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Posts Tagged ‘makeup’

i hate the finger-pointing title of this article, but it is otherwise hilarious.

5. Problem: Your Vagina Tastes Bad
Solution: Vagina Mints

If your partner is reluctant to give you oral sex, it’s not because of pervasive cultural belief that cunnilingus is complicated to the point of being impossible and that vaginas are inherently icky (thus the need to uncomplicate them and un-ickify them with, oh, say, labiaplasty) it’s because your vagina tastes bad. Enter the Linger Internal Vaginal Flavoring, or Altoids for your vagina. Linger assumes you already feel bad about your nether regions, stating on its Web site that the mint-flavored pill “decreases self-consciousness” and tosses out the unattributed statistic that 72 percent of women feel self conscious about their taste and odor. Dubious marketing practices aside, the Linger mint isn’t just a harmless, if asinine, oddity.  Mother Jones magazine did some digging into the origins of Linger and discovered that the vagina mint is no different from a regular mint. In other words, it’s made out of sugar. And putting sugar-based mint directly into your vagina is a recipe for a mint-flavored yeast infection.

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Big Trubs, by Allyson Mitchell.

[Woman] can give suffrage or the ballot no new quality, nor can she receive anything from it that will enhance her own quality. Her development, her freedom, her independence must come from and through herself. First, by asserting herself as a personality, and not as a sex commodity. Second, by refusing the right of anyone over her body; by refusing to bear children, unless she wants them, by refusing to be a servant to God, the State, society, the husband, the family, etc., by making her life simpler, but deeper and richer. That is, by trying to learn the meaning and substance of life in all its complexities; by freeing herself from the fear of opinion and public condemnation.”
– Emma Goldman, “Woman Suffrage,” from Anarchism and Other Essays (read here). Found in “Raise Some Hell: A Feminist Childrearing Zine for Everyone,” @ zinelibrary.info.

We used to talk a lot about whether cisgendered feminist women can dress and act the ways that mainstream society expects of us—how our gender presentation and sexuality relate to our feminism. Does normalizing second-wave-style feminist response to social expectations—e.g. refusing to shave and wear bras or makeup—violate individual women’s freedom of choice? Do third-wave-style responses, or “choice feminism”—wearing makeup, wearing typically feminine clothes, etc.—devalue women in society? Personally? Both?

Any monolithic standard of behavior fucks with people’s freedom of choice—no matter how integral choice is supposed to be to the standard. Second-wave feminism (and its offshoots) can make you feel like a traitor to the movement, complicit in your own oppression and others’, for having a femme-y gender presentation. Third-wave feminism makes you feel like an irrelevant troublemaker if your “choices” don’t cooperate with some version of the status quo. I believe that superfemme presentation and noncooperation can be equally liberating for different people, and I think we create false extremes that divide us. From now on, I’m going to try and trust and support you if you want to wear lipstick. But you have to trust and support me in my choice not to.

I’ve recently made very classic dirty feminist-looking choices about my body and my appearance—I don’t shave my legs or pits, wear makeup or sexy clothes, or have pretty hair. In a post-third wave world, this constellation is judged variously as: uninformed, outdated, regressive, gross, pointless, and, frequently, oppressive. I feel like we’ve talked here as well about whether it is oppressive. I’d like to submit: on the contrary! The very, very contrary. And I’d also like to say that I think everyone should think seriously about making second-wave-y choices.

When you think about it, pretty much every physical expectation of women in our society requires us to participate in constructing ourselves as sex objects. Shaving, wearing make-up, having long, pretty hair, attractive clothes, etc… First off, what the fuck. And second, for this post, I will refer to these processes as “sexualization,” but I really mean “mundane sexualization”—in other words, those sexualizing processes that have become part of our standard definition of femininity. Purposeful sexualization for the purposes of turning people on is another topic for another post, to me, anyway. (Also, I’m only going to talk about some very obvious banners of femininity here, rather than deal with newer expectations like surgery, tanning, etc.)

So, the question at the heart of our neverending debate is, should women sexualize themselves in society? Can making yourself look hot or normal be a tool for general empowerment? The societally approved third wave wants us to feel like accepting and performing our own sexualization is an aspect of our liberation. And here’s where Emma Goldman comes in—I think you can exchange “suffrage or the ballot” for “razors or make-up” quite neatly. There is nothing they can do for us that we can’t do better ourselves, and we can never change how they essentially function.

The communities I grew up in, like the communities most people grew up in, were dominated and created by men and other people who value, judge, and commodify women based solely on our appearances. For most of my adolescence and young adulthood, I’ve shaved, made myself pretty, showed off my body, etc. because I wanted to be judged positively and seen as valuable by my communities. And that is such bullshit, to drag women into caring about all that crap because it’s the only value they have in some communities. For some time after becoming dimly aware of feminism, I tried to actively choose to do all that stuff, but it just felt like artificial intelligence—like being a dumb robot with the curse of reason, thinking about why it should follow its programming when in fact it has no choice.

