I’m Just a Girl

OK.  I got thoughts about feminism, being a woman, being girly, and related things, and I need to share them.  They are pretty jumbled at this point, so bear with me as I untangle the threads.  It started yesterday as I was sitting in my therapist’s room waiting for my appointment.  I will get to that later, maybe in another entry.

Actually, this started a little bit ago.  I have a party to attend this Saturday, and the dress is sexy/sophisticated.  I don’t wear makeup as a general rule for many reasons, but I suddenly had the desire to girl it up a bit.  I went to the MAC website (a colored girl’s best friend), and I did a little surfing.  I wear lipstick now and again, and I favor dark, bold colors.  I remember the last time I visited a MAC counter, they told me they were getting black-colored makeup in a few weeks.  I promptly forgot about it, but remembered it upon my visit to the website.  Now, in case you don’t know, black is my favorite color.  It’s like a second skin to me, and I wear it often.  So, I found a shade of lipstick called Cyber that is bluish-black, a lip pencil, and black nail polish for my toes.  I have no nails of which to speak on my hands, so I won’t bother with them.

Then, I got it into my head that I needed a cute pair of shoes.  I hate shopping.  I am extremely picky, and I have wide feet.  All I wanted were a pair of black platform heels in wide.  I scoured the intertubes, but I couldn’t find anything.  An offhand remark by a friend led me to looking at stripper shoes, and while I really liked the styles, I don’t DO four inch heels, let alone eight.  Plus, I don’t like patent leather–I prefer satin or suede.  So, while I love the look of this, this, this, and this (this is just hilarious), none of them matched up my specs.  I did find some cute black platforms with sensible heels (sensible stripper?)–for drag queens.

I gave up because I couldn’t find what I wanted–which is pretty much the norm for me.  I do have a pair of shoes that will work–and they are ‘in’ this year if my intensive research isn’t wrong.  That’s funny as I bought them many years ago, but fashion does like to cycle.  I also have a pair of go-to boots (you women know what I mean.  The pair you can always count on to match pretty much anything).  I have a sexy little black dress I’ve never worn, so I’m good to go.

“Minna, why the hell are you talking about clothes and makeup?” I can hear you say.  By the way, thank you for allowing me to put words into your collective mouths.  I really appreciate it, and it helps move things along.

I’m talking about them because I can, of course, but I’m also talking about them because for once, I feel like talking about them.

My history with being a woman is fraught with peril.  I have had very mixed emotions about being female, some that I wouldn’t even admit to myself.  When I was younger (in my early twenties), I got along better with men than with women for various reasons, and I was wary of other women–though I wasn’t really conscious of it at the time.  I eschewed all things typically considered feminine while at the same time declaring myself a feminist.

An aside:  Sarah Palin, I know feminists, and you, Madame, are no fucking feminist.

OK.  Had to get that out.  Back to feminine v. feminist.

I have a very byzantine mind in that I can twist anything into a pretzel.  I discovered feminism in college and became a strident feminist.  I stopped wearing makeup (which I only really started wearing in my last year of high school) and stopped shaving (not that I had much to shave, anyway).  If guys didn’t have to do all that shit, why should I?  Besides, I have very sensitive skin, and at that time, makeup was murder on the skin.  And, I decided getting forty-five more minutes of sleep was way more important than slapping on a face.

That was my stated stance and one I still believe to some extent.  However, it covered nuances such as how stupid I feel because I can’t put makeup on very well.  I’ve practiced, but most of the time, I end up looking like a clown.  When they handed out the girl gene, I was absent.  Lipstick is about the only thing I can put on without making myself look ridiculous, which is probably why I chose it as my signature piece of makeup.

In addition, and it took me years of therapy to figure this out, because of the abuse, I started identifying with my abuser, so to speak.  As much as I hated my father for what he did to me, I hated my mother more for not protecting me.  It’s not rational, and it’s not fair, but there you go.   I was saying something about this to my therapist years ago, and she said, “You’re equating feminine with weak.”  I was pissed, but she was right.  If I had to be honest, I did associate being feminine with being weak, and I wanted no part of it.  Now, you could argue that being a child, I wasn’t very feminine when the abuse happened.  True.  However, my experience in Thailand only reinforced that vaguely-held notion that being feminine was dangerous.  I was stalked by one guy in Thailand and date-raped by another.

The former was not my fault at all.  The latter though, was not my fault, but I had to take some responsibility.  Because of my own fucked-up view of sexuality and sex and all that shit, I put myself in a dangerous situation without truly thinking about the consequences.

