Labor of Love

“Boyfriends are basically a part-time, unpaid job,” is a line that I will pull out regularly to assuage the anxieties of others when confronted with the reality of my fifth consecutive year of singledom. This line works relatively well with the older generations: my parents, my grandparents, the parents of friends. It also says quite a lot about gender dynamics, that it is met with polite laughs but rarely any rebuttals. I am not a particularly funny person, but the best humor is rooted in truth.

A portion of this joke points to the neverending, uncompensated labor of performing femininity; a rather time-consuming cycle of preening and primping oneself into an unnatural (in my opinion) version of oneself. This labor is often disguised as “fun” – an idea I wholeheartedly bought into in my pre-college years. As a child, I took joy in ransacking my mother’s closet, teetering in high heels, trying on sequined dresses, smearing expensive makeup onto my prepubescent face (I would apologize to my mother for ruining her cosmetics, except I am under the impression due to her nostalgic tones that she greatly enjoyed these antics). As a teenager I would spend hours in front of a mirror, holding up a Cosmopolitan magazine and attempting to master – and still have yet to accomplish – the “smokey-eye”. When my older sister made an ill-timed joke about my eyebrows, this insecurity blossomed into the unfortunate habit of holing up in my room with a magnifying mirror and a pair of tweezers, and going after hairs with such veracity that I routinely drew blood. When my mother was bleaching her facial hairs with Sally Hansen’s or Nairs, and offered to do my arm hairs as well, the initial realization that my arm hairs were something to be embarrassed about – an idea that had never occured to me before that point in time – was immediately internalized without question, and set off years of bleaching, plucking, shaving, and crying in secret.

A trip to Sephora with my friends to blow literally hundreds of dollars of (relatively) hard-earned barista money on creams, lipsticks, and lotions was considered leisure. Hours of shaving, lotioning, makeup-ing, and hair-taming preceded every school dance (we called them “socials”) I attended, with the silent hope that a boy might ask me to slow-dance (needless to say, middle school boys are not particularly adept at asking anybody to dance and I should not have taken the absence of invitations personally at the time, but of course I did). Sleepovers were basically makeup-doing parties, followed by “photoshoots” in which we attempted to contort our faces and bodies into the same postures we observed grown women so effortlessly perform on magazine covers (we were rather unaware of the prevalence of photoshop at the time). This was my version of “fun” growing up.

As I grew older and more cognizant of the ways society pressures women into wasting their time, money, and energy on molding ourselves into something worthy of male approval, I began to resent that idea that a woman’s face or body was inherently “incomplete” without this labor.

When I finally got a job that did not afford me extra tips for looking attractive to older men, I gradually began to adapt to and relish the fact that my paycheck – a literal, monetary evaluation of my worth as a person – was not tied to my appearance. The makeup stopped, as did the hair removal, as did the uncomfortable clothing.  Viola! All of the sudden, I had a wealth of time and money seemingly from nowhere.

Many people will probably say that it is no coincidence that the moment I stopped performing femininity, the exact period of time in which I shrugged off the pressures of pleasing the eyes of men, is when I stopped having luck with them. The time, the labor, the expense of pursuing beauty as defined by a patriarchal society is part-one of my joke, “boyfriends are like a part-time, unpaid job”.

Part two applies to the actual effort of wooing and dating them. For the record, if I am going on a date (increasingly rare, but it’s been known to happen) I still reluctantly smudge on some eyeliner or other various cosmetics as to not look sickly – a common phenomenon of perception, due to how unusual a woman’s bare face looks in comparison to what people are used to seeing (“You look tired. Are you hungover? Are you coming down with something?” “No, this is just my face.”).

Aziz Ansari joked that modern-day dating is like being a thankless secretary for the flakiest clients in the world, and once again, humor is funniest when it’s true. While secretaries are adequately compensated for their time contacting, schmoozing, scheduling, and inevitability politely rescheduling when the apparently not-so-interested party fails to show up, single women attempting to date are not. Also, there is no company card to which I can expense these drinks & dinners. After over 15 failed attempts at romance (you can read my short stories about them here, if you are so inclined), all of which required hours of agonizing over text messages (never phone calls), traveling to various bars, restaurants, movie theaters, or other public places when I would rather be sitting in my pajamas at home, nodding along politely to some dude’s pontificating, and generally attempting to seem like a pleasant, un-intimidating woman (this, for me, requires quite a lot of effort), I have little to show for it.

