...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-.
"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.