Monday, August 4, 2008

A note on conventional beauty and feminism (and assholes)

Originally posted sometime last week.


A number of respected (and beautiful) feminist bloggers have responded to this diatribe today, and I'd like to add my name to the list. For those of you who don't really want to read the "article" (I don't blame you, it's long and awful), Feminist Anonymous has taken it upon her(?)self to declare that all physically attractive feminists are not actually feminists. She cites specifically The Apostate (for daring to wear a bikini top!), Jill at Feministe ("the original Fake Pretty Feminist"), Natalia Antanova (who is "pretty for a feminist"), and Renegade Evolution (a sex-worker and feminist whom everyone hates because "she pisses people off when she waves her tits in their face"). All of these women are well-spoken, thoughtful feminists who also happen to be blessed with convetional beauty. However, FemAnon failed to mention the other bajillion feminists who are also pretty and therefore not feminists.

We can't can't a break can we? First we're not pretty enough. Then we're too pretty and allowing ourselves to be objectified and calling it empowering. Then feminism is just a means of allowing "ugly women access to the mainstream" (Drug-Addled Gas Bag, Rush Limbaugh's infamous quote). Then, it turms out that those of us who either a)care about our appearances, b)are blessed with genes that allow us to be "conventionally attractive", and/or c)post pictures of ourselves so that readers can put a face with the words; we're not really feminists at all!!!
Wait... what? FemAnon's version of subverting the male gaze is to the Patriarchy what Satanism is to Christianity. She still acknowledges that all the important tenets of the Patriarchy stand and must be upheld, but in her twisted view of subverting it, she's merely turning all those things on their heads. She still worships the Patriarchy, just backwards.

Women, and feminists in particular are always too much or not enough of something. We're too pretty, not pretty enough. Too athletic, not athletic enough. Too smart, not smart enough. The list goes on and on, but the one thing that all of these criticisms have in common is that they are made from the point of view of the male gaze. By stating "UNTIL WOMEN ARE NO LONGER SEXED UP THEY WON'T BE SEEN AS HUMAN BEINGS BY MEN ." you acknowledge and promote that a woman's worth lies entirely in her looks and that in order to be taken seriously we have to be ugly or merely "presentable" (but only if you work in an office). As a feminist, you are not allowed to wear lipstick, tight jeans, have boobs, or own any makeup or high heels because by virtue of doing or having any of those things you are not adequately subverting the dominant paradigm.

No ifs, no ands, no butts either.

FemAnon's philosophy is:
If an ugly woman posts her picture on her blog, she is being transgressive. But
a pretty conventional woman doing that is performing the exact opposite action.
If you're going to show off your looks to gain approval from men don't call
yourself a feminist.

This is me. I like to think that I'm pretty. I put a lot of effort into my physical appearance, but contrary to what some people might think, I'm not doing it for the benefit of the male gaze. While my boyfriend appreciates my red hair, I've had it for longer than I've known him and I keep it because I like what it says about me: I'm loud, confrontational, powerful, and sexy.

It's been insisted in the past that the reason I look the way I do is because I want to put on make-up and pretty shoes and allow myself to be objectified, then call it empowerment (by someone whose Feminist library consists of one book and only one book, you guessed it Female Chauvinist Pigs -- a fine work, but one's entire feminist philosophy cannot come from derriding other women who want to be pretty). I was told that because I do that, I'm not really a feminist, but rather someone who wants to look pretty but also believes in equal pay for equal work -- you know, cause since I spend time on my appearance, I'm automatically doing it because men like it and my entire worth and personhood is based on what I look like. I've also been accused of beign a bad feminist because I wear and sell Mary Kay products, but excuse me, if you've ever read anything about Mary Kay Ash, it is undeniable that she was a feminist. (The whole reason she started Mary Kay Cosmetics is beause she wanted women to have an opportunity to define themselves financially. You don't get much more feminist than that! Moreover, Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultants are strong, beautiful women who believe that they can support themselves and their families and bring some sunshine into the lives of other women in doing so. I just want to give a shout out to all my MK gals! You ROCK!)

People like to put each other into boxes. We're either A or B, and there is no C. This kind of binary viewpoint is what makes sexism, racism, ableism, sizeism, and any other anti-person-ism you can think of so powerful. You are either beautiful or a feminist. You are either successful or a woman. You are either polite or black. You are either smart or in a wheel chair. You're either in control of yourself or overweight. False dictomies like these are created and enforced and prejudices are maintained. And when people try to insist, for instance, that there are no pretty feminists the only thing being accomplished is the continued reinforcement of this prejudice.

For your information, FemAnon, and anyone who agrees with her, a woman's worth is not entirely in her appearance. In fact, most people have several layers to themselves that include their appearance, personality, intelligence, work eithic, personal honor and integrity, and a number of other things by which they define themselves . I am a feminist because I seek to define myself as feminine, successful, strong, and beautiful and any attempt to subvert my definition of myself by redefining me according to the male gaze is anti-feminist. Period.

Good day to you, FemAnon. Don't forget your hat.

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