Quick hit: Sour milk

Quick hit so we can talk about something other than how I’m a humorless, comics-hating, loveless feminist who thinks men should be arrested for talking to women in public: Feministing points to Spike TV’s utterly appalling feature, “The Top 10 Actresses Past Their Expiration Date.” Get it? Like milk! Ha ha!

If you can stand to look at the list, you may note, not without some bitter chuckling because that is the only laughter produced by feminist bodies, that what most of these women are criticized for are actually measures that they have taken so as not to look older. Thus the beauty ideal eats its own tail: age naturally, and you’re a wrinkly hag; attempt to fix your haglike wrinkles and you’re “a scary mix between Michael Jackson and the mummy of King Tut.”

Here’s the main complaint for each of the 10: too much Botox; too skinny; too chubby; too skinny; too squinty (?); too wild; too mannish; too much Botox; too much makeup; too old. So, there you go, Hollywood Ladiez, it’s easy: just don’t be any of those things, and the dudes at Spike will grace you with their hard-ons forever.

Straw Feminist Weekly: The baby-hater

Introducing what I hope will be a regular feature here: Straw Feminist Weekly! In which we give a shout-out to the egregious straw feminists that cunningly populate the media and blogosphere.

<div><a rel="cc:attributionURL" href=This week’s Straw Feminist is a classic, and it comes to us from that site which is itself gunning for the 2009 Straw-Feminist-Fighting Championship: DoubleX. Shapelings, welcome an old favorite: The Baby-Hater. Katie Roiphe’s essay on how much she loves her newborn is accompanied, naturally, by the subtitle: Why won’t feminists admit the pleasure of infants? Come on, feminists! Why do you hate tiny babies?

This is you

This is you.

Who are all these feminists who hate infants and want to take away Roiphe’s ability to experience “The high of a love that obliterates everything. A need so consuming that it is threatening to everything you are and care about”? Well, for one thing, they’re Second Wavers:

One of the minor dishonesties of the feminist movement has been to underestimate the passion of this time, to try for a rational, politically expedient assessment. Historically, feminists have emphasized the difficulty, the drudgery of new motherhood. They have tried to analogize childcare to the work of men; and so for a long time, women have called motherhood a “vocation.” The act of caring for a baby is demanding, and arduous, of course, but it is wilder and more narcotic than any kind of work I have ever done.

Hear that, ladies? You may find yourself longing for adult conversation and wishing you could get a full night’s sleep while your partner feeds the baby for once, but that’s because you’re denying the narcotic effect of your infant’s natural musk!

Feminists of the world, how can you not love the “opium-den quality to maternity leave”? Maternity leave, as we all know, was benevolently granted to women by men because they understand that motherhood is like an addiction, and hey, we all deserve a little time off from work when we’re high on opiates, am I right? Wait, what’s that — maternity leave is only available to you because of feminist activism that “analogized childcare to the work of men” (you know, real work!), and in fact we have far less paid parental leave than many of our international peers? Oh, you feminists and your politics! Why don’t you put those boring history books down and pick up a baby, for god’s sake? Quit being so dishonest and tell it like it is: motherhood is just like drug addiction, which is a financially supported and widely approved lifestyle.

But look, it’s not only Betty Friedan and her lying friends who hate babies: it’s also every great woman writer of the past 250 years.

BO-ring

BO-ring

I remember visiting one of my closest friends on her maternity leave last summer. We sat on a wooden bench in her garden and drank iced coffees, and gazed at her second baby. She is a writer, and we talked about how the women writers we most admired had no children, or have had one child, at the absolute most, but never two. (Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf and Jane Austen had no children; Mary McCarthy, Rebecca West, Joan Didion, and Janet Malcolm all had one.) My friend looked down at her newborn and her tiny eyelashes. She could entertain this conversation in an academic way, but as she adjusted the baby’s hat I could see how far removed it was from anything that mattered to her. Here, sitting in the garden, looking at the eyelashes, would you trade the baby for the possibility of writing The House of Mirth? You would not.

