The Hardest Part About Being A Woman

I generally don’t give a shit about Glamour Magazine.

Not that I’m necessarily saying anything negative about the publication itself. It’s more a general apathy I have towards the glossy pages featuring the latest trends, outfits, hair, makeup, and celebrity news.

I’m sure that if I cared more about Lauren Conrad’s “Go-To” Thanksgiving dress, The 6 Reasons Why David Beckham is “Most Certainly” the Sexiest Man Alive, or 14 Times Ariana Grande Did NOT Wear A Ponytail, I would be more of an avid reader. But it’s just not for me.

However, Glamour did get my attention lately with the controversy surrounding the Glamour Women of the Year 2015″. Among the 25 honourees this year, including Reese Witherspoon, Victoria Beckham (they love their Beckhams!), and ballerina Misty Copeland, Caitlyn Jenner was one of the recipients.

In a Buzzfeed interview following her award Caitlyn was asked the question, “What’s the hardest thing about being a woman?” and this was her answer:

thehardestCue the shit storm.

From people saying that she doesn’t deserve the award because she’s only been a woman for “less than a year”, general transphobic outrage, to the husband of a previous recipient giving back the award given to his deceased wife because,

As a New York City police officer, “my precinct covered a shelter for transgendered [sic] youth…On several occasions I responded there to take reports or give aid to suicidal youths. I listened to their stories of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Young people thrown out of their homes or fleeing from unlivable conditions.

They didn’t have the luxury of being part of the Kardashian circus…They weren’t living in a Malibu Barbie beach house surrounded by what passes for family in Hollywood. They were truly brave people fighting hourly for existence.

When Mr. Jenner said the hardest part about being a woman was figuring out what to wear he proved to me that he is not truly a woman. I believe this comment and others he has made trivializes the transgender experience as I have witnessed it.”

Whatever you want to say about Caitlyn Jenner, whether you think her a Republican homophobic uber rich elite asshole, or that she’s a hero blazing the trail for trans people across the globe, it is my personal opinion that if Glamour wants to name her one of the many “Women of the Year” they should do so.

She’s a woman. She might come by identifying as a woman in a different way than some of us, but a woman plain and simple. She’s a celebrity. A pretty big one. These seem to be the two pieces of criteria that she shares will many of the past “Women of the Year” recipients.

And like many other women, Caitlyn has and will continue to experience an unrelenting policing and disproportionate dissection of the ways in which she should dress, speak, look, and behave. This was aptly pointed out by Jon Stewart when she first came out:

This brings me to Rose McGowan. Charmed star and outspoken feminist, she and Jenner were pitted against one another in the media after McGowan wrote a pretty scathing critique of Jenner’s response to the question,

“Caitlyn Jenner you do not understand what being a woman is about at all. You want to be a woman and stand with us — well learn us,” McGowan wrote on Nov. 16.

“We are more than deciding what to wear. We are more than the stereotypes foisted upon us by people like you. You’re a woman now? Well f–king learn that we have had a VERY different experience than your life of male privilege.”

 She continued, “Woman of the year? No, not until you wake up and join the fight. Being a woman comes with a lot of baggage. The weight of unequal history. You’d do well to learn it. You’d do well to wake up. Woman of the year? Not by a long f–king shot.”

McGowan also posted several graphic memes that featured Jenner’s quote. Including photos of a woman getting raped, being followed home late at night, and a woman in the hospital after giving birth, and even O.J. Simpson’s late wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, covered in bruises.

Holy shit.

What is the hardest thing about being a woman?

There’s a multitude of ways to deconstruct and discuss Jenner’s response to this question. For me, what I find interesting is the question itself. What are the expectations for someone like Jenner, who recently transitioned into being a woman? Is there an answer she could possibly provide that would satisfy all?

Is there an answer that collectively, all women, trans or not, would nod their head in agreement with, pausing for a moment before saying, “Yes, yes. THAT is the hardest thing about being a woman. Well said Caitlyn.” Does such an answer exist?

No. It doesn’t. Because there is no one answer.

What it means to be a woman is markedly different for say, a wealthy white queer single twenty-year-old living in Manhattan, and a middle aged heterosexual widowed mother of three in Syria. The multitude of lived experiences, the intersection of race, economic status, gender, sexuality, and even geography all inform our personal experience of how we interact with the world.

