Things I Have Learned This Week

Body hair is the root of all feminism. ‘Strue! If you wax, you pull it out by the roots, and therefore you’re no longer a feminist and you have to turn in your Feminist Membership Card. Okay, maybe you can get it back if you stop waxing and let it grow back and you’re reallyreallyreally sorry about it and promise to wear only flannel shirts and workboots from now on. You can even watch Project Runway and work in an industry that supports the patriarchy, but if you leave your body hair alone — especially the hair on your hoohah — you can keep your card. In fact, you can even join the Feminist Police and raid those Korean nail salons to check for women getting Brazilian waxes and pedicures while in possession of a Feminist Membership Card.

And shaving’s not going to save your ass, sister — you may think you’re getting away with something by leaving the roots in place and removing the visible parts of the hair, but the Feminist Police are onto you. Expect random pit-checks, and you better show some hairy legs when they come around.


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118 comments for “Things I Have Learned This Week

  1. October 12, 2006 at 2:56 pm

    Shit, I have to get the work boots out, too? I was hoping those could be left safely in my 9th grade closet.

    You know, more than anything, I wouldn’t have been offended if I’d heard the message coming from most anyone else. This has frankly been a pretty rough “heroes showing themselves as real people who need to be humans, too” week for a lot of people in the feminist world (between the PlayPanda and the Amp debacle) that I didn’t even figure my post would register on the radar. It just sort of fits in with the whole “okay, I guess everyone ends up having a contradictory life…I guess I just hoped somehow that someone didn’t” thing.

    You know, I hope, that I don’t consider body hair the be-all and end-all of feminism. I know you’re exaggerating, but see, I am also writing this book on beauty culture and how it affects adolescents. The chapter I’m working on right now is about role models, specifically the role models of young girls. If I’m a bit fixated on feminism as relates to looks right now, it’s only because of these interviews showing a really, really ugly trend in what young girls think constitutes a good role model (it involves never letting anyone see you not made up, like a 50s housewife!), and a deep-seated feeling that this can’t mean good things for the future of feminism as a whole.

    When I’m writing the chapter on corporate brands all being the same 4 companies, I’ll probably go off on a rant with the first person to mention the word “Hollister.” Wait and see!

  2. October 12, 2006 at 3:04 pm

    I see extremes in society, some feminist who hold the constraints of what constitutes a feminist in such a narrow fashion that most females could never be a car caring feminist.

    I also see young women who go to extremes to be attractive giving themselves totally to the patriarchal culture of look perfect if your are a female at all cost.

    A believe we should seek balance, once balance is achieved then we will have equality. Feminism to me is about equality not looks.

  3. October 12, 2006 at 3:06 pm

    I pluck my eyebrow(s) and once candy-striped my legs. Does that mean I can’t be a feminist anymore?*

    *Assuming you grant I could’ve been one before.**

    **I just want to make sure this thread covers all the bases.***

    ***Which is why I should mention that no real feminist has ever performed oral sex on a man.****

    ****Unless they’re gay?

  4. zuzu
    October 12, 2006 at 3:10 pm

    You know, more than anything, I wouldn’t have been offended if I’d heard the message coming from most anyone else. This has frankly been a pretty rough “heroes showing themselves as real people who need to be humans, too” week for a lot of people in the feminist world (between the PlayPanda and the Amp debacle) that I didn’t even figure my post would register on the radar. It just sort of fits in with the whole “okay, I guess everyone ends up having a contradictory life…I guess I just hoped somehow that someone didn’t” thing.

    There are these little things called pingbacks, see…

    “Heroes?” Seriously?

    I’m still boggling at just how it is that you think that you, a Project Runway watcher and (now apparently former) phone sex operator can apply a higher standard to Jill than you do to yourself because she waxes. How it is that you think you have the right to decide which standards apply to whom?

    Of the examples you gave, only Amp did anything wrong, by failing to disclose the arrangement he made so that readers could decide for themselves whether they wanted to delink him or not. The Pandagonians didn’t seek out Playboy’s mention; whether you think they reacted appropriately is another matter. And Jill wrote a thoughtful post about the conflicting feelings she has towards feminine trappings and the fact that regardless of whether you reject or accept them, you’re influenced by the patriarchy either way. And you attacked her demonstrated commitment to feminism because she waxes.

    You know, I hope, that I don’t consider body hair the be-all and end-all of feminism. I know you’re exaggerating, but see, I am also writing this book on beauty culture and how it affects adolescents. The chapter I’m working on right now is about role models, specifically the role models of young girls. If I’m a bit fixated on feminism as relates to looks right now, it’s only because of these interviews showing a really, really ugly trend in what young girls think constitutes a good role model (it involves never letting anyone see you not made up, like a 50s housewife!), and a deep-seated feeling that this can’t mean good things for the future of feminism as a whole.

    And how on Earth did you get from Jill’s post that she endorses that kind of view?

  5. Kelley
    October 12, 2006 at 3:13 pm

    What about laser hair removal? Do I have to turn in my feminist creds if I only had the procedure to remove the icky facial hair that, unfortunately, seems to curse the women in my family?

  6. Sniper
    October 12, 2006 at 3:15 pm

    What if you have laser, but have a note from a feminist doctor?

  7. October 12, 2006 at 3:18 pm

    What if you just have a laser?

  8. Linnaeus
    October 12, 2006 at 3:19 pm

    My head is starting to hurt from all of the spinning.

  9. zuzu
    October 12, 2006 at 3:23 pm

    What about laser hair removal? Do I have to turn in my feminist creds if I only had the procedure to remove the icky facial hair that, unfortunately, seems to curse the women in my family?

    You’ll have to turn in your card. The Feminist Police will perform an assessment of the amount of body hair removed, and will make a decision as to whether you will someday be able to have your card returned.

    What if you have laser, but have a note from a feminist doctor?

    The Feminist Police are very interested in this “feminist” doctor who removes the Feminist Mojo from women.

    What if you just have a laser?

    You may keep the laser, but you will have to provide proof that you will use it only for strapping to the head of a frickin’ shark.

  10. October 12, 2006 at 3:27 pm

    Well, for one thing, I don’t have half as many readers as Jill. Also, last time I checked, watching Project Runway isn’t a painful procedure done to make myself less self-conscious. Well, okay, sometimes watching it is a little painful, but not in the same way. ;-)

    And hey, I think most feminists start from a position of non-feminism (unless perhaps they have a radfem mom). So discussion of things that people have done, then changed, really is less than incredibly relevant here, which is why I mentioned this now (I quit that line of work 4 months ago).

    I don’t think Jill endorses the “don’t leave the house without makeup” view. But I do think that a lack of role models in girls’ lives who don’t wear makeup, a lack of role models who don’t doll themselves up, is genuinely hurting them. It’s an area where no progress has been made in a long time — these girls still feel like no one will take them seriously without all the beauty rituals. They feel like they won’t be loved, or hired, or respected. I think it’s good to, as much as we can, present a role model who isn’t like that.

