Siren Song

Normatalmadge2I’m a minimalist kind of gal.  At home, I dress in the least clothes possible, and I usually have my hair up in a high ponytail or a high sloppy bun.  Or, if it’s cold out, I just let it hang to my waist.  I don’t wear any makeup or perfume.  Excluding cat-related time, I can be up and out the door in fifteen minutes.  When I go out, I wear a pair of loose pants and a nice blouse (usually both are from Taiwan).  I slip in a pair of earrings, give my hair a good blrush, and I’m off.

In addition, I don’t shave anything.  Granted, I’m Asian, which means that I’m fairly hair-free, so it’s not that hard to ignore the razor.  I also have exceedingly sensitive skin, so any time I tried to shave, I’d break out in a rash.  Yes, that’s highly attractive, let me tell you.  I don’t powder, frizzle, primp, or preen.

There are several reasons for it.  During my youth, I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup.  Once I was allowed, I finally started wearing it.  However, let me let you in on a little secret–women do not automatically know how to put on makeup.  I know, I know!  Surprised the hell out of me, too.  I thought it would be as easy as falling asleep (I kill myself!), but it turned out to be exceedingly difficult.  All those damn wands and tubes and pots and other shit.  What the fuck was I supposed to do with all that goo?

I finally figured it out, sort of, but it always felt strange to me.  As I slapped the foundation on my skin, I’d wonder what the hell I was doing.  I did the full palette from eye shadow to rouge to lipstick.  The problem was, I would forget I was wearing it, and I would rub my eye or gnaw on my lip or something equally innocuous.  Then, I looked like a clown, and I’d have to repair the damage–once I finally figured out I had made a mess of my face.

clara_bowNail polish was a trial in and of itself.  Oh, I could put the crap on–I just couldn’t get it to stay on.  No matter how long I waited, it would smear the minute I touched something with a nail.  In addition, I would chip them at will.   For awhile, I got the fake tips put on, but you have to get them redone like every two weeks!  Seriously!  I kept popping them off, anyway.  Hair crap?  Tried it.  I gelled, moussed, and sprayed my hair as best I could.  Felt like shit and looked even worse.

Then, during my second year in college, I realized that sleep was waaay more important than putting on that crap.  In addition, I was starting to become aware of feminist issues, and it bothered me that I bought all that shit when guys didn’t.  They didn’t have to slather on the makeup and pluck their eyebrows, so why the hell should I?  Why should I waste my time and money on it?

During my junior year, I attended a posh murder mystery.  I decided to do a full face of makeup for the first time in some time.  It took me forty-five minutes, and I kept marvelling at how I had done that on a daily basis.  At the same time, I was getting three hours of sleep a night.  That was so fucking stupid of me.

Once I was out of college, I restricted myself to wearing lipstick when I went out.  Once in a while, I would use eyeliner, but I could never make that stuff look good.  Gradually, I gave up all cosmetics.

Ok, fine, Minna, I can hear you say.  You don’t wear makeup.  Why devote a blog entry to it?

Here’s why.

Dita Von TeeseLook at the pictures I have included in this post.  From top to bottom, they are Norma Talmadge from the ’20s, a silent movie actress and a quintessential flapper.  By the way, I was told by a guy in college that he could see me as a flapper.  Granted, he was hitting on me, but it was still flattering.  Anyway, the second picture is of Clara Bow, the original It girl, also of the ’20s, and also a flapper.  The last picture is of Dita Von Teese, a current burlesque artist.  She frequently models her look after that of Bettie Page, a pin-up and fetish model from the ’50s.

Look at how glamorous they all are.  They are sultry, seductive, sexy, and smokin’ hot.  They aren’t naked with their limbs splayed akimbo–they don’t have to be.  Take Dita Von Teese.  I would kill to look like her, by the way.  It’s in the way she looks at you, a sly smirk touching her perfectly done reddened lips.  Her eyes invite you in, suggesting that she has many secrets she’d love to share with you.  Her legs are apart, and her high heels give her feet a very seductive arch.  She is made for sex.

Let me back up a second.  A bunch of my Mudflat gals are on FB (sorry, Alex.  This was before you and I became friends).  For some reason, we started talking about who we would all be in the Wild Wild West.  I think it’s because Rizzo calls Iratwo “Pioneer Woman”.  At the same time, AKM wrote a fairy tale allegory about how Mike Doogan, asshole, outed her.  Sarah Palin was the queen of the land, of course.  I wrote myself in as the burlesque stripper who roved from town to town, stripping and reciting polemics.  Then, I took an FB quiz that said my hippie name was Gypsy something, and one of the ‘Flatters said that there was a burlesque stripper named Gypsy Rose Lee, so I said I’d be her.  Then, Iratwo sent me a photo shoot Dita Von Teese did, and I was hooked.