As for Jenner’s response, “…what to wear…” I am of two minds. First mind says, this is an answer given after receiving an award from publication that focuses on fashion trends and beauty. She’s answering it in the context of who’s asking and the pulled quote of a simple, “…figuring out what to wear…” can seem frivolous. Yes, compared to the varied experiences of many trans people, Caitlyn Jenner is in a position where she is less likely to experience the violence, poverty, emotional and mental trauma, and discrimination many others face. She was able to afford the costly elements of making her transition, and was allotted a particular visibility because of her fame.

Second mind says, I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone who lived for sixty-six years feeling like the representation of her gender was never fully expressed. Having hide something very important about herself to the world—wouldn’t the freedom to dress as she pleases be a huge part of her daily life?

A very privileged life, I’ll admit.

As a cisgender woman myself, the choice of how to perform my gender was and continues to be lengthy and fraught process.

From being a teenager and experimenting with makeup. How much is too much?

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To reconciling my mixed feelings about the ways in which the Western standard of beauty is dictated to me, and then turning around and shaving 90% of my body hair.

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All of these decisions to present myself to world have been made through years of trial and error. I actually couldn’t imagine having to cram it all into a short period of time. There’s a dizzying array of options that have just recently opened up for Jenner, and on a very basic level, it’s an anxiety I can identify with.

The fact that she was attacked so harshly by McGowan detracts from the issues at large. Of which there are many, and I can only fit so much into this one blog post (thank you if you are still reading).

McGowan’s tactics of talking about “joining the fight” is less like an olive branch and more like a grenade. It’s okay to be angry. Anger is a tool. Anger can be powerful, but in this situation, I’m just disappointed that instead of frank discussion and dialogue about how gender and sexuality are experienced and expressed, or the ways we talk about trans woman in the larger context of “womanhood” we ended up with this fuckery where—yet again—two women are pitted against one another in a sensational media shit storm.

Anyway, if you’re looking for something a little bit lighter to read here’s a bunch of photos of Blake Lively’s hair.

 

 

 

Like A Boy

Last week I watched SuperBowl for what was probably the third time in my life. No judgment—I’m just not a football fan. However, if there’s alcohol, pulled pork sandwiches, chips, and/or chicken wings I. AM. THERE.

For the sake of the sport, I decided to go all out and root for the SeaHawks, mostly just because that’s the team Dan Savage roots for. It really did look like they were going to take it.

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Sorry bae.

 

Like any other entertainment hungry consumer-slut, I was excited to see the commercials. Lindsay Lohan? I forget what she was selling, but I wonder what she’s doing right now… Liam Niesson is a BAWS. I’m totally going to watch Taken again.  Always’ “Like A Girl” commercial aired.

This ad is not new. It’s been making its rounds on the Internet for sometime now and in terms of airing during this prime time slot, it seemed a perfect fit. It essentially looks at how the term “like a girl” is negatively applied to both boys and girls, and simply taking a second look at how it actually functions to undermine the abilities of girls (they can throw and walk like normal human beings, OMG).

In terms of the ever present media this is most definitely better than say an ad that utilizes the body of a woman solely as an object, muted, the gaze upon her body in order to sell perfume or a luxury watch.

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You smell like this. She’ll gaze upon you thusly.

Considering that the media has a huge effect on the way we see ourselves and those around us, this “Like A Girl” ad seems really positive, not aiming to hurt or undermine anyone, just simply trying to sell feminine hygiene without making you feel like total shit about yourself, right? Right? WRONG.

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For like… pads?

 

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THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU

 

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Then throw the ball, not a fucking tantrum.

What’s with the outrage? It’s been pointed out by folks before me, and seems obvious that you can’t really compare the “like a girl” label to “like a boy” because if someone said to a cis gendered man or boy that they were going something, “like a boy” this would not be an insult… So you can’t have it. Because you are already empowered. We could try to re-power you with positive stereotypes, but can you just let this one fucking thing go?

Stumbling down the rabbit hole of social media outrage against small women just trying to be themselves, I was delivered to the  “Men Rights Activists” or the “meninist” movement/t-shirt franchise. It’s something I’ve been aware of, but haven’t given too much clout because I remember what it’s like to be ten years old and not be allowed into certain discussions or clubs because, you know, NO GIRLS ALLOWED.