    And I’m sorry for saying that there’s a problem with considering bloggers to be personal heroines. Would you like to choose different ones for me? I have many who aren’t bloggers. Should I just cross the ones who are off the list? I don’t feel like I should have to. It just ends up being a hard reminder that people often do put their comfort above their principles — which is their choice — even the people we admire most.

  11. DAS
    October 12, 2006 at 3:31 pm

    What about us guys which find a certain amount of body hair on a woman to be quite attractive? Given that some of us exist, does that make also not removing body hair an act of submission to the patriarchy?

  12. Sniper
    October 12, 2006 at 3:48 pm

    You may keep the laser, but you will have to provide proof that you will use it only for strapping to the head of a frickin’ shark.

    Shit. What if all you have is sea bass?

  13. Josh
    October 12, 2006 at 3:49 pm

    What is the position of the Judean People’s Front on trimming one’s nose hair? What about plucking?

  14. piny
    October 12, 2006 at 3:51 pm

    Shit. What if all you have is sea bass?

    Then we impound the laser. And you have to go find us some sharks.

  15. Sniper
    October 12, 2006 at 3:52 pm

    And you have to go find us some sharks.

    But the sea bass are seriously ill-tempered! And hairy!

  16. Frumious B
    October 12, 2006 at 4:02 pm

    damn. I shaved last week.

    *hands in card*

  17. Josh
    October 12, 2006 at 4:03 pm

    What if you just have a laser?

    IM IN UR BATHROOM. FLUSHIN UR SHAMP00Z.

  18. zuzu
    October 12, 2006 at 4:06 pm

    But the sea bass are seriously ill-tempered! And hairy!

    And quite tasty. The Feminist Police enjoy them grilled, with a lemon-dill-butter sauce.

  19. jm
    October 12, 2006 at 4:22 pm

    I shave once in a while; I’m not sure what that says about my feminist cred. But I have a story to relate: I was dressed up to go out a couple weeks ago, with high heels, lipstick, and a dress, (like I often do). My male friend evaluated me from his chair, and said “you look like a cross-dresser.” Because I hadn’t shaved. Even though I have big boobs and long-ish hair and have never before been mistaken for a man.

  20. October 12, 2006 at 4:27 pm

    Dude, I just shaved my legs, arms and underarms, and got a bikini wax. All today. I’m fired for sure. (But I didn’t wax my upper lip or my eyebrows today — does that redeem me?)

  21. October 12, 2006 at 4:45 pm

    Wait…people shave their arms?

  22. October 12, 2006 at 4:46 pm

    That was not meant as a criticism, btw, just curiosity, as it’s not something I believe I have encountered before.

    (yeesh, you know it’s getting nuts out here if you feel you have to clarify things that simple…)

  23. October 12, 2006 at 4:49 pm

    (But I didn’t wax my upper lip or my eyebrows today — does that redeem me?)

    Dunno. Have you painted eight dozen near-identical self-portraits with tropical Mexican backgrounds? If so, you’re good. In Berkeley, anyway.

  24. Sniper
    October 12, 2006 at 4:52 pm

    I had a friend whose big sisters shaved her arms and eyebrows, but in that case it was fearful retribution.

    I’m not going to say the whole issue is silly or trivial because I’m with Twisty on the whole “let’s examine why we do what we do” thing, but damn, it’s hard enough being a feminist without having to defend every fucking thing to anyone who asks.

    Okay, I admit it. I like looking at pretty things! One of my favorite movies is All About Eve. I collect antique teacups. I do needlework!

    Sobs. Hands in card.

  25. October 12, 2006 at 4:59 pm

    Wait…people shave their arms?

    I don’t think most people do. It’s really weird, I know. I swam in high school, and we used to shave our arms before big meets. When I discovered that the hair doesn’t grow back spikey, that it grows slowly, and that smooth arms feel really really good under soft sweaters, I started doing it regularly.

  26. holly
    October 12, 2006 at 5:01 pm

    What I learned this week is that lots of feminists like to get righteously indignant in defense of expensive and largely pointless beauty rituals. And no, I’m not talking about Jill’s original post which was, I thought, a sensible examination of participating in the beauty culture which Molly might have slightly misinterpreted. But really, does this call for the A-list feminist bloggers to rally in support of a feminist’s “right” to wax her pubic hair? There’s no feminist police, there’s no feminist card, feminists don’t run society, and you’re not a free thinking rebel if you use lip gloss despite Molly’s disapproval.

  27. October 12, 2006 at 5:02 pm

    oooh… i just found this post and read all the others that went along with it. i think i fit molly’s feminist requirements, but i want to check on some things just to make sure.
    molly:
    -i do not shave my legs (or armpits- is that bonus points?)
    -i don’t wear make-up
    -i paint with my period blood
    BUT:
    -i live with my boyfriend (you said getting married was the very non-feminist of you, so is co-habitating off limits too?)
    -and i wear skinny jeans (as you call them- the enemy of women)
    do i still make the cut?

  28. October 12, 2006 at 5:03 pm

    “Judean People’s Front”

    No! It’s the People’s Front of Judea!

    /Wants laser. Sharks optional.

  29. October 12, 2006 at 5:12 pm

    Nope, sorry, none of you make the cut. I will be taking feminist cards and reassigning them to the young girls at my Super Secret UberFeminist Reeducation Camp immediately. Those who do not take to my indoctrination program will be . . . dealt with.

  30. DAS
    October 12, 2006 at 5:12 pm

    I swam in high school – Jill

    I would think that shaving off hair as swimmers do, being a swimmer allows one to shave and still be a feminist?

    Anyway, I just realized something:

    If

    Body hair is the root of all feminism

    I must be one hell of a feminist, considering how hairy I am!

    ;)

  31. Ellie
    October 12, 2006 at 5:13 pm

    Wait…people shave their arms?

    In 6th grade, a girl told me that she shaved her arms and legs EVERY morning. If an 11-year-old girl feeling the need to shave her arms and legs every day doesn’t say something about the pervasive “ew, body hair!” mentality, I don’t know what else does. Oh, maybe the 9-year-olds I know who shave and pluck and wax.

    I guess I’m a shitty feminist, since I shave my legs and pits whenever they’re going to be exposed. It’s not often–once every few months or so–but it’s enough to un-feminist me. :'(

  32. piny
    October 12, 2006 at 5:16 pm

    But really, does this call for the A-list feminist bloggers to rally in support of a feminist’s “right” to wax her pubic hair? There’s no feminist police, there’s no feminist card, feminists don’t run society, and you’re not a free thinking rebel if you use lip gloss despite Molly’s disapproval.

    Yet, there’s somehow an A-list? I’m not annoyed by the idea that there’s something not-exactly-rebellious about wearing lipgloss. I’m annoyed by the idea that it’s worth condemning.

  33. October 12, 2006 at 5:18 pm

    I am so blogging about the time I Naired my entire body from the neck down. Soon.

  34. October 12, 2006 at 5:30 pm

    Hugo, that stuff hurts if you use it in the nipple area (an ex of mine found this out to his extreme discomfort). PLEASE tell me you didn’t use it there. Or, god forbid, even more sensitive regions.

