Like A Natural Woman, Part Due

First, I’d like to thank the many commentators on the previous post. There’s so much to comment on and clarify, that I figured it was time for another post on the subject. There’s some patterns I see being recreated through the discussions on physical appearance. Patterns we learn early and often. Pre-existing patterns that operate under the surface…..sub-conscious, semi-conscious, unspoken, contradictory, incoherent even. I’m interested in those patterns and unraveling them.

See, one of the lessons I learned early on as a cub was that women have to justify every. got. damn. thing. we do. We’re supposed to come up with some justification for the simplest activities, the basic fabric of our lives. We even have ready-made templates for the pantomimes we’re supposed to engage in. Single mothers (like me) are supposed to apologize for our singleness, explain our singleness, justify our singleness to all and sundry. We’re supposed to promise we didn’t mean it to be this way, that we did everything we could to do avoid that terrible fate, but it just couldn’t be helped. We are supposed to offer up the best made-for-Lifetime-TV movie script of our lives we can muster. Even for strangers. For anyone who questions us. There are pantomimes on just about every female-oriented subject under the sun.

Now, not everyone does this, of course. And even most who do don’t do so in every venue, or on every subject, for every audience. But this is a pattern, and it sure as hell isn’t limited to the feminist blogosphere. Who said we have to do this? How and why did so many women, women from so many different backgrounds, learn to perform what I like to call the Justification Pantomime? I don’t think I’m the only person who’s seen this. I don’t think I’m the only person who’s ever performed a pantomime, either.

And back on the other post—remember the landscapes? How could I have possibly forgotten:

  • Puritanism—the belief that this world is profane, so we must not enjoy it. We must live lives of self-denial, renounce the pleasures of the physical body and our senses
  • And that denial of sensuality is key when it comes to dissecting the wherefores and the whys of beauty standards and physical appearance. The desire to be sensual, to feel sensual, to indulge ourselves in the pleasures of sight, of sound, of smell, of taste, of touch—that desire has existed in human beings long before the institution of Sexism. And the burden of this denial disproportionately falls on women. After all, we’re the source of temptation, no? Our sensual desire to bite into the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge is what led to the Downfall of humanity, no? Female appetites, whether figurative or literal, are to be controlled. We’re even responsible for the controlling of male appetites.

    I want to expand on this. Lemme go back to where our paths converge, diverge, and cross us. Each of us, from where we stand, are going to have times where our paths converge with the pre-existing sexism, diverge with it, or cross it entirely—where we will get the neck hairs of sexists (both male and female) up without putting much, if any, effort into it.

    Back to Lubu’s short hair. It just happens to either diverge or cross with the predominant sexist paradigm where I live. But my wearing my hair short has fuck-all to do with feminist notions of what the Natural Woman looks like, and everything to do with sensuality. I enjoy the feel of my short hair, the fact I can run my fingers through it without getting them caught. I like the feel of the wind on my face and neck. I like not getting my eyeballs poked with sharp ends of hair.

    But that doesn’t conversely mean that long hair can’t also be sensual, or that other women don’t experience it as such. Long hair just happens to converge with the predominant sexist paradigm where I live. I know women who express some of their creativity through their hair. Again, folks were doing this before the rise of patriarchy. So, if we see this as “feminine” expression, or kowtowing to patriarchal standards of Beauty, aren’t we seeing it through sexist-colored lenses?

    I’m not aware of any formulae, any means test by which we can tease out just where the sexism ends, and where our natural selves begin. We don’t have much basis for comparison. But I know what my five senses tell me. And I know if I don’t enjoy the simple pleasures in life, like a fresh haircut, or hot food—I ain’t gonna get to enjoy too much. Every choice we make in regards to physical appearance—the collection of small choices, that is—is going to set certain assumptions up in the minds of others. Some right, some wrong, but there’s no avoiding it. Some folks see my short hair and think “dyke”. Some see my short hair and think “fashionable”. To some it says “young”. To others, “old”. It says a whole lotta shit I basically have no control over, because the interpretation lies in the eyes of the viewer. Not with me.

    So, since it seems we’re on the subject already, let’s talk about power. I used the word “choice” up above just now, and I’m not really comfortable with that word. I don’t think most of us have a lot of choices, realistically, even about something as inconsequential in the long run as appearance. Whether we emulate (consciously or unconsciously) sexist standards of Beauty, or resist (again, consciously or unconsciously) those same standards, our actions don’t give all of us, everywhere, the same advantage or disadvantage.

