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You Don’t Have To Be Pretty

From The Belle Jar:

We never say that all men deserve to feel beautiful. We never say that each man is beautiful in his own way. We don’t have huge campaigns aimed at young boys trying to convince them that they’re attractive, probably because we very rarely correlate a man’s worth with his appearance. The problem is that a woman’s value in this world is still very much attached to her appearance, and telling her that she should or deserves to feel beautiful does more to promote that than negate it. Telling women that they “deserve” to feel pretty plays right in to the idea that prettiness should be important to them. And having books and movies aimed at young women where every female protagonist turns out to be beautiful (whereas many of the antagonists are described in much less flattering terms) reinforces the message that beauty has some kind of morality attached to it, and that all heroines are somehow pretty.

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The Righteous Anger of Girls

Daniel Handler,  the best-selling author of the Lemony Snicket series, writes about why girls are so furious so often—and where that rage goes when they grow up—for More Magazine:

The world is pretty hard on girls. It’s one reason I put so many of them in books. The narrative is more interesting if there are more obstacles. A man walking alone down a road at night may or may not be a good story; turn him into a 12-year-old girl, and it’s already gripping. The vulnerability and the danger—the wrongness of a young girl wandering about—are a shortcut to creating a good read.

Still, what’s exciting on the page is dismaying in real life. If we put aside the mountain of statistics on gender inequality—and it’s Himalayan—it’s immediately clear that the world demands more of girls. I’ve noticed it all my life. A good girlfriend should do the laundry and maybe plan a dinner party when her guy’s parents come to town. A good boyfriend just has to not make passes at her friends. A good husband should have a job and not get violent; a good wife runs the whole damn show.

As a children’s author, I meet a lot of young people, all of them crackling with possibility. But with the girls, it’s more likely that they’re also hemmed in by a wariness—am I good enough? pretty enough? polite enough?—that I see far less of in boys. It’s enough to make you get angry, except if you’re female, that’s another thing you’re not really supposed to do.

In writing my latest novel, I got to explore where anger goes sometimes and where it should go. In men I see the horrific results when it explodes out into the world, but more often I see the anger tamed, over time, into ambition and competition, two forces that usually get them ahead. In women it’s more complicated. We look at women who’ve channeled that energy similarly, who seem overly competitive or ambitious, and decide that somewhere there must be something wrong. Are they bad mothers? Bad wives? So girls’ anger too often goes elsewhere.

Where does the anger go? I ask my sister. “As it turns out,” she says wryly, “sitting in a place of anger, or resentment, or self-pity, just isn’t effective. It can feel really good for a while, like trying on an old sweater. Cozy and familiar, but then all of a sudden you’re like, Eww, this sweater smells bad—get it off me!”

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This is not the “persecution of old men”. This is the prosecution of rapists, and we should applaud it

From Laurie Penny at The New Statesmen:

Over the past year, an enormous, global cultural shift has begun to take place around issues of consent, rape and violence against women, and it’s a cultural shift for which our institutions are clearly vastly underprepared. Some members of those institutions have responded with panicked self-justification. We didn’t know, we thought it was allowed, we weren’t there, we  didn’t see, they’re all lying sluts anyway and they should stop whinging and playing the victim.

For centuries, men in positions of power were untouchable, while women and children were anything but. One simply could not call a man like Jimmy Savile or Stuart Hall to account for his actions and expect to be taken seriously. One could not accuse a popular football player of rape and expect justice.  These things went on, but they went on in silence, with the complicity and of quiet armies of flunkies and facilitators.

The reason that these “old men” are being prosecuted – sorry, “persecuted” – right now is simple. They are being prosecuted because their victims are finally coming forward, and their victims are finally coming forward because society has reached a tipping point when it comes to rape culture.