  35. Bolo
    October 12, 2006 at 5:34 pm

    “What is the position of the Judean People’s Front on trimming one’s nose hair? What about plucking?”

    Whatever it is, the People’s Front of Judea strongly disagrees.

  36. Sniper
    October 12, 2006 at 5:34 pm

    Those who do not take to my indoctrination program will be . . . dealt with.

    Kind of the reverse of the one in But I’m a Cheerleader?

  37. October 12, 2006 at 5:37 pm

    Oh, I used it in many, many places. The story will be forthcoming, promise. Since I’ve blogged my circumcision this week, might as well cover my Nair/waxing experiences next week.

    Might as well do a whole post on men and chest hair while I’m at it.

  38. October 12, 2006 at 5:37 pm

    Being a very self aware person even as a child means that it’s hard for me to comprehend these fights. I am fully aware and fully remember that I started shaving my leg hair because another girl said I missed a spot(I had been waiting to see if my legs were hairless like my mom(who never shaves and was shocked that I wanted to shave at age 12 because all the other girls shaved). Of course, I remember all the girls being obsessed with their weight at this age, and I don’t even want to know what I’ll have to deal with as to body fads if I ever have a teenage daughter.

  39. Niles
    October 12, 2006 at 5:43 pm

    What about the guys who shave and wax and pluck???

    All professional body builders, men and women, defur and have bboards where they discuss how to deal with unsightly bumps as a result, soothing lotions, and what defurring methods work best. And speed cyclists? And dancers? All dedicated athletic women are defacto non-feminist because they defur? Is it ok for the men to defur?

    From a fashion pov, I haven’t met anyone yet who likes to wear nylons/tights over hairy legs (unless it’s -40 and they need the insulation value. go ahead, ask the oil rigger next time what the secret is). Having spent a lot of time around medieval recreationists I can say scattered hairs sticking up through even the looser stockings is not a pretty sight on either gender.

    This day and age ascribes more kewl legitimacy to men who don’t fuss about their appearance, but I find it rather ironic that someone consider the only visual legitimacy for a feminist woman is to dress like a sterotypical ‘guy’.

    If a differing set of visual aesthetics willingly engaged in by the individual is going to legitimize or delegitimize that individual’s professed sense of justice, then aren’t we right back to judging someone by appearance instead of actions? Where’d the tolerance of drag and crossdressing go? Women are entitled to their drag pleasures too, aren’t they?

  40. holly
    October 12, 2006 at 5:46 pm

    Sure, there’s an A-list in this tiny world of the blogosphere, piny. But they’re not the arbiters of feminism any more than Molly is. If one of them comes up with something I disagree with, I don’t feel all alienated and assume that I’m the one who needs to announce that I have to “turn my feminist card in.” And I certainly am not going to get righteously indignant in support of a wide reaching social norm.

  41. October 12, 2006 at 5:49 pm

    Holly I totally agree. The internet is serious business I guess.

  42. Casey
    October 12, 2006 at 5:51 pm

    Hmm. I’ve always considered myself a feminist. With these new credentials, i have no idea if i really am. maybe someone can help me.

    – I shave my armpits (because otherways they are stinky and sticky and i don’t like armpit hair. even my bf trims his armpit hair.)
    – i don’t shave my legs.
    – i shave most of my “hoo-hah”. and my boyfriend shaves all of his nether regions. i don’t care to have pubic hair in my mouth or in my partners.
    – i don’t wear makeup, except on formal occasions, and then only minimal.
    – i don’t wear high heels.
    – my favorite color is purple, followed by pink.
    – i work in a predominately male profession.
    – i have very very large boobs. (this has led to some woman thinking i’m not feminist, i have NO idea why. it’s not like i had control of growing them and i commanded them to grow for men. if i had med insurance, i’d probably get a breast reduction, which i’ve also had claimed was unfeminist. beats me.)

  43. piny
    October 12, 2006 at 5:52 pm

    Sure, there’s an A-list in this tiny world of the blogosphere, piny. But they’re not the arbiters of feminism any more than Molly is. If one of them comes up with something I disagree with, I don’t feel all alienated and assume that I’m the one who needs to announce that I have to “turn my feminist card in.” And I certainly am not going to get righteously indignant in support of a wide reaching social norm.

    I think it’s more like a series of cliques, each one with their own rules and preferences.

    That’s not what zuzu is supporting. If I complain about someone who dismisses femmes as lightweights, I’m not arguing in favor of fishnets; I’m arguing against the idea that fishnets make you a lightweight. Zuzu isn’t saying that these women are arbiters of feminism who have unjustly judged her depilatory practices unfeminist; she’s not appealing a decision. She’s saying that it’s stupid to decide that shaving (or not) makes you more or less feminist.

  44. piny
    October 12, 2006 at 5:54 pm

    Holly I totally agree. The internet is serious business I guess.

    So serious that it’s imperative to show up on these discussions to announce your lack of interest in them, obviously.

  45. piny
    October 12, 2006 at 5:55 pm

    Plus, isn’t it a little illogical to say that these blog entries are so trivial that we must not waste our blog entries in responding to them?

  46. Em
    October 12, 2006 at 6:03 pm

    This has been a terrible week. The weather broke and it’s cold! And all my favorite feminists have been decarded! Whoever shall I turn to for insight?

    Woe. Woe.

  47. October 12, 2006 at 6:06 pm

    Not to spoil the fun, but for the sake of a few commenters who seem to have missed it: The big stinky pile in the punchbowl isn’t grooming (for values of “grooming” broad enough to include stuff I’d never subject myself to) but the weird 20th-century idea of the “role model” that has somehow grown to include the sub-idea the one can declare someone else a role model and therefore feel entitled to give that person orders.

    What the fuck? What the fuckin fuck? As my little sister (not that one) would say.

  48. October 12, 2006 at 6:08 pm

    I’m not saying I’m not interested, I’m saying that Molly’s opinion on whether it’s ok for feminists to wax their hoo hah doesn’t really matter that much. Femmey feminists seem to make more of people’s opinions about matters like this than it makes sense to be. There’s billions of dollars going into women being encourage to wax, shave, pluck, etc, and Molly’s just some lady we don’t even know. Not to mention, a fuckton of cultural inertia and meanings and basically Molly is pissing in the sea. Is it ok to say that on this blog?

  49. spit
    October 12, 2006 at 6:10 pm

    holly — gotta say, on this one, I honestly agree with you. We seem to have just rediscovered that… well, feminists disagree in their interpretations of this stuff.

    And I certainly am not going to get righteously indignant in support of a wide reaching social norm.

    Heh.

    Personally, on the one hand, I don’t shave anything (though I occasionally trim my little ‘stache, because it gets pretty thick in an unpleasant, patchy way). I pay a definite social price for that — so I think there’s clearly social meaning in shaving that body hair, and I think anybody who denies that probably just hasn’t paid much attention. On the other hand, social meaning and personal meaning do not always coincide, and that makes it certainly far more complicated than “shaving = feminist!” or “shaving = patriarchical!”; there’s got to be room for people to express a healthy understanding of their gender in a wide range of ways (and you’re always expressing gender, you’ve got no choice, socially).