Sexualization by choice and sexualization by default are no different. Society wants women to be sex commodities, and because society expects women to sexualize themselves, it will never bother respecting their reasons. That’s just its due. Daily life in the United States is like a giant Miss America pageant. Thinking critically about society’s requirements and continuing to accept them just traps you in the contest. No judge is going to ask or care why you shaved your legs. They just expect it. It doesn’t occur to them that it might be a choice, and I think we need to ask ourselves whether it even is one before we try to go there in society at large. (I do want to leave sexual relationships out in this post. However, let it be said: your partner should want to talk to you about why you do things to your body and respect your decisions, as part of a practice of consent. I think there’s some kind of magic about a healthy, communicative intimate relationship that allows people to critically examine their own expectations much more readily than in society at large. So in other words, I’m not saying it’s a fool’s errand to even make people think about why women are doing things. Your boyfriend should be able to respect your choice to shave your legs as a choice, and if he doesn’t, dump him.)

On the other hand, if you don’t meet the requirements, you’re not even worthy of their attention—and it rules. It seems like most people don’t even want to judge my worth based on how well I’m sexualizing myself, cause I’m so weird and unfeminine, so I don’t have to deal with them expressing their opinions. What’s more, I don’t have to constantly worry about whether they find me acceptable. Hairy armpits disqualify you. You can get off the stage and find some peace and quiet. Free from “the fear of opinion and public condemnation,” you are FINALLY able to actually devote a reasonable amount of attention to the “meaning and substance of life in all its complexities.”

I’m not really going to touch on the other oppressive categories Goldman mentions—the all-powerful State, reproductive expectations, husband/family, but basically, the same holds true—I believe in ignoring what any particular construction (of work, government, age/status in life, family, etc.) demands from you and trying to see things objectively. Most social constructions were created and/or cemented arbitrarily, and whoever did it probably didn’t have you or anyone like you in mind. Following along with them for whatever reason will never do you any good; it only feeds the apparatus that continues to oppress you (whether the agent of the apparatus means to or not). (Following the system can be and is sometimes neutral, and sometimes you need to do it just to get by, though. I also want to add that I’m lucky enough to fly under the radar in many other ways—I’m white, young, cis, pretty, financially subsisting, able-bodied, etc., and I don’t mean to malign the choices anyone makes to survive.)

I just feel so, fucking, FREE. I feel like a person. There is no, “I’m supposed to look…” or “I should worry about…”. I don’t sweat it when I forget deodorant (HA), I don’t shower every day, and I don’t get worried about my mascara smudging, or my hair unstraightening, or my leg hair growing. I never realized how much brainpower those thoughts drain, and it’s a LOT. Sure, there are new expectations of me, but I have more power over them because I’ve purposely bought into these constructions of what a woman can be.

Life is “simpler, but deeper and richer.” There’s so much stuff I don’t have to worry about any more, and so much more time to think and be happy.

I can buy blush, heels, razors, and haircuts, but I sure as shit could not have bought that.

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Even Rizzo just wants a steady.

I was shocked to discover two years ago that I see the “perfect me” as someone in a relationship. And I still haven’t figured out how to break free from this expectation. And I think I know why. It seems nearly every classic story, if it has a happy ending, ends with a wedding, a getting-together or something that involves finding your happiness in another person. I despise this notion that everyone has a “better half” or someone to “complete” them. I am a whole human being! There is nothing missing. WHY am I sad when I am by myself? Society has taught me, “hey, you have a great life, you’re a hard worker, you’re a fabulous person but who are you kidding? The only thing that can REALLY make you happy is love.” My brain has been hard-wired by repeated viewings of the Princess Bride, Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge, Juno… even WALL*E that my single self is not good enough. I’ve been told: “Someone else needs to tell me I’m beautiful. Someone else needs to protect me from harm. Someone else needs to pleasure me. Someone else needs to calm me down when I start convulsing with sobs.” This is wrong. I know I can do all these things. And I cannot decide who falls in love with me, but I can learn to love myself. I may find someone who happens to bring me joy, but I can also be happy BY MYSELF.

Is this just a female problem? I think this is a reason that so many female-identified feminists continue to shave their legs, wear tight clothing, and put on makeup. (Note from 2012: this sentence should perish, but I feel the need to keep it for posterity’s sake (= )

I feel as though all my life I’ve put so much pressure on myself in preparation for this mysterious future lover. And it wasn’t simply when I thought I was heterosexual. This is not a giving up your dreams to be a housewife thing. I’ve felt it when I accepted my attraction to the same sex too. It is a desire to be desirable, but to the extent that I deny my own comfort and love of my body. Now that I’ve mostly erased this expectation, I do so much more for myself!

How often during the day do you fix yourself up to appeal to this impending relationship? How often do you compromise your own comfort to make yourself desirable?

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i’m reading this book, Female Chauvinist Pigs: The Rise of Raunch Culture, by ariel levy. it talks about the increased visibility of sexual expression, in the form of exhibitionism and raunchiness, as evidenced by shows such as girls gone wild, howard stern, as well as the appropriation of pornography by mainstream american culture. it talks about how women, in an effort to share the fruits that men have historically enjoyed, are participating in chauvinistic oppression in order to democratize it for both men, women, and other genders…but the book argues that the movement is essentially misguided and harmful. it’s changing my life. i now no longer know how to dress or whether it’s okay to wear makeup…

i highly recommend everyone read it. it’s a short read. i’m not done yet but i just barely started it and i’m three quarters through it. if anyone has any thoughts, please share.

orkinson

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