While dating is not quite as simple as flipping a coin, to go on a date is to experience one of two outcomes: you like each other, you continue dating, you enter a relationship (let’s call this “heads”), or the person you meet doesn’t work out for various reasons, in various time frames, and you go your separate ways (let’s call this “tails”). Taking the coin-flip example and applying it to the past five years, my friend Jasmine is particularly lucky. She exited a relationship, liked somebody new, went on a few dates with the guy, and they entered a happy, mutually respectful new relationship – a probability of 0.5, also known as one-half, also known as 50%. My coworker Bree managed to get married, get divorced, date three people, the last one of which worked out and is now in a new relationship – a probability of 0.125, also known as one-eighth, also known as 12.5%. I seem to have defied all odds by flipping tails 15 times in a row, a probability of 0.00003052, also known as I don’t know how to translate that many decimal points into something you can understand, other than saying it is really really really incredibly unlikely, unlucky, and/or I should probably not contribute my dismal success rate to luck.

Economically speaking, investing this much effort, money, and depriving oneself of valuable pajama-time when the probability of any meaningful sort of return is now less than 0.00003052 is quite simply: a shitty investment. To say that I should go on yet another date, since the odds of flipping tails again would be 0.00001525878 would be to succumb to the gambler’s fallacy. Also, I don’t know if my heart can take any more rejection.

Part three of the joke is the part with a generational divide: Does being in a heterosexual relationship with a man create more work for the woman? For quite literally the entire history of humankind, that answer has been a resounding YES.

Before women began to achieve the rights to work, own property, establish bank accounts, and divorce in the 1950s, traditional hetero relationships were, in essence, an economic trade-off in which the woman provides domestic labor in exchange for a place to live outside of her parent’s home (although depending on the parents and the husband, this could either be a vast improvement of her situation, a rather neutral switch, or a massive downgrade), and relative financial security. While this tit-for-tat arrangement seems fair on the surface, if we take the time to tally up the price tag of having a full-time, live-in housekeeper, cook, chauffeur, childcare worker, and sex-provider, most men would actually not be able to afford all of the amenities a wife provides without the societal norms which has otherwise convinced us that this exchange is economically equal.

After the 1950s, when women achieved the right to work outside of the home and provide her own income, we gained independence from the necessity of pairing off with whatever decent man presented himself first, in essence, making domestic relationships slightly more optional and allowing us to be slightly more picky. However, the ability to work outside the home and earn one’s own money did not magically make the drudgery of keeping a household functioning disappear. Rather, women began to perform two jobs instead of one: a job outside the home in which she is compensated with less money than her male counterparts, and the same job within the home of making sure everybody and everything is cleaned, fed, and nurtured.

Fortunately, I happen to live in a time where women have never had more independence: with basic human rights, with education, with the ability to create financial stability for oneself, with the institution of marriage, with reproductive rights. Not only do I live in a time when women have not only choices, but quite often good choices, we have also started to see more equality in the division of labor at home.

While our widower grandfathers are left eating peanut-butter sandwiches after their wives pass, or hastily enter new relationships with women who can resume the domestic duties that they are stymied by such as laundry, cooking, and vacuuming, the men of my parents’, and my generation are thoroughly practiced in the fine art of household chores. This, however, is not to say that the division of labor in a dual-income household has reached a perfect, 50/50 split, but any progress is good progress.

It is in this imperfect yet still historically golden-era of being a woman that I am privileged to live in: one where I am free to divorce a husband who beats me, work outside the home for 87 cents to every man’s dollar, and yes, date men while maintaining reproductive control of my body (as long as I continue to reside in Washington State). And so, while part three of my joke, “having a boyfriend is like an part-time, unpaid job” rings true to the older folk who periodically inquire as to my relationship status with the subtext of “what is wrong with you, that you haven’t found a suitor yet?”, this line does not work quite as well among my peers, who are currently enjoying mutually loving, supportive relationships in which the division of labor is more or less equal.

Truth be told, while the process of finding love, and then maintaining it, is quite a lot of work, I often find myself enviously fixating on all the benefits my paired-off friends receive from each other and seem to be blissfully unaware. Take, for example, the economy of scale. When I needed to buy a bed, I footed 100% of the cost. One bed, one person, one income. When my coupled friends buy a bed, they not only get to split the cost of the bed, they split it between two incomes: each person paying half the price with double the earning power.

Or, for example, the sharing of responsibilities. I have 168 hours in a week, 40 of which are devoted to work (40 in theory, more like 50 or 60 in practice, especially if we count the time spent in commute to a job as part of the job), 40 of which are (hopefully) spent sleeping, leaving about 66-86 hours of free time to spend on the fulfillment of responsibilities and leisure. See: the couple who have a combined 132-172 hours of free time in which when one person is walking the dog, the other is grocery shopping.When one person is taking the car to Jiffy Lube, the other is doing taxes. When one person has cooked dinner, the other cleans up. Other than the tax breaks that people receive for getting married – as if they needed any more of a break – nothing makes me more jealous of the benefits of coupling than the division of labor, and thus, the extra free time one is afforded as a result. I can always make more money, but I can never get back time.