The fact that an advertisement by a huge cooperation looking to sell sterilized cotton intended to soak up menstrual blood has brought about a flurry of anti-feminist sentiments and brought my attention to a group of people that stand for the this kind of shit seems ridiculous, but I guess this is the world I live in.

I think that whoever you are, you have the right to your opinion, but when there is a group of people providing a platform for hateful, disrespectful, ugly messages like this:

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Something has to be said.

Instead of giving it a name like a “movement” it more just seems like a collection of trolling heteronormative idiots who are angry with women in general, and what the Wild West that is the Internet has done is give them a platform where they can post shitty comments without the fear of any kind of consequence.

 

After more close observation there seems to be a deeply misguided logic that somehow blames feminism for the problems faced by men based on the idea that feminism and feminists are a) only women and b) those women specifically want to ensure that men are forever enslaved as a less superior sex and forced to bow down to their undeniable power, and like, they want you to buy us shit.

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I agree… except for the “picked up” thing… do you mean like picked up like a girl hitting on you, or like picked up in a car, or picked up like a baby?

 

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OMG SOOOO FUNNY

Let me take a second to clear that up: Feminism specially looks at the issues of inequality when it comes to the sexes and works to investigates the injustices that stem from treating women as thought they are less. Personally, this extends beyond the binary of “men and women” but also takes into consideration: class, race, queerness, and ability. Working to challenge the patriarchy in all it’s shortcomings. It’s intended to ensure that there is equality and justice for all. MEN: aligning yourself with this identity is a good thing.

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Now, I don’t have a penis.

Because I do not have a penis I will never know what it’s like to walk around with one, effortlessly pee standing up, or what it’s like to have a sensitive sexual organ dangling outside of my body.

I also have no experience of what it means to reconcile the appearance and functions of my body with a standardized and prescriptive notion of what it means to be “a man.” I will also never know what it must feel like to not be born with a body that includes the physical attributes that are socially constructed to mean “maleness” and have a journey where my gender and sexuality is constantly questioned, regulated, and challenged in that way. However, I am conscious and sympathetic to what implications and pressures someone might face under these notions about gender and sexuality.

For straight men, I see the societal pressures they face: to provide for women, bottle their emotions, be physically strong, be a lone wolf,  have masculine hair—but not too much, depending on the culture there are a very many number of things that a “real man” should and should not be…

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Like, that y’all should have to look like this in your underthings

I get it.  It must be difficult to “conform to the norm”, as the kids are saying (okay they’re not saying that, but it’s hip to question the squareness of the boxes we put our identities in, kay?)

But to suggest that there is no inherent privileged given to men is simply not true. Case-in-point: the fact that this tampon ad got so much attention and objection. If men and women were really equal there would be no stigma of what it means to be “like a girl” to dispel in the first place, and we would just be watching how much of the blue liquid one pad can take and how flexible the wings are.

As a lover, fan, and supporter of men, I want to be able to talk about what the pitfalls, pressures, and injustices are faced by men  but not in a way that blames women. In the same way that I want to be free to talk about how I feel that at times my identity as a woman can bring a whole bag of shit upon my house.  That’s because I AM A FEMINIST.

Can we just have a conversation about this without blaming each other?

Is this really so hard to ask? Or maybe, ONCE AGAIN, I’m just being such a girl about this whole thing?

 

Tall Tales

“You’re really tall.”

As a woman standing at five-foot-nine this is something people say to me. Mostly men. Particularly from men shorter than I. As though I am unaware.

It’s not exactly a compliment.

It’s not exactly an insult.

It’s kind of like an accusation.

Sometimes I think they mean it as a good thing, and then it’s not?

Yeah, being tall is Awe–WAIT, WHAT?

More often than not, it’s a shitty observation that comes with the subtextual message that I am somehow doing wrong by being such a fucking–TALL PERSON. It makes me feel immediately self-conscious: Is he trying to say I’m too tall? Is there something wrong with being tall? Does he think I’m ENORMOUS?