There is something about these women.  They are unapologetically sensual without having to flash their pussies all the time.  Yes, Dita Von Teese does strip to the nude, but she’s just as sexy with a bit of lace and frills covering her naughty bits.  In fact, I would say she’s more sensual when she’s not totally nude.  Take a look at these pictures and tell me what you think.   She is so fucking hot, she makes me want to do her and be her at the same time.  How the hell is that possible?

She manages to inhabit a stereotype, but to rise above it at the same time.  No matter how I conflicted I feel about stripping in general, there is no denying that she has a lot of power with that ungodly combination of pure beauty and unbridled lust.  In addition, she looks like she’s enjoying herself and her body.  I know that I am probably projecting on to her, but she looks like someone who doesn’t fear anything or anyone.  She is supremely confident of herself, and that’s powerfully sexy.

In the end, I wouldn’t want to spend hours just so I could look like Dita Von Teese (as if I could!).  It’s too much work, and it’s really difficult to maintain.  There are other ways of gaining confidence, though none quite as visceral as this.  That’s what this is really about.  It’s not so much that I want to look like her–I just want to feel as confident as she looks.  Still, I wouldn’t mind looking like that for a day.  A grrl can dream, can’t she?

20 Responses to Siren Song

  1. Bettie Page is the quintessential sexy, sultry, in-command woman (with a whip). It’s too bad that her personal life wasn’t quite as rosy.

  2. I agree with you completely, Minna. I realize the images objectify women to a certain degree, but I just can’t bring myself to disapprove. It’s hard for me to look at that picture of Dita Von Teese and see a woman who’s victimized.

    (Sadly, Clara Bow truly was victimized for her, ah, bohemian lifestyle, and Bettie Page’s life was no bed of roses either, as you pointed out. But I like to think she enjoyed a freedom and a power the secretive sad-sacks who snuck girlie mags back then only dreamed of.)

  3. Gregory, there is such a fine line between appreciation and objectification, I think. In addition, I don’t have a problem admiring someone’s beauty. The problem arises when that person is exploited for said beauty or she feels it’s her only way to make something of herself.

    As you said, the earlier women faced many of these dilemmas as they were before their times. Oftentimes, it’s the hypocritical mores of society, too, that plays into the hardships these women had. The old madonna/whore thing, if you will.

    Gah. I am not making sense right now, so I will quit here.

  4. You’re right. The sad thing is, screen vixens like Clara Bow were popular — and made tons of money for the studios that would eventually set them out with the garbage — precisely *because* they were so sexy and sensual. The bluenoses railed then, as they do now and in the *very same language* — about the Decline of Moral Society and the Debasement of Culture from Its Noble Purity and other such claptrap — but the public lined up to buy tickets, didn’t they?

    I hear you about not making sense. It’s hard for me to reconcile appreciation with my desire to be a good feminist. And of course, a lot to do with the notion of objectification has a lot more to do with society’s sick attitudes than what I hope are my own relatively healthy one. I do reject the theory of the Andrea Dworkin school, that pornography == rape (and that, therefore, images she doesn’t like should be censored — that way totalitarianism lies). I think, also, that an implication of that general worldview — not necessarily Dworkin’s, but in a broader sense — is that it fundamentally *agrees* that the image of a naked woman is somehow shameful. If it *isn’t* shameful at all, how can it be degrading?

    In college, I took am excellent class about Effects of Mass Media. We studies the effects of sex and violence in the media. We watched the documentary “Not a Love Story” about the adult entertainment industry (if memory serves me right, its message was that the women they talked to who work in vanilla pr0n / strip shows / etc. as a rule do not feel degraded, but that there is of course a subset of violent / rape / degrading stuff out there that you have to watch out for). But — and here’s where I think society is truly sick — the data we studied indicated that sexual stimulation tended to inspire someone to want sex, violent imagery inspires people to act aggressively, and sexual *and* violent imagery — which can be not so much rape pr0n as the bait-and-switch offered by the more exploitive slasher films — has a powerful stimulation of aggression. And, of course, our society has gotten much more tolerant of violence, to the point that the big trend among horror films these days seems to be nothing but torture pr0n. Feh.