    See, something about Edith’s comment on the last post really resonated with me, and at the same time repelled me. Resonated, because I have at times been frustrated with the insistence on beauty. Something about the insistence that we have to be beautiful, along with intelligent, accomplished, serene, cheerful, upbeat, articulate, strong, assertive, wise, whatever…..beautiful too, on top of it? Why? If beauty is only skin deep, why does it have to be on the resume with all my other fabulous qualities, that obviously aren’t enough without it? (and shit, like I’ve got the other qualities locked, anyway!) And if Beauty comes in so many different forms (which incidentally, I believe), maybe “cheerful” comes in many different forms as well! Like, maybe my crabby ass is just “Uncoffeed Cheerful” in the morning, instead of crabby, hm? (Sorry, got carried away. This post is strictly stream-of-consciousness.) Seriously—when Beauty is set up in that manner, it makes me feel like it’s another hurdle to be jumped, instead something to indulge, to celebrate.

    Does the nod to beauty norms give everyone an advantage? Nahh, it doesn’t. Speaking of power, I stand on a relative bedrock of privilege when it comes to challenging beauty norms, because my job doesn’t require any nod to Beauty, other than not having visible dirt or smellable stench on my person. Soap and water is the only beauty regimen I have to follow to put a roof over my head and food in my belly. Others lack that certain luxury of snubbing dominant beauty myths. There are jobs that require, by custom if not by rule, the keeping of certain beauty rituals—and one abstains from those rituals at a financial risk. Not everyone is in equal position to bear the consequences of resistance—even a small resistance. Not shaving armpits—-how can that be such a big sacrifice? Easy—if it means your employer sees those hairy pits and thinks those pits are losing customers. Then its a matter of having to wear sleeves, even in summer. Or finding another job. In a place where you’ve never seen a woman with hairy armpits.

    Here’s what I’m bristling against, far more than concerns about beauty norms:

    The norm of falling into the same old, same old sexist trap of female self-sacrifice. Worshipping at the altar of Our Lady of Perpetual Self-Denial and Sacrifice, swearing our fealty by never once claiming our own pleasure without first ensuring that our loved ones are all enjoying life much more than we are. Eating the chicken wing so someone else, always someone else, can get the thigh. Taking the last shower, so no one else has to go without hot water. When do we get to claim our pleasure, say, “I like it because I like it, dammit, what more do you have to know?”

    Replicating pre-existing sexist structure by centering the burden of resistance upon the backs of individual women.

    Ignoring context, including historical and cultural context. Rejecting the integration and intersection of identities. Not remembering we are all seekers, finding our way home.

    But I’ll also add—forgetting our anger. Our anger that we still have to negotiate these obstacles, and that we still haven’t found the common ground on which to even have these discussions, let alone act upon what we can and will learn from one another.


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    47 Responses to Like A Natural Woman, Part Due

    1. Betsy says:

      I like your point about hair – I had super-short hair for about 5 years, and loved it. Then I decided it was time for a change, and grew it out again. Both involved such sensual pleasures – it had been years, for example, since I knew what it felt like to have the wind lift my hair off my neck, and that was such a lovely sensation. I didn’t know how my hair would curl as it grew. But I know in a few years I’ll probably chop it all off again, because I liked how that felt too. And as someone who studies women’s history, there are all kinds of messages that I send by these choices. If it’s short, ironically, I fit into my profession better – almost every woman historian that I can think of off the top of my head has hair that’s chin-length or shorter. But I also send messages to other people that maybe I’m a lesbian, or hostile to men(!), or whatever. When my hair is long, people don’t automatically assume that I’m feminist, which is interesting. So they all carry different messages, none of which I’m necessarily intending to send.

      Not really adding anything new here, just agreeing with your discussion of hairstyles!

    2. This is very coherent and complex “stream of consciousness. As someone who’s been doing social change work on body image issues for what feels like forever, I really like the way you lay out the importance of contexts in “the beauty struggle”.

    3. La Lubu says:

      This is very coherent and complex “stream of consciousness.

      That’s ‘cuz I’ve been thinking about it all day, without the presence of a computer to interrupt me! But when I write, I have to discipline myself to keep on subject—otherwise my thoughts will fly out into fractals.

      Yeah, there’s a lot here, but I haven’t just been thinking about these matters for the day, but my whole life. I’m thinking that’s true of every feminist.