For example: I recently attended a friend’s wedding, and after the toasts, the meal, and the cake cutting we all hit the dance floor. The gentleman who had been sitting across the beautifully decorated dinner table sidled up to me,

“Wow. You’re really tall. I was going to talk to you… but you know, you’re so tall.”

“Oh, well, I mean we have actually spoken.”

“I know, but I meant, like, talk to you.”

Now, how the fuck am I supposed to respond to that? I mean…He’s right. I am tall, extra tall in the heels I’m wearing. But this statement wasn’t about me, it was about him, he’s five-foot-six or something and I guess he just can’t help himself but alert me to the fact that my height excludes me from being a prospective sexual partner. And because, women’s bodies are like, you know, public property wherein comments about their physical appearance are offered freely and without consequence, I guess I should just be happy that a man is speaking to me and just eat it, right?

I don’t get it; in the Western ideal of beauty we worship tall, long legged, super models and actresses. High heels are marketed specifically to women. But I’ve found that once those uncomfortable, overly priced, fuck me pumps have you looming over a man, he’ll take the opportunity to knock you down a peg with a look up and down and make an announcement that makes you rethink what exactly you are supposed to look like.

I just can’t win.

Maybe I should react in kind, making declarations about men without offering a clear indication of what exactly I mean by it:

“You have hair on your face.” (subtext: SLOB)

“Your hands are medium sized.” (subtext: WHAT DOES THAT MEAN ABOUT YOUR DICK?)

“You have lips.” (subtext: DON’T YOU THINK THAT MAKES YOU WEIRD?)

I guess my insecurity about my height goes back to the seventh grade when I hit puberty and shot up five inches in a summer and suddenly had breasts. School dances provided horrifying opportunities where I would awkwardly slow dance with the boys a solid foot shorter than me, their hands perched lightly on my waist, the space between us not because we were, “leaving room for the Holy Spirit”, as my teachers used to say, but because in comparison to these prepubescent boys I was a gigantic sweaty weirdo they didn’t want to get too close to. Inevitably, my crushes would end up “going out” with the petite, cute girls in class.

And so, in the wish to be a smaller, lighter, cooler girl I began to slouch, like really slouch (much to the horror and constant objection of my Chiropractor father).

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It took me years to have the confidence to stand up straight. Boys finally caught up with me and we could start talking and dancing at eye level, but there is still a small part of me that just wants to slouch my shoulders and droop my head forward, lest I be noticed.

So what’s with this unwritten rule that heterosexual men are supposed to be taller than their partner? … I guess…It’s because… they’re better than us right? Something…about… how they are supposed to be physically stronger and, just like, more superior? That’s it right? Okay, I’m being too facetious, I recognize and can sympathize with an impossible and prescriptive beauty standard, and I know there is pressure on men to be tall and fit and just like Jon Hamm. I get it.

Just listen to Tina.

 

What I came to quickly realize when I started to date, specifically online, and when using the app Tinder is that a lot of men mentioned their height (and those who did all said they were 6 feet tall… really… are you all six feet tall?!)

I had a Tinder date a little while back. I really liked this guy’s photos. He was hot. In the description section he stated, “These photos make me look taller than I really am, I’m 5”8” I was like, Okay, That’s really a problem for me. A little shorter than me shouldn’t be a big deal right?

HOWEVER, when he showed up for the date, he was more like five-foot-six. It didn’t bother me so much that he was shorter, it was that he was a short LIAR.

Like, I get that everyone lies a little bit when they are dating, like little white lies like making your job sound more exciting than it actually is, and that you work out and eat kale or… whatever, those are lies that can go on for a long time before the other person realizes you’re a phony, but to lie about your height? That’s something you can tell right away. The date didn’t go well for other reasons (he kind of sucked as a person), but I couldn’t help but be simultaneously bothered by his deceitfulness and ultimately reflective about the nature of our heightist society where we all feel pressure to look and act a certain way.

Now, I’m a vapid, beauty obsessed, shallow asshole like the rest of us, and I do tend to find taller men more attractive, which makes me a huge hypocrite, but I have never walked up to a shortie and been like, “Damn. You short.” Because that would not be kind of me. I would be commenting on something they just couldn’t help, so why do these men think it’s okay to point out my stature in a negative way?

