I read something today that confused and disappointed me.
Apparently, someone had seen that I had posted on Facebook (which I may unwisely keep unblocked) a request for someone to tell me that I am pretty, and they found it enraging and irresponsible of me. Now, it is a known fact and a not-so-inside joke that I will ask for someone to tell me I look pretty when I am having a bad day. I will outright ask if I look prettier today than yesterday, even if I am bloated and wearing dirty sweat pants. The point is not really to be told that I am pretty, but to be given affection from the people I love when I am feeling low. I am also not innocent of asking people to say something nice to me if that will help take the edge off a stressful or exhausting day.
Until this afternoon, I didn't realize that made me patronizing and weak-minded.
Now, the link to the opinion is years old. Getting upset about this now is like eating 4 year old vomit and complaining that it tastes bad. But it hurts my feelings. Perhaps admitting this is viewed as weak-minded as well.
I have heard many say that when a woman plays up her sexuality, elements of patriarchal oppression, conformism, and weakness are at play. That it goes against the feminist grain to purse your lips, or bat your eyelashes, or do your hair, or wear make up, or show cleavage... because on some level, you’re doing it to garner male attention.
Or worse, to make your fellow women feel inferior. That you’re unconsciously playing into some societal idea of how a woman should act towards men, even as you’re telling yourself you’re doing it because it makes you feel empowered. In essence, you are fooling yourself.
Beauty is a subjective quality. People have all agreed on this to the point that it is fodder for ironic t-shirts. But intelligence is a subjective quality as well. While I may seem smart to some, I am head-shakingly ignorant to others, I'm sure. While respect and attention based on appearance has been criticized to death, people have been praised for their desire to be respected for their intelligence. As though that isn't the same superficiality. Being revered for a single dimension of your identity, regardless of what that quality is, is shallow. Depth comes from uncovering the layers of someone. A person should be the sum of many parts, not the representation of a few.
And, perhaps even worse, it feeds into the smart-versus-pretty dichotomy. Those two things are not mutually exclusive. I'd go so far as to say that they are two sides of the same coin.
While my flippant portrayal of my principles has probably been my representational downfall in many instances, not just this one, I would hope that people, especially other women, can accept that because I am not immune to flattery, it does not make me an endless pit of insecurity. Because I tend to my appearance, it does not make me an attention vampire. Because I can be flirty, it does not make me desperate for male attention. Because I can revel in my femininity and the things that make women different from men, it does not mean I see myself as the submissive and weaker sex.
Because I like to put up the good photos of people, including myself, it does not mean I am misrepresenting. I prefer to showcase what I find to be the beautiful sides of people I love.
And I do love myself.
Asking for attention or allowing myself to be vulnerable is something I have built up a significant amount of strength to be able to do. Please do not confuse feeling small with being small. I wish all of the people I love the same strength to feel free to express when they are low and desire love. Because it means the world for me to be able to give it, just as it feels amazing to allow myself to receive it.
For years, I never did. And the lack of self worth was heavy.
I may joke about feminism, but the truth is that I think it is amazing that we are living in an age where women do not have to "be" anything to retain their respect in this society. We do not have to be pretty, or polite, or purse-lipped, or perfect. We can be loud and beautiful and ugly and crass and poetic and weak and brilliant and scared.
And not feel as though, in the eyes of men, we are lesser for it.
And it makes me sad that instead, we are seen as lesser for it through the eyes of other women.