Oh, sure, some women writers had babies, but they totally hated them! You can tell because they only had one: real women love babies so much they have as many as possible. You never see books about how much women love their children and miss them when they’re gone. I mean, Virginia Woolf had that whole room of her own, right? Surely she could have fit a crib in there.

Look, Edith Wharton may have had a Pulitzer Prize and a bibliography as long as her baby-less arm, but The House of Mirth is some crazy feminist novel and thus totally not worth having written. It’s all about how upper-class women are forced into marriage because it’s their only economic option and beauty is their only currency! What kind of crazy nonsense is that? Leave the novels to the men, ladies. You wouldn’t want to spend all your time crafting deathless prose if you would just snorgle a baby once in a while. Those eyelashes!

Remember, feminists: you’re all a bunch of baby-haters who are so selfish you don’t even want Katie Roiphe to love her baby — even if you are parents yourselves, even if you advocate for longer parental leave, even if you run an orphanage filled with nothing but sweet, sweet babies. Katie Roiphe knows: she wrote a whole article dissing you; therefore, she’s right about feminism and you’re wrong.

Straw Feminist Weekly: We define feminism so you don’t have to!

Beauty

I spent this weekend in rural Oregon, attending my dear friend M’s wedding. Though the weather was unusually hot for the Pacific Northwest, the setting and (outdoor) ceremony worked together so beautifully that the whole weekend felt tinged with magic. It was wonderful to celebrate my friend’s happiness in such a lovely landscape, with a running creek, pine-covered hills, and strong sunshine providing the perfect backdrop to a happy rite.

Several of us had attended a wedding in the same location three years ago; the house belongs to a friend’s parents, and they are happy to lend it to kids they’ve known for decades for a weekend of celebration. That wedding, too, was gorgeous and fun; instead of staying in hotels, many of us camped out in the field and stayed for a whole weekend, just as we did this time. M was there, and she and I especially spent a lot of time together, since Mr Machine and I were about to move to Chicago and we knew we wouldn’t see each other for months or years.

At this point you might be wondering when SP turned into my personal let’s-ramble-about-the-weekend blog. Never fear! There was a crucial difference between my experience in 2006 and my experience this weekend — and that difference was my view of beauty. Here’s the thing about my friend M: she’s gorgeous. Not just in the regular “Wow, my friends are pretty” way, but in a “Straight guys cannot be friends with me because they are too stunned by my looks” way. (Queer women somehow don’t seem to have the same problem, though I imagine we like to look at her just as much.) She’s tall and blonde and leggy and very slim, with piercing eyes and delicate features. She’s also incredibly photogenic. And the woman she married this weekend is equally stunning, though the only feature they share is their tall lean figures. Basically, in their gowns, glowing with happiness, in this lovely place, they were so pretty you could be forgiven for thinking that no one should need to get married again, because they win for Most Gorgeous Wedding In History (MGWIH). When the wedding pictures are available, I might just paper my walls with them.

In the pictures from the 2006 Oregon wedding (aka The Previous Contender for MGWIH), I am wearing a kicky black and pink striped cowl-necked dress that drapes prettily over my cleavage, and my hair is the perfect amount of wavy, and my glasses add a bit of retro nerd flair. In short, I look awesome. But you know when I realized this? Just this Friday, when looking at the 2006 photos with some of our friends who were there. When I had first seen those wedding photos, in 2006, I thought I looked terrible — lumpy and plain and, of course, fat (I was in the “fine for thee but not for me” stage of FA at the time). I was only a little bigger than I am right now, but all I could see in the pictures was my big hips and big arms hiding in that adorable dress — even though most of the time I felt pretty okay about my body. See, I was hanging out with M, and she is so beautiful that seeing myself next to her in photos was a bit like being slapped; I compared myself to her and found my looks hopelessly wanting. That wedding was beautiful and fun and I have frequently waxed nostalgic about it in the three years since, but I almost never looked at the pictures to reminisce. Why would I? They were clear evidence of how un-beautiful I was. But looking at these very same photos on Friday night, I was startled by how happy and pretty I looked; our mutual friends had even displayed a photo of me and M sitting together laughing. Seeing it framed on a mantel, I wondered how I ever thought I looked anything but wonderful that weekend.