Which brings me to my fourth and last point about the labor of love: putting up with bullshit. A particular form of work that I find uniquely unpalatable and entirely unreasonable yet – according to my successfully paired-off friends – absolutely crucial. Learning to let bullshit slide is a skill I have yet to master, and one that I quite honestly have no desire to do so. While my friends deal with dates showing up 45 minutes late – or not at all – by graciously rescheduling, I respond with “Fuck you, I’m leaving, don’t contact me again”. My inability to deal with bullshit, more than any of the other types of work I am reluctant to execute in the pursuit of love – from performing femininity to the logistics of dating to the maintenance of a relationship – is likely the biggest reason I continue to be a fish in the ocean, rather than a juicy catch.

And so I find myself in a rather interesting place: one in which I do not actually wish to perform the extensive amount of labor involved in finding a supportive, loving partner, but deeply desire to be in a relationship not just for the economic benefits (although they are, as I just outlined, rather large), but also for the basic things such as having a go-to person when you want to see a movie, have brunch, vent about your day, or simply cuddle without having to hire a prostitute or fly to Japan for human touch.

While I have, obviously, reflected extensively about the reasons I continue to be single despite the fact that I am relatively well-adjusted, educated, employed, and without STDs, the nagging feeling that although love requires labor, other people haven’t had to work this hard at it, continues to plague me. When Jasmine left one great relationship, only to immediately enter another lovely one, I couldn’t help but bemoan to a different friend, “She didn’t even have to try.”

So what is a truly “fair” amount of labor to put into the pursuit of love, as a woman in the 21st century? Is the reality that I am single as a result of my own laziness? That due to my stubborness and unwillingness to rip out my pubic hairs with hot wax, engage in the delicate psychology of text messaging, or be repeatedly stood up by men who do not seem capable of maintaining a Google Calendar, I am destined to forever be the 5th or 7th or 9th wheel at my own birthday parties?

I don’t know the answer to these questions (if I did, then I wouldn’t be here writing a 2500 word essay about it), but one thing I am quite sure of is this: the amount of time, effort, and money that seems to be required to find love continues to be an entrance fee I am not willing to pay for the shitty singles club that is dating in Seattle. I started writing this because nothing makes you feel more single than trying to apply sunblock to one’s own back while on vacation in Mexico, and the nice couple that I met here assured me that when you find the right person, it’s easy, not laborious. So instead of working hard to become beautiful, pliable, and agreeable for the wrong person, I will keep on being hairy, lazy and uncompromising in my refusal to put up with bullshit until the right one comes along and shows me how easy it can actually be.

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Sexism and my “Truman Show” moment

The usual spate of year-in-review articles by the media has made it clear that 2014 was a great year for feminism.

Note: It was a great year for feminism, not necessarily a great year for women.

2014 was the year of Leaning In, the year of #YesAllWomen, the year of Beyonce,

had to do it

had to do it

Laverne Cox, Emma Watson, Niki Minaj, & T-Swift, Ruth Bader Ginsberg (Long Live Notorious RGB), Hilary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, and all of their respective flavors of feminism. The year we refused to sweep domestic violence under the rug. The year of Title IX. Plus, we kicked off 2015 with the Sisterhood of the Traveling Golden Globes.

But 2014 was also the year of the Isla Vista killings, Hobby Lobby,  and 70 new abortion restrictions. The Paycheck Fairness Act did not pass for the fourth  time, and women are still not guaranteed equal rights in the US Constitution. Online, it was the year of Gamergate, and a celebrity nude leak that turned a large majority of the country into sex offenders. Oh, and leggings were banned in schools.

In short, 2014 was the year we acknowledged sexism and feminism, but didn’t really do anything progressive about it.

Let’s make 2015 the year we finally take action.

Take action? How?! you may be asking yourself.

I have a few suggestions on how to make 2015 a better year for gender equality.

But first, let me regale you with a (relatively) short story:

(or you can just skip to the bottom, you sound-byte ninnies)

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, there was a lass known as “the feminist one”, but it had not always been that way.

For the first 20 years of my life I did not notice the social troll known as sexism living in my closet. Not to say I was completely oblivious. The men at my first job (age 15) had nicknamed me “Sophie the Trophy”. I had taken a Gender Studies course at McGill, where “Killing Us Softly” and “Miss Representation” were part of the curriculum. I had weathered my fair share of sexist digs.

But the concept that sexism actively affected me in very real ways was, by and large, foreign.

That all changed when my good friend Bridget explained to me the “Schrodinger’s Rapist” theory, and I read the original post in full. This is what I call my “Truman Show” moment.

truman sho

Truman checks out a light that mysteriously fell from the sky

Much like how Truman was tipped off by one small detail that made him cognizant to many more small details which ultimately reshaped how he perceived his reality, Schrodinger’s Rapist was my feminist catalyst.

