It is an extremely ‘fun time’ to be a woman. Catalyzed by the instantaneous access to information and social support provided by the modern internet, plus the fact women’s health issues have become a charged pivot point in the American political climate, people are more interested in revolutionizing defined gender roles than ever.
It actually isn’t very ‘fun.’ Facebook and Twitter enable the rapid circulation of and probably hundreds and thousands of ‘likes’ and ‘RTs’ for a very rational and empowering article about not judging women by their appearance by a woman who has made a living mostly by being beautiful. We are supposed to take an algal bloom of sitcoms and films starring ‘funny, quirky’ female stars as a positive sign, but Bridesmaids and New Girl and 2 Broke Girls are still pretty much about weddings or girls or earning money and getting a boyfriend and fitting in and everyone wants them to be harbingers of success so badly that no one really admits they’re anemic and dumb, or that it’s weird to have a rash of programming about women that is all called ‘[something] girl(s),’ or that it’s not that exciting for The Hunger Games to have a female heroine because ultimately the story is about which guy she likes and ends up having babies with.
All of this stuff is sort of confusing/ upsetting if you are intellectual, independently successful, curvaceous or overweight, unconventional looking, outspoken, aggressive or any other of the traits that women have pretty much historically not been allowed to be, hence all of the explosion of writing and blogging and tailored advertising fervently focused on letting you know that HECK YEAH YOU CAN and enforcing to the point of tooth rot how it’s all so super okay that you are all of these things.
Like, you are supposed to be happy because occasionally Dove ads show ‘real women’ (thereby implying the models it has shown to date are not ‘real’ or are instead pretend women). The normal-sized women are as halo-lit and photoshopped as anyone else. I want to see underwear ads showing a 50+ parent of multiple children in granny briefs, stippled in cellulite on her daily routine of looking sad in front of a mirror but the underwear make her look AWESOME. I will buy those underwear. You are supposed to feel ‘inspired’ by that Katy Perry video where an overweight girl strips down and jumps in the pool with everyone else. How inspiring and brave of that girl to join the normals!
I mean, the messaging is still really f-cked up. I’m pretty sure that’s because society will enforce weird ideas of ‘norms’ no matter what we do with gender roles. But, like, I’m basically tired of being told that I am now allowed to feel socially admirable because I have big hair and big other things and am hyperarticulate and ambitious and outgoing. Society still punishes these things.
Or maybe what I mean is ‘men still punish these things.’ I know I’m not allowed to think that what men think is important. I am not allowed to feel insecure about my desirability ever because I need to be A KICKASS AWESOME INSPIRING FEMALE HEROINE and if I want anyone to think I am attractive or ‘wife material’ that means I am participating in the evil patriarchy and I have been brainwashed by the ad industry and social conditioning or whatever. Most of the time I am working on being a pretty good feminist but it’s sort of hard in this weird, awkward adolescence for feminism in my generation. It reminds me of having big boobs while everyone else in my grade was skinny and athletic and how gross and awful I felt.
I feel anxious and confused and sometimes I don’t know where I belong or how I’m supposed to feel about myself relative to others. Also, you can’t talk about this as a woman. You can’t feel bitter or weird or invalidated and you can’t lash out or blame anyone. If you have moments of insecurity you are committing the sin of poor self-esteem or worse, what if you have a BAD BODY IMAGE you need to buy some books and take a healing yoga class at the yoga center and five of your friends know really great instructors and they feel SO GOOD since they started taking the classes, they look and feel so good now.
I really wanted to totally spill my guts and write an article called Types of Women Men Like Better Than Me. It would have included the “underweight mysterious Tumblr girl who posts pictures of the gap between her thighs,” the “Semi-attractive Asian girl who always wears cute hats and mittens and cooks vegan recipes,” the “hip ‘nerd grrl’ who wears superhero tees and brags about being a huge dork even though she’s totally normal and hot, and she types ‘rawr’ a lot,” and probably the “super intellect whiz girl who men like because she’s too shy to intimidate them and because she doesn’t know that she is pretty.” “Mysterious blonde with flower crown.” “NYU student with punk haircut.” “Wholesome 22 year old who works with pets.”
Then I thought about how I would engender an inferno of mean or prescriptive comments by writing this article. I thought about how that would be perpetuating the problem by reducing other people to ‘types.’ I thought about how I just wrote an authoritative article about how gross and counterproductive it is to respond to feeling excluded by ‘typing’ others.
I know, I know, I am not supposed to care what men think. Today I don’t want to be an authority.
It sucks to always read about how I should suddenly begin believing in myself now, and that anybody who thinks that Mila Kunis is prettier or cooler than me is sexist and narrow-minded. It all feels like a patronizing ruse. Society doesn’t really actually value these things in women yet. Stop lying to me.