Thursday, July 24, 2008

Okay, you want a "solution?" Here:

This was in response to a comment over at this thread:


...Look, I don’t have as much control over what happens in Africa (though believe me, I’m doing as much as I can and we can speak about it privately if you’d like), as I do over what happens to the women around me. I know I have control over what I wear. I know that I can engage fellow English-speakers with computers on the Internet in a conversation about how we can help each other. Maybe this idea of a sisterhood turns you off.

(me speaking) “Now: the great thing about "my body my choice" is that it also means I don't get to tell YOU what to do with your body or choice.”

Sigh, I’m not telling anyone what to do. I wish you weren’t so confrontational in your post. Yes indeed, your body, your choice. And if you only want to care about your body and your choice, that’s ok too. But let’s not act like our bodies and the choices we make with them don’t affect others. Never in any post have I said, “cover up them titties u hoebag!” I’m not saying that I don’t personally engage in all these feminizing beautifying behaviors. I’m just saying I’m ambivalent about the repercussions of a “post-feminist” society in which women are still valued primarily as physically beautiful beings and women just choose to go along with it. Far from empowering, I find it depressing. But neither do I have a solution.

O.K. then. On the "sisterhood" and "doing what one can within one's limits" tips, here's my attempt at a "solution."

Rather than going into endless cycles of self/other critique about what is and isn't properly feminist, patriarchal, empowering, etc., simply:

Have other womens' backs.

Because even if -you- really aren't saying "cover up those tits" to some other woman who did nothing to bring it on, guess what? Someone else out there is. Sometimes even online. In the street, at the workplace, in your family, among your friends.

And you know what you do? When someone else sneers at some other woman and says she looks like a tramp, or a fat slob, why doesn't she shave/not shave/cover up/take it off/lose some weight/eat a cheeseburger/relax that "unprofessional" hair/put on some makeup/scrub off that paint and then maybe she'll get a man/stop getting all that male attention/have better self esteem (!)/whatever else is unwanted that she's supposedly -bringing on herself-.

You say:

"Well, I think she looks great. And even if I didn't, so the hell what? What the hell business is it of yours? Who asked you? (if one wishes to be combative) You're no spring onion yourself. And besides, what does this have to do with (her experience of assault/her leadership ability/her position on campaign finance reform/the brilliant novel she wrote/her research in nuclear physics/anything else)? No, I said: it's not cute and I'm not amused, and I won't hear this."

Bonus points when you say it to a man, even. Yes! I've done it! Selfish, unsisterly me. Lots of times.

And if you really -don't- think so and so is awesome or looks good? If the problem is maybe not even so much your own guilt at your supposed privilege or indoctrination or whatever it is as that actually that you secretly agree with the sneerer?

Ah. Well. Now we come to the "examination" part.

And you know, you don't have to change your mind, obviously; but, well, I do think this little exercise of Sarah's is a nice one as well:

...I used to pass judgments on people all the time. The way I broke myself of it? I started saying “That person’s AWESOME” instead of “weird/trashy/whatever” judgment I was about to pass. It made me stop and think, yeah, that person is awesome.

And you know what I've found? Ultimately, this sort of thing tends to mean a lot more to -the actual other people- than endless rounds of navelgazing and beating myself up for yet -another- way in which I fail to measure up, or R Doin It Rong. Or even changing my sparklewhatsit for a hairshirt. Because, see, wearing a hairshirt doesn't actually help anyone else. If you want to help other women? Help other women. Listen to what THEY need and want, and take it from there. Nine times out of ten? Simple nonjudgmental support is a great damn gift all by itself.

It's really not that complicated, I don't think.


Nudiemuse said...

This is my kind of feminism.

Renegade Evolution said...

makes sense to me

belledame222 said...

welcome, nm.

Ravenmn said...

Copy. Print.

I really love Sarah's suggestion, too.

Kristen said...

Yes! THIS!

CrackerLilo said...

Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

I know I can laugh and judge sometimes, and it's not a part of me I even like all that well, but I never interpret someone's choice to wear or not wear something as a direct threat, you know? This needed to be said, every word of it.

belledame222 said...

yeah, I'm not saying I never ever snark on anyone's appearance. usually when I do it's a way of getting in a cheap shot at someone I don't like, frankly. and no, it's not a great thing to do. These days more often men than not, but it's still cheap.

but I don't think it has, like, some deep political Import ffs; I was doing the same goddam thing in junior high, and believe me, I wasn't thinking about overthrowing the Patriarchy then.

in some ways I actually think "you're stifling the Revolution!" or whatever it's supposed to be is actually -worse- than the more standard "well! she just looks tacky, I don't know where to look!" without justifying jargon frilling it up. it's just one more layer of bullshit to scrape off, and it boils down to the same goddam thing.

sarah j said...

Seriously. Plus, I have a lot more time for talking shit about Joe Lieberman when I'm not worrying about how other women dress.

UneFemmePlusCourageuse said...

I love this, Belle. You're awesome.

lankydancer said...

"If you want to help other women? Help other women."

Thank you! It really should be that simple.

Anonymous said...

That's really well-stated, Belle. It has certainly made me think.

isabel said...

I sincerely admire your boldness in standing up for people like that, because I live every day regretting that life does not have a caps lock button and my attempts to do so usually come out as this really sad mewling "aw, c'mon, guys, don't be meeeean..."

Hopefully one day I'll grow some ovaries and JUST DO IT.

belledame222 said...

hey, welcome, Isabel.

I'll just say I've found the Internet's brawlly side, annoying as it can be, good practice in skin-thickening, even, eventually, in the "real world."

Sarah said...

Just started reading through your archive. This is really cool, and also oddly synchronous...I have clueless roommates and I was reading Calculus last night when one of them started trashing someone she knew for being a) heavy and curvaceous and b) wearing form-fitting clothing. I spun around in my chair and called her out on it.

Anonymous said...

sauderfeeds Take a piece of me