This line in particular:

“Is preventing violent assault or murder part of your daily routine, rather than merely something you do when you venture into war zones? Because, for women, it is.”

Never before had it occurred to me that the burdens of personal safety I undertook on a daily basis were actually female burdens of safety.

While men don’t necessarily have it easier, women definitely have it harder.

How does that logic work? Something like this:

logic by lck 2
logic by lck

Little things like texting a quick “home safe” confirmation to friends, bringing my drink with me into the bathroom stall, checking the backseat of my car before getting in – these were all things I thought everyone did.  And then I asked around and found out that none of my guy friends bothered with those precautions.

These small details that pepper my daily routine – driving 5 minutes to my bus stop so I don’t have to walk alone in the dark, wearing earbuds with no music so I can hear my surroundings – essentially what women do to stay safe (and what men don’t do) because of our gender became strikingly obvious in my new state of Femlightenment.

Hungry to understand,  I started reading feminist blogs, and the “woman” section of the news (a section that I had previously avoided because I thought it would be full of baby stuff).

The next “big” detail that really began to rub me the wrong way was the “male as default” phenomenon: The idea that it’s a man’s world, and it is women that must adapt to this landscape accordingly.

For example, linguistically, “mankind”, “man”, and “guys” are all perfectly acceptable ways to refer to humans, “women included” going unsaid.

But vocabulary is the fluffy, “privileged, white, first-world feminism” stuff, as critics like to say.

And the “male as default” phenomenon is not fluffy, it is downright dangerous.

women aren't bad drivers. we're just more likely to die

women aren’t bad drivers. we’re just more likely to die

Male is the default in the car industry, with automotive companies using only male crash test dummies, despite the obvious fact that women drive cars too. This raised the risk of  moderate injury for women in car crashes by an astounding 71%, and the risk of serious injury or death by 47% (source). And we only realized this in fucking 2011. New requirements for female crash dummies were not put into place until 2012 (read more here). Shit like this is unacceptable.

Male is also the default in drug research, with scientists using only male test subjects in animal trials, and a heavy bias towards men in human trials (source). “Researchers avoided using female animals for fear that their reproductive cycles and hormone fluctuations would confound the results of delicately calibrated experiments” (Slate). This reasoning is curious, as female humans also have reproductive cycles and hormone fluctuations, but experimental drug trials will often be administered to women without ever being tested on female animals first. In other news, men continue to avoid period-stuff like the plague. To absolutely nobody’s surprise, women to experience higher rates of adverse drug reactions than men.

This is when I realized sexism was an active effort, rather than a passive “this is how it’s always been” shrug. It is so much more than a shrug.

gender-gap-busienssSexism defies logic. Even though women are better adapted for work in isolated & confined spaces such as submarines and spaceships (women used less oxygen, required less food, and produce less waste), they continue to face systematic barriers to joining  the ranks of astronauts and submariners. (sources 1, 2, 3)

Sexism defies capitalism. Even though a revealing study showed that companies perform better financially with more women in leadership positions, only 14.6% of executive officers in the 500 highest-grossing American companies are women (source).

You know when that typical jerkoff says, “If the gender pay gap exists and we can pay women less, then why don’t companies only hire women?” just reply, “Because sexism trumps capitalism, asshole.”

It seems like the only thing that beats sexism is good ol’ racism. But that’s a topic for a different day.

Anyways, the more I learned about the pervasiveness of sexism, and feminist theory, the more I started talking about it. For a long time I was afraid of being the “obnoxious feminist” every time I spoke up. I’m sure many people do think that of me. That’s ok. Because something unexpected started to happen:

It started rubbing off on the people around me.

A few months ago a friend excitedly called me to let me know that at her waitressing job an old man tried to pay her by reaching to put bills down the front of her shirt. Rather than giggling it off, she turned away with a flat “no”, and walked away.

“I thought of you,” she said.

I had also started interrupting my guy friends’ sports banter whenever they used “raped” in place of “dominated” or “won” or “triumph” (because really, when you think about it, how fucked up is that?).

It would go like this:

“Holy shizzle, did you see that game? The Seahawks RAPED the 49ers!”

“Could you use a different word, other than raped?”

“Oh yeah, sorry.”

That’s really all it takes. If the dudes in your life are decent people, they will apologize and use a different word.

Sometimes it takes a few times to stick. If my friends use “raped” again – it seems fairly common in the context of sports – I’ll take it a bit further.

“Oh my gawd, they raped in that play!”

“Hey! did you realize that 1 in 6 women have been raped, and there are 12 in this room?”

Watching the most recent Seahawks game, I overhead a friend start to say “raped” – only to stop and self-correct without any prompt. To me, that was more exciting than the touchdown.

Which brings me to my one suggestion for improving gender equality in 2015:

Talk about it. Talk about sexism.

Acknowledge it.