    4. Ben says:

      It’s a bit offtopic but still related: I dislike how modern society has essentially subverted beauty. Most people tend to accept the ‘beauty is skin-deep’ mantra, and it’s certainly true to the point that someone’s outwards conformity to a set of cultural standards that tend to be in constant flux doesn’t tell you anything about the value of the person*. But I challenge you to look at a group of meerkats standing on watch or a sunset or a rainforest at dawn and tell me that it’s skin-deep. It’s freakin’ deep, it’s harmonious. Pure, aesthetic beauty is a wordless sort of thing which is just amazing, and it pisses me off no end the way that modern society takes beauty to mean nothing more than ‘conventionally attractive’. That’s not a critique of this post at all. I sincerely agree with the post. I just wanted to put it out there.

      * I don’t like using the word ‘value’ here but I think the meaning is clear. Not trying to weigh people against eachother or anything.

    5. Louise says:

      Lubu, your writing is FABULOUS! I’ll pay you the highest compliment I have to give: You make me THINK.

      After going around and around on this one for decades, I finally settled on the “oh, fuck it” answer and just make myself happy. When my family compliments me, it’s nice- but not my objective. I do it for ME. (my dad will ALWAYS hate my hair- as I say to him, “Dad, at least I’ve GOT some!”- it’s become our joke to each other) I like how I look.

      Physical beauty aside (because what it is and what importance or signifgance it has has been very well addressed in this post and the last one)- the “Beauty Within” syndrome is a killer for me. It’s HARD to believe yourself genuinely nice and allow yourself to take pride in it, without fear of appearing shallow, egotistical, or narcissistic. I always feel I need to apologize or demure when someone thanks me- HOW DAMNED STUPID IS THAT?

    6. Starfoxy says:

      For some reason this made me think of the horrible trend of giving chocolate deserts dangerous sounding names (“This brownie might kill you!”). We can’t even eat chocolate (a food commonly associated with women indulging themselves) without being reminded that we aren’t supposed to actually enjoy it.

    7. Morgan says:

      i like the way is written, but i have to say that a part of me bristles at the whole “puritanism” deal—i’ve heard too many guys hating on rad fems as being “puritans” because they don’t wear makeup/heels/skirts (i’m more like those women than not), when it is ideed their pleasure to not wear makeup/heels etc and only did so to please men (not a very sensual state). there’s nothing less sexy-feeling than doing something you don’t want to do to make someone else feel pleasure.

    8. exangelena says:

      Morgan – I agree. Also, “puritanism” can be used as an accusation against any woman who doesn’t want to be all sexualized all the time – say, who doesn’t see the bikini as ultimate female liberation or doesn’t want to wear revealing clothing.

    9. Thalia says:

      Damn, La Lubu, you are a fantastic writer.

      And Ben, agreed. I’ve seen (for example) very few cats that aren’t stunningly beautiful; why should humans be any different? Anything naturally made/designed (and I mean by evolution, where function is key) has its own gorgeous logic to it.

    10. belledame222 says:

      See, one of the lessons I learned early on as a cub was that women have to justify every. got. damn. thing. we do. We’re supposed to come up with some justification for the simplest activities, the basic fabric of our lives. We even have ready-made templates for the pantomimes we’re supposed to engage in. Single mothers (like me) are supposed to apologize for our singleness, explain our singleness, justify our singleness to all and sundry. We’re supposed to promise we didn’t mean it to be this way, that we did everything we could to do avoid that terrible fate, but it just couldn’t be helped. We are supposed to offer up the best made-for-Lifetime-TV movie script of our lives we can muster. Even for strangers. For anyone who questions us. There are pantomimes on just about every female-oriented subject under the sun.

      …this is a pattern, and it sure as hell isn’t limited to the feminist blogosphere. Who said we have to do this? How and why did so many women, women from so many different backgrounds, learn to perform what I like to call the Justification Pantomime? I don’t think I’m the only person who’s seen this. I don’t think I’m the only person who’s ever performed a pantomime, either…

      Yes. Exactly. Thank you.

      Puritanism—the belief that this world is profane, so we must not enjoy it. We must live lives of self-denial, renounce the pleasures of the physical body and our senses

      Fucking HELL YES. THANK you.

    11. AndyS says:

      Great post. For me, this one sentence says it all:

      Every choice we make in regards to physical appearance — the collection of small choices, that is — is going to set certain assumptions up in the minds of others.

      Knowing this, when I see another person I have a choice. I can’t do much about having some sort of instantaneous mental reaction, but I can choose to make some internal space in which I can let that first reaction go rather than act on it. This isn’t always easy or even possible to do, but trying to do it is important. Nor is it easy to be on the other end — knowing the other person is evaluating your appearance and not knowing if they will find that space that allows them to let go of whatever judgments are arising.