A lot of things have changed in the last three years, but the most important change here is how I view other women’s beauty. It’s not that I used to be jealous of beautiful women, though of course I envied them some — it’s that I often felt diminished by them, as though they were so pretty just to spite me, to remind me my place in the order of things. Of course, this had nothing to do with them and everything to do with me. I felt like I was passing as a pretty woman most of the time, and the presence of someone who was Certifiably Pretty revealed my true nature. Standing next to M, who is kind and generous and funny and sweet but also very very pretty, made me feel like my mask had been torn off.

Now it’s like looking with new eyes — but of course it’s really my new brain. I don’t compare myself with her; I love myself with her, because she is my friend. When I see those 2006 pictures now, I feel like I look prettier in her company; her beauty includes me now, because I look at both of us with a more generous gaze. We’re not pitted against each other in a zero-sum contest of finite beauty; we are friends in a world that is, at times, heart-rendingly beautiful.

This weekend, watching these two gorgeous women slide rings on each other’s fingers, I felt blessed too. I’ve been trained to view beauty as a rule that excludes me, a weapon that anyone could use against me: we all have. But when we try to think generously about beauty, to look for it with pleasure instead of with envy, it only expands. Beauty is not a finite quantity. It has room for you. It has room even for me.

What’s the point of judicial power if you don’t have Girl Power?

Here’s the thing about Robin Givhan, the WaPo‘s fashion journalist. She frequently writes about fashion in contexts that should make for fascinating readings: the images portrayed by women in power, and how their stylistic choices reflect (or, often, deflect) our expectations of femininity. Sounds right up our alley, no? But here’s the other thing about Givhan: she’s bad at it. To be more precise (and more fair), she’s not bad at writing, and she’s not bad at fashion; she’s just bad at feminism. Sure, I don’t need all reporters in the world to be feminist (but, oh, what a world that would be!), but if your beat consists of analyzing fashion and gender, and you’re not doing it through a feminist lens, you may as well work for Cosmo.

Givhan made herself infamous in the feminist blogosphere by dedicating an entire article to Hillary Clinton’s cleavage and how “unnerving” it supposedly was, during campaign season, natch. (Choice quote: The cleavage, however, is an exceptional kind of flourish. After all, it’s not a matter of what she’s wearing but rather what’s being revealed. It’s tempting to say that the cleavage stirs the same kind of discomfort that might be churned up after spotting Rudy Giuliani with his shirt unbuttoned just a smidge too far. No one wants to see that. But really, it was more like catching a man with his fly unzipped. Just look away!) Now she’s weighing in on Sonia Sotomayor, claiming that for her hearings, Sotomayor chose to eschew femininity altogether. In maddening but typical fashion, she fails to even remotely discuss why Sotomayor might make such a choice, instead dissing her for being stuck in the ’80s — which is so hot right now, unless you’re a lady judge, of course. (See Jezebel for a great comparison of Sotomayor’s look to the “1980s lady power broker” that Givhan claims she’s channeling. Maybe Givhan isn’t that good at fashion after all.)

Whether or not you agree with Givhan’s premise that Sotomayor “embraced that period in fashion when femininity had no place in the executive suite” (for the record, I don’t), you’d think Givhan might at least mention the fact that Sotomayor’s status as a Vagina American has actually been a point of contention and debate in the past few weeks. Givhan sidles up to a gender-based analysis, but then she gets distracted by shiny things or something and doesn’t follow through:

In recent years, it’s been men in Sotomayor’s position, with their hands raised as they promise to tell the truth. In matters of aesthetics they’ve had it easy. They needed only to wear a tidy dark suit with an unstained tie and a crisp dress shirt. A fresh haircut was always a wise move. Meeting these meager requirements has sometimes been a struggle. Still, both Samuel Alito and John Roberts were mostly unremarkable when they appeared before the Judiciary Committee.

