I think I have one last rant left in me (yeah, OK: one last one *today*), so you might want to just skip this. It's about feminism, which has become a nasty word, worse than The F-Word (go ahead: count the times you hear the two words in the course of a day or a week; which one is more prevalent and is uttered without apology?) I remember, oh, so long ago, when it was an idea that was vibrant and exciting, a movement that meant something. Now it's just passé, a relic of an idealistic, unreasonable time (universal love! global peace! weed for everyone!)
I have posted a ton on Facebook over the years, and the two topics that always get the most comments? Weight and make-up. Yeah, I know. It's like all the hair and nail and make-up and lacy underwear boards on Pinterest. You just hope Hillary Clinton and Wendy Davis never have time to see what their constituents actually think about all day long.
Anyway, so recently Melanie Testa, who is, in my opinion, one of the bravest women on the planet, did a post about breast cancer, her choice not to reconstruct, and her efforts to show other women that there are options they're seldom told about. You can read her most recent post about it here.
This week on Facebook she posted a photo of her torso and a link to a piece she wrote for another site (which I cannot find, but you can find it on Melly's FB). Apparently this inspired some people to post selfies with no make-up to engage in spreading the idea of self-acceptance, and I posted a photo (not a selfie, thankyoujesus) of myself, sans make-up (since I've quit wearing any at all). And then I wrote this:
Here's the thing about make-up: for whom do you wear it? If you say, "For me," then, realistically, how much time do you spend looking at your made-up face in the mirror? And do you wear it if you're going to be alone in the house all day long? People say, "It makes me feel better," but if you're on the inside looking out, how does that work? The truth is that we wear make-up for other people because we were raised to believe that's what we're supposed to do to be acceptable, to be well-thought-of ("She takes care of herself," "She makes an effort," "She's aged well"). What do you really feel about yourself and how you look? What about how you feel about how you *feel*? And another thing: if we didn't spend time/money/effort on hair/nails/make-up, what might we do with that time/money/effort?
What I was hoping for was a conversation about how society has convinced women that they're not OK as they are. We grow up believing that we're not enough, that we need mascara and pantyhose, Spanx and Botox, Hair Products and self-tanning cream. I was hoping to contribute to Melly's efforts to get women to realize they're OK just as they are, however they are, by getting women to stop and think about why we believe this stuff: we're too pale/dark, our hair is too straight/curly, our ________ is/are too ______________. I was thinking people would maybe chime in about how the men in their lives get up, wash their faces, and are ready to face the day, while the women spend however-much-time-it-takes putting on a new face and squeezing their bodies into casings of hose/shapers/lifters and cramming their feet into 3-inch heels.
What I actually got were 88 comments that, for the most part, fell into two groups. One group was mostly along the lines of (and this is NOT a specific comment; I'm deliberately inventing this one because I don't want anyone to think I'm talking about them), "I don't wear make-up except for a little bit of eye-liner and some foundation and a bit of blush and some mascara. And when I got out I add red lipstick. Otherwise I never wear it." Or "I never wear make-up unless I'm going to work or going shopping or going out for the evening or dressing up. Or going out to the mailbox or walking the dog. Or answering the front door. Or the phone." I think for a lot of women, "make-up" means "foundation" (or whatever the current equivalent product is), and everything else (eye shadow, lipliner) isn't.
So they were mostly, "I never wear make-up except. . . ."
The other group was made up of comments about why the poster wears make-up, and they ranged from covering up something on their face (skin issues, paleness) to likening make-up to paint on a canvas, i.e., an art form. A few were just the teeniest bit defensive, as if I had attacked a woman's right to wear make-up and people wanted to defend their choices and remind me that everyone has the right to choose what they do and that we don't all have to be alike.