 

I am tall and am going to continue to be so until I’m an old lady and start to shrink. But in the meantime I’m going to stand up straight, own my height, and maybe instead of just pointing out that I stand at a different altitude, just be nice to me and see me a whole person and if you say something about my physical appearance it should be something respectful and maybe complimentary?

Because, really,  everybody’s the same height lying down, AMIRITE?

Pretty Hurts: My Date With Helga

I had a boyfriend for six years, but then we broke up.  After which, I spent a month and a half of doing nothing with my vagina but washing it. In that time, the situation got a little, well… hairy.

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This pussy is out of control.

Not that there’s any problem with this look of course for all you women who want to get down with your bushy selves, but I was looking for a bit of a change.

 

Waxing fucking hurts. A lot. Even when done correctly. I had avoided this for sometime (re: six year relationship I-got-a-little-comfortable-and-lazy). Don’t get me wrong: I kept things clean and neat down there, but nothing as drastic as a wax. However, I’m going out with my friends the next night, and you never know what might happen.

Returning to the salon I used to frequent some years back, I ask the receptionist if Mi still works there. I loved Mi. She would turn the lights down low, put on some calming music, and work efficiently and quickly as she talked about how much she hated her husband. It wasn’t as though she was bitter or angry, it was just a simple fact: she hated that guy. “Like, we don’t even sit in the same room to watch television anymore. He’s so stupid.” I would laugh as she worked. “Do you have kids?” I once asked. “Noooo. I’m not having kids with him, he doesn’t even kiss me on the mouth.”

The receptionist said no, that Mi had left a while ago, and I wondered what happened to her. Was she was still living with the husband she despised, sitting in separate rooms of their childless home, each watching their program of choice?

“But Helga can help you.”

Helga is an Eastern European lady in her mid fifties with long purple shellacked nails and died blonde hair with dark roots. She takes me into a dimly lit room in the back and asks, “What do you want?” I tell her I want a Brazilian and she barks, “Take off your pants.”

Now, my usual experience is that you get moment alone to take off your pants and slip under a crisp white sheet. But Helga’s all business. I’m taken aback for a moment, but then realize she’s going to see it anyway, so why not just get to the point?

I lay down on the bed, and she exclaims, “Oh, you’re so skinny! Like a model!” giving one of my hip bones a light tap. Her work is aggressive, straight forward, and nothing short of terrifying.

She takes my hand and places it on my right thigh, “Hold the skin!” This isn’t an unusual practice to offer a hand, but it’s obvious that Helga doesn’t think I’m doing a great job as I clench before each strip. I can only imagine what kind of horror movie it sounded like from outside the door as Helga yells, “Stop moving! Hold the skin Susan! Skin has to be tight!”

The first strip she takes she holds up to me exclaiming, “See. See.” It looks like what a Muppet would if it was run over by a semi.  And I do see Helga, I do.

She rips off another strip, slapping the newly naked patch of flesh asking, “So, you want to have a sexy new look for your boyfriend?” At this point, I’ll tell her anything she wants if she just makes this pain stop. “No, no boyfriend” I say as she assess my remaining pubic hair.

“Can you put your legs over your head?” she asks. I’m not sure if she’s asking this question in reference to the wax, or the no boyfriend thing.

Regardless, my answer is two-fold: Yes. Yes I can put my legs over my head, and Why? Why do you need to know?

She laughs and tilts my legs up so my knees are on my chest, I close my eyes, hold my breath, and come as close to praying as I have in a long time in the hopes she doesn’t wax off my asshole.

She didn’t for the record. I still have an asshole.

After a quick sprinkle of baby powder, it’s all over. Helga washes her hands as I quickly dress in the corner.

“Now you’ll get a boyfriend”, she chuckles.

I would like to reiterate this is the first time someone has come into contact with my genitals for a month and a fucking half. To state the least, I didn’t think it would be a curt middle-aged woman. But she did the job, although she did leave me feeling a little raw.

I buy a bottle of aloe vera and Pinot Grigio on my waddle home. Why do I do this to myself? What did it matter that I had some hair down there? I don’t know why I fall into the traps of the ideal Western beauty?

A quarter of a bottle of aloe and a half of the Grigio later, I stare between my legs and realize I look the part of the little girl. Who has no idea what’s she’s doing.