Research

Real Women

From Hanne Blank:

Real women do not have curves.   Real women do not look like just one thing.

Real women have curves, and not.   They are tall, and not.  They are brown-skinned, and olive-skinned, and not.  They have small breasts, and big ones, and no breasts whatsoever.

Real women start their lives as baby girls.  And as baby boys.  And as babies of indeterminate biological sex whose bodies terrify their doctors and families into making all kinds of very sudden decisions.

Real women have big hands and small hands and long elegant fingers and short stubby fingers and manicures and broken nails with dirt under them.

Real women have armpit hair and leg hair and pubic hair and facial hair and chest hair and sexy moustaches and full, luxuriant beards.  Real women have none of these things, spontaneously or as the result of intentional change.  Real women are bald as eggs, by chance and by choice and by chemo.  Real women have hair so long they can sit on it.  Real women wear wigs and weaves and extensions and kufi and do-rags and hairnets and hijab and headscarves and hats and yarmulkes and textured rubber swim caps with the plastic flowers on the sides.

Real women wear high heels and skirts.  Or not.

Real women are feminine and smell good and they are masculine and smell good and they are androgynous and smell good, except when they don’t smell so good, but that can be changed if desired because real women change stuff when they want to.

Real women have ovaries.  Unless they don’t, and sometimes they don’t because they were born that way and sometimes they don’t because they had to have their ovaries removed.  Real women have uteruses, unless they don’t, see above.  Real women have vaginas and clitorises and XX sex chromosomes and high estrogen levels, they ovulate and menstruate and can get pregnant and have babies. Except sometimes not, for a rather spectacular array of reasons both spontaneous and induced.

Real women are fat.  And thin.  And both, and neither, and otherwise.  Doesn’t make them any less real.

There is a phrase I wish I could engrave upon the hearts of every single person, everywhere in the world, and it is this sentence which comes from the genius lips of the grand and eloquent Mr. Glenn Marla:

There is no wrong way to have a body.

I’m going to say it again because it’s important: There is no wrong way to have a body.

And if your moral compass points in any way, shape, or form to equality, you need to get this through your thick skull and stop with the “real women are like such-and-so” crap.

You are not the authority on what “real” human beings are, and who qualifies as “real” and on what basis.  All human beings are real.

Advertisements
Research

Redefining Realness

From Janet Mock:

People assume that I was in the closet because I didn’t disclose that I was assigned male at birth. What people are really asking is ‘Why didn’t you correct people when they perceived you as a real woman?’ Frankly, I’m not responsible for other people’s perceptions and what they consider real or fake. We must abolish the entitlement that deludes us into believing we have the right to make assumptions about people’s identities and project those assumptions onto their gender and bodies.

Articles

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.

Articles

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!”

Articles

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.

Articles

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.

 

Research

The Creepiness Question

From blogger Foz Meadows:

There’s a poisonous double standard in our society which says that it’s reverse-sexist and wrong for women to feel threatened by creepy-awkward male behaviour because our fear implies that we hold the negative, stereotypical view that All Men Are Predators, but that if we’re raped or sexually assaulted by any man with whom we’ve had prior social interaction – and particularly if he’s expressed some sexual or romantic interest in us during that time – it’s reasonable for observers to ask what precautions we took to prevent the assault from happening, or to suggest that we maybe led the guy on by not stating our feelings plainly. The result is a situation where women are punished if we reject, avoid or identify creepy men, and then told it’s our fault if we’re assaulted by someone we plainly ought to have rejected, avoided, identified.

Indeed, the idea of ‘winning the girl’ – of overcoming female objections or resistance through repeated and frequently escalating efforts – is central to most of our modern romantic narratives. (Female persistence, by contrast, is viewed as pathetic.) And the more I think about instances of creepiness, harassment and stalking that culminate in either the threat or actuality of sexual assault, the more I’m convinced that a massive part of the problem is this socially sanctioned idea that men are fundamentally entitled to persist. Because if men are meant to persist, then women who say no must only be rejecting the attempt, not the man himself, so that every separate attempt becomes one of a potentially infinite number of keys which might just fit the lock of the woman’s approval. She’s not the one who’s allowed to say no, not really; she should be silent and passive as a locked door, waiting patiently while the man runs through however many keys he can be bothered trying. And if he gets sick of this lengthy process and just breaks in? Well, frustration under those circumstances is only natural. Either the door shouldn’t have been there to impede him, or it shouldn’t have been locked.