Sonia Sotomayor didn’t try to imitate the boys by assembling androgynous ensembles. That would not have gone over at all. Too dark a palette or too sleek a silhouette would have looked too urbane. Too unapproachable. Too minimal. Too suspiciously New York liberal.

Sotomayor avoided wearing clothes so bland that they faded into the background and left her looking dowdy and retiring and like she was trying to remake herself into something she is not. Based on her résumé and her life story, “flat” and “dull” are not adjectives that could accurately be applied to the “wise Latina.” So she was not a blur in beige.

Gosh, why do you think men wouldn’t bother doing more than getting a haircut and a dry cleaning before appearing before the Senate (and the nation)? It’s almost like they are evaluated on their accomplishments and qualifications instead of on their color palettes. I guess they’re just lucky!

I can’t believe that Givhan has the nerve to refer to the “wise Latina” comment — which has been widely mocked by white men (who, of course, are Neutral Humans) as a sign of being uppity – in the context of how neutral Sotomayor decided to dress, without even a hint of irony. It’s as though she has no idea that Sotomayor might have a vested interest in appearing nonthreatening to the white men who have been trying to get her to admit she’s some kind of pity nominee. Givhan writes that Sotomayor’s fashion projects the following statement: “I am palatable. I am familiar. And in addition to my ethnicity, I also know how to leave my gender at the door.” AND THEN THE ARTICLE ENDS. Because, I guess, there’s nothing interesting to say about being required to “leave” your ethnicity and gender at the door to the Supreme Court.

For a journalist who writes about fashion in politics, Givhan seems to miss the main point of her own work: fashion is political. Can you imagine the uproar if Sotomayor, a fat (or at least not thin)*, middle-aged Latina, actually showed up at the confirmation hearings in the sheath dresses and bare legs** that Givhan recommends? The powers that be in fashion may have announced that “Strength, femininity and fashion can coexist in the boardroom as well as on Capitol Hill,” but I’m pretty sure that these guys didn’t get the fucking memo.

*ETA: I am actually not sure at all if Sotomayor is fat or “Hollywood fat,” but her body shape is still not one we would see in a lot of the fashion magazines that apparently should dictate her every move.

**IIRC, the Bush White House required women to wear pantyhose to work (though I can’t find a link for that at the moment).

Fried eggs, boulders, and spaghetti straps

Via Jezebel, which has a sharp post on female confessional journalism: Christa D’Souza writes about her breast implant saga in the Daily Fail. D’Souza clearly had a terrible time, and her article highlights the ways in which the reality of implants differs from the promise of implants. The short version is: she’s dissatisfied with her post-baby 34B breasts; she gets implants (34E), which “encapsulate” (i.e., scar tissue wrapped around them, making them hard and immobile); she downsizes to 34D, which encapsulate; she downsizes to 30D; she gets breast cancer, has radiation, and decides to remove the implants altogether when radiation is done. Clearly, D’Souza has had a complicated relationship with her breasts, driven partly by self-consciousness brought on by teasing as a girl, partly by her regret at the drastic solution she opted for. Getting breast cancer must have felt even more hideously unfair than it always is. I wish her well and hope she continues to recover safely.

But, since this is SP and I am a humorless feminist, I want to talk about the body-shaming language D’Souza uses throughout the article. You’d think that a confession about what a mistake it was to get implants would have a less judgmental about the female body than other articles; you’d be wrong. Here’s how she describes her natural breasts: spaniels’ ears, fried eggs, a bog standard 34B, virtually flat-chested. Here’s how she describes her enhanced breasts:

when I unwrapped the bandages a few days later my breasts were . . . gargantuan.

Instead of feeling sexy and young, I felt like a superannuated porn star. And when I didn’t feel like a superannuated porn star, I felt like Alastair Sim in St Trinian’s, with this new massive ‘monobosom’.

So here I was . . . wearing a puffa jacket, two cardigans, two sweatshirts and a pair of scruffy Ugg boots – and still attracting wolf whistles from workmen in the street.