    I just wish more women felt comfortable shaving or not depending on their personal preferences, rather than on some weird expectation. Of course, those personal preferences are social too, but hey, you can think yourself into complete insanity with that shit (I’ve done it, believe me).

    The great feminist word problem:

    To group X, I am not feminist enough because of Y and Z. Group B calls that bullshit and makes snarky comments about “revoking my card”, but then when Person Z does thing W, Person R from Group B freaks out about it “supporting a repressive system”. Then, I say something snarky about both Groups B and X, at which point members of Group X point out that I have marginalized them by failing to capitalize their name at the top of this paragraph, and members of Group B get angry and decide to have a potluck so they can discuss how much I am aiding the patriarchy. How many arguments will occur at the potluck?

    I think it’s safe to say we’ve all got opinions, and that we’re all assholes. Wait, I messed up that expression…

    (and I’m not actually calling any irate anybodies “assholes”, I’m just feeling particularly sarcastic today. Apologies.)

  50. piny
    October 12, 2006 at 6:10 pm

    Yes. Yes, it is. I just don’t get the sense that zuzu is complaining about Molly’s opinion so much as Molly’s presumption.

    I think there’s this same sort of thing among non-femmey feminists and the opinions of a handful of bloggers, but that’s just me.

  51. Sniper
    October 12, 2006 at 6:13 pm

    the sub-idea the one can declare someone else a role model and therefore feel entitled to give that person orders.

    This is honestly not something I’d encountered much until I moved to the U.S. Maybe there’s just something about the culture that tends to demagoguery . I don’t mean that in a bash-America-you’re-all-the-same way, just that it’s my perception that people here tend to be much more committed to leaders (political and otherwise) than I’m used to seeing. Yeah, you could also just call it loyalty and tell the cynical Canadian to fuck off, but I do find it odd.

  52. October 12, 2006 at 6:17 pm

    Where is the billion dollar industry telling women not to be femmey? It’s the power from the rest of society that makes me think of this as silly. I live in the South. White women have makeup caked on, black women wear heels with jeans,etc,etc, which I say to give you an idea of the context here.

  53. Linnaeus
    October 12, 2006 at 6:18 pm

    Whatever it is, the People’s Front of Judea strongly disagrees.

    Splinter!

  54. Em
    October 12, 2006 at 6:19 pm

    non-femmey feminists

    Mostly, I stay out of these conversations b/c of those other non-femmey feminists. I feel embrassed that someone else has decided that something I do for myself has the moral high ground and I don’t want to be seen as arguing from the top of that hill.

  55. October 12, 2006 at 6:25 pm

    Ok, let’s all agree that nobody has the moral highground. Just one group is backed by the societial power base and one isn’t. (Not the same as one group being moral and one group not) Now we can do what we want with our hoohahs, but some people won’t like it.

  56. spit
    October 12, 2006 at 6:29 pm

    piny — I totally see where the anger is coming from here, and to be honest I’ve been way too busy to keep enough track of this particular dust-up to have a terribly strong opinion on who, if anyone, has been more or less “at fault”. At the same time, that perspective makes this whole thing look… well, a little silly. Who is molly, and why should I particularly care about her opinion? For that matter, who are Jill and zuzu, other than bloggers I read and basically respect, but with whom I am free to disagree?

    These arguments happen all the time, and while I can wish everybody would conduct them a little more respectfully, I also think they’re bound to happen in a world where we’ve got a million different ways to interpret very complicated phenomena. When people start getting pushed out of shape by other people being pushed out of shape, and it starts a big ol’ heap of mess, I tend to just shrug and figure we’ve lost sight of the actual topic somewhere.

  57. October 12, 2006 at 6:36 pm

    I think the point is that no matter what we do with our hoohahs, somebody wants to hurt us for it.

  58. October 12, 2006 at 6:40 pm

    Yea, they want to take away our reproductive freedom, even if we all do what we ‘should’ do with our hoohahs, and don’t get me started on the rape rate, or the lack of women in some professions!

  59. October 12, 2006 at 6:42 pm

    Waxing seems so banal next to forced pregnancy and rape.

    Who’s up for a round of Kum Ba Yah?

  60. piny
    October 12, 2006 at 6:42 pm

    Where is the billion dollar industry telling women not to be femmey? It’s the power from the rest of society that makes me think of this as silly. I live in the South. White women have makeup caked on, black women wear heels with jeans,etc,etc, which I say to give you an idea of the context here.

    You know, this same thing happens–constantly–with debates between who is and is not a “real” transsexual, and there’s the same insistence that it’s impossible to have any effect unless you’re supporting the position that has the weight of social approval behind it. I don’t think the billion-dollar industry is the whole story; there are other kinds of pressure, and other ways of bringing it to bear. Like Lauren said, there are certain shame-nodes you can tap into whatever you happen to be castigating women for.

  61. spit
    October 12, 2006 at 6:44 pm

    or the lack of women in some professions!

    I just have to add to this:

    heh. As a chemistry major, I repeat: heh.

    It’s rough in some fields. I don’t even push them on my squishy-as-hell gender stuff, because I figure it’s hard enough for the chem department to know what to do with a really boyish lesbian.

  62. piny
    October 12, 2006 at 6:44 pm

    Waxing seems so banal next to forced pregnancy and rape.

    Who’s up for a round of Kum Ba Yah?

    Heh. Why not?

  63. Em
    October 12, 2006 at 6:44 pm

    Yeah, sure, Shannon, I agree. But I do think Piny has a point in that things that non-femmey women do are accorded higher feminist status than things that femmey women do by default, and the attitude is pervasive. MY only real point is that the things I do for myself happen to be construed as rebellious, while things femmey women do for themselves are construed as conformity or selling out or what-have-you. I don’t think that’s fair. It’s very easy for me not to shave my legs. Why should I get credit for something that’s virtually effortless? There’s plenty of other things about being a feminist that I have a harder time with, but they aren’t as visible as my body hair. I have absolutely no reason to assume a position on body hair removal when I have no idea how a femme feminist deals with the aspects of her feminist life that I can’t see.

    So, if I refuse to take a side, I can’t really contribute much to the fray and end up just reading it.

  64. spit
    October 12, 2006 at 6:46 pm

    Lauren — Well, I play banjo (very badly); does that get me out of singing the damn thing?

  65. October 12, 2006 at 6:46 pm

    Yes, a lot of people are VERY defensive about their beauty rituals.

    When I was 12 or 14 or something I read a book about Female Beauty Rituals. It covered topics like: Foot-binding, corsetting, those neck ring things in AFrica, tatooing, shaving, high heels and wearing shoes smaller than called for.(At the TIME, I don’t think even Porn Stars Waxed their hoohahs. I don’t think there even WERE porn stars.) Oh it also mentioned Female Genital Mutilation. The book kind of brought that in, as the period to it’s sentence.