It’s weird because I thought of being feminine as being helpless and weak, but I thought of feminine sexuality as too-powerful.  It drove men to do crazy things, and it destroyed people in the process.  I am not saying this was a rational way of looking at things, which I know, in retrospect, that it was not.  It was, however, the result of my messed up childhood and experience in Thailand.  My femininity was not to be trusted because it was powerful and because it made me weak.

A decade ago, Kiki and I had a friendly disagreement about being girly.  I had bought a couple barrettes with glitter on them, but I was hesitant to wear them.  She said it was OK to be girly now and then, but I didn’t trust that.  Recently, I had the same discussion with Choolie, and she said essentially the same thing as I revealed my hesitation about buying makeup and shoes.  Kiki told me she loved it that I was girling up.

One reason I have such a hard time with wearing makeup and intentionally dressing sexy is because it garners attention.  I know that there are people who find me attractive for some unfathomable reason (yes, I had to add that on), and it makes me uncomfortable to draw attention to my assets, as it were.  Now, one would think because I have such a laissez-faire attitude towards clothing that I wouldn’t have a problem with drawing attention to myself, but in my mind, there is something distinctly different about throwing on a tank top sans bra and a pair of boxers to run to the local store and actually dressing up with intent to be hawt.

It’s difficult for me to think that I can be consciously sexy and not have it used against me.  But, I am willing to take baby steps in trying to reclaim my femininity and to stop thinking of it as a bad word.

I am still working through this issue, obviously, so I am sure I will blog about it again.

Moving on to my therapist’s office.  One of her specialties is mothering so she has many parenting magazines in the waiting room.  One of them is Brain Child, which is an interesting read.  In the one I picked up, there was an review of three books about childfree women.  I thought, “Oh, interesting” and started to read.  The writer, I’ll call her Jill because I can’t remember her real name, and I can’t be bothered to look it up, starts out by saying she’s childfree, so hey, she’s a good woman to review the books.  Fair enough.  But then she talks at length as to why she’s childfree (genetic faults in the family) before reviewing the book.  Disclosure:  I haven’t read the books she was reviewing, so I am actually critiquing her review of the books and not the books themselves.

The first was divided in three parts.  The first part was by women who were firmly childfree.  The second was by women who were ‘on the fence’ (I think the section was even labeled that), and the third was by women who decided to have kids (if I remember correctly).  Jill talked very briefly about the first part, but dismissed it as not interesting.  She said the other sections were richer.  Huh, what?  It turns out what she meant was the other sections were more compelling to her because they featured similar stories of women who struggled with the decision before deciding not to have them for mostly genetic reasons.

Jill’s conclusion of this book was, “It’s OK for women who are childfree to say they regret not having kids and for women with kids to say how hard it is to be a parent.”

Now, while I don’t dispute that many of the women who haven’t had children may have regrets about their decision, I am not one of them.  And, I don’t think it’s verboten to say that you have regrets about not being a mother.  When I was in my early twenties, it was damn-near expected that I would express my deepest remorse for not wanting kids.

Jill decried the second book because it was written by a twenty-something who was trumpeting how great her life was as a childfree woman.  As for the third book, Jill emphasized how many of the women focused on nurturing children even though they were not moms.  Jill’s conclusion was that you, too, can be a nurturing woman without kids of your own–and it’s an inherent part of a woman’s being to be a nurturing person.

Again, I fully acknowledge that I read the review through my own biased filter, but she pissed me off.  The whole damn time she was apologizing for not having kids or rationalizing and focusing on the essays that reinforced her belief that being without is somehow lesser.  Again, I don’t doubt that many women who choose not to have kids have mixed feelings about their decision, but not all of us do.

By the way, the second book apparently uses the term unparenting to describe her childfree status.  No.  Just no.  That’s a stupid word.  I don’t even like childfree, but it’s better than childless.

Anyhow, as I have said before, deciding not to have kids was the easiest decision I ever made, and the best one I ever made.  I don’t regret it, and I don’t wonder what my life would be like if I had kids.  Do you want to know how often I think about the fact that I don’t have kids (when I’m not blogging about it)?  Never.  It’s a non-factor in my life, incidental at best.  And, I resent the implication that I have to think about nurturing kids in some way because I don’t have my own.  I don’t hear that being asked of men without children.

