Once upon a time, I came upon this web comic on one of my favourite “let’s waste some time with funny things” website, NatalieDee.com. And I laughed and laughed and laughed. Ha ha, I thought, I’ve seen those ladies whose lives are so pretty and ladylike and are all so perfectly just-so. Do they really think having a choice between cute stripes and cute polka dots on their way-too-pricey for kitchen use, too-precious-even-for-Zooey-Deschanel, vintage-esque oven mitts makes them liberated? How charming! I felt pretty damn smug for a while and snickered and snickered judgementally.
Then my sister (who isn’t the kind of woman being described in the comic at all but is a clever and independent lady who didn’t want me to get too smug) reminded me that a liberated woman should be able to choose to do whatever the hell she wants to, even if it’s spend all day on Pinterest looking at pretty things, regardless of whether I personally think Pinterest is just a shopping list with pictures or not (don’t hate, all you Pinterest fans, I know there are very good ways to use the site, it’s just not my bag). I also had to admit to myself that I love cupcakes, and also, that my adorable apron has chickens on it (but I wear it sincerely, to keep my clothes clean, without a trace of irony).
So it seems that I live in a glass house, but I throw stones anyways. What else is new in this weird world of post-feminism feminism? I know I am feminist, in that I believe in wage equality and reproductive rights and that I do not believe in glass ceilings or the idea that “there are some things men are just better at”, but that’s kind of where it stops. Besides recognizing my full personhood (physically, mentally, morally, legally), I don’t really know how to express my feminism.
And now I wonder, do I have to? Is there something I’m supposed to be doing to stand up and be counted (besides politically–I already vote, sign petitions, all that good stuff). Should I stop wearing makeup because it’s just The Man’s way of telling me I’m not beautiful enough without it? Should I have gone into Math and Science in university instead of theatre and English because females are incredibly underrepresented in those areas of study and overrepresented in mine? Am I supposed to take the fact that I’m a smart lady as an indication that I’m wasting my life if I become anything less than a CEO?
I think the answer to all those questions is No. If I’m truly the master/mistress of my own destiny, my gender (or other people’s perception of it) should have very little do with my choices. And yet, the people who have made me feel, at different points in my life, that the answers to those questions should be Yes are WOMEN. Women in my personal life, women on the media, female bloggers–name any group of intelligent feminist women and you will find those who feel the answers to these questions should be Yes.
And maybe for them, they should be. But deciding how to express yourself and being confident in your choices does not mean you get to decide how another woman should express herself or become self-actualized. Another thing I’ve noticed about these questions is that they relate much less to me than they do to what a man is doing in comparison to me (not wearing makeup, studying Math, being a CEO, etc.).
I’m not sure about much in the way of how feminism is doing these days but I’m sure of one thing: masculinity is not going to be the benchmark of my success as a woman. I am not a man, so why measure myself with their yardstick? Why leave the control of my self-esteem in their hands?
Eff that. That said, this is ME saying “eff that” for myself, not for other women. If you are a lady who wants to not wear make-up, or wants to study Math, or be a CEO, more power to you. In fact:
For any woman who does not wear make-up: That’s great. It probably saves you time and money. I don’t wear much make-up but I do like to feel a little fancy sometimes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Technically, there’d be nothing wrong with me piling on the stuff and going to work everyday looking like Boy George as long as I was happy.
For any woman who studies Math or Science: Coolio. I hope you build a bridge or cure something. I’m terrible at both of those subjects (mostly Math) so I would not have added anything to your field of study. I also love theatre, writing, and books and that’s what I’m involved in. So, y’know, I think we’ve both been learning things we like.
For all you female CEOs, Supreme Court Justices, and other Captains of Industry and Influencers of High Finance and Society: You rock. You are inspirational to women who share your goals, and I appreciate being represented in certain political and legal spheres. Personally, I just want to live on an island in the sea with the people I love and write things and be happy. I’ll use your motivation to reach your goals as inspiration to meet mine, without having to follow your path.
And that’s what it’s all about. Maybe. Natalie Dee will draw her very funny comics. I’ll keep laughing at them and wearing my apron (when I cook, obviously) and wondering what the heck Pinterest is all about. Somewhere out there, some woman will keep on rockin’ her job as a CEO. Little girls will play with cars, or Barbies, or mud, or whatever they want. And that’s what it’s all about?
Well, no, of COURSE that’s not what it’s all about. When I read the news it’s glaringly obvious that we have a LONG LONG way to go. Watching Rachel Maddow being patronized on Meet the Press made me sick. We’ve got a long goddamned way to go.
But you know what won’t get us there any faster? Judging other women for petty choices that have nothing to do with anything, like how they dress themselves or their hobbies or what they like to do.
So please be a feminist. Be a feminist any way you like. And I will do the same. Because the enemy is not my apron. It’s an attitude.