    ANYWAY, after reading about ALL the different things that females do the world over to gain masculine approval, it put it in a diffferent context. It made it possible to SEE that males can fetishize ANYTHING, your foor, your hand, your asshole, your waist….you NAME it. THey can get the most BIZARRE body alterations to be societally normalized. (Foot-binding, in particular, is VERY revolting. The little stubs that used to be your feet pretty much sort of ROT for your whole life. The little foot stubs, which try to maintain the size of an INFANT’s foot, smell really terrrible, you know, like rotting meat. The practice became so normalized that drinking tea made from soaking the rotting meat foot-binding cloths was considered a “turn-on” and aphrodiasical.)

    The extreme corsetting so popular in Euope and the States in the 18th and 19th centuries resulted in enormous maternal deaths in childbirth, because the internal organs had not developed properly. The body part involved in the societal fetish doesn’t have ANYTHING to do with utility, usually the opposite. (Today’s obsession with near-starvation and fake tits is a good example: these women who are praised by society for being so beautiful and fashionable can neither get pregnant (they no longer ovulate due to starvation) nor suckle an infant. Like I said, usually the opposite of utility.)

    Stepping away from all the examples, one starts to theorize: How do I make sure that I don’t fall for bullshit like this? Women, deep in the THROES of whatever culture they are steeped in from birth, cannot SEE they are being traumatized and mutilated. As far as they are concerned, you are telling them they can’t BE PRETTY.

    That they can’t BE FEMININE.

    SO, a good rule of thumb about bodily alteration is: what would I look like if I didn’t do anything, If I presented myself as “God Made Me”, (as groundskeeper Willie says).
    That is a good starting point for not having been brainwashed into mutilating your own body to please a male-mandated societal fetish.

    Add cleanliness and hair-trimming when appropriate: still safe. Ok how about that utility question? Am I doing alterations that are not useful and are possibly the opposite of useful?

    High heels. Not useful. There are rapists ON RECORD who say that they look for women who are femmed out and in heels…because they can’t run, or deliver a swift kick in the balls. Women wearing clothing that is difficult to be physical in are less likely to defend themselves, because they are sending out a clear signal that they are tools of the P and nicely brainwashed into believing themselves weak and defenseless.

    Long fingernails: TOTALLY unsanitary, and render the fingers useless for many normal tasks. COULD be used as weapons, but not if they are long enough to break off. (Personally, I think they are ridiculous, and give them the thumbs-down. Doesn’t mean you can’t have a manicure. just keep the nails short.)

    Body hair: you aren’t permanently mutilating your body by removing it, so this one is kinda borderline. THat’s probably why it is so contended, same with make-up. It is probably OK to do either, as long as you realize that on some level you think you have to alter your body to be feminine, and that this is a lie. You are feminine because you are female, not because you are doing what in 1930 only whores did. As Twisty said, it is a survival tactic, not what you would naturally do in a cultural vacuum. You have probably internalized the societal fetish for looking like an olden-days whore. (I have! I wear lipstick.)

    I personally abHOR the fact that MEN are now expected to remove their body hair. Not because they are men and deserve better than us, just because I would prefer for it to go the other way, and for women to get to be natural. I would prefer for women to get to wear sensible shoes, not men to have to wear painful debilitating ones TOO!

    It is my considered belief that heterosexual males will want to have sex with females no matter WHAT we do. Ergo, we don’t HAVE to do any of these things. We could go around in coveralls, with glasses on, with shaved heads and hairy legs. If we were the only females around, they would find us charming and devastating. We don’t HAVE to cripple ourselves for their approval, or even wax our buttholes.

    That is why some Feminists get so het up about solidarilty. We could get rid of all this corporate and porn-mandated BS if we just stick together. I think it is really sad that we have gotten MORE “porny” since 1968, instead of less so.

  66. October 12, 2006 at 6:48 pm

    I do love the banjo. I’ll accompany on piano.

  67. October 12, 2006 at 6:48 pm

    Molly, while I think your original post is mean and off-base, I know what you mean about the “finding out people are human” phenomenon. The dogpile on Marc last week at his blog really started because, I think, he forgot that other people perceive me as a persona of some sort whereas he thinks of me as a flesh and blood human who gets hurt and gets sick. These two views of a person tend to be mostly harmonious, but occasionally you’ll say things about a person that you see as persona first that you wouldn’t to someone who is person first, if that makes sense.

    I’m curious about your research. In my post on this, I argue that a lot of youthful physical anxiety tends to slough off as you get older and get more personal power. That’s certainly been my experience.

  68. Em
    October 12, 2006 at 6:53 pm

    who is and is not a “real” transsexual, and there’s the same insistence that it’s impossible to have any effect unless you’re supporting the position that has the weight of social approval behind it.

    ‘cuz, y’know, the instant you start passing, you’re just not radikewl anymore.

  69. spit
    October 12, 2006 at 6:54 pm

    Em-

    But I do think Piny has a point in that things that non-femmey women do are accorded higher feminist status

    I see the point, but I also don’t think even that’s always true. Because there tend to be two “camps” that form here, and on the one hand, you get criticized for one for being “femme” because you’re “buying in”, and on the other hand, you get critisized by the other for “reinforcing stereotypes about feminists”.

    Basically, I think personally that the real point is that there’s no way not to express gender, and that in expressing that gender, you’re going to be interpreted both politically and socially. There’s seriously no winning here — if you’re expressing “woman” by being what we would call “femme”, you’re going to be seen as just another femme woman, placed in a little box based on that label. If you’re expressing “woman” by taking a different tack, you’re going to be seen as a total freak, a walking stereotype of “lesbian feminist” (even if you’re not actually a lesbian).

  70. Em
    October 12, 2006 at 6:57 pm

    Spit, I find it interesting that in my experience science and math types tend to be a bit more conservative politically than other academic departments, yet simultaneously, the rules of gender presentation are relaxed….male or female, you can dress like a mad scientist and nobody will care.

  71. October 12, 2006 at 6:58 pm

    “What is the position of the Judean People’s Front on trimming one’s nose hair? What about plucking?

    Whatever it is, the People’s Front of Judea strongly disagrees.”

    But we hate the Romans more.

    /I think.

  72. INotI
    October 12, 2006 at 7:08 pm

    I just find irritating this notion that I’ve seen in a number of these conversations that the “non-femmey feminisits” (for lack of a better term) will forgive you for being a dupe of the patriarchy so long as you make sure that you feel REALLY, REALLY ashamed of yourself for it.

    Fuck that.

  73. spit
    October 12, 2006 at 7:10 pm

    Em- to a degree, I think that’s true… a lot of science and math folks base their opinions about you on the grasp you’ve got on the material, and I’ve certainly wound up with some relatively conservative study friends based on the fact that we respect each other on a sort of cold-intellectual level.

    On the other hand, my experience is also that every field has its own distinct culture, and gender is often a huge part of that. For some reason, chemistry remains particularly stuck in its good ol’ boys mentality. It’s okay to not be a terribly femme woman, but push it too far, and people just don’t know how to react.

  74. Sniper
    October 12, 2006 at 7:14 pm

    your foor

    I staredd at this for a good 40 seconds trying to figure out the origin of this strange slang term for genitalia. It’s been a long day.