As for the richer reasons not to have children, sure, not having kids because I don’t want them isn’t sexy or a rich, complex reason, but it’s true.  I mean, I could add on the fact that I was abused, that I think I would be a horrible mother, blah blah blah, but that would just be embellishing to make other people feel more comfortable with my decision.

Something about the simple phrase, “I don’t want kids” made people uncomfortable when I first started saying it.  I don’t think it’s as true now, but if this article is any indication, it may not be entirely false, either.

Finally, Oliver Wang is guest-blogging at TNC’s place.  He posted an entry about the correlation between hours of housework being done and how much sex a married couple was having.  Predictably, the thread evolved into a ‘men want this, women want this’ discussion.  There was one man in particular who irritated me by stating that men need to be drained at least twice a week and who wants to sit next to a woman watching reality TV for hours just to get laid?  I am exaggerating, but only slightly.  You can read the thread if you like, and I am sure you can figure out who I am by my handle.

Anyway, I called him out in part because I am tired of the meme that men are horndogs and women are frigid bitches who only put out to please their men.  This guy was making it seem like a universal with a few guys backing him up.  My point was that this was his situation and I have consistently been in the opposition position, which, again, I will admit is probably not as usual as his situation, but I know other women who have very high sex drives, so it’s not as if I am completely alone in this.

The interesting part to me was that some of the mothers commented that after spending the whole day fending off their children, they don’t necessarily want to be touched by their husbands.  After spending appreciable time with my nephews, I could emphasize.  One woman said she wanted her body to be her own.

Anyway, the first guy got hammered by several women and a few men, not just me, but it left me wondering as to how much of an outlier I am.  Then again, he was talking post-children, so who knows?  His main point was that if the wife doesn’t put out, she shouldn’t be surprised when the man cheats.  He gave lip-service to both parties being satisfied, but it was clear that he only meant himself.  And, he said if a woman wants sex all the time, what man isn’t going to be OK with that?

Um, dude.  Seriously.  Back that truck up.  Not all men have high sex drives.  That’s a myth.  And, while men may think about sex a lot, they aren’t always so eager to actually have it.

But this is my point.  He was talking about his experiences and extrapolating them to other men.  Another guy said, “You just described my marriage!”  However, these guys married these women knowing full well what they were like.  And, the first guy married TWO women knowing full well what they were like.  So, to some extent, they must want those kind of women.  It’s like my ex telling me that men liked to complain about their women not liking sports because it’s a way of bonding.  They don’t want their women to like sports.  I agree.

As for sex, in my personal experience, guys are threatened by a woman who wants sex more than they do, so while they may complain about their girlfriends/wives not wanting sex, they would complain more if their wives were constantly after them for sex.

I will fully admit that my tendency in the past to choose people who talk more than they put out is partly because of my neuroses.  I have had exceptions, but for the most part, it’s true.  However, I have other female friends in the same boat who don’t share my neuroses, so it’s not completely just me, either.

It seems that the root of the gender divide is still there.  There are more men and women who have moved past it, but there are still plenty in the trenches fighting that tired war.  As I am struggling with my own issues re: femininity and sexuality, I really need to stop participating in what I consider non-issue subjects (that women can want to have sex as much if not more so than men).  I just need to stick to that resolve.

P.S.  Fourth vid is my official stripper song, even though the lead singer has a very tame idea of what a crazy bitch actually is.

8 Responses to I’m Just a Girl

  1. Child care issues aside, I think women tend to be turned off if they feel like they’re doing all the heavy lifting. The Mrs. is much more pleasant on the days when I do the dishes & help out with the laundry than on the days when I come home and start playing God of War. (That goes the other way too; if I think I’m doing most of the housework I tend to get prickly with her.)

    The extrapolation problem you mentioned seems very common. I see it most often with sexual orientation – people’s expectation of others seems by default to be almost entirely influenced by their experience with their own. Those who feel hard wired heterosexual expect others to be that way. (Those who are more fluid or hard wired homosexual have enough counterexamples to presumably understand not everyone is like them.)

    I knew a girl who was a very committed Christian, and she told me once how in college she felt stirrings of attraction for another woman. She shut the feelings down and forced herself not to pursue it. It’s possible that her sexuality was fluid enough to “allow” her to change attractions like that. That’s how some people are.

    Problem is, that’s not how the “hard wireds” are. I don’t doubt the sincerity of those who proclaim success from one of those “pray the gay away” programs; I think some people ARE able to do that. The problem is extrapolating personal experience to everyone. It seems similar to the commenter you’re writing about. It takes a conscious and sustained effort to consider The Other, and obviously not everyone is up for that.