All of it.

Even the stuff that you disagree with.

It’s been a slow process, but over the past year I’ve seen my friends – of all genders – stand up against sexism with increasing frequency, due to their increased awareness.

None of this is limited to female-centric problems. Men should, of course, feel free to speak up about their  gender-specific problems too, because the road goes both ways. Sexism is solved by women and men speaking up and raising awareness to their gendered issues that would otherwise go unacknowledged.

Acknowledgement is a pretty low bar, by the way. It’s the least we can do.

Sexism in developed countries is not one thing we can easily point fingers at, like Saudi’s driving ban, or FGM, or forced veiling. Rather, sexism in first-world countries is an aggregation of small details.

Likewise, the solution to sexism is going to be an aggregation of small details.

Change the discourse, change the culture.

Here’s my easy, anybody-can-do-it short list of things you can do in 2015:

  • Practice compassion and actively put yourself in others’ shoes. Often I stop and think “this would (or wouldn’t) be a problem if I was a man.” And likewise, it would behoove men to sometimes stop and consider “this would be a problem if I was a woman.”
  • Stop over-sexualizing breasts. Don’t freak out and complain when a woman breastfeeds in public.
  • Listen & believe women when they tell you something. Like the fact that we don’t like cat-calling. Or the 30 women accusing Cosby. That is either the most elaborate hoax ever, or… you know… true.
  • Believe rape victims of any gender. Victims of violent rapes experience less PTSD that victims of non-violent rapes, because survivors with physical evidence are more likely to be believed. It is that important.
  • Down with revenge porn! Don’t take or share explicit photos without consent. Delete that shit and tell whoever shared it that s/he’s a grade-A asswipe.
  • And stop fucking using the word “girl” to describe fully grown women.

Dress Coded: An Education on (unnecessary) Sexualization

dress-coded-1

When one Illinois middle school cluelessly decided to ban leggings & yoga pants because they were “distracting to the boys”, they probably didn’t have any idea it would be the catalyst to a national conversation about dress codes in school.

I mean, dress codes are like, so un-controversial. Until now.

Now, all sorts of interesting stories are surfacing. Girls wearing the same regulation gym outfits, but the curvier ones are getting dress-coded. Tall girls getting dress-coded for short garments, even though they’re finger-tip length, while short girls seem to not draw the same leg-bearing ire. One girl getting sent home from prom for wearing pants. Another girl was sent home from her homeschool prom because male chaperons said her dress was “causing impure thoughts”…for the teenage boys, of course.

So… Many interesting stories indeed.

The leggings ban irked me immediately for two reasons. The first being that these girls are in middle school, which means they are 11-14. Stop making them out to be devilish little nymphets, you creepy Humbert Humberts. These girls are not wearing yoga pants/leggings to show off the prepubescent shapeliness (ha!) of their backsides. The main reason girls (and adult women!) wear yoga pants is because they are heaven compared to the alternative:

Traditionally “cute”clothing for young women are notoriously restrictive and often painful.

The following images are from IMPRESSION, a photo series that shows what women wear, by the imprints left on their skin .  Here’s what form-fitting jeans look like:

jeans 2 impression jeans impressionjeans 3 impression

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does that look comfortable to you?  Because it looks pretty damn painful to me.

Keep in mind that loose or baggy clothing for girls is neither “popular” nor “attractive” and even borderline socially unacceptable. Professional women: would you show up to the office in a baggy pantsuit? No? Then why would these girls show up to school in baggy jeans?

(This is a bit off topic but…) I really bothers me how schools insist that girls wear bras (this starts at, like, age 8-14 when girls start budding. Many girls and/or their moms have embarrassing stories of female teachers quietly pulling them aside, and delicately suggesting that she get a training bra), but then simultaneously decree that bra straps are inappropriate. This is like insisting all boys must wear socks, but the tops of socks sticking out of the shoes are inappropriate.  It’s just… so arbitrary.

bra 1 impression bra 2 impression

Anyway, back to my point: the (un)comfort of women’s clothing. Obviously girls are going to pick yoga pants/leggings over form-fitting jeans that cut off the blood flow in the hips. It’s not about looking “sexy”. It’s about comfort. To twist this innocent reason around and treat these girls as if they are temptresses is incredibly disrespectful.

The second reason the leggings ban irked me was the “reasoning” behind it.

It’s “distracting to the boys”

Ugh. Every sane person on the internet immediately called bullshit on this incredibly sexist statement. The basic and very valid counterargument:  Girls clothing is not and should not be responsible for boys’ behavior.  I’m actually not going to go too deep into this. I know if you’re reading my blog then you probably understand & agree with the counterargument. I wanted to take this conversation in a bit of a different direction;

One. 

