Tuesday, July 03, 2007

What it is to be a Woman

I want to point out a post by Kalinara that everyone should read. Not because I agree with her. Not because I don't