  2. Dan, that was a predominant theme in that thread–that the more equal the division of labor, the less resentment felt by either partner. In addition, more than one of the women brought up the fact that not having a long to-do list really helps improve the mood. Like I said, I have not cohabitated with someone, so I don’t know anything about those details.

    Other: You are correct. People who are hard-wired a certain way plus with very little aptitude for introspection tend to make generalizations about the world around them. I have never had the luxury of thinking I was the norm, and I pretty much assume that I am a constant outlier.

    The Christian girl might just have been denying her true feelings as well. That happens often. However, for people who are bi, you CAN just focus on one attraction or the other if you choose.

    At any rate, I have learned to stop arguing with someone who has no capacity to see something other than from his/her point of view. It’s just way too frustrating for me.

  3. Minna, I think that if you use some of the trappings of femininity and still be your ballsy self, you will make great strides to turn the stereotype on its head. Why limit yourself? Why not celebrate your natural beauty, and dress down any stupid mouth-breather who interprets this as an invitation for their bullshit? When you take a little time to care for your appearance, you are taking a little time to care for yourself as a person.

    My daily makeup routine takes five minutes or less. I used to not wear makeup, and it really does make a positive difference overall. Even if there’s some occasional bullshit.

    I knew I did not want children at sixteen, and each passing year has deepened my resolve. I like kids in short doses, but I don’t need my own. I think that whole nurturing thing may be a biological imperative for women after they give birth, but in non-motherhood situations it is more culture than nature. Some of the coldest and most ruthless humans I have ever encountered were female.

  4. Choolie, I still take issue with the idea that in order to look my best, I have to wear makeup. I just hate the idea that the natural me is somehow flawed and has to be enhanced, covered up, or embellished. To me, the idea of wearing makeup to celebrate my natural beauty is a contradiction in terms. Guys don’t have to do it, so why should I? And, yes, I know more men are becoming metrosexual, but I don’t find that to be comforting, either. I don’t find wearing makeup gives me a positive boost, myself, and it’s often more trouble than it’s worth. Again, I think for me it’s a matter of feeling I *have* to wear it as opposed to choosing to do so sometimes.

    Ruthlessness: I agree. Women are not any more kind or noble than are men. We are taught to be more self-sacrificing and nurturing and whatnot, but I don’t believe it’s completely biological. Women in power are often times twice as deadly as men in power because they (women) had to be even more ruthless to get there.

    However, I think the myth that women are inherently nurturing still runs deep in our society.

  5. Sadly, none of us will change society nor the idiots who make up society. Children or no children, organizing housework, it is all a private individual matter these days, what works best. Anyone that still analyzes this crap is an idiot. Anyway, doing housework has always affected our sex drives less than my husband’s stressful job.

    And there is a way to be girly without being ridiculous and sexy without being slutty. You have to find the balance and what works for you. I am very girly without ever having pulled off looking girly; just can’t. And I never look sexy no matter what I do so settle for looking as good as I can. For others? Certainly. For me, definitely. If you like sparkly barrettes or spike heals, go for it. It has to be comfortable. If it isn’t then tone it down and work your way forward. I think the most important thing is that you enjoy yourself as you, dress to make yourself feel nice and cool and pretty as you see yourself and then just act natural. xo

  6. Jamie, it’s funny because I think of you as very girly, and yet, you don’t really wear much makeup or dress up in frou-frou. So, I think you’re right that it’s more about attitude. And, you are also right in that I can choose in which ways I want to be girly and how far I want to take it. I mean, I rarely listen to conventional wisdom in other areas of my life, so why do it in this one, either?

  7. True, you shouldn’t ‘have’ to wear makeup and similar accouterments. And true, men don’t have to.

    But standards are incredibly low for men, much to their detriment. I find the schlumpy unkempt straight male look unattractive and a sure sign of not caring enough to make an effort. But maybe it’s an overly successful attempt to be unattractive to gay men. I say ‘overly successful,’ because I think it makes them generally unattractive to anyone.

  8. Choolie, I will agree that standards have been too low for men (though now they are being pressured as well, especially with hair coloring). However, I think that if I take care of my hygiene, dress in flattering clothing, and brush my hair, that should be enough. If I want to put on lipstick or dangling earrings (my trademark), then that’s just a bonus. I just ask for everyone to be clean, neat enough, and presentable.