It’s yet another reminder, and reinforcement, that a girl’s appearance is more important, and demands more attention, than her other, non-visible qualities. You know, qualities like intelligence, perseverance, athletic ability, tenacity, creativity, a hard work ethic… attention to those attributes seem fade away rather quickly once an inch of skin is exposed.

Instead, it teaches her to view herself in a sexualized gaze, from an outsider’s point of view. At an increasingly young age, getting dressed in the morning turns from “does teal clash with yellow?” to “is this too much shoulder? Can someone see down this shirt? Would someone be able to look up this skirt on the stairs? What happens when I sit or bend over? I should test that.”

It’s not necessary a bad way of thinking when getting dressed. But it’s a pretty damn insidious sign of something ugly in our society, when middle-school girls are worrying about people looking down their shirts, and adjusting what they wear because of it.

And schools, the institutions that are supposed to be teaching our kids the importance of education, teach the opposite when they pull a girl out of class because her tank top straps are only two inches wide, not the three inches regulation. It doesn’t matter if she’s the valedictorian working towards the Ivy Leagues. If one day her shirt rides up a bit too much (maybe it shrunk unexpectedly in the wash?), she could get sent home to change (perfect attendance award? who cares!).

Two.

Female bodies are not public art.

They are not for your viewing pleasure.

Or viewing displeasure.

Schools are teaching girls, at a very, very young age, that they are on-display, and that is not ok. They’re normalizing some pretty scary behaviors that women must put up with almost every day:

  • receiving unsolicited comments from complete strangers on clothes and/or appearance
  • fielding “suggestions” from others on how dress, apply makeup, or even style hair
  • being forced to change clothes because someone in an authority position demands it
  • experiencing the unwanted & unnecessary sexualization of her body by older persons
  • responding to all of the above with compliance and politeness

Not only that, but for women, the feeling of being watched is unsettling but very common. I feel on-display when I’m waiting for the crosswalk sign to change. I feel on-display when I’m at the gym. I feel on-display at the grocery store… the list could go on. Usually it’s because I see the leers, the quick up-down flick of the eyes, the possible mental-undressing (many guys have told me apparently this is a common, almost knee-jerk mental reaction, to imagine a woman’s clothes off? Idk, let me know in the comment box). Its pretty jarring to hear that some schools have become one of those places that treat girls like they are objects on display.

I think what we’re hearing online is girls expressing that the strange, inconsistent enforcement of the dress codes is sexualizing them against their will. I’m pretty sure every single private schoolgirl has been subjected to some crass “naughty schoolgirl” joke, or unwanted attention, due to their uniforms.

It’s not the girls.

It’s not their uniforms.

It’s the outsider’s gaze sexualizing  them.

Right now schools seem to be doing a really good job of teaching girls being female in public means their bodies are on display for scrutiny. And schools are doing a really bad job of teaching boys that staring is rude (to put it lightly).

Until this changes in schools, I highly doubt the more mature, serious variations of unwanted sexualization – street harassment, sexual assault, and victim-blaming – will ever fully disappear.

All I have to say for now is:

If you’re a teenage girl in high school, it will all be over soon. You will graduate (or exit with grace), and enter the real world where nobody cares if leggings show the shape of your butt, because everybody wears leggings and everybody has butts. And there is nothing inherently sexual with either of those things.

These Female “Privileges” Suck (but also prove my point)

Dear Mark Saunders,

I see that you are a writer of men’s issues, and have taken it upon yourself to expose some of the insidiously institutionalized sexism that American men suffer from on a daily basis. Your article was titled “18 things females seem to not understand (because female privilege)” and I clicked on it, bracing for the usual dribble such as “we don’t like your pixie cuts”.

I was instead blown away by the incredible amount of  ignorance & misogyny I had unwittingly stumbled upon. Yes! A veritable goldmine of men’s issues & female privileges!

MRA

Although I’m not sure you are quite clear on the definition of a privilege.

Privilege: a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people. 

When I saw your post was a list of privileges I thought to myself, “oh good, something to remind me of how great it is to be a woman.” Too bad it was a list of literally the most pathetic, least useful privileges (& some non-privileges) ever. How ironic!

The vast majority of the list is unsupported by sound reasoning, logic, or statistics. So here I am fuming & taking 4 hours to refute an 18-point list that probably took you 30 seconds to write, when I could be watching Fringe on Netflix.

And, uh, Mark? You forgot the most important female privilege of all:

Yoga. Pants.

Continue reading

Ornamental Women

I begin this post with an anecdote:

For the past few months I’ve been running a group Pinterest Board, Strength is Beautiful, for my company as part of our social media marketing efforts for Cody.

