I had a distressing conversation the other day. It went something like this:
“Man. I am bummed. I was involved in an exciting project, and now it’s over. And there are, like, hurt feelings on both sides. Bummer. Man.”
“Well, considering the fact that you use your looks to get involved in most exciting projects…”
“Oh, you heard me.”
“You heard me say ‘you heard me.’ I know it, because you flinched.”
“OMG! WTF? STFU! GTFO! DIAF!”
I’m not Angelina Jolie and never will be, but, sure enough, I perform beauty while I’m still young. I checked out the spring collection at Naf Naf the other day, for example. I made it out of there with a pink strapless minidress adorned with large, purple, blue and white flowers that are vaguely reminiscent of a blown-up Japanese print. It’s layered, and make me look like a very complicated dessert and makes me feel like I live in a painting. I love it.
As much as I love it, I know that even this little dress can come with some big consequences attached. Why, I find out new and exciting things about me and people like me every day:
As has been pointed out, women — even feminist women — yearn to perform beauty because they are tired of fighting the powah, and beauty is the path of least resistance, but they don’t wanna feel that damn feminist guilt for wearing carcinogenic mascara. – Jill at I Blame the Patriarchy
Least resistance, O RLY? But, perhaps more importantly, why assume that I am tired? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am not bloody tired. And I fight the power every day. With a crowbar. I live in Eastern Europe, it’s the only way I can make it through the day. It’s the only way any woman can make it through the day here, is what I feel like, whether she calls herself a feminist or not. Bah. Fellow Americans can act so privileged sometimes. (Shocking, I know)
Feminist revolution in the western world cannot happen until there is a critical mass of disenfranchised and oppressed women who genuinely want change. We are not close to having this happen – especially when the feminist discourse is still stuck arguing whether it can be empowering to put lipstick on. Or, I should say, a very specific sort of feminism from women who are generally well off and can trade on their femininity. – Jennifer Ruth at IBTP [emphasis mine]
Uh. You have it backwards, darling. It’s women who are not well off who tend to kind of have to trade on their femininity, whether they want to do it or not. Now, I happen to enjoy my own performance of femininity – but that just means I’m lucky, i.e. privileged. Though speaking of privilege, how about you buy me a new washing machine?
… I work at home. When I talk to make-up-smudged, sensible-heels-wearing women about this, I’ve noticed that the first thing they say is something akin to, “Wow! You don’t even have to get dressed in the morning!”
This reaction has always been perplexing to me. I get dressed in the morning the same damn way I always have. More specifically, I don’t make much of an effort at “pretty.” So, when “pretty” women say things like that to me, what they really mean is: “Wow! You don’t have to put on your patriarchy-acceptable costume to go to work!”
This makes me terribly sad for them. – Samantha at IBTP
Pumpkin, I suspect that most of these women you stoop to conversing with don’t want or need your goddamn pity. Just a thought.
“Prettying up” has a pretty limited shelflife. There comes a point in the life of any female who lives long enough at which it is no longer possible to simulate being young and pretty. Any woman who hasn’t sorted out a more substantial basis for their life by the time that stage comes along is in for an unhappy time, whatever their economic status. – shopstewardess at IBTP
Yes, dumbass, because “prettying up” is the “basis” for my life, apparently. Let me let you in on a little secret – even for a fashion model, “prettying up” is not the “basis” of an existence. Yes, losing your looks is extremely hard in a culture that somehow manages to both reward and punish you for having them. But performing beauty doesn’t make it into a “basis” for anything.
You know what beauty really is? Any kind of beauty? Let me give you a hint: it goes hand-in-hand with terror. It’s a little too great to be contained or explained in the comments to a feminist blog.
Also, might I add that the time I don’t waste primping myself in front of a mirror is time I get to spend reading blogs, reading books, playing piano and seeing people I care about. – kate at IBTP
I particularly hate this sentiment, because it assumes that women like me don’t have enough time to read books or blogs, to play musical instruments (well, I don’t play an instrument. But I enjoy other things. Such as writing. And, uh, more writing) or hang out with people they care about. They’re all just so soulless and vain!
It’s kind of like: “Well, the time I don’t waste playing a musical instrument is time I get to spend writing plays! So there! I win this pointless argument!”
I guess I’m not old or adult enough to decide what to do with the five minutes I spend applying make-up in the morning. I need people like kate to sort me out!
Because this is what it’s really all about – deciding who among us is really an adult. Men will freak out on you for being “too emotional,” radical feminists will freak out on you for that goddamn mascara! I fail to see a whole lot of difference.
Some women will adamantly state they only do it because they like it. Now, given I’m no mind reader and it’s certainly not my place to tell then what they really like or not, I’m not going to state ” It’s because you were taught to like it”. Women have brains. Functioning brains. So with that in mind, I will ask them to press deeper into their psyches and ask themselves if they really really like it, or could it be P training. They don’t have to tell me the answer. That they think about it is enough. – pheenobarbidoll at IBTP
Hm. Well, I would never state that I only perform beauty because I like it. I live on planet Earth, after all. Encased in a corporeal object – a body. We are all physical beings (besides the ghosts over our shoulders) and we respond to each other’s physical appearance. Our responses tend to be complicated, overlapping, both conscious and unconscious.
My mother, one of the most beautiful women I have ever known, had this to say on the subject:
“Beauty makes people want to be next to you. And it makes them despise you. Beauty is like the moon. It has a dark side.”
It is admittedly hard for me to stamp down my disgust at women and girls who actively promote patriarchy approved beauty compliance. – Amananta at IBTP
See, this is at least honest. But perplexing. Because I feel no such disgust at people who, I believe, flout patriarchy approved beauty compliance – yet somehow think that what they are doing makes them free (you’re not Robin Hood, OK? You’re still engaging the system).
I would never say that I don’t give a crap as to what people look like. People interest me, after all, both out as well as in. I’m interested in women who wear niqab – and the style they go with. I’m interested in someone else’s chipped purple nail polish. I’m interested in polka-dot ties. I’m interested in the entire culture of dress and appearance, and that culture does include everyone – not just people who perform beauty.
The disgust expressed here strikes me as yet another way to attempt to “mortify the flesh.”
Nobody actually looks better when they put on blue eyeshadow, for instance, it’s just that by going to the trouble of putting on blue eyeshadow, you’re signaling your submission.- wiggles at IBTP
Mmm. Baby. You wish.
Sandals are not intrinsically more expensive or more sexy than sneakers… – Mel at IBTP
You know, at this point in the discussion, I am reminded more and more of church. In Orthodox Churches, there are many ladies, most of them older, who eagerly sit around and discuss such important topics as whether or not a good Orthodox woman can wear flip-flops under her skirt. The rest of us just tend to get on with our lives. Well, not me, though.
Since I am on the path of “least resistance,” however, I expect those dividends to start rolling in soon. Where is that goddamn new washing machine I need?
And what happened to all the hordes of people who, apparently, invite me to participate in exciting projects simply because of the way I look? Anyone? Bueller?
There is a picture of a beautiful woman hanging in my bedroom. This particular beautiful woman was honoured for her participation in WWII before she died. Rumours still swirl about her, years after her death. She had many dangerous jobs. She was so awesome, that speaking about her on this little blog feels almost like a violation of some kind. And she did more for the people in her life – women in particular – than half the commenters at IBTP could ever dream of doing.
She’d never check in to see if the way she looked was in any way “OK.” I suppose, in this, as in all things, she was a greater woman than I.