      Seems essential, though, in order to have any kind of reasonably content life to learn to live with this state of affairs: initial judgments arise in our minds and sometimes we can let go of them. With practice we can do it more often. With more practice we can help others find the space to not judge us as well.

      This sort of Buddhist approach is the only thing I have to offer.

    12. Louise says:

      Growing up a native New Englander, the Puritan ethic was everywhere and part of who I thought I was supposed to be. I didn’t like it but didn’t know it COULD be discarded, until my 30’s.

      To quote a fave movie (“Auntie Mame”): Life is a Banquet- and most poor bastards are starving to death!

    13. belledame222 says:

      Life is a Banquet- and most poor bastards are starving to death!

      I love that quote.

      I think Morgan’s right, also; the thing is, well, again, we’ve all got a number of past encounters in mind here, no doubt. I certainly don’t think not looking any particular way -because that’s what pleases you- = “puritanism.” I do question the constant sneering at “fun feminists,” though, and particularly what looks to me like a (false) equivalence a lot of folks–feminists, too, yes– are making that goes roughly: “fun feminist”=femme=materialistic, frivolous and shallow.

      I don’t actually know what a “fun feminist” is, ultimately; it seems to be one of those terms that people are only claiming for themselves now because it’s been flung at them (along with large armfuls of straw) for so long. As I’ve said before: I think Valerie Solanas was oodles of fun. Crazier than a shithouse rat, true, but–fun!

    14. belledame222 says:

      I also think that there are subtler ways that the collective Calvinist heritage influences us (you know, just like the other legacies and flavors of Patriarchy or what-you-will). For instance: this notion that one must “purify” oneself in order to become worthy of the Paradise to come; that one must constantly be in a state of self-flagellation for things one hasn’t done oneself, but is rather an -inherited-…well, sin, let’s call it sin for this purpose; and that works, of themselves, are nothing without faith.

      O yes, and: the structure of the group confession. Just say you’re humbly sorry for your misdeeds and then find someone else to blame for the circle; that’s all anyone’s really asking…

    15. belledame222 says:

      Case in point: one radical feminist blog I observed, I think she’s abandoned it now, but on one page she had a “to-do” list (i.e. in the service of becoming a better feminist): today, stop drinking bottled water. Tomorrow: give up something else. Day after, think seriously about ways in which my self-indulgences are harming other women and the Movement…

      There is a subtle pleasure, you know, in self-denial, too; in the rituals of self-abnegation, of confession and repentance and atonement. hurts so good, you know.

    16. belledame222 says:

      There’s another legacy of Calvinism/Puritanism as well: one must be Serious. Frivolity is a no-no. Paints, pretty colors: decadent, wicked, debauched. -Weak.- Role-playing (including all theatre): badbadbad. No smoke and mirrors for us; no dressing up; no daydreams. And -it’s not funny.- It’s -hard work,- dammit. and if you don’t have enough work to do, by God, we’ll find some for you.

    17. belledame222 says:

      …still musing over this. and of course I personally don’t come from that particular background (grubby secular humanist Jews who came over this past century or so), and I still feel its influence. I imagine it’d be all the more true for someone raised more in line with, well, Calvinism.

      You know, recently I read an old post, like from her old blog, from Twisty Faster, that had me feeling sort of sympathetic toward her for the first time in quite a while. In it, she’s talking about how her Republican, I think she did actually use the word Calvinist, father/family don’t get it about the joy of food; the sensuality of eating. That that was, I took it, a small rebellion for her: taking pleasure in that one form of sensuality. Made me think of MFK Fisher, and a number of other great food writers. It’s a gift in itself, that.

      thing is, it’s less pleasant when one is not able to extend that grace or even understanding toward anyone -else’s- sensual pleasure, if one does not happen to share that particular form of enjoyment. or if, in one’s constant exhortations to others to -examine- their influences, one has apparently missed a rather large beam in one’s own jaundiced eye: the subtler manifestations of one’s religio-political heritage, personal -and- collective.

    18. Louise says:

      In regards to parents, Belledame222 reminded me of my own- my husband has sometimes thought the slogan of “Maine: The Way Life Should Be” should be changed to “Maine: It’ll Do“. Some here take PRIDE in not living an extravagant lifestyle; as if it’s a VIRTUE to “go without”. That makes little sense to me, after years with this guy who opened my eyes and made me stop hiding FROM MYSELF. The hilarity comes when Dad says that my husband influences how I think- yes, but not WHAT I think!!! A difference he can’t understand.