Here is my description of the board on Pinterest:

This is a group board for all things fitness! Strength is beautiful, ladies. Overly sexual images will be taken down. Email me if you would like to be invited to pin to this board: sophia@codyapp.com

At first the board was going well. There is always some degree  of uncertainty with group boards, because someone could come in and fill it with spam (or porn), but I was hopeful that the board would remain PG and body-positive. For the first few weeks, it was going well. The board was full of stuff like this:

All good stuff. Yay strength is beautiful. Continue reading

“Inner Beauty Doesn’t Exist”

Oh lawdy lawd. Ok, many of my blog posts are often prompted by people being assholes, and me explaining exactly what about their behavior makes them crappy human beings. Osmel Sousa, the president of the popular Miss Venezuela beauty pageant, pretty much takes the trophy for crappy human being of the day (because there’s always a new one tomorrow).

The following video, produced by the NY Times, is only about 5 minutes long, but if you don’t feel like watching it, Sousa’s opening statement pretty much sums it up:

“Inner beauty doesn’t exist,” he claims, “it is something that unpretty women invented to justify themselves.” (He says this with a really creepy smile on his face, then laughs.)

The first issue with this statement was summed up really well by Erika Nicole Kendall, another blogger whom I admire very much:

“I think it’s pretty f—ing jarring to hear someone say “I say that inner beauty does not exist; it’s something that unpretty women invented to justify themselves.“ They need to justify themselves? As in, their raison d’etre? Their existence? Women who are not “beautiful” are subject to justifying their existence, lest there be no reason for them to exist?”
-Excerpted from “I Say That Inner Beauty Does Not Exist” | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss 

Props to Kendall for calling this guy out on what he’s really trying to say: If a woman is not physically beautiful, then she doesn’t have any value.

What is especially concerning (to me at least) is that this dude is gay, and he does not talk about women this way because he wants to bone them. This is not a sexual power play. No, as a gay man, he thinks “ugly” women have “made up” the concept of inner beauty because to him, women are objects for looking at, period.

To Sousa (and many other people), women serve no other purpose than being ornamental, like a painting, or a vase. And what is the point of an ugly vase? None. An ornament must be beautiful to serve it’s purpose, otherwise it is no longer an ornament – it is an eyesore & will be taken out with the trash.

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The rest of the video explores the new trend of Venezuelan mannequins being modified to be super busty, reflecting the increasingly extreme beauty ideals of the country. This trend of mannequins with impossible body proportions is nothing new. But mannequins are also particularly interesting because they literally are woman-ornaments. A mannequin with a less-than perfect body shape is worthless and will be modified and/or thrown out.

And herein lies the scary connection to be made: To Sousa (and people who agree with him) If “inner beauty does not exist”, if traits such as intelligence, compassion, and strength do not matter, and women are merely ornaments to please the eye, there is no difference between a woman and a mannequin. If this does not outrage you right now, leave my blog.

Why do mannequins even matter that much? Much like photoshopped women in magazines, they contribute to social norms of what women should & shouldn’t look like.

Venezuelan mannequins:

American Mannequins:

(by the way, if you walk around to the back of mannequins in America, you can see the clothes are often clamped or pinned to be form-fitting, because the mannequins are thinner than size 0/XS).

Swedish mannequins:

(because Sweden does everything right)

Ok, obviously the notion that “inner beauty doesn’t exist” is complete and utter bullsh*t. This brings me to the second part of this blog post:

Yarrrg Musclezzzz (& Booty)

Our standards of female beauty are changing from heroin-chic to Wonder Woman. Don’t believe me? Google Trends knows – thin is on it’s way out, fit is just getting started.

fitspo-thinspo-trends

Part of this trend is due to a strong resurgence in the feminist movement worldwide, ever since several notable gang rape incidents (selfcontrolselfcontrol don’t fly off the handle about rape right now). Check out any “fitblr’s” Tumblr account, and chances are you’ll see some feminist stuff on it. That’s because fitness & feminism actually go together like salt & pepper. Fit gals and fit dudes understand the mental, physical, and social empowerment that comes with control over one’s body.

Because I have a sociological background, when I started writing for Cody I realized I was in a position of influence, and I could use this influence for the better. That’s why you will never see sexualized fitness content on the Cody blog. I’ve made a point to only use body-positive language on Cody’s social media accounts. Our graphic designer Tasheon also does a really great job of  only using non-sexual, body-positive images & illustrations:

awesomebychoice everyseason girlonfire iplie lifeisasport sissyarealwoman dontbeirondeficient rockoutchalkout truestrength progres_hurts_so_good weightoffshoulders

Another reason this trend is catching on so quick is CrossFit! This is because as CrossFit spreads, more people are exposed to images of strong women, and the more you are exposed to these images, the more you grow to accept it, like it, even want to look like it.

Here’s a short CrossFit video called “Letting Beauty Speak”:


Unlike Sousa & his beauty pageants, CrossFitters understand that beauty is not skin-deep. That being said, imagine what would happen if our mannequins looked like CrossFitters!

