Somebody else’s boyfriend once told me that I scare him, and my eyelashes were salty for weeks thereafter. I was fourteen. I don’t remember what I did to provoke those words; it may have been something disreputable, or not. But I remember that he said them with a judge’s inflection. That with these words he thought he could make me believe I was not only unattractive, but scary, and the very enemy to all things attractive. It was supposed to ruin me, and, for a time, it did. (Now, four years, later, I know that I am much better suited to be someone’s worst nightmare than someone’s manic pixie dream girl).
Everybody’s got something to say about my mother. That she’s “very comfortable in her own strength” is one of the more popular assessments. (A tactful, if ineloquent, way of saying “your mother scares me”). Now, whatever gripes I may have about my mother, as daughters tend to have, her brazenness is certainly not one of them:
She implemented a household ban on bad grammar when I was still a toddler, and has not lifted it since. She asserted that I was beautiful until I learnt it by heart. She raised me on morality and make-believe; on comity and comedy. On ambition and zeal. On self-respect. Why is brazenness a flaw in a woman?
Let’s take this to the bible. The Book of Esther condemns Queen Vashti. Why condemn Vashti? She who stood her ground and would not dance naked for King Ahasuerus? In doing so, she stood up for all women as Esther stood up for all Jews!
Does our solidarity scare you?
Good. Because the day you approve of me, I’ve got a lot to reassess.
Unpretty (A Personal Manifesta)
Why I am swearing off of makeup:
1. I will not buy into a culture that oppresses me.
2. I will not buy into a culture that tells me I am not good enough; I will not support an industry that thrives on my insecurity.
3. I will not advertise such an industry on my face.
4. Men don’t hide their flaws; why should I?
5. It is not my responsibility to be pretty.
On Women’s Rights: Yeah, Yeah, Blah, Blah, Blah. Whatever.
On Women’s Rights: Yeah, Yeah, Blah, Blah. Whatever.
Last week, I was having a conversation with friend, when she made mention of a mutual friend, who has been generally very supportive of my writing about women. She shared with me that he saw my writing and advocacy on behalf of women as an “overreaction,” that I was overly emotional about it and that my views on what women really face in our culture is overblown.
As much as I may be frustrated by my friend’s opinion and angered that he is so dismissive of what women face, as a man, I don’t deal with the same kind of dismissal that women are subject to.
In their case it’s personal.
Women who attempt to address or discuss concerns they have with the men who claim to love them too often get a wave of the hand, and hear “Yeah yeah, women’s rights, it’s important, I know, whatever.”
Why is the discussion about gender inequality such an inconvenient and annoying bore to men, especially socially progressive men who would otherwise advocate on behalf of any other oppressed group or population?
Some men seem to believe that gender issues are no longer relevant because most of us are looking at the man/woman balance in terms of statistics, anecdotes, and governmental change.
I see one central problem as connected with the men who are fundamentally good, but who pretend as if there is no major gender imbalance. These men, like my friend, when asked if women deserve equality, resoundingly respond “yes.” But when they are put in a position to support the women in their lives or when they are put in a place where they can directly react to discrimination, they lack any sort of action or assertion, or worst yet, they only offer dismissal.
These men may see this dismissal as a matter of opinion-almost as if a political issue is being discussed. But in reality, in that moment, they are committing wholesale dismissal of these women. They are failing to show empathy for the unique experience of all women and for the women in their lives, in particular. They are deciding what is valid based on the lens that feels most comfortable to them: one of male comfort and privilege.
Have you seen this? Madhouse jeans print ‘Give it to your woman, it’s her job’ on the laundry label.
Dear Rihanna - Eve Ensler
Have you ever read this letter written by Ensler after de Chris Brown incident? It’s included in I’m an emotional creature
I used to really respect you. I even got your haircut, all cute
and straight shaggy shaped even though I have blonde hair. It
looks better on you. I thought you were a caring and compassionate
girl singer artist so I just don’t understand why you were
so mean to Chris. I see the way he looks at you. He just loves you
too much. You know that. How could you dump him after one bad
thing? It’s so shallow to drop someone after they mess up. You
have everything, Rihanna. You’re perfect pretty and mega talented
and sparkly and shiny. It must be hard for Chris to be with
you. I mean I’m jealous of you and you’re not even my girlfriend.