The truth was I felt like a transvestite. Instead of giving me the desired Jessica Rabbit silhouette, the implants had made me feel butch (if you don’t have the hourglass waist to begin with, that’s what happens).

This is not an article about the size of her breasts. This is an article about self-hatred, only D’Souza doesn’t know it.

This article boggled me even more than I expected it to at first glance because the size that makes D’Souza feel like a gargantuan, transvestite porn star—34E—is my natural size. (Most of the time, anyway.) Now, I’m not as thin as D’Souza seems to be in the old (implant-having) pictures, but still: I don’t feel like a superannuated porn star. I don’t feel like Jessica Rabbit, either. I feel like a woman with big tits. There is very little acknowledgment in the article that some women actually do have naturally large breasts. Everything that is described as a post-implant horror—except for the encapsulation—is something that just comes with having large breasts, whether they’re natural or not.

I couldn’t see my feet in the shower, which was strangely disturbing, and I’d also started to hunch my shoulders in the way congenitally huge breasted women find themselves doing.

I have spent most of the past decade having to wear two sports ‘minimiser’ bras if I want to go for a run, and having to buy separate bikini bottoms and tops because the tops would never normally fit, of looking improper in anything even vaguely tight.

Now I long to go braless, to wear all those pretty little spaghetti strapped tops, to have that elegant, cherry-pipped silhouette that all the models in the magazines have.

Sound familiar to anyone? I haven’t gone braless since I was 12, personally.

The problem is not that D’Souza didn’t like her implants; it’s her body and her life, and I’m sorry that she had what was clearly an awful experience with plastic surgery. The problem is that her article perpetuates the distortions about the female body that are so prevalent in our culture. Big breasts are gargantuan, improper; small breasts are elegant and let you wear pretty clothes. 34E is a “massive” size, but 34B looks like a 12-year-old. The range of acceptable racks, like the range of acceptable dress sizes, is shockingly narrow. On either size, you’re not “really” a woman at all: you’re a transvestite or a prepubescent, unwomanly, unnatural even if what we are talking about is your natural body.

The most telling line in the article, to me, is this one: Implants point not only to footballers’ wives, but a bygone era. In a nutshell, I feel terribly ’20th Century’ with these two boulders of silicone in my chest. What body types are fashionable changes, and quickly. Keeping up a trendy body costs money, time, and pain. My gargantuan tits and I are just fine being out of style.

I would need a lot more than a Bacardi Breezer to be able to stomach this

Via Jezebel and The F-Word, a nauseating ad campaign from Bacardi (warning: link plays music and also destroys your soul) suggesting we all make ourselves feel prettier…by standing next to an “ugly girlfriend.” That concept right there tells you everything you need to know about what sexist assumptions underwrite these revolting ads: self-esteem is a zero-sum game; the key to feeling good is feeling pretty; you are always in competition with other women for male attention; standard beauty is the only way to be “hot;” women are commodities that you can “get” and trade; and so on. You know the drill; we’ve all been living it all our lives.

What the concept alone doesn’t tell you is what makes these particular women “ugly,” which is, as you can guess, that they each deviate from the beauty ideal in one or two ways. Remember, the following women are supposed to be self-evidently ugly.

Sally's so fat, she's...fat!

Sally's so fat, she's...fat!

The gorgeous hair can't distract you from her very slightly crossed eyes!

The gorgeous hair can't distract you from her very slightly crossed eyes!

My god, the woman wears GLASSES! I may faint.

My god, the woman wears GLASSES! I may faint.

Sure, she's thin and white and bikini-clad, but she looks like a horse, see?

Sure, she's thin and white and bikini-clad, but she limps, for god's sake.

So hideous, she doesn't even get a name.

WOC don't need names or background stories like those white women, right?

