Monday, July 29, 2013

Comic-Con: How to Avoid Waiting in Lines

It's pretty easy to avoid waiting in lines at Comic-Con. Just pick panels with titles like "All Shapes and Sizes Welcome: Body Image and Women's Issues in the Entertainment Industry." I'm being tongue-in-cheek, but it is true we didn't have to wait in line to attend this panel, whereas we had to wait an hour to attend "What's New with Magic: The Gathering." And even that was nothing compared to the hardcore Comic-Con attendees who wait overnight to get into Hall H.

I wanted to attend the body image and women's issues panel because Brendan and I are interested in these things and I hoped the panel would offer some interesting new insights. I was overall disappointed with the panel. I felt like the panelists were too easily sidetracked by irrelevant points, case in point when panelist Adrianne Curry went off on a weird tirade about gay fashion designers. However, it did raise some good questions and when I further researched some of the panelists, I came to the conclusion that they are interesting and insightful women who are doing something really admirable simply by having a panel like this. The important thing that they're doing, and what I want to do, is raise a dialogue.

One of the panelists, Helenna Santos-Levy, talked about a debate she got into with her mother that was sparked by high heels. Her mom compared high heels to foot binding, but the panelist argued that she liked them. They made her feel sexy.

So my question whenever I hear that high heels or makeup or A, B, or C other thing that women wear or do to alter their bodies in some way, is why? Why does something that hurts, or that is annoyingly time-consuming to apply, make us feel sexy? It turned out Helenna Santos-Levy had already written a whole blog post of her own about this on her website (which I recommend checking out) Ms. In The Biz, titled Sex Pots, Strippers, and Lady Parts...Oh My!

In this blog, she asks, "Why do 3 inch heels that are hell to walk in or even stand in for that matter, make me feel sexy and powerful?" Her answer is simple: "Well, we still live in a male dominated culture."

Yes. And I would add that we live in an advertising dominated culture.These things combined wreak havoc not just on women's body image, but on our collective society's body image.

I spent my teenage years wanting little more than to be beautiful and have a boyfriend. I bought teen fashion and beauty magazines and read books about how to apply makeup. By the time I was in my twenties,  I habitually wore makeup. Nothing too crazy. Just a little foundation, pressed powder, a touch of eyeliner, and some mascara. But eventually I realized something: "It was dictating my self-worth." I'm quoting another great Ms. In The Biz blog by Holly Elissa, titled My Social Experiment: Cosmetics and Women's Worth. She came to that conclusion about the makeup she wore, and the blog is about how she went to a Hollywood event with no makeup on.

When I came to that conclusion, it was in large part because a smart man who eventually became my husband asked me why. Why did I wear makeup? Why did I shave? The surface answer was that it made me feel attractive. But why did it make me feel attractive? Why didn't I feel attractive just as I was?

There's a quote I love, love, love from Crimethinc. Ex-Workers' Collective. "Beauty must be defined as what we are, or else the concept itself is our enemy."

I stopped wearing makeup and shaving when I realized I didn't have a good answer for why shaving and wearing makeup made me feel more attractive. I didn't like the answer I realized was true, which was that I'd bought into the lies advertisers and society were feeding me. That I needed to "enhance" my face. That hairless skin is normal and hair is gross. That society's idea of beauty is some sort of attainable ideal that I should be striving towards.

Fuck that.

I often have to remind myself of that quote. I am still affected by advertising. I don't wear tank tops as often as I probably would if I shaved my pits. But then I go to the hairy pits club on Tumblr and read cool blogs like this one and I'm reminded that I'm not the only one trying to rebel against societal pressures.

I feel like this is where I often see disclaimers on other blogs that the authors are not judging other people who choose to do A, B, or C that the author is talking about. And I get that. I don't want to judge, either. We're all figuring this shit out as we go along. But I do want to question, and I want you to question. You shave? Ok. But why do shave? Why did you start shaving in the first place? I started because of my older sister, which I wrote about here. Do you think you would still want to shave if you weren't inundated by advertisements featuring beautiful hairless people? What about makeup? Hell, let's talk bras. Why do you wear one? You may come to different conclusions than I did. That's cool. Let's talk about it. I'd love to know why.

It's been a process, training myself not to see my armpit hair as gross and to not feel unattractive without makeup. But I think it's totally worth it. I want to live as if society were the way I want it to be. I want to contribute to changing the norm.

*It has just been pointed out to me that it's hard to see links in my blog. I've changed the color scheme a bit so hopefully that won't be a problem anymore, but just in case you missed them, here's a list of all the links provided in this blog post:
  • Helenna Santos-Levy's personal website:
  • Ms. In The Biz:
  • Helenna Santos Levy's blog post Sex Pots, Strippers, and Lady Part...Oh My!:
  • Holly Elissa's blog post My Social Experiment: Cosmetics and Women's Worth:
  • Brendan Weinhold's IMDB page:
  • Crimethinc. Ex-Workers' Collective:
  • hairy pits club on Tumblr:
  • An awesome blog post about a woman's decision to stop shaving:
  • My article about why I stopped shaving:

Monday, July 1, 2013

Feminism on street corners, Part 2

After rereading my last blog post, I realized a couple things I should have made clearer. One, the post was inspired by this blog in The Guardian by Jinan Younis. Jinan Younis is a teenager in England and the blog post is titled "What happened when I started a feminist society at school." It's a good article, and what happened to her and her classmates is horrifying. Read it. Be informed.

Two, this incident where the guy said "See you, baby" to me was not an anomaly. I'd estimate that I get some kind of comment, whistle, or hoot a couple times a week, usually when I'm bicycling, sometimes when I'm walking or taking public transit.

My friend Sebastian left an interesting comment on my previous post. Two of his female friends regularly deal with men they pass on the street telling them to smile. Sebastian lives in Magdeburg, Germany, and was our neighbor when we lived there for a year from 2009-2010. I recall this same thing occasionally happening to me during that time. It's wrapped in a less obvious package than a whistle or hoot, but it's still a man objectifying a woman. By not smiling, the woman is not fitting the man's fantasy Jinan Younis talks about in her blog, so he's trying to rectify that. 

I've mentioned that I like making people feel good. One way I've traditionally done this is by smiling at people when I pass them in the street. Lately I've felt like I've been hollered at by men less frequently than in the past, and I wondered why. I realized that I've stopped making eye contact and smiling at people as often as I used to.

This pisses me off. I should not have to stop smiling in order to stop receiving sexist comments. And no woman should have to start smiling in order to fit a man's image of what she should be.

My friend Kashena also left a good comment on my previous post. My favorite part: "Point is - even if it's uncomfortable, even if you feel like you're doing it 'wrong' - say something, because it's unlikely too many others will."

The other day at work I was carrying a largeish ladder. I had just finished cleaning port glass windows (I work at a movie theatre) and was going to put the ladder away. A young male co-worker saw me and said, "You shouldn't be carrying that! You need a man" and came running to my "rescue." I said "No, thanks, I'm doing just fine" and continued on my way. He insisted. I insisted. We awkwardly carried the ladder together the rest of the way down the hallway.

With my own desires to be more outspoken and Kashena's words of wisdom in mind, when my co-worker said "You're the reason chivalry is dead!" I responded with something along the lines of, "You know, I do have a problem with chivalry. I have a problem with the idea that men can do something and women can't. What I would be fine with, however, is if you saw me carrying this ladder and said, 'Hey, that looks heavy, can I help you with it?'" He responded, "That's the same thing!" I said, "No, it's not. That's a co-worker helping a co-worker. Please remember that for next time, and thank you for your help."

I'll keep on carrying ladders and I'll probably continue to keep my guard up when I travel to and from work. It makes me angry that my smile is viewed as an invitation, but you know, if my lack of a smile helps to shatter some guy's fantasy that I'm just a pretty face, I guess that's one way I can communicate with total strangers on the street.