    19. belledame222 says:

      yeh, I think that’s probably very New England. “it’ll do.” stoic, like.

      i come from a more “Portnoy’s Complaint” sort of tradition, meself.

      getting back to Calvinism/various strains of Christianity and how they might filter out into “secular” politics, I have been pondering whether in fact my own heritage partly accounts for the alienation i am feeling from certain kinds of, well…examination sessions. Because, while we know guilt–oy, do we know guilt! –it plays out in slightly different ways, i think. It’s not, “purify, purify” or “if you have sinned in your heart you may as well have already done it” or “faith, not works.” It’s not, “confess your sins so that you may be cleansed.” It’s, “You fucked up. Go fix it.”

      where that becomes unproductive, of course, is how easily one can start to conflate “you fucked up” with “-you- ARE a fuckup.” and “you can’t actually fix it, ever.”

    20. belledame222 says:

      also, as Lenny Bruce or someone once said, we (tend to) rate “shit” and “fuck” at about the same level of relative offensiveness, as opposed to, say, 90 points for “fuck” and 10 for “shit.”

      iow: yeh, also sex-negative, but again: plays out somewhat differently. More pragmatic, more about social mores; less (perhaps) about internalizing the need for “purity” for the sake of it. then again, it probably would make a difference if you were actually raised religious (I wasn’t; my family’s been agnostic/atheist for at least three generations on both sides).

    21. Louise says:

      A Jewish pal originally from New York let me make a photocopy of a cartoon he had in his kitchen- it’s in a office, patient sitting in comfy chair and therapist standing over him. The Therapist, yelling “GET OVER IT!” takes a big swing, smacks patient & knocks his glasses off. The title below reads: One Step Therapy.

      Funny how that helped me say “oh fuck it” and get over guilt and other crap that just didn’t fit me or my life. Like bags of clothes that didn’t fit anymore, but I felt I HAD to keep the junk anyways.

    22. belledame222 says:

      yeh, sometimes the “tough love” thing works.

      unfortunately way more often ime it turns into an excuse for Dr. Laura-style bullying/BDSM without the safe words or negotiations or even acknowledgment that that’s what’s going on, much less anything so fun as an actual orgasm.

    23. shannon says:

      Shannon has decided not to argue on the internet, but on the other hand is having a hard time not talking about the strong cultural ideals that women must be nice, women must nuture, women put feelings over facts and ideas, women don’t use humor, women aren’t tough or strong, women are dedicated to decoration, women don’t work in the public sphere.

      Louise, yea, I find that if someone cuts right to the bone of an issue, I’m able to free myself from the social swaddling and craziness and say, hey fuck it.

    24. belledame222 says:

      which is not to deny that hey, cool, “just get over it” worked for you. like i say: sometimes that can be totally refreshing. i think context (who’s telling you, and when, and regarding what) and delivery matter a whole lot.

      actually this sort of dovetails back into what i wanted to say wrt the topic: the “anger” business at the end.

      But I’ll also add—forgetting our anger. Our anger that we still have to negotiate these obstacles, and that we still haven’t found the common ground on which to even have these discussions, let alone act upon what we can and will learn from one another.

      I think this is huge, especially for women raised under certain…mainstream shibboleths. “Don’t get angry.” Is HUGE. Possibly even bigger than “don’t be sexual/sensual for your own sake,” “don’t be successful in the outside world,” and so on, and so forth.

      The teaching comes in several forms. One is the one that’s more talked about, the “pleasing men” business, sure. But also, it’s not just about being pleasant to -men;- it’s about people-pleasing, -period.- It’s about the whole “relationships are more important than anything else,” coupled with “don’t confront; don’t be direct; nice girls don’t raise their voice, swear, ‘sass,'; play nicely together in the sandbox.”

      Which last bit, you know, i think is really key in why the feminist communities (online and off) can get as toxic as they often do. Because a lot of the time, a virtue is implicitly made out of this…thing, our supposed better natures, better socialization, which is -all- about the anger business. Whether overtly or covertly, the suggestion is that this is in fact the reason why, unlike the menz, we’re not all out there raping and pillaging and murdering and starting wars.

      O.K. But that still doesn’t solve the problem of there’s all this tamped-down murderous rage simmering or congealed back there. Where does it go? How does it get expressed?…

      Even if we aren’t taking the line of women as moral guardians (another not-examined-enough heritage of Victorian times that often makes it into feminist theory and practice, albeit after having undergone a sea-change or two so that it’s not quite recognizable as such, perhaps), a lot of us still don’t know what to do with -anger.- Which is why i think it’s so very important to keep the focus relentlessly outward, sometimes; to “blame the patriarchy,” to blame the menz, to blame…whomever. Because that’s the thing that keeps “us” glued together. Solidarity through common rage, and a common Enemy. It feels good, it feels productive, it’s an outlet, possibly the first acceptable one some of us have ever had. For the anger. For the excuse to finally not be a “good girl” all the bloody time.