  5. The thing is, the hypocrisy of all this shit really bugs me. Women are called whores if they like sex. Men are expected to like sex. Prostitutes are scum, but johns, eh, men have needs.

    In some sense, I think being a female liberates me as far as appreciating the female form. I think it’s also because I can look at a woman and see her as completely lovely without her losing her individuality. What bothers me about male ogling is that, first of all, many are so blatant and disrespectful of it. In addition, I hate the tendency to reduce a woman to a body part. “Man, did you see the ass on her?” “Nice rack!” It seems like a way of depersonalizing the interaction.

    Pornog and stripping: My problem is with the industries themselves rather than the outcome. In many stripping joints, a stripper is not considered an employee, so no benefits for her. In addition, she has to spend so much money on her outfits and nails and makeup and such. My last hair stylist had many strippers as customers, and she said that many of them are on drugs to get through stripping.

    As for pornog, I have mixed feelings on that. Most of the industry is male-dominated (on the business side) and is for men. Plus, lots of it just isn’t sexy at all. In addition, many women who strip and/or are in the sex movie business have been sexually abused as young girls, so it’s hard not to see the pornog/stripping as an extension of that.

    My bigger problem is that the best way for a woman to make money is to sell her body. That bothers me.

    As for torture pornog, I have no use for it. I especially hate rape in movies and television that ends up with the woman falling in love with her rapist.

  6. I just simply don’t buy into the pornography as objectification arguments. Not that there isn’t something that could be called objectification going on, because there is. The problem is that this is pretty much routine in all of life. When I look at pornography, I am, indeed, thinking of the woman pictured as nothing but a sexual object. So what? I’m an enormous Valterri Filppula fan, but when I watch him, I am thinking of him as nothing but a hockey player. I love Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s books, but when I’m reading End of the World Blues, I’m thinking about him as nothing but a writer, to the extent that I think about him at all.

    There is nothing unusual about thinking of people as nothing more than the role(s) they play in our lives. Frankly, I think it would be impossible to function any other way. Unlike a lot of people, when I watch sports, I loathe the cutaways to tell us their backstory, unless it is interesting on its own as a story. Even then, I often wish they wouldn’t. I just don’t care. I don’t need to know who Brandon Inge is; I just know that the dude can vacuum up ground balls.

    There are, of course, problems stemming from the others things people do after they objectify someone else, and this is very frequently connected to objectifying someone in a sexual role. I just don’t think that the real problem is the objectification. It’s the sociopathy that people possess even before the objectification. This is an issue on sexual matters.

    I think that the secondary reason that sexual objectification is so prone to it is because we have a fucked up approach to sexuality around here. It’s too hard to express many types of perfectly valid sexuality in an acceptable way. I don’t just mean homosexuality, though that’s certainly one of them. Promiscuity is another. (I’ll probably deal with that in another comment.) There are also other gender issues that come out. The only viable solution here, I think, is to fix the approach to sexuality in our society, rather than to try to fight the objectification of women as sexual objects in contexts where being a sexual object is the legitimate role they play in someone’s life. (Important distinction, that.)

    The bigger reason the sexual objectification is such a problem is simply that sex is such an important part of human nature. The sexuality drive is strong, and, unlike almost every other species around, we aren’t limited to thinking about it only at certain times. I would bet that, if you were to classify how all of the time that all six being people on the planet spend thinking about anything, sex would be the runaway winning topic. As Batmanuel said when asked why he always hides behind sex, “It is so big!”

    Even if we were to clean up the way our culture deals with sex, we’re still going to have this problem. It won’t ever go away. Sorry. I’m sure that that’s not the answer people want to hear, but it’s true. It could be lessened by improving the attitude towards sex, and also promoting gender equality overall, but we are also going to just have to figure out better ways to deal with it.

    As for me, I use and enjoy pornography all the time. I readily acknowledge that I’m not a good example for trying to understand people in general, because my sexuality is completely screwed up. (More on that in a second comment.) I enjoy pornography. I like all kinds. I like classy pin ups, such as those above, though Dita von Teese was much, much better looking before she had breast implants. (She also does stuff that is much more explicit than this.) I like really hardcore stuff that has no real artistic merit whatsoever. I like pictures, movies, and prose. (Not poetry, but that stems from a complete lack of ability to appreciate poetry in general.) I like watching real live women, from those walking around in real life (Minna can verify this particular point), to shows and strip clubs. I’m not very discriminating when it comes to the subject of looking at attractive women. I do emphasize, though, that one of the most wonderful things about women is that the attractive ones come in so many shapes, sizes, and colors.