This is how the patriarchy and the beauty ideal collude: we are supposed to see these women and be so stunned that they aren’t thin, white, blonde, able-bodied, and perfectly symmetrical that we can only call them ugly. We’re supposed to look at these pictures and say “At least I’m prettier than her.” We’re supposed to view our female friends as accessories in our true life goal, which is to look hot for men. There are hot women, and there are ugly women, and if you’re not the hottest woman in the room, you’re automatically the ugliest.

The appalling part of these ads is not the women; it’s the blatant misogyny. Once you take off your Patriarchy Blinders (patent pending), the charge of “ugly” doesn’t even begin to make sense. If you saw these pictures without any text surrounding them, what would you think of these women? Even with the pernicious text framing them as objects of derision, this ad doesn’t work on me: these women are straight-up pretty. Pretty, stylish, and flirty even. I guess they have some of that self-esteem that’s been going around lately.

Update: Sean-Patrick Hillman of bacardi.com comments below:

June 21, 2009

Thank you for taking the time to post your story regarding Bacardi Breezer.

The campaign you are referring to ran in 2008 for two months in Israel. Even though Bacardi Breezer is not sold or distributed in the United States, we immediately notified the appropriate Bacardi affiliate and had this website shut down.

Bacardi proudly celebrates diversity and we do not endorse the views of this site.

We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by this site and thank you for bringing it to our attention.

Queering my mirror

So if you’ve read my profile, you know that I’m queer. I’m out and have been for, oh, over a decade now. When I first came out, I identified as bi, but now I embrace the word “queer” for a lot of reasons, most having to do with not wanting to identify with a binary system of sexuality. I jokingly call my partner “Mr Machine,” and he is male, but we’re not married, for a lot of reasons, most having to do with not wanting to participate in an institution that would discriminate against us if we were with other people.

All this preamble is to say that I haven’t written a lot about queerness here, which seems to lead some readers to think that we’re all straight as arrows. I came to FA after I had started dating Mr Machine, and in fact dealing with apparently-straight-privilege is part of what made my body anxieties grow and grow and grow a few years back, which led me to FA in the first place. I felt much more pressure to be thin dating a man than I had dating a woman—and none of that pressure came from the man in question AT ALL. I suddenly found myself wondering if people looked at us and saw an “imbalance” of attractiveness: What a hot guy with a plain girl. How can a skinny guy date someone fatter than him? He must just like her for her tits, because she’s not that pretty. I suddenly began seeing myself not through my own feminist, woman-loving eyes, but through the male gaze that became more explicit to me as my ability to set off someone’s gaydar became way more implicit.

So this post might make Mr Machine feel a little funny*, but I want to talk about how having sex with women is good for my self-esteem.

Seeing the world through a queer eye makes me look at other women without the pathological measuring up/judging/comparing that I have been trained to perform since girlhood. Especially when I am actively dating a woman, I look at women and don’t think about how they differ from me and whether that puts us higher or lower on the hierarchy of acceptability. I look at women and think, How lovely you are. And there is a point, for me, when that can become How lovely I am.

When I was in college, I had a serious (but fun!) relationship with a woman who was also white, tall, and brunette. Our friends joked that we had Identical Lesbian Syndrome because we were roughly the same height and weight and had dark curly hair. The truth is, we really didn’t look alike in either our figures or our faces, but hearing that other people thought we did astonished me, because she was the most adorable, desirable person I could imagine.  People told me all the time that I looked like her—even though, to myself, for years I had looked like a clearly undesireable person with a flabby body, bad skin, and way too much hair, who would never ever be pretty. When I was dating my non-identical-gf, we could trade clothes with each other… so that implied my body wasn’t as grotesque as I had imagined. Our bodies were differently proportioned… but when we were naked we looked more alike than different.

It would be difficult to overstate how simultaneously liberating and confusing this was for me. Here was someone whose body I adored for the same reasons I had always hated mine: its softness, its roundness, its abundance. Her body was dramatic and singular, yet every time I looked at her and praised her, there was some part of my mind thinking, “And that is also true of me.” Having a strong relationship and good sex was positive for me in the way it often is, but this particular relationship made me look at myself differently; it was like having a different mirror.