  75. Josh
    October 12, 2006 at 7:19 pm

    Whatever it is, the People’s Front of Judea strongly disagrees.

    Those suspected of deviationist tendencies will be purged.

  76. ilyka
    October 12, 2006 at 7:52 pm

    I argue that a lot of youthful physical anxiety tends to slough off as you get older and get more personal power. That’s certainly been my experience.

    Mine too. When I was Jill’s age, forty million years ago, waxing wasn’t the huge hairy deal it is now, but I used to go in for every other feminine encumbrance in a big way that’s kind of embarrassing to me now. And I still haven’t renounced hair color. Mmm, hair color.

    I can’t find who said it now (it was a commenter somewhere, but not here), but the point was made that it’s a stretch to claim feminine drag is a “survival skill” or “necessary” for women to get along in the world. All I have to say to that is maybe so, but the world sure does do one hell of a job making young women believe it’s necessary, so to me that’s a distinction essentially without a difference: Worth keeping in mind, but still not doing much to take the pressure off those who feel it.

  77. October 12, 2006 at 8:29 pm

    My only problem with women who wax and wear lipstick are those who claim it to be a form of empowerment. I went to NYU, and I didn’t wear makeup, and I can tell you those were the loneliest four years of my life–and I’ve always been something of a misfit. Greenwich Village is the most ass-backwards, looks-obsessed shithole in the world if you don’t look like a model, which I don’t. And people can sit there from on high and make platitudes all day about how “I didn’t really want them as friends/boyfriends/whatever” but they weren’t the ones suffering. So I wax, and I wear lipstick, and have been known to wear a high heel once in a blue moon. And I know exactly where it comes from. And it would be really wonderful if I could have gotten away with the grand experiment to Stick It To the Man, but I can at least say I learned what men meant when they said they wanted a woman who was “naturally” beautiful — she had to be 5’9, 110lbs, and wear “natural” makeup.

  78. October 12, 2006 at 8:32 pm

    Waxing seems so banal next to forced pregnancy and rape.

    Who’s up for a round of Kum Ba Yah?

    Awww, fuck it! Now I have that song stuck in my head!

    My opinion on the whole matter: screw what society says, by which I mean not going against it, but dismissing it as completely as possible, and then consider such-and-such an appearance-related thing in regards to your own feelings. Do a cost-benefit analysis and figure out what’s worth doing.

    For example, shaving my underarms is no big deal compared to dealing with the scratchiness of more than three days’ worth of stubble there; shaving my legs rarely has any benefit, and they itch besides, so I don’t do that.

    And, incidentally, with the whole role-model deal? Seems damned silly to me when the people who decide to follow someone (and make her a role model) tell her to do or not do something so as to preserve the quality of what they’re following.

  79. October 12, 2006 at 9:13 pm

    Mighty Pony- and have big tits! and be white. Also I started shaving my underarms because of social pressure- not because of some huge empowerment drive.

  80. October 12, 2006 at 9:18 pm

    It is my considered belief that heterosexual males will want to have sex with females no matter WHAT we do.

    That is very true.

    Men who wear beards are faced with a delima when finding a new job, many companies want you to shave.

    US society is very much into lookism. That is why men who are balding either shave their heads or do comb overs.

    I have listened to many feminist call other feminist all kinds of things depending on what they were wearing or not wearing etc.

    I just wished society would look at our minds more than our looks.

  81. zuzu
    October 12, 2006 at 9:26 pm

    Not to spoil the fun, but for the sake of a few commenters who seem to have missed it: The big stinky pile in the punchbowl isn’t grooming (for values of “grooming” broad enough to include stuff I’d never subject myself to) but the weird 20th-century idea of the “role model” that has somehow grown to include the sub-idea the one can declare someone else a role model and therefore feel entitled to give that person orders.

    What the fuck? What the fuckin fuck? As my little sister (not that one) would say.

    Oh, God, THANK YOU. That appears to be driving that whole bizarre WHY DO YOU HATE PILOTS, ZUZU??? thing in another thread.

  82. Pingback: swirlspice
  83. Em
    October 12, 2006 at 10:10 pm

    there tend to be two “camps” that form here, and on the one hand, you get criticized for one for being “femme” because you’re “buying in”, and on the other hand, you get critisized by the other for “reinforcing stereotypes about feminists”.

    Basically, I think personally that the real point is that there’s no way not to express gender, and that in expressing that gender, you’re going to be interpreted both politically and socially. There’s seriously no winning here — if you’re expressing “woman” by being what we would call “femme”, you’re going to be seen as just another femme woman, placed in a little box based on that label. If you’re expressing “woman” by taking a different tack, you’re going to be seen as a total freak, a walking stereotype of “lesbian feminist” (even if you’re not actually a lesbian).

    Honestly, I worry about being seen as a walking stereotype, b/c I very strongly DISidentify with being butch. Yet, that’s the cultural word for any masculine expression by a female. There again, I feel invisible, a non-butch masquerading as a butch, so who am I to judge what identity nuances leg-shaving feminists have that I’m not seeing?

    But you’re right. You really can’t win.

  84. Em
    October 12, 2006 at 10:13 pm

    I just find irritating this notion that I’ve seen in a number of these conversations that the “non-femmey feminisits” (for lack of a better term) will forgive you for being a dupe of the patriarchy so long as you make sure that you feel REALLY, REALLY ashamed of yourself for it.

    And for your penance, ten Hail Mary’s. Now go, and shave no more.

    Fuck that.

    Better make that a rosary.

  85. zuzu
    October 12, 2006 at 10:16 pm

    Seriously, Em. Catholicism at least gives you the opportunity to do penance and be done with it. The hairshirt crowd never grants absolution.

  86. twf
    October 12, 2006 at 10:38 pm

    I have a question for the Feminist Police and the Feminist Role-Models out there.

    I am applying to tenure-track positions at a number of academic departments this year. While they all have women students, almost none of them have any women faculty.

    Which is the more feminist thing to do: wear heels to the interviews, or not?

    I await the response of the great feminist opinion-makers.

  87. Denise
    October 12, 2006 at 10:42 pm

    God, I hate blog fights like this. You know that as soon as someone says the words “feminist card” the whole conversation has gone down the shitter. Kind of like Godwin’s Law. It’s over. There’s nothing more of value to be said here.

    That being said, I think everyone knows damn fucking well that nobody is trying to disqualify anyone from feminism. What your motivations are for flipping your shit because someone has criticized someone’s actions in light of their ideals, I don’t know. But a word comes to mind: “strawfeminist”. And these threads always end up in a place where feminists who do try to opt out of the beauty rituals we’re encouraged to engage in are demonized and mocked as some horrific feminist bogeyman of self-abuse. “Hairshirts”. Har-dee-har.

    Grow up.

  88. Denise
    October 12, 2006 at 10:43 pm

    twf

    Do what you want!! Teehee! Feminism is for feeling happy!! We oughta rename it to happyism, so as to not imply that it means anything! Wanna have a latte????