I’ve been waiting for the ever-vapid Seventeen or Cosmo magazines to start featuring some of the more conventionally “hot” CrossFit women, like Andrea Ager

or Christmas Abbot

or Camille Leblanc-Bazinet

But then I realized, if Seventeen & Cosmo won’t put athletes like Mckayla Maroney or Venus Williams on their covers, they’re probably not going to put a CrossFitter on their cover. Which is a damn shame. But that’s ok, because Seventeen & Cosmo are insulting pieces of shit that portray women as idiots who are only interested in makeup, clothes, and men, and they can go suck a fat one.

I’ve received some criticisms in the past – “this blog reads like a CrossFit advertisement” or “you’re still focusing on physical standards of beauty” or “stop hating on skinny bodies“… blah blah blah.

These are all people that don’t understand the deep connection between physical fitness & female empowerment. When  I started working out, yes, I was doing it to “look better naked”.  I had no idea that the following would happen:

1) I’ve stopped wearing makeup on a regular basis. Makeup is now reserved for big nights out, or job interviews.

2) I’ve stopped wearing form-fitting clothes, and pretty much my wardrobe consists of baggy jeans & a sweatshirt. Even though my body is now the most smokin’ I’ve ever achieved, I have no desire to show it off.

3) I’ve stopped weighing myself.

4) In short, I’ve stopped seeking outside approval for how I look, because to be honest how I look doesn’t really matter to me anymore.

Y’know what matters? Inner beauty. Intelligence, resilience, strength, creativity, compassion, resourcefulness, spunk, attitude, confidence, dedication… this is what inner beauty is. This is what matters. Not what you look like, but what you can do.

So for every single person out there, man or woman, don’t let any jerk try to tell you that inner beauty doesn’t matter or doesn’t exist. Even if your face got shot off like Chuck Palahniuck’s Invisible Monsters.

The Gym is to Women as Lingerie Stores are to Men

The other day I came across this really hilarious video on BuzzFeed called “What it’s like to be a woman at the gym”:

It immediately reminded me not only of how felt when I first started working out, but also of my friends’ reactions when I bring them into the weight room.

I went to the gym with my girl Melanie. Everything was fine in the downstairs section of cardio machines & floor space. The second I took her upstairs to the free weights room, she looked around and, with a nervous giggle, whispered to me, “…we’re the only girls in here…” 

I knew it made her feel uncomfortable.

When I took my friend Christine to the gym, we hadn’t even changed yet. We looking for the locker room in this new facility, when some guys standing by the ellipticals started up. “Hey girls, how’s it goin’? Where you goin’? We don’t bite!” 

“If they keep on hollering at us like that, I’m gonna freak”, she muttered. Continue reading

1200 Calories

I don’t know why “1200” managed to be the magic number of calories women should consume if they want to lose weight.

I don’t even know how I know of this number. Only that I know it, and my friends know it, and my mom knows it. Somehow, somewhere along the road, I was taught that if I want to have a flat stomach and tight tushy, I need to limit my calories to 1200 a day and do cardio. I don’t know how it got in to all of our collective brains, but somehow it did (if any ladies remember how or when they first heard the 1200-calorie rule-of-thumb for losing weight, please let me know via comment box).

What I do know is that 1200 is the general number of calories health professionals say women cannot drop below without suffering negative health consequences.

Interesting, isn’t it? 1200 calories. The line between health and what they call “starvation mode”. 1200 calories. The dangerous tightrope that many women are trying to walk, because they think this is how thinness is achieved.

Continue reading

Spread the Strength: The PG Version

This girl is 17 and a CrossFitter. I can pretty much guarantee you she is never going to be mugged.

First of all, hi everyone. It feels like I haven’t blogged about anything sociologically substantial in a while, and I might be a bit rusty so please pardon the potentially poor prose.

Anyhoozle.

Now that I’ve graduated from McGill and no longer have to whittle away the hours of cushy student life by blogging nonsensically about sociological things, what have I been doing with myself?

WELL. That brings me to today’s topic.

My strange, wonderful, and illuminating journey working in the fitness industry.

Continue reading

This Trendy “Strong is the New Skinny” Thing (and what it could mean for the next generation of girls)

This girl is 17 and a CrossFitter. She’s obviously a genius and a badass.

*UPDATE: Here’s a PG-Version of this blog post, for those of you who wish to Spread the Strength among those of innocent ears*

First of all, hi everyone. It feels like I haven’t blogged about anything sociologically substantial in a while, and I might be a bit rusty so please pardon the potentially poor prose.

Anyhoozle.

Now that I’ve graduated from McGill and no longer have to whittle away the hours of cushy student life by blogging nonsensically about sociological things, what have I been doing with myself?

WELL. That brings me to today’s topic.

My strange, wonderful, and illuminating journey working in the fitness industry.

Continue reading

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