January 23, 2011

Surrender is Significant.

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.


Anonymous said...

what bothers me about this, is what bothers me about most people with their causes. THEY have decided how they should live and behave, and feel they must bestow it on others. without completely knowing from where it came and/or what your true intentions were-they felt the need to let you know you were/are wrong. the felt the need to correct you. with only the best intention, of course. we know what road good intentions pave, don't we?

fuck 'em!

Ezzie said...

Oh Bee...I love you so much, for so many things. I'm sad that your feelings were hurt. Of all things you've taught me over the course of our crazy friendship, I think the most important is how to ask for love when I need it. Thank you. <3

Fiercecalm said...

Thank you both for being my very best friends.
I love you, too.

Yes, Shawn... even YOU.

Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight-

Her issue with admiring a woman because she is pretty is because that is one-dimensional and it encourages people to assess one another on a superficial level (and, thus, her problem with you doing that is that you are encouraging that behavior and in doing so are irresponsible)?


So, in judging another person based on what they portray in their limited Facebook profile is somehow NOT exercising that very same behavior? Seeing someone's Facebook status and constructing a woman's entire personality and their effect on feminism is somehow NOT being shallow and superficial?


Glad to know she's straightened us all out on that.


Da' Vane said...

They should take time out to think about why THEY were upset about something that you do that does not affect them.

You know you get down, and you know enough to do something about - in this case, you ask people to help make you feel better. Why should they be getting upset about that? Is it because they didn't think of it first? Is it because they aren't brave enough to admit they are the same way? Is it because they want to see you down to make themselves feel better?

I suffer from unstable personality disorder and used to take medication for this condition. My emotions go up and down, and are quite extreme - yet people only complain when my moods are negative, and I am sad or angry. They never complain when I am happy.

Yet, when it comes to explaining my condition to them, to let them know that they do have a significant impact on my mood swings, because of this condition, they would rather moan at me and treat me badly, making my moods even worse, than take a single moment to stop and help make me happy, even though this is the easiest way to make me feel better and resolve any issues they might have with me.

This is what people are like - there are a few who are not, and if you can find them, keep them close and cherish them, for they are truly special, because most people want to just make you as miserable as they are, in a false belief that it will somehow make them feel better. Most people simply don't want to spend the few seconds it takes to make someone else feel better, just because they might be having a bad day, even though they are the same people who complain about having a bad because others they deal with can't take the time to make them feel better.

I think, deep down, this is why they are upset. Because you not only ask people to tell you you are pretty when you are down, but you have people who are understanding enough to be willing to do to make you feel better. They clearly do not, because they themselves are not the people who would turn around and tell someone they are pretty to make them feel better.

They can try and justify it however they like, and they will, because they will take great pains to avoid having to admit this simple fact to themselves. They will attempt to justify the inherently unjustifiable, until they can no longer do so, in the hope that you will crack first and provide them with the justification that they so desperately need.

Don't fall for it, and don't let them get to you. You ARE pretty, you know this - but you also know that when you are down and not thinking straight, that you can use someone else to remind you of the simple fact that you ARE pretty. Whether this prettiness is internal or external is irrelevant - pretty souls shine, where as ugly ones taint, and prettiness is a mixture of both inner and outer beauty. It's just a word we use that has meaning to us - there are others. You use pretty, I use AWESOME.

Fiercecalm said...

Da'Vane, I so appreciate your comments.

The issue, at times, with people who think on a global scale, is that they *do* look at what everyone else does as personally affecting them.

I am pretty certain that the girl who was so critical of me was sure she was thinking in the best interest of all of the women in the world.
I was setting the female revolution back 15 years by asking for a compliment and making humorous references to my breasts. SHE was frustrated with me. I was undoing so many feminists' hard work.

But that is the thing... her containing the female role into that that is contradictory of what has been in the past is like hating people because they HAVE money. It seems like it should be a more noble bias, but it is no less a bias.

Defining a righteous female as one who defies the cultural feminine traits is still letting society dictate, just from the other direction. It is like the people who refuse to recognize good bands if they are played on a mainstream radio station. To truly develop yourself as an authentic individual sans arbitrary paradigms is to refuse to recognize the walls, not to stand on the other side of them.

Maybe I am getting too worked up about this, but it really burns that the women I know can and have been dismissed so easily due to a dye job, or a flirty phrase or a pink hand bag. I'd love to think this ONE woman only cares about MY endeavors, but let's be honest... there are a lot of girls like her judging a lot of girls like me.

And if making a positive difference in the future of women is what she is after, then let's do it.

Let's get some women involved and start the dialogue that should've been started 4 fucking years ago.

Da' Vane said...

People really need to realise that extremism goes both ways. Positive Discrimination might seem noble, but it is still discrimination. Feminism sought equal rights for women, and buy and large, they have achieved that noble goal, but some feminists still push for more, because equality is not enough for them. That's not noble - that replacing one foolish idea with another, simply by changing the type of people with the power.

But a lot of feminists have deeper issues - they don't truly fight for sexual equality and women's rights. Quite a lot of them, deep down, simply hate being female. It might be because of the way they were treated, or because of something else, but this is the sad truth of the matter. Plus, they tend to spend so long fighting, that they don't know how to do anything else - they are at a loss when they win, when the war is over, when the day is saved and the world is changed. They have to go out and seek more enemies to continue the fight, just to maintain their identity as a feminist.

This doesn't need a dialogue - not about feminism, anyway. The more important dialogue here is about you having the strength to know and ask for a motivational boost, which more people should do. That is much more important than a feminist agenda that was basically achieved 20 years ago.

Sam said...

With only a moment to reply, I will simply say that someone who can become enraged by a Facebook status requesting compliments clearly has issues of their own. There are so many more offensive statuses flying around that it kind of offends ME that someone bothered to express that to you.
We women are just people, and we exist in this world full of conflicting images and expectations. Anyone who is aware enough of herself to be OKAY with the vulnerability you express in this situation is fine by me. I like to be told I'm pretty too, even though it's not on the top of my priority list. It's okay to like it. Sheesh.
Big hugs to you, girlfriend :D

erin p said...

i lol-ed and cried. good post.