  89. October 12, 2006 at 10:55 pm

    Could someone write the Ten Commandments of feminism already?

    If you’re going to have heresy, you should have a religion first.

  90. zuzu
    October 12, 2006 at 10:56 pm

    Which is the more feminist thing to do: wear heels to the interviews, or not?

    Wear what you think will get you the job.

    Denise, the women who opt out of beauty rituals aren’t the hairshirts. The ones who do so and use that to attack women who don’t as insufficiently feminist are.

  91. zuzu
    October 12, 2006 at 11:01 pm

    Jesus, Tuomas, do you not realize that there are at least three versions of the 10 Commandments and who-the-fuck-knows how many versions of the Bible in use?

  92. October 12, 2006 at 11:06 pm

    Ha. True enough.

  93. Sally
    October 12, 2006 at 11:21 pm

    Which is the more feminist thing to do: wear heels to the interviews, or not?

    Wear shoes that are comfortable, don’t clash with your interview outfit, and in which you can walk down stairs without falling. Also, pack granola bars. One of my friends was scheduled non-stop between 7 AM and 11 PM, including meetings during breakfast, lunch and dinner. If she hadn’t packed granola bars, she would have fainted from hunger.

    I think granola bars are acceptably feminist.

  94. twf
    October 12, 2006 at 11:28 pm

    Wear what you think will get you the job.

    This is the point I was trying to make with that question. It goes back to what Twisty said, which started the whole thing. Sometimes we have to compromise on the battle to win the war. If the only way I’m going to be the only female professor these smart young technical-minded women and men are going to have is to meet some sexist expectations, well, maybe that’s what I have to do.

    And Sally, thanks for the granola-bar advice. As a frequent pee-er, another concern of mine is bathroom breaks.

  95. October 13, 2006 at 12:31 am

    Waxing seems so banal next to forced pregnancy and rape.

    Who’s up for a round of Kum Ba Yah?

    I’ll join in on that.

  96. piny
    October 13, 2006 at 1:10 am

    Oh, God, THANK YOU. That appears to be driving that whole bizarre WHY DO YOU HATE PILOTS, ZUZU??? thing in another thread.

    Well, it’s not like you ever answered the question. What are you trying to hide?

    (sigh)

    I just saw an ftm documentary. Maybe I’ll try and tie all this shit together. Or maybe I’ll just post about how stuff plus cats really does equal awesome.

  97. October 13, 2006 at 1:21 am

    You know how right-wingers all say that gay people CAN’T truly be unfairly discriminated against, because “they make the choice to join the particular minority group”?

    That’s actually true for pilots.

  98. October 13, 2006 at 3:51 am

    well, since i’m a trans woman, i was never allowed to have a feminist card to begin with. so it looks like i’m in the clear – no matter what i do, i’m perpetuating gender roles and stereotypes.

    so maybe i should start shaving my legs again.

  99. October 13, 2006 at 8:16 am

    This girl on campus once wrote about walking in the local Pride Parade, and hearing another participant sneer at her from behind:

    “Oh wow, look at the make-up. Guess she’s trying to pass for straight, or something.”

    Around here, a good number of straight people participate in Pride, but the girl in question was, in fact, a lesbian. And she was upset by the whole thing, upset enough to write a poem about it.

    I can’t produce the poem right now, but the message was as follows: I put on make-up because I like to adorn and decorate my face. It’s kind of like painting a picture for me, or decorating a beautiful house. Not everyone enjoys that sort of thing, but I do. Now stop judging me, ’cause I sure as hell am not judging you.

    I found myself relating.

  100. October 13, 2006 at 8:27 am

    I have a hair disease that makes my body hair grow and fall out in patches, so I shave off everything I haven’t already lasered, including the patchwork on my head. Yes, I am almost completely hairless from head-to-toe. The Feminist PO-lice beyotches will pry my Mach III razor out of my cold, dead fingers.

    Actually, it’s nice to see people being lighthearted about this topic, finally! The blogosphere spends entirely too much time projecting anxiously into the things other people type.

  101. October 13, 2006 at 8:57 am

    hair. I got lots of it.

    if you started a braid at the top of my head, you could probably go all the way down to my toes, joining in the hair from other parts of my body. I don’t really bother shaving very often. I mean, it’s just gonna grow back. what’s the point?

    add that to the fact that I really didn’t ever get the hang of the whole lady drag to the point where I can pull it off without looking like I’m trying waaaaaay too hard. So I’m just kind of a dumpy looking sasquatch-ess and I’ve made my peace with it. For me, it’s a better choice than feeling like I’m inhabiting a body that ‘s not really mine, or feeling more like a burlesque or caricature of femininity than an actual woman.

    BUT – if I’m planning some sort of activism or working on a help-women project of some kind or actually getting my shit together and trying to DO something, I don’t care if my comrades-in-arms are comrades-in-armpits. they could be plucked smooth as a snake’s belly or covered in a layer of luxurious fur – as long as they show up and do the work, they’re feminist enough for me.

    why look a gift horse in the mouth?

  102. October 13, 2006 at 9:04 am

    I’m going to steal the feminist card as Godwin for my rules of feminism.

  103. October 13, 2006 at 9:12 am

    Also I always try to wear shoes with low heels or flats to interviews as I can’t walk in high heels. Also, I also pack peanuts and raisins when I go to grad school because the classes are 3 hours long and my body is weak. The peanuts have good protein in them, and it may in fact be cheaper to have a mix of them.

  104. Frumious B
    October 13, 2006 at 9:24 am

    a lot of science and math folks base their opinions about you on the grasp you’ve got on the material

    unless you are a goodlooking woman who wears make-up and does her hair and exhibits other feminine behaviors. Then the men all talk about how hot you are. I have seen this happen to pretty female grad students when they join the department. Non-femmy women are accepted in Physics (well, in as much as any women are accepted in Physics) but femmy women get hit on.

    twf- I forget, did you say what field you are in? High heels should be fine, as long as they are business-y and not clubwear. That means not stilletos, not sandals, and closed toes. Business-y heels send a pretty neutral message (as neutral a message as any female garb) – feminine enough that you won’t stand out as butch, but not so feminine that you stand out as hot.

  105. Shawn
    October 13, 2006 at 9:32 am

    One thing that has been made clear to me this past week is that there are more types of feminists than the generic title can accommodate. There seems to be a definite difference between femme feminists and purist feminists. Let me suggest a few more subcategories for consideration:

    Active feminist – A feminist that puts time and effort into furthering the cause of feminism. The women who gets groups of friends together to network, have viewings of relevant movies/TV shows, and writes letters to editors of newspapers could be considered in this group.

    Support feminist – A feminist that volunteers to work in women’s shelters, literacy programs, abortion clinics, and promotes feminism while doing so.

    Political feminist – A feminist who not only votes, but knows the issues and the opposition, who email/calls/writes Congress and Senate about women’s rights and who networks and encourages other women to get involved in politics. Definitely someone who runs or convinces someone to run for political office on behalf of women’s rights.