That’s a psychological and erotic aspect of my queerness and body acceptance. But there’s also a strong social component to being visibly queer: people treat you differently, and they make different assumptions about you. Obviously, some of those assumptions are very harmful and add to the pervasive homophobia of our cultures. But sometimes they can have a different effect, given the expectations of femininity that are placed on straight women in a patriarchal culture. A good friend of mine who is gay told me once that before she realized she was gay, she felt like a failed girl, like there was this whole elaborate set of rules that she didn’t understand—but once she was able to articulate to herself that she was gay, she realized that she wasn’t a failure at all. She had just been playing a different game all along. Identifying as queer has had a similar “opting out” effect for me, but it is distinctly stronger when I am with a woman than when I’m with a man, even a queer hardcore feminist man like Mr Machine. We both know that we’re opting out, but not everyone else does…and the pressures of those seemingly invisible gazes accrete surprisingly quickly. This, of course, is also a privilege: in a homophobic culture, we can pass as straight (or, perhaps, straight enough): we don’t fear violence or discrimination as much as we would in same-sex relationships; we could get married if we needed or wanted to; even unmarried, we’re unlikely to be turned away from a hospital room or not taken seriously by our families or employers. When I hold hands with Mr Machine, I am seen (and see myself) through the lens of both straight privilege and the male gaze: the two are intertwined, a two-way mirror that is a default state for apparently hetero women. My body may be wrong, but my “lifestyle” looks right.

The problem with this aspect of bi privilege/straight-passing privilege, of course, is that it does not reflect who I am. I’m not straight. My history is not the history of a straight woman. My desires are not the desires of a straight woman. Hell, I don’t think my current relationship is the relationship of a straight woman. I love my queerness, and my queerness helps me love and understand my body. It informs everything I do, not because all queers are as obsessed with sex as their wingnut persecutors seem to think, but because in my lifetime, despite great social advances, being queer has been a non-normative experience. It took a lot of unlearning to accept my body and deprogram myself from the intense misogyny of the beauty ideal—but I didn’t have to learn to love other women’s bodies. What I had to do—and what, I’d argue, we all have to do—is learn to look at our own bodies with the generosity and, yes, desire through which we view others’ bodies, female or male. We must allow our own bodies the pleasure and grace that we see, by default, in those we desire. We must allow ourselves to be the subjects and objects of a non-patriarchal gaze.

*in his pants

Quick hit: Beauty by the dollar

I’ve been reading, thinking, and writing about feminist issues long enough that I usually think nothing beauty-related can floor me anymore. But holy cats, two recent posts on the economics of beauty Sociological Images made my jaw drop, especially given the current economic doldrums.

First, check out this photo essay by Lauren Greenfield (of THIN and Girl Culture fame) about six NY women and what they spend on their monthly beauty regimen. I know we’ve talked about this before, but it amazes me the amount of money some women spend (and some people expect women to spend) to look like attractive but fairly “normal” women (“normal” as in “women who have jobs that do not involve being beautiful as an explicit part of the job description“). There is an actress profiled, so I wouldn’t count her in that category—but she spends way way less than the hedge-fund manager pictured just below her.

Second, Sociological Images points to a Newsweek feature on the economics of beauty throughout the lifetime of a “modern diva,” whatever that means. The feature seems to have disappeared from the Newsweek site, but you can still see the graphic at the SI post. As beloved Shapeling OTM says in the comments, By using the term “Diva,” the report places the blame firmly on the woman and fails to allow for a more meaningful analysis. Weird, too, that they conflate teens and twentysomethings; my body, appearance, and habits are wildly different as a 29-year-old from what they were as a 15-year-old.

Basically, both of these posts remind us that there are people out there who think we should (or perhaps, that we do) spend more money on cosmetics than I do on rent. What’s your take on these posts? What’s the most expensive part of your most expensive beauty routine? What’s the thriftiest? What would you be least willing to give up?