      Trouble is, -unexamined,- this dynamic gets toxic pretty fast. Because sooner or later, inevitably, internal conflict comes up as well. And because we’ve now implicitly bought this idea that anger is this -annihilating- force, conflict means that -somebody- has to be The Enemy. Because conflict between friends and allies is simply unthinkable; someone i care about is angry at me! -I might die!- I’m angry at her now! -I might kill her!- Well, quick, let’s shift back into the black and white mentality mode, it makes life much easier: clearly, so and so is an outside provocateur, or “not a real feminist,” or this or that or the other thing. The only tools we have are a -really- harsh attempt at reintegrating shaming; if that doesn’t work, cast her into the outer darkness; she’s no friend of ours.

      Everyone draw closer together and make a sort of healing ritual out of licking each others’ wounds and huddling in ever-tighter solidarity against the common Enemy, who looms ever larger and more multi-faceted.

      Lather, rinse, repeat.

      There’s a better way, you know…

    25. shannon says:

      And women can’t take on ‘male’ styles of relating.

    26. Nobitron says:

      Shannon has decided not to argue on the internet, but on the other hand is having a hard time not talking about the strong cultural ideals that women must be nice, women must nuture, women put feelings over facts and ideas, women don’t use humor, women aren’t tough or strong, women are dedicated to decoration, women don’t work in the public sphere.

      From a woman who adamantly self-describes as “maternal.” Interesing.

    27. piny says:

      Shannon has decided not to argue on the internet, but on the other hand is having a hard time not talking about the strong cultural ideals that women must be nice, women must nuture, women put feelings over facts and ideas, women don’t use humor, women aren’t tough or strong, women are dedicated to decoration, women don’t work in the public sphere.

      Shannon should probably talk to shannon then; I don’t think you guys have your game plan quite together.

      From a woman who adamantly self-describes as “maternal.” Interesing.

      That wasn’t anything but internalized sexism dictating a little bit of window-dressing on the aggression (“I’m being mean because I feel mean!”). Hopefully, shannon will eventually learn to leave it on the therapist’s couch or the dojo where it belongs, and just be snarky when she wants to be snarky. Looks like she’s making good progress already.

    28. piny says:

      And women can’t take on ‘male’ styles of relating.

      Why not?

    29. belledame222 says:

      Because the Patriarchy says so, and we cannot escape the Patriarchy. Ever. We can bitch and moan about it a whole lot, though. In fact, that’s the only thing we -can- do; that is feminism. We have no power! At all! There is no escape! Viva the Revolution! –oh, check out what -she’s- wearing. Ew.

    30. belledame222 says:

      btw, i used this post as a jumping-off point for a post i’d been working on for a while: a look at a play called “The Secretaries.”

      http://fetchmemyaxe.blogspot.com/2006/11/secretaries_01.html

    31. Louise says:

      Sure we can escape it, Belledame! It involves just giving a damn about what YOU see in the mirror, physically and emotionally. Once you are happy and comfortable with that person looking back at you, can easily be proud of her and accept her screwups without judging her, you really DON’T give a damn about someone else’s expectations and ideals. You can say “oh fuck Mrs Grundy next door!”

      Sadly, this is a lesson that you and I and others have learned, but some others have not. And until they CAN do that, they will keep fighting with themselves, ad nauseum.

    32. shannon says:

      Piny, I am sad that you can not argue the effects of cultural conditioning on women and have to rely on personal attacks instead. In fact, a lot of the oh! I’m so free because I fit into beauty ideals camp does do a lot of personal attacks- we’re puritans, we’re hairshirts, we bitch and moan about the patriarchy(because there’s no system of sexism. Of course not! The idea of sexism as not systematic is weird for me as a feminism, as I conceptualize racism, the oppression I tend to focus most on as a system and so I also see sexism as a system. Women can be complict in their own oppression, just as people of color can be). Is it because they can not argue with facts that they are free from society’s influence on their desires and sense of what is fun, what is senusal, what is pleasure?