    Rhetorician feminist – A feminist who educates herself in the art and use of rhetoric and logic, whether conventionally or through self-learning. This feminist reads all the propaganda and philosophies of the opposition and dissects it in order to lay bare the fallacious reasoning of people who condone the patriarchy. She can spot propaganda a mile away and set the record straight for all to see.

    Just a few thoughts I had rattling around.

  106. October 13, 2006 at 9:57 am

    I’ll take you up on that latte, Denise. And while we’re at it, why don’t we just shoot ourselves in the fucking head.

  107. October 13, 2006 at 10:00 am

    twf, bring painkillers to your interview as well as granola bars. What with the rushing around and the stress and the too much caffeine and the sleeplessness the night before and the travel, there’s a strong possibility of a blinding headache by 2pm.

    And good luck!

  108. spit
    October 13, 2006 at 10:24 am

    Frumious B — you’re totally right on that, actually, good point. It really is another “screwed no matter what” situation, as I’ve seen a lot of “femme” women in physics and chem be taken decidedly less seriously, too. I’m taken seriously, but I’m also held at arm’s length and am often more than a little tokenized. Yet again, there’s just no winning.

    Physics has a pretty different “culture” from chemistry, in some ways — my personal experience with it is that at least most physicists know there’s a gender representation problem. In chemistry, women will always tell you there is one and men will always tell you there isn’t one. It’s almost comical.

  109. spit
    October 13, 2006 at 10:42 am

    so who am I to judge what identity nuances leg-shaving feminists have that I’m not seeing?

    Yes. That’s exactly the point for me, too. I think that given that we’re all “presenting” on a social level, there are healthy ways to go about that, and there are less healthy ways to go about that, and I think that has to do with things that are pretty much impossible to judge unless you know somebody really, really well.

    Now, there’s a social meaning there, one that I wish more people in the world thought about seriously — but I can’t figure I know anybody’s motivations for wearing lipstick or not wearing lipstick or shaving or wearing big work boots or whatever. All of these things can be perfectly healthy expressions of sense of self, including gender — all of these things can be completely unhealthy performances based only on expectation and rigid gender rules. It’s what makes this constant argument over this stuff so tiring to me — because everybody always seems to retreat to their own “side” and then argue that what they’re doing is inoffensive and what others are doing is offensive, when the reality is that neither is necessarily true and both are possible, IMO.

  110. October 13, 2006 at 11:57 am

    “Which is the more feminist thing to do: wear heels to the interviews, or not”?”
    Wear what you think will get you the job.

    You bet. And the feminist step is to use the power you get with that job to inch the culture toward the place where female applicants won’t have to think about heel height, or makeup, or hem length, or whatever’s the fashion flashpoint that year. Beware of the “well, I had to do it, so she can just suck up and do it too” thought when it shows up in your head, and beware of letting your take on the matter drown in the prevailing prejudices because it’s such a relief just not to have to worry about it anymore, once you’re In personally. Also beware of the tendency to think of whatever women are stuck with doing — and men aren’t — as “good grooming.”

    We don’t need to be paranoid or even extremely self-critical, but we do need to be civilized enough to look at our own opinions and figure out what they’re based on and to what extent they should rule our actions.

  111. Nausicaa chan
    October 13, 2006 at 12:37 pm

    About this physics-math stuff :)
    I disagree with part of what was said. I myself am a math student. My experience is that just as in any place, if you are pretty, you get “hit on” regardless of your being a “femme”, putting make up and so on. BTW how sucessful you are plays a large part too – somebody who is pretty but has no brains doesn’t get “hit on” so much.
    Except, maybe somebody who behaves feminine is more attractive to insecure guys since such a girl just seems to say: “I am feminine in the traditional sense” and “I seek attention” . So maybe because of this she gets more “hits” from such ppl, or just from unserious guys treating her as less than a normal human being (a man or a woman).
    It’s very true however that somebody who puts on a lot of make up and dresses very feminine is often taken less seriously than someone who doesn’t. Actually I’m guilty of not taking such girls as seriously too. It’s simply looked on as vulgar and isn’t accepted where I learn, so such girls just really stand out, just as I guess in other places girls who don’t do such stuff.
    Actually I’m happy to be where I am since I don’t need to do all this make up-heels-womanly dress stuff which I quite hate (and not be thought of as not regular). From the comments here it seems that many women experience a lot of pressure to do it. it just seems like I’m living in a different world from many of them.

  112. Older
    October 13, 2006 at 2:19 pm

    twf — wear low or medium heels. They will look formal enough and be more comfortable, and believe me, comfort will be a major concern. Plus, if you don’t wear the really high heels a lot, you’ll walk better in the lower ones. Confident stride (in a lady-like way).

  113. jennie
    October 13, 2006 at 3:46 pm

    Hmm … now I’m skeered!

    Excuse me! I can’t stay at work and finish this chapter on sexual decision making for teens, I hafta go home and hide my Manic Panic collection and my fishnets. Are kneesocks okay? What about bras? Can I keep them if they’re plain and don’t have underwires or do I have to burn them all? I really don’t like cycling without one, but if I have to flop around uncomfortably in order to be a Real Feminist, I guess I can do so. Or maybe I should just send in my feminist card now. I’m not sure I’ll survive the first inspection.

  114. Pam
    October 14, 2006 at 4:54 pm

    I guess being an electrologist just got me sent to coventry. Seriously though, seeing hairy ladies close-up every day made me realise two things. Firstly, real hatred and shame regarding unwanted hair happens when it grows unexpectedly (e.g. the half-italian girl who shaves her legs and face even before puberty because no-one else in her class looks like her. Or the woman who hits 25 and sprouts a goatee). Secondly it’s never the same type of hair that bothers every woman. Some are completely distraught over toe hair but are completely unconcerned about moustaches, others want every wirey stomach and nipple hair gone but aren’t bothered by heavy forearm hair. It’s all very individual, which is why I always ask a new customer what she wants done, even if she’s got a full beard.

  115. October 14, 2006 at 11:13 pm

    I would like to note than Ann Althouse watches Prohect Runway. Enough said.

  116. Laila
    October 16, 2006 at 12:50 pm

    There’s an aspect to non-femmey dressing that I haven’t seen brought up yet: dissociation from the ugly, icky, degrading fact that you’re a woman.

    Non-femmey dressers, whether they intend this or not, can often be seen as “honorary males”–i.e., “one of the good ones.” If you’re above make-up and nice clothes and other silly feminine fripperies, then you’re also above other women. You’re better than them because you, like men, are occupied with more important things and are not slaves to fashion.

    When it comes to femininity, feminists have to balance two principles. First, we have to free women from the confining and restrictive aspects of femininity. But second, we also have to be careful not to associate traditionally feminine practices–whether it’s make-up or housework–with stupidity and degradation, because then you run the risk of degrading the women who fulfill “feminine” roles, and because patriarchy has always associated “feminine” practices and traits with lowliness. This balancing act comes up a lot, not just when it comes to dress. For instance: we feminists want to free women to be aggressive, hard-nosed and tough. At the same time, though, we want to fight people who look down on traits like compassion and gentleness because those traits are so girly and icky.

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