For many, many generations, women and children were told: don’t let yourself get raped, and if you do, for god’s sake don’t whinge about it. Don’t act like a slut. Don’t let your guard down. Don’t ever assume for a second that you have the same right as a man to exist in public or private space without fear of assault and humiliation. That message is slowly, finally, starting to change, so that instead, we’re telling men and boys: do not rape. Do not grope, assault, bully or hurt women, children or anyone over whom you have temporary power. Doing so will no longer increase your social status. If you do it anyway, you will find yourself publicly shamed and possibly up on criminal charges. This is the age of the internet, and nobody forgets.

Confronting structural violence is intensely painful. It’s like squeezing out an enormous splinter you hadn’t realized was there. The pain comes, in large part, from the understanding that you yourself might be implicated by virtue of easy ignorance; that you yourself might have stood by while evil went on; that people you know and trust and respect might very well have done terrible things simply because they thought they were allowed to. Questioning the morality of slave-owning was, until comparatively recently in human history, a minority position. It would be crass and simplistic to equate rape culture with slavery even if there weren’t complex historical links between the two. There is one important similarity, however, and that’s in the reaction when dominant, oppressive cultures finally wake up to the idea that evil on an immense scale has been taking place right in front of them.

Sometimes that reaction is shocked disbelief, frantic apology, self-blame; more often it is angry, even violent. There is no rage, after all, quite like the desperate rage of those who refuse to acknowledge their own bigotry.

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Female ‘Purity’ Is Bullshit

From Lindy West at Jezebel:

A catcall is entirely about reminding you that you are not yours. The purity myth is entirely about reminding you that you are not yours. The fetishization of female purity in a world where catcalls are an acceptable form of communication telegraphs one thing very clearly:

“Women, stop sexualizing yourselves—that’s our job, and you’re taking all the fun out of it.”

The sexualization of women is only appealing if it’s nonconsensual. Otherwise it’s “sluttiness,” and sluttiness is agency and agency is threatening and so, therefore, sluttiness must equal disposability.

 

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What Men Want, America Delivers

From Roxane Gay at Salon:

It’s hard not to feel humorless as a woman and a feminist, to recognize misogyny in so many forms, some great and some small, and know you’re not imagining things. It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the fuck away. The problem is not that one of these things is happening, it’s that they are all happening, concurrently and constantly.

These are just songs. They are just jokes. They are just movies. It’s just a hug. They’re just breasts. Smile, you’re beautiful. Can’t a man pay you a compliment? In truth, this is all a symptom of a much more virulent cultural sickness — one where women exist to satisfy the whims of men, one where a woman’s worth is consistently diminished or entirely ignored.

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‘Skinny’ or ‘curvy,’ our bodies are not our own

From Meghan Murphy at Feminist Current:

Glosswitch writes: “It is absurd to tell women to love themselves in a world that alienates them from their own flesh.”

Indeed. And beyond that, it is absurd to tell women to love themselves in a world wherein men can’t even fathom that we might exist or feel good about ourselves outside men’s approval and sexualization.

“I love women,” coming from a man, almost always means “I love when women please me,” “I love to imagine fucking women,” “I love to jack off to women’s pornified bodies,” “I love women who don’t challenge me in a way that makes me uncomfortable,” or “I love the idea of women.”

It doesn’t mean “I love women because they are human beings like me.”

We teach women and girls that their bodies are separate from their beings, that their bodies exist to please others, and then we force them to spend their whole lives in therapy, reading self-help books, posting affirmations on their bathroom mirrors in order to repair what’s positioned as a personal problem — “low self-esteem,” we call it.

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How We Dress Does Not Mean Yes

An article in Rookie Magazine documents the author’s experience at the New York City Slutwalk:

All of a sudden, I felt a rush of gratitude to the SlutWalk founders and organizers for creating such a moment for me. It was like the antithesis of my high school hallway and one of the few times in my life that I recognized how traumatizing it had been to walk the halls feeling policed, judged, and disrespected—to walk the halls feeling like my social and physical safety were dependent on other people’s impressions of how “good” and unassuming I was being.

It felt exhilarating to be part of something so big, and to know that I was becoming part of an international movement to support victims of violence and assault, of which slut-shaming is a part… It helped grant me the explicit permission to exist simultaneously as a sexual being and as a full member of society, worthy of safety and love.