Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tuesday evening roundup and rant

In case anyone is still wondering why women, especially, don't find rape funny.

Wow, CNN: that's a sensationalist headline. Thing is, as it stands, when dirty coal loses, everyone else wins. I'm sorry that some families depend on it, but perhaps they can seek out safer and even more lucrative employment with less damaging consequences for surrounding communities and the air in general.

Carolyn recommends that parents don't let their kids associate screaming with appeasement.

I couldn't agree more about the damage that teen magazines can do to girls (and that Cosmo and such can do to women). But, there's a but. Actually, there's a whole rant. Let me step back. First, let me direct your attention to this incredibly offensive advice to daughters about boys, which a well-meaning friend (WMF) sent me, with the message that it was "all true." Here's an excerpt:
Your attractiveness to men begins and ends with your physical appearance. I am sorry, daughter, but this is the way it is. You must do all you can to improve your physical appearance.
  1. Keep your weight down. It is not fair that women are judged more harshly than men for weight issues, but they are. Excess weight is the most challenging attractiveness issue women face. Many women could improve their physical appearance greatly if they would simply lose weight, or keep their weight at a reasonable level. To put it bluntly, don’t get fat.
  2. Learn to wear tastefully applied makeup that works for your skin tone and facial structure.
  3. Get a good hairstyle that works for your facial structure and body type. Long hair is more appealing to men than short hair.
  4. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink to excess. Don’t use illegal drugs. All that partying ages a woman.
  5. Learn to dress well for your body type. Wear clothes that flatter your body type.
Get help from a fashion consultant or cosmetologist if you need it.
You will be more attractive in your teens and 20s than at any other time in your life.
Okay, I buy numbers 4 and 5. Take care of yourself and dress well for your body type. If you're going to wear makeup, apply it tastefully and match it to your skin tone. But if you ask me, makeup is for people who have shitty skin because they eat crap and don't exercise.

As for not getting fat... well, two-thirds of the people in this country are overweight, and a lot of those people still manage to find love. If you don't want to get fat, don't get fat, but let that decision come from within, from what you want; it's not about being attractive to anyone else. More on this below, but first, here's the part that's even more offensive to me (as much as my mother would agree with it):

To keep a man, you must offer more than looks, age and chastity. You must cultivate a pleasant personality. Optimism, cheerfulness and an upbeat outlook are key here. Men don’t want a pessimist, or a woman who complains and nags. Be kind, pleasant, optimistic and non-demanding. This is not to say that your needs are not important. They are. Just recognize that his needs are important too. Your wants and needs do not always come first.
Don’t be crass, rude, vulgar, profane, sarcastic or caustic. Don’t complain about his hobbies or interests. Men absolutely hate it when their women complain, grouse, or bother them about things. Men absolutely hate being around a pessimistic woman who can’t find anything good about her life, her circumstance, the people around her, or herself. Men do not like gossiping, sniping or sarcasm from women. Most of all, men absolutely do not want to be with women who act like, talk like or look like men.
Sure, there's some truth to that: everyone's needs are important. No one's needs always come first. And yes, nagging is a drag on every relationship, and so is pessimism. Here's the thing (see the start of my rant): none of these issues apply solely to women. Everyone should cultivate a pleasant personality. I don't take offense with the idea that it would behoove women to cultivate a pleasant personality; I take offense with the idea that that wisdom applies solely to women. Men hate being around a women who can't find anything good about her life? Well, then, we're even: I hate being around men (and women) like that, too. As for chastity, see this. I'll leave the last sentence untouched.

Look, I can be crass, profane, sarcastic, and caustic. Oh, you know what else about me men apparently find scary? I'm a vegan. And you know what else? All of these things are a part of who I am, and I'll either be with a man who accepts me for who I am, or I'll be single. But I'm sure as hell not going to become another person, and I don't see why anyone--male or female--would want to date someone who doesn't value herself enough to be herself.

As for weight: Sure, I prefer to look the way I do now, at about 20 percent body fat, than I did a year and a half ago at about 30 percent body fat. I loved my body then, as I do now; I never thought I was a better or worse person based on my fluctuations in weight, and I frowned upon the Date Lab douchebags (and others) who outwardly expressed their preference for thinner women (good for you). I don’t think everyone should feel the way I do; I hope everyone is, whatever her percent body fat, within (health-based) reason, comfortable in her own skin. Nobody should be hounded, the way I was by my mother (which was also counterproductive), over her weight or shape. But, conversely, nobody should be made to feel bad or weak or less of a feminist, for preferring a different shape. The one redeeming sentence in that horrendous Skinny Gossip post was about how it’s apparently socially acceptable to be thin only if you don’t work at it. Crystal Renn got slammed for losing weight. That's not any more obnoxious than slamming her for gaining weight. Fat can certainly be a feminist issue, but it doesn’t have to be a feminist issue. Accept the way you look, and accept the way you want to look, too.

As discussed above, and generally on this blog, I've never been one for double standards: many of the same things often advised to women, apply to men. I'll go further: as far as I’m concerned, facial hair looks as bad on most men as it does on most women, and lingerie as ridiculous on women as on men. It does not behoove men to speak effusively of their cats on a first date anymore than it does women. It wouldn't be funny to suggest that it might be funny if Daniel Tosh were raped.

Of course, others may ascribe to double standards. My ex-bf, whose facial hair I could never bring myself to care for, recoiled when he saw a picture of me, on a friend’s phone, with an eyeliner-drawn mustache (remember my Che Guevara Halloween costume?). “Yes, it’s a double standard," he said. "But it’s still creepy.” Shrug. IMHO, so was his facial hair, so, no, it's not a double standard.

So I’m the first to say that the way women look shouldn’t define them—see the NOW manifesto. But I won't deny that both men and women—and women to a greater extent, and no, it's not fair—are judged by their appearance. We all make judgments about people based on what they look like, dress like, etc., whether we want to or not (and sometimes even I want to). I’ve been lectured in diversity classes about how I’m less likely to take seriously a job applicant who’s covered in tattoos, and while that's not actually true, what is true is that there's a universal, inherent preference for attractive people in this world. It’s not just a social construct. So to even things out, let's start applying the same standards to men: if you look like $hit, I'm not going to take you seriously.

There are other ostensibly gender-based issues that are best seen in a gender-neutral light.  For example: relationships. Have you ever understood why a woman's interest in relationships might detract from feminism, why a human preference for companionship can be perceived or spun into a sign of weakness? That spin, unfortunately, makes it difficult for some women to acknowledge that they’d be happy in a relationship. Why? Does anyone ever accuse men who want a relationship of being weak or insufficiently independent? It’s true for both genders that the happier and more complete you are as an individual, the happier and healthier you’ll be in a relationship, which will in turn make you happier and healthier as an individual. Being open to love is not a character flaw. It's anti-woman is suggesting that a woman has to choose between feminism and love and dating.

So next time someone says something about how it would behoove women to be one way or another, let's apply the same standard, universally, to both genders.

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