Your hairy legs could be mass murderers even now

In the spirit of “Obese blamed for world’s ills” comes this little ad video that shows what happens if you fail to shave your legs to absolute smoothness every single day: utter chaos. Not only will dudes be grossed out, but they could DIE! Here’s the link: click “watch film” to see what I mean.

Look, ladies, here’s how it is: even if you’re white and thin and traditionally feminine, and you wore your sandals and your cute sundress with the cleavage and you have no problem with your boyfriend groping you on public transit, if you forgot or, heaven forfend, chose not to shave the invisible stubble from your legs, YOU HAVE DOOMED ALL AROUND YOU TO MISERY. A woman may be pinned on her back under a stranger (god, it’s almost like you WANT her to be assaulted), and a perfectly innocent man who just wants to enjoy his perfectly healthy apple despite the fact that you’re not really supposed to eat on the bus will choke almost to death AND THEN EVERYONE WILL GLARE AT YOU AND YOU WILL GET A TEXT MESSAGE FROM YOUR FUTURE SELF OR SOMETHING I DON’T KNOW.

Here’s the thing: this ad would be kinda cute, in its Rube Goldberg-esque way, if it didn’t start from the premise that all women should be available to groping by men at all times. No matter how much you doll yourself up, if there is any part of you that is not sufficiently hairless and smooth, you are persona non grata in terms of beauty. Stubble turns you from a hot chick into a chick so disgusting that men actually leap away from you. You’ve ruined everything by failing to meet the endlessly exacting standards of beauty, which you can only hope to meet by buying our extra-fancy new razor or beauty creme or undergarment.

And remember, even if you look hairless, since your body is available to be groped at any time, your True Hairlessness is subject to scrutiny. If you are cursed with thick body hair, or dark hair against pale skin, you should probably just carry your fancy-ass razor along with you at all times, since your stubble might be noticeable under fluorescent light or when caressed by a (male) baby.

Because I am, as you know, a humorless feminist and a noted misanthropist, I am about to do something that is so dangerous to the fate of dudes everywhere, it will probably cause the dystopian women-only future that right-wingers have nightmares about. I live in Chicago, where it fucking snowed this morning, which should give you a sense of how many months it’s been since I showed my bare legs in public. Also, I am a very pale white woman with dark, thick hair. By now, you’ve sensed what’s coming: tell the menfolk to hide in the storm cellar lest they catch a glimpse of this, my real leg:

Behold: My hairy damn leg

Behold: My hairy damn leg

I have not shaved in WEEKS. Sometime I go the whole winter without shaving at all, and then I have what I think of as a Deforestation Session in March or April. It’s odd; I’ve lived with a man for six years, but he’s never mentioned the horrible chains of events that must happen to him every day because of my hirsute natural state. He must be suffering in silence, the poor thing.

This is what the beauty ideal is designed to erase: the reality of our bodies. This is what is so scary to proponents of fancy razors, diet pills, fake tans, and all that bullshit: the fact that women have hair on their bodies, just like they’re people or something. Some women are fat and some are thin. Some women have straight swingy hair and some have kinky hair and some have frizzy hair and some just stick what they’ve got in a damn ponytail. Some women have big pillowy lips and some don’t. Some women have curves and some have rolls and some have both and some have neither. Women, just like men, live in human bodies, and human bodies are incredibly diverse. We all know that, even the most brainwashed of us: but we also know we’re not supposed to know it. If we all just said that women are real people — if we said that out loud — what on earth might happen?

Chaos would ensue. Dudes might be harmed.

(Via Feministing.)

In case you haven’t seen it yet

The Onion has a hilarious article this week: Renowned Hoo-Ha Doctor Wins Nobel Prize For Medical Advancements Down There. It includes this priceless graphic:

I should probably write something smart about femininity, purity, maleness as default, and science, but I’m too busy still giggling.

(Like FJ, I haven’t been posting much lately, but my excuse was a huge exam. Now that’s done and my new excuse is that I used up all my brainpower on the exam.)

While you’re at it, check out another feminist classic from The Onion: Man Finally Put In Charge Of Struggling Feminist Movement.