Everyone wants you. Everyone wants to be you. In his apology
video Chris seemed so nervous and sad. People say he was just
reading his lines, but they were heartfelt. He was so scared about
screwing up. He was so sad. I could tell. That’s what happens
after. I mean they feel so bad. They don’t have anyone to help
them. They don’t know how to talk. I mean I can tell he wants to
cry. Take him back. He loves you too much, but at least he loves
you. One mistake you can’t just fire him. What if he did that to
you? Chris made you a video and put it out in front of the whole
world. That’s a lot to do in front of his friends and stuff. My
boyfriend, Brad, didn’t make me a video. I mean once he
brought me this bracelet with a silver heart after he made my lip
bleed. But he’s never been as nice as Chris. My mother hates
him. Brad, that is. She just doesn’t know him. She judges him by
one aspect of his personality but that’s only a part of who he is. I
heard Oprah say if a boy hits you once, leave ’em right then, but
that’s so cold, so mechanical. Like push boy delete.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not perfect. I’m naggy and I
complain, well that’s what Brad tells me. I make him feel bad. I
mean you shoved Chris and threw away his keys. That’s serious
for a boy. A guy’s keys are like his self. I know if I did that I would
be expecting a confrontation and you really shouldn’t dish it out
if you can’t take it. We’re all part of this. You can’t even really say
where it begins or ends. It’s like my parents’ arguments. They
feel like they’ve been going on since I was born and they basically
are always pissed off about the same things and she makes
him feel so bad about himself and then he gets ugly. And sometimes
he hurts her and then she gets meaner and we all just go to
our rooms and pretend we don’t hear, but really we’re all part of
it. I mean sometimes it’s one of us that makes them start arguing.
Usually me. My dad says someone’s always asking for it.
Chris loves you. Just like Brad loves me. He knows me better
than anyone. It’s just sometimes this thing goes off in them. It’s
like all the hurt they feel and all the bad things they’ve seen and
all the ways they couldn’t help. I mean Chris used to wet his bed
after his stepdad hit his mother. What are we gonna do, throw all
the boys away? Put them forever on some punishment island?
Then how are we gonna have babies? And who’s gonna kiss us?
They’re all crazy sad you know. I can tell even when Brad slaps
me sometimes. It doesn’t hurt as much as seeing how alone he is
and confused and sad. My dad has that same sadness and it
makes me smoke when I think about it. It really rips me apart.
Brad isn’t buying your music anymore. He said if you were
his girlfriend he would have to keep you locked up in his room.
He couldn’t bear everyone staring at you and dreaming about
you. That made me a little jealous. I mean he doesn’t let me out
much and if I talk to another boy he gets real crazy, but the way
he talked about you was different. Like he really had it for you.
So imagine what poor Chris feels with so many guys everywhere
having it for you. How is some guy gonna handle that? Most of
the time they can’t even find a good job. Well, Chris had one. But
most guys my age are tripping about what they’re gonna do.
You’re so strong, Rihanna. I watch you in the videos. Your arms
and the way you move and your confidence. You look right into
the camera. You are so much stronger. You could help Chris.
Otherwise how are these boys gonna keep up? It’s like when
we’re on the lake and I look at the water behind our motorboat
and there’s this wake and it stays there after the boat has passed.
There’s just these light waves of where something was once. It
fills me with dread and makes me really scared. Sometimes I
stop breathing. It’s like none of us were ever really here at all. I
don’t want to be looking back on Brad like that. He’s the one real
Listening To Chris Brown: An Offense To All Women
Listening To Chris Brown: An Offense To All Women
At a holiday party this year, I noticed an R. Kelly song playing on my friend’s iPod. I looked at two of my (male) friends who were standing nearby and asked, “You guys are listening to R. Kelly?”
One of them responded, “Yeah, so what?”
“I separate the music from the person,” the same friend said.
“Oh god-I’m sure you listen to Chris Brown too,” I said with frustration in my voice.
My other friend chimed in and confirmed, defiantly, “Yeah! I do.”
But, I (and all of us), must draw the line at supporting and enriching men who are pedophiles, in Kelly’s case, and virtually unrepentant domestic abusers in the case of Brown, Sheen, and Gibson. There is a difference between an artist who makes mistakes and an artist who abuses women (or men) and lacks any sense of remorse.
For me, this is ultimately about one question: how can men and women stand by and separate what happened to women like Rihanna, from the women in our own lives? We shouldn’t. In our culture, we tend to compartmentalize the trauma others face as a coping mechanism of sorts. It’s a way to shield ourselves from their pain, and also a way to avoid having to help or being held accountable for not helping.
I don’t know if you guys have seen this but I thought it was relevant: