run a tight ship in the mornings in order to get to class on time. Sounds a little crazy, but I’m not skipping over anything important, and I like to think that I don’t look like a slob. After all, I take a few minutes to look through my closet and pick out clothes that will let me present myself the way I want to be seen, as a put-together but not fashion-concerned, somewhat attractive, motivated student. So I pick out my clothes and walk over to a table upon which sits various toiletries. I take the five seconds it takes to run gel through my low-maintenance short hair, and then, just before I pick up all my books and put them in my oversized backpack, I hesitate. I linger, just a moment, at that toiletries counter. My eyes flick back and forth, glancing among the bottles of colored goo I know are in the sterile Container Store plastic container. And that morning, like every morning, I wonder what kind of person I’m going to be.
I know what my face looks like. I’m told I have nice eyes. My skin is more problematic. That’s just the way things are, the way I was born. But now, there are remedies. Medications, yes, but those are remedies for the underlying problem, and those take time and patience. But my face doesn’t look right, right now, and the remedy to that is to make it look different. That’s the point of makeup, after all, to make us look different, and right now, this morning, that’s exactly what I’m looking for. So I know what I’m moving away from, namely the vision I see of my bleary-eyed teenage visage in the mirror. What I’m moving toward is another issue entirely, and it is that quagmire of a dilemma of a tantalizingly simple question that throws me into the depths of moral quandary every morning, before I’ve even had my coffee.
I do mean every morning. Every morning I stand here, for a minute, thinking that that there are two paths, diverging in my tiny yellow dorm room, and while both of them may lead to my getting to class, there is a world of difference between them. In one, after all, I am a beautiful, composed, clean-faced lady, a true woman with heightened contrast between eyes and lips, with a shimmer of her mouth and green eyes showed to their best advantage. I am perceived more favorably, by friends, romantic interests, and everyone else. I am more attractive, more trustworthy, more competent, more normal. Because what woman doesn’t look like she dipped her lips in glass this morning?
And this opens up a world of possibilities. If I no longer have an emotional tie to my face as it is now, I am liberated from the thousands of years in which the only presentation we could give to the world is the one we were born with. But our imaginations are so much broader than that, so much more bountiful and beautiful. Anything I care to imagine myself looking like, I now can be. I can explore the playground that is the infinitude of possibilities. What care have I of coherent personal identity when the world is there to bound about joyfully, becoming someone different with each costume, each application of this or that technique. Today, I am vampy. Today, I am sweet. Today, I am professional. Today, I am a vampire. Today, I am Ophelia. Today, I am a man. I am tethered not by a broken, unfounded conception of self that limits me to a fiction of an essential self. I am large; I contain multitudes. And these multitudes stand in line, patiently giving each their proper turn, to appear on my face, to present their existential debut to the world.
And yet, it seems problema-
I’m not sure what gender traitor backstabbing false consciousness of a woman wrote this post, but she’s clearly suffering under the delusion that just because her choices feel free that they are unrelated to societal expectation and demands, that her ‘fabulous free face’ doctrine might as well be an advertisement, probably starring Drew Barrymore, for the Duane Reade makeup aisle. Holy commodification of appearance, Batman! She really thinks that no one’s interests but her own are being served by this antipolitical nonsense? It certainly has never seemed to occur to her that the makeup industry is fueled not by money or labor, but by a sense of inferiority. Sure, maybe some women put on makeup simply because they like it. But she admitted herself that every morning she wakes up and thinks that who she is, what she looks like, isn’t good enough for the world, and it’s beginning to be not good enough for her. The only solution, then, is to buy and wear makeup.
“Let not your face offend, fair-ish maiden. Let the body politic’s aesthetic sensibilities be not displeased, by the horror that is your visage. What kind of image of femininity could you be, looking like that? Don’t you know that Simona de Bovoir said, “You’re not born a woman; you become one.” So get on it, lady! Become the woman we all know you can be! That’s it, that’s the spirit, yup, just a little more eyeliner, but remember to blend; too much makeup just looks tacky and to be honest, a little trampy.”
But it’s her choice, of course, and I’m supposed to sit back and respect that. As if her choices didn’t affect anyone else, as if every time a woman walks out of her house with a natural, flushed, lively face it didn’t instill, in just one more way, the notion that that’s how women do and ought to look? As if it didn’t reify the hetereosexual male paranoia of going to bed with an attractive woman only to wake up and realized you may have fucked someone who is not, in fact, fuckable. As if it didn’t let every little girl on the street know that this is what she’s supposed to look like when she grows up. As if it weren’t exactly what the cosmetics industry wanted.
She also ignored the race issue, of course.
That’s my piece, I’m done. Back to your regularly scheduled blog.
Well hold on, now I have to say my piece, too. Leaving aside that you apparently don’t think women should be able to choose what they look like, and you appear to have fetishized how women ‘naturally’ look as some kind of ultimate good, and are also ignoring the fact that the problematic aspects of makeup you’re talking about apply far more to clothes and hair, which are even more regulated and certainly more expensive. You also totally ignored the trans issue, you remember, when we as feminists don’t constrain people’s identities to the bodies they happen to be born into? Because women have too long been identified with body, with the corporeal, the physical, and men with the mind, the cerebral, the transcendent?
Leaving all that aside, you’re essentially asking for women to be left behind, to suffer in their social lives, in their workplaces. You’re asking for naturally ‘attractive’ women to always have an edge over naturally ‘unattractive’ women. People have been using makeup for a million reasons for hundreds of years; you’re harkening back to a golden age of feminine naturality that has never existed, and frankly it’s essentialist and wrong. You’re just finding one more way to shame women. Let them do what makes them comfortable, what gets them through their day. Really, though.
Ok, now you can have your normal blog post back.
-tic. Not for the reasons you might think, but because there’s a competing image, fighting for predominance in the part of my brain that tortures me with images of who I could be, who I desperately with all my heart, want to be – fictional characters, successful women, my mother and grandmother, people I make up. That image is, as you’ve probably guessed, of the feminist I want to be. The woman who is secure enough, confident enough in her own skin, to walk out the door looking exactly how she looks, and not giving a damn what other people think. She bucks the trends, fights the patriarchy, and does a shitton of math to boot. Or business, or law, or philosophy, or building airplanes.
At some point, I have to wonder, how many perfect complete images of women I could be but never can be, because I am real and they are impossibly perfect fiction, can I fit in my head before I explode? How many ways can we tell women that they’re not doing it right? At the same time, how can we resist and fight the collective action-induced de rigueur nature of standardized appearance? What do you do when you don’t have the luxury of being overwhelmed?
I’m not sure, I have to get to class.
Beauty Secrets: Women and The Politics of Appearance, Wendy Chapkis
Pretty, Katie Makkai
Slip of the Tongue, Adriel Luis
Sex Neutrality, Mandolin
Always and forever, Ani Difranco. Seriously, go listen to her music.
LadyG is a little overwhelmed with responsibilities right now and so, like the grown-up she purports to be, she needs to take another week off from srs blogging.
In the meantime, meet Charlotte Corday, an alter-ego born of frustration with societal stupidity and general backwardness. After all, if Christina can be Count Dohna sometimes, why can’t a Lady also be a Revolutionary?
LadyG believes in effecting change from the inside: calmly, carefully, deadly. A Hufflepuff with Slytherin ambitions, if you will.
Charlotte believes that the inside is ROTTEN and BROKEN and WHO CARES ABOUT FIXING IT LET’S JUST DESTROY IT. Obviously Gryffindor through-and-through.
LadyG believes in reasoning with opponents until they prove themselves unwilling to listen. (re: the original FB argument, not the awesome WordPress discussion)
Charlotte gets all TigerBeatdown ON YOUR FACE.
LadyG carefully investigates claims of misogyny and sexism because she thinks straight white men are also done a horrible disservice by gender stereotypes.
Charlotte has this to say:
(Charlotte has been listening to a lot of Paramore this week, and she has no regrets.)
LadyG is working on a music video analysis involving gender performance, but she can’t promise when it will show up. Would you like to see content from Charlotte sometimes? Vote in the comments!
PS Donna Noble says it best.
I know I’m way behind on this, having been busy with my own protests here in the midwest as part of the Occupy movement, but I am amazed and filled with joy to hear that women and girls are playing such a large part in the widespread Socialist unrest in Chile.
You know what’s really annoying? Hearing skinny people complain about being “fat” in front of you while they justify their decision to eat the slightest bit of junk food.
There are tons of problems with this, here are the main ones I can think of:
So, uh, Drake apparently has a new single out.
[If you’re international, I apologize for the Hulu. I have the feeling it’s the only way.]
my transcription: (0:29-0:45)
don’t make it too easy girl
don’t take it too fast
that’s it right there
do it just like that
only you can do it just like that
i love it when your hair’s still wet
cuz you just took a shower
running on the treadmill and
only eating salad
sound so smart like you graduated college
like you went to yale but you probably went to howard
I would be remiss not to point out that Aubrey Drake Graham
On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at [her] predestined time and who before [her] time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by upheaval, who by plague, who by strangling, and who by stoning.” – From the prayers said on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.
Many of our readers and contributors spent all of yesterday and the night before in Yom Kippur services. In many synagogues, people often read the stories of a group known as the 10 Martyrs. These are very compelling accounts of ten Jewish Rabbis who were killed during Roman rule by Emperor Hadrian (you know, the guy who built the pretty little walls in England and also murdered Jews in his spare time). All of them are very graphic, and include fates that I would not wish on most of my worst enemies (I’d be perfectly fine if someone like Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot were killed in some of these fashions).
Anyways, just as I walked out of services this year personally not at all pleased with myself or my repentance (while everyone else walked out relieved) and with the feeling that I need more time to atone as I suddenly remembered things I had done poorly in the past year after the Shofar had sounded and the “gates” had closed, I feel that while these stories we read are compelling, there are so many more stories that could be read if we really just wanted to make ourselves miserable all day (which I’m clearly into). Other people have expressed this, especially after the Holocaust, and such thinking got wider accounts from later times in Jewish history incorporated into the service in the Conservative movement.
The absence I noticed the most, other than the absence of stories from the Inquisition, the Holocaust, and other important catastrophic events in which many Jewish people were killed, was the absence of any women martyrs, even though I am sure there were women martyrs. Below is a list of women I would include in a supplement to the services for people who would want to include women when these stories are being read. I want to say that this is not a definitive “top 10 list,” but just as there is room for expansion on the original ten, there is infinite room for expansion on this list, since there are literally millions of female Jewish martyrs. See the list, after the jump.
This piece was written on August 5th, 2011. I intended to post it on Tisha B’Av, but the week before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement [and Reckoning] will have to do instead. I have changed only a few words here and there, to clarify a few statements. My awe and respect haven’t changed an iota.
A recent conversation with someone who is probably not reading this got me thinking about strong women, femininity, and what it takes to face abuse.
I did promise a response [to Christina] on DSK and the rape case, especially regarding the role of Judaism in France as a political AND ethnic identity, but the more I think about it, the less interested I am in writing it down. You’ll have to catch me in person if you want to know more about my thoughts on that.
Rather than “picking a side” and accusing either DSK or his accusers, Nafissatou Diallo (New York) and Tristane Banon (France), of any crime, local or international, legal or moral, I would rather talk about what we as a society can do to support victims of sexual and domestic abuse. Now, I am not trained as a rape victim’s advocate nor do I particularly want to be. I am an activist by passion and vocation, but fighting rape on the front lines is not what I do best, nor what I want to get better at doing as a career. Still, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to talk about it as a feminist and as a moral human being.
Before I begin rambling:
Please, please, please call for help if you need it, or you think someone in your life does. If you don’t know what kind of advice or support that person needs — or how to give it — call these numbers and ask.
If you take anything away from this post, please know this:
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
And so many people around the world, from all backgrounds, care so much about YOU. Yes, really.