    33. antiprincess says:

      Piny, I am sad that you can not argue the effects of cultural conditioning on women and have to rely on personal attacks instead.

      yes. because personal attacks (or even things that look like personal attacks without actually being personal attacks) MAKE PEOPLE SAD. damn those tender feefees anyway.

      and now you have to put some effort into overlooking the personal attack in order to get to the real issue – mental energy you wouldn’t have to expend if Piny had not gone for what looks to you to be a personal attack.

      you’re wise to notice that this makes you sad.

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    35. Sally says:

      Sure we can escape it, Belledame! It involves just giving a damn about what YOU see in the mirror, physically and emotionally. Once you are happy and comfortable with that person looking back at you, can easily be proud of her and accept her screwups without judging her, you really DON’T give a damn about someone else’s expectations and ideals. You can say “oh fuck Mrs Grundy next door!”

      Sadly, this is a lesson that you and I and others have learned, but some others have not. And until they CAN do that, they will keep fighting with themselves, ad nauseum.

      Ok, this is what I don’t understand. This completely flies in the face of my experience. I do not find that I can escape social conditioning by simply looking in the mirror and liking what I see. I don’t give a shit what my neighbors think, but *I* have internalized a voice that makes me look in the mirror every morning and think that I should go on a diet, even though I know that I am at a healthy weight for me and that going on a diet might kill me. I find Louise’s post vaguely offensive, actually: it seems to suggest that if I haven’t escaped my social conditioning, it’s just because I’ve been too lazy to do the apparently-very-simple work it would take. Louise is suggesting that belledame and her are superior to trash like me, who have apparently not learned the oh-so-simple lessons that better folks like you have learned. And I’m going to guess that Louise’s simplistic, sweeping, insulting statements aren’t going to earn her the kind of abuse that Shannon’s simplistic, sweeping, insulting statements earned her. Why is that?

    36. piny says:

      Piny, I am sad that you can not argue the effects of cultural conditioning on women and have to rely on personal attacks instead.

      Oh, I’m sorry. Was that too critical for you? Was it mean of me to point out what I see as internalized sexism on your part? Is it unfair to analyze a woman when she’s not wearing mascara? Do you feel shamed, now that I’ve pointed out some of the effects cultural conditioning might have had on you?

      In fact, a lot of the oh! I’m so free because I fit into beauty ideals camp does do a lot of personal attacks- we’re puritans, we’re hairshirts, we bitch and moan about the patriarchy(because there’s no system of sexism. Of course not! The idea of sexism as not systematic is weird for me as a feminism, as I conceptualize racism, the oppression I tend to focus most on as a system and so I also see sexism as a system. Women can be complict in their own oppression, just as people of color can be). Is it because they can not argue with facts that they are free from society’s influence on their desires and sense of what is fun, what is senusal, what is pleasure?

      There is no single standard under which those assertions can be described as personal attacks while the things you have said cannot.

      Please show me where the people you’re debating have said that societal influence has no effect on them at all. Find that passage. Find that quote. Put quote marks around it. Or stop attributing it to people who have not said it.

      And I’m going to guess that Louise’s simplistic, sweeping, insulting statements aren’t going to earn her the kind of abuse that Shannon’s simplistic, sweeping, insulting statements earned her. Why is that?

      Way to negate any response, abusive or otherwise. For the record, I don’t agree with what Louise has said. I don’t see much point in either claiming it or rejecting it, though, since you’ve already indicated that you don’t see me as saying the same thing.

    37. piny says:

      Ok, this is what I don’t understand. This completely flies in the face of my experience. I do not find that I can escape social conditioning by simply looking in the mirror and liking what I see. I don’t give a shit what my neighbors think, but *I* have internalized a voice that makes me look in the mirror every morning and think that I should go on a diet, even though I know that I am at a healthy weight for me and that going on a diet might kill me.

      Same here. Louise’s experience doesn’t match up with mine or with most of the ones I’ve encountered; I don’t get the impression that it matches up with Belledame’s, either.

    38. piny says:

      To be fair, I’ve heard many of the same things from friends and acquaintances in recovery–that I should just get over it, just suck it up, just learn not to care so much. “We create our thoughts,” etc. Assuming that Louise has managed this feat of self-confidence, more power to her. At the same time, it’s not any more just to expect a woman to shift the burden of social expectation away from herself, or to focus on her reactions rather than the stimuli that produce them. Particularly given the high level of shame women are inculcated with, and given the existing cultural belief that women may be blamed for everything. Sexism isn’t all in your head.

    39. Louise says:

      Sorry, folks, I really didn’t mean to express anything other than what worked for me; that’s all… I have too much respect for the ideas expressed that I’ve read here in the past few weeks to tell anyone what they should do or think. Just relating my experience. And trust me, I am still very capable of being insecure, but can’t fight all battles- just the ones I chose to- so others’ opinions of how i live my life and raise my kids are something I ignore.