    I do justify myself by saying that I’m pretty good (not perfect, but no one is) at setting objectification aside when it comes to dealing with women whose role in my life is as something other than a sexual object. Even with strippers, while I objectify them, I also think that it’s important to treat them with courtesy. It’s called a “Gentlemen’s Club.” Be a gentleman. I like going to strip clubs, though I haven’t in years for financial reasons, but I generally have to go when it’s not crowded, because I hate the way that most men behave when they are at one. It distracts me from my enjoyment.

  7. As for my sexuality, it is, as I said, grotesquely mangled. Unlike the others in this thread, I do like BDSM stuff, including the really non-consensual stuff. Obviously, I have to know that anyone involved was just acting, and the actual goings on were not at all like the depiction, but, with that caveat, I’m all in. I write some pretty sick stuff that hopefully never sees the light of day in a post-Columbine world.

    I readily admit, I have issues with women. I won’t go into the background, but the psychological causes are pretty apparent to me. I started having BDSM fantasies at an age before there was an explicit sexual component to them. I think the question of whether they are “justified” is entirely meaningless in this instance, so I don’t even bother trying to answer it. I just am this way, and it’s up to me to deal with it, though I would appreciate it if the world was less uptight about it, because I do think that, if I could share it publicly, it actually wouldn’t be as bad.

    I am very vigilant, and also, I think, very good, at making sure that my misogyny issues don’t bleed into the non-fantasy aspects of my life. I’m not 100% successful, I’m sure, though I don’t actually recognize any instances where I’m not. I really believe that having pornography, as well as writing a bit of it, helps me to channel my misogyny in ways that do leave it strictly segregated where it doesn’t come out in public. For me, at least, it would be harder to keep contained without it.

    I know that that’s not true for everyone. There are people out there whose misogyny is aggravated by porn. I won’t even begin to try to estimate the percentages of users that it helps, that it hurts, or that it doesn’t really effect. I don’t know.

    I don’t describe myself as a feminist. For starters, it’s a word that I think has lost all meaning as it gets fought over as an ideology. I’m not interested in semantic discussions that are anything other than a discussion of semantics. I’m not going to get into semantics as a way to fight political wars. Beyond that, I just don’t feel like a “feminist,” whatever it means. I strongly believe in equal rights, and I think that there are a number of ways that women get the shaft by society. (Though some are mirrored in ways that men are treated; I’m expected to shave, too.) Somehow, though, I don’t have “women should be equal” imprinted on my identity. I got “treat people as if they are valuable” instead. I can’t really explain any difference between those two things, but it just leaves me with no self-identification as a feminist.

  8. Also, as is pretty clear, I live my life without regard to whether my controversial ideas are public knowledge. I don’t broadcast them very openly because they are inappropriate in most situations, not because I’m trying to hide them. I would feel so uncomfortable using a pseudonym to post under that I just can’t imagine it. I have no problem with other people who do. It’s not a statement about ethics (at least not directly; there are ethical issues underlying the view), just personal preference. Everyone else should do as they please on the matter.

    I understand the dangers of this approach. If any prospective employers find this thread, read it, and reject me because of it, all I can say is, “Fuck you. You are a snoop, and didn’t belong here. As I said, I don’t let these issues affect the way I deal with people.” I just can’t imagine *not* saying these things in a setting and context where they are appropriate. It would be too hard.

  9. Hmm…I was starting to feel like I’d wandered into someone else’s blog. Back to makeup and objectification…

    You know I wear some makeup. Usually just foundation and lipstick. I use foundation to even out my skin and minimize the dark circles under my eyes. I use lipstick because it makes me feel more feminine, says to others that I put an effort into my appearance before I left the house. For special occasions, I will add mascara. Rarely, eye shadow.

    These are the accouterments of women, but objectification is something all humans do. It’s related to our tendency to arrange our universe into symbols & metaphors. I have no problem objectifying a beautiful image of Dita Von Teese. Even if she’s performing on stage, she’s still allowing herself to be reduced to a symbolic representation.

    But if I met Dita at a party, I should try to interact with her as a human being. That’s where objectification becomes a problem – when we interact with someone just trying to, say, do their grocery shopping in a reductive, symbolic manner. This is true for men and women, people of different ethnic backgrounds, people who dress differently, etc. No sane person wants to be treated like a symbol all the time.

  10. Haha – and NO ONE does grocery shopping in a reductive, symbolic manner. My bad grammar! 😉

  11. #7, 8 & 9 sure says a lot of SHIT without saying anything at all. A contradiction to self in so many ways, and yet blind to the realities of what he is.
    Minna may I have your permission to reprint these some day? I would love to pick this bullshit apart piece by fucking piece.
    Wow, just really… WOW! The first two sentences alone are fucking contradictorily infuckingsane.
    Dude…did you even read what you were posting or are you so in love with your words that you can’t imagine you talk in circles?
    Here’s a gem: “Unlike the others in this thread, I do like BDSM stuff, including the really non-consensual stuff. Obviously, I have to know that anyone involved was just acting, and the actual goings on were not at all like the depiction, but, with that caveat, I’m all in.”
    You mean kind of like the rapist knows the bitch REALLY wanted it?
    Whiskey Tango FoxFuckingTrot.

  12. Thanks, sillywhabbit, for picking up the ‘non-consensual’ thing. I have very few ‘don’ts’ when it comes to sex. No poop. No Roman Showers. But first and foremost: CONSENT MUST BE CLEAR. Any hint of less than full consent just makes me want to maim & kill. And not in a turned-on way.

  13. We don’t know you well enough to know you’re talking about a fantasy. That wasn’t clearly stated.

    Maybe all of this recent conversation should drive home a point that even a careful posting can contain laughable grammatical errors (mine). No matter the reason: Once posted, it’s online in all its glory for anyone to interpret as they see fit. You may not agree with the interpretation, but lack of clarity in the original writing is often the reason for the misunderstanding. I’ve seen this time and again in my work in publishing.

    I’m going to take the high road and assume that you didn’t realize the ‘stupid’ comment could be seen as inflammatory. You don’t really know us, either.

  14. Well, this sort of got off track… but to the idea of confidence & beauty, and do we covet (or wish for) the beauty, or the confidence that allows one to project beauty…

    I’ve been struggling with that issue with my teenage daughter. She compares herself (often negatively) with other girls, uses that comparison to beat herself up, justify self-destructive behaviour. Explained to her just the other day, for the millionth time, that there will always be someone who is more “beautiful” than we are, who is taller/thinner/blonder/richer/smarter/blah blah blah. Why oh why do we care so much about others, about comparing ourselves to others?

    Living, for the first time, in a city of over a million has exposed me to all sorts of people who are diverse, who do not fit any stereotypical notion of beauty, but clearly can carry themselves as though they embrace something in themselves, so they project beauty/attractiveness/sexuality. Conversely, there are the girls who are closer to stereotypical beauty and who are just trying so damned hard to put themselves out there, attract men, flaunt whatever, wherever, that I pity them. And I do not find anything in that to be atttractive.

    At what age does one finally figure out that there is no value in being with someone, sexually or in any way, who does not value your inner beauty?

    And Dita vT is beautiful, but what’s up with the Marilyn Manson thing? Is she a bit warped, or is he better than he seems?

  15. And Dita vT is beautiful, but what’s up with the Marilyn Manson thing? Is she a bit warped, or is he better than he seems?

    My guess is that we have no idea what Marilyn Manson is like. I like the story about Alice Cooper showing up at a PTA meeting, and the people there thinking it was some sort of stunt. No, he replied, my daughter is in this school, and I want her to get a good education.

  16. In the state that our country is in these days I like to imagine that there are more people out there like me — just hanging out, living their lives, lots of dull stuff on a day to day basis, with some moments of the sublime thrown in on occasion — people who recognize that everyone is different, and that we must embrace that rather than denigrate it.

    That said, sexually, I take the live & let live road as long as everyone & everything involves consenting adults.

    And I hope that Marilyn M is really not as vile as the face that he presents to the world or that his music does. Perhaps he & Dita are both tortured souls, who knows. And Alice Cooper is just like me — imperfect parent doing the best we can.

    Re: the topic at hand here, it is a challenge for women to move past identifying self with sexuality &/or attractiveness to potential partners. It took many years for me to understand that I had so much more to offer someone than the outer package. In those painful years my self-esteem was directly tied to my appearance. A couple of kids later, in my forties, I am more than willing to hand the reins over to the young girls and let them live, experience & grow through those challenges — I just hope that they learn to value themselves more highly than I did in my salad days.

    Time passes, and beauty fades for everyone. It will always come down to loving yourself, embracing all that you hold dearly and have to offer, and surrounding yourself with people who do the same. Life is too short to get hung up on things that we cannot change and unrealistic ideals &/or standards.

    And that’s all I have to say on this subject!