Now, these are all fabulous comments. I appreciate people taking time to respond to my post, and every single comment is valid and valuable. OK? So I'm not making fun of anyone or being snotty here. I'm just disappointed we didn't have a different conversation. I don't think anyone commented from a feminist perspective, not about whether it's OK to wear make-up or not, but: why are we (females) conditioned from birth to think it's something that we (and not boys/men) are "supposed" to do to be a successful member of society? And why do we, supposedly intelligent adults, go along with it, spending our time justifying our "choices" (because you could effectively argue that if you're indoctrinated from birth, you're not really making a choice) instead of examining the pressure behind those choices? Why would we rather post about how make-up makes us feel pretty/confident/safe/professional than about how society pressures women to be perfect, from their hair to their toenails, and how most of us go along with it without thinking, making snarky comments about unkempt women in ways we don't about unkempt men? Think about it: we comment on other women's clothes, hair, make-up ("She'd look so much better with a little concealer" "She has great bones; she should highlight her cheeks.") breasts (or lack of: "She could use a trip to Victoria's Secret.") butt, thighs, lips, the tiny wrinkles between her eyes ("Botox would help her look less tired"). A man has to look like a rabid fox dragged him in from the woods after gnawing on him for a week before anyone says much of anything about how he looks. "Geez, you'd think he'd wipe off the blood and slobber before showing up for the meeting."
We watch TV and movies and aren't offended that the female characters almost always show cleavage, never mind their role. We've been Netflixing the various CSI series, and I'm constantly grousing about how the male detectives are wearing suits and ties or maybe shirts and jackets, but the female characters almost always wear tank tops (what kind of weather do you have where the men need jackets and the women (and, no, they're not old enough to be going through menopause, but you knew that: who wants to watch a show full of old women?) don't even need sleeves?) and show rather a lot of cleavage. Oh, and the high heels! Even on the beach! You'd think if you were a crime scene investigator in Miami and you were dressing to go to work, you might think there was at least a marginal chance that you'd end up slogging through the sand at some point. But no! Even though your title is Crime Scene Investigator, you seem to believe that the crime scenes you'll be called on to investigate will all be in nice office buildings or upscale malls, not alleys awash in bodily effluvia and beaches covered with, you know, sand and stuff. Dog poop. Dead fish.
But it seems so natural to us, that the women on TV and movies must "look good," that we don't even question it. There was one episode with an overweight woman, and of course her weight was the focus of the crime. Of course! And a female character over 50? Only the grieving grandmothers. With aprons.
OK, let me move on here. I think about this stuff periodically, but I refrain from writing about it because, well, why? What's the point? I get outraged at the steady chipping away of women's reproductive rights, for instance, but what good does it do me to rant about it? Most women seem fine with the way things are going, and young women, for whom these issues actually matter, aren't going to listen to those of us who have been there already. This stuff isn't important to them; they're sure they'll never need public reproductive health care.
I could rant for hours, for days, about how when the job market is tight and scary, there is always a move to get women to stay home. Sometimes it's overt; sometimes, more subtle. The recession was harder on working men than on women, and we're seeing the effects. Ours is a patriarchal society, and it's not going to change, and those in power aren't going to relinquish significant power willingly. Who ever does? Huh: that makes me wonder if, in the animal world, there are species where power is handed on freely, without battle. I should check about the bonobos, maybe. . . .
Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked here, and I know why: this stuff seems to obvious to me (not "simple," it's not simple at all) that I am like anyone who's passionate about anything: you can't imagine that everyone else doesn't feel as strongly about it as you do. You can either rant and rave and drive away all your friends and family, buttonholing people on the bus to ask them how they feel about Plan B and the Spanx Slim Cognito® Shape-suit, or you can just walk away and go make stuff. Which is what I'm going to do now because I can hear, already, people telling me just to breathe, not to worry about this stuff, how it will all work out and it's not nearly as big a deal as I think it is. And that's true: it will all work out, one way or another. Young women in their teens and 20s will have to figure out for themselves ways to deal with society's expectations and the rights they're allowed to have. Perhaps they'll choose Manolo Blahniks and Prada, or perhaps they'll choose cupcakes and glitter, or maybe, just maybe, they'll choose a revolution.