    40. Louise says:

      Maybe it was overly simplified a response; it certainly wasn’t glib. I drove myself NUTS trying to worry about what this person or that person thought when I was younger. It tookYEARS to get to a point of saying “oh who cares- ENOUGH”. That was my point.

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    42. belledame222 says:

      I think part of the problem is that i was originally being sarcastic wrt the “escape” thing, alluding to a few other things.

      I’m too tired to go into it very coherently right now, but it has to do with what Bitch Lab (anyway, i first heard this phrase from her) has referred to as “the fantasy of being outside ideology.”

      ironically i think she was applying it to the diehard let’s say patriarchy-blamers (of the old school as well); the idea is that the System is presented as so monolithic and airtight that there -is- no getting away from it really; at the same time, the longing, the fantasy is for “escape.” The idea that we can, -should- go -outside- the social conditioning, escape it utterly.

      In short, and hopefully more simply, i don’t actually agree with this as such:

      Sure we can escape it, Belledame! It involves just giving a damn about what YOU see in the mirror, physically and emotionally. Once you are happy and comfortable with that person looking back at you, can easily be proud of her and accept her screwups without judging her, you really DON’T give a damn about someone else’s expectations and ideals. You can say “oh fuck Mrs Grundy next door!”

      Sadly, this is a lesson that you and I and others have learned, but some others have not. And until they CAN do that, they will keep fighting with themselves, ad nauseum.

      –well, first of all, i get why Sally would bristle at that; truth is, i dunno as i -am- necessarily all that much more healthy and well-adjusted and yadda.

      but mostly: sure, i think that by coming to consciousness and a few other things, one gets more i guess freedom, more agency;

      but i dunno as we ever do totally get away from social conditioning, social -expectations,- altogether.

      More to the point, i’m not even sure that this is a goal, especially.

      I think it’s more a question of, well, yes, this part, as Louise says: what do YOU want? what do you -feel-, actually, i think is key; i think a big part of this that maybe isn’t talked about enough is how we many or most of us tend to not be in touch with our bodies, with -living in- our bodies.

    43. belledame222 says:

      “becoming more conscious,” I should say; which is a journey, not a destination imo.

    44. belledame222 says:

      i dunno as i -am- necessarily all that much more healthy and well-adjusted and yadda.

      speaking strictly for myself, you understand.

      i mean, i’d -like- to think all the work i’ve done over the past few years has paid off; hell, i do think so.

      that said, part of it has been, well, fooket, it’s not really a competition with anyone but myself, ultimately, is it.

    45. belledame222 says:

      and, yeah, the “we create our own reality,” well, hmm. there’s a lot of ways i could go with that one.

      bullet points which i’ll flesh out eventually:

      1) often scorned as it is in old-school political circles, the self-help/pop psych/spirituality movement, i think, did actually come out of a genuine need: not enough people taking the inward dive; at minimum, in political circles, it tends to cause burnout. worse, people end up playing out their shit unconsciously, which bleeds over into the supposed work.

      2) that said, a lot of the critiques, i think, are fair, also.

      3) specifically: in a -way- i do believe “we create our own reality;” but, well, there are layers and layers there; and at the most obvious, superficial one, that one can get abused -real- fast. and often does.

      4) there are at least two different issues here: one is whether there’s such a thing as a “natural” self, as La Lubu was getting at; a core self, iow. Another has to do with the difference between believing that the individual creates her own reality (isolated from the larger world) and believing that (also) there is a -collective- creation of “reality” as well; individually we can affect change, but at the same time: there is a bigger picture.

      5) …i’m really tired, sorry if this only confuses further.

    46. belledame222 says:

      Oh, I’m sorry. Was that too critical for you? Was it mean of me to point out what I see as internalized sexism on your part? Is it unfair to analyze a woman when she’s not wearing mascara? Do you feel shamed, now that I’ve pointed out some of the effects cultural conditioning might have had on you?

      Gee…

    47. Xtina says:

      I think that mostly, any advice that contains within it the phrase “You just have to” or “All you have to do is” is going to be overgeneralised almost beyond usefulness.  “All you have to do is [this thing], and it’s fixed!”  “What if it isn’t, then?”  “You didn’t do it right!”  The very essence of not useful.

      I say this mostly because one of the best ways I have of castigating myself is by poking myself with the “It’s so simple!” stick.

      (I also say it after having worked tech support, to be fair, which is another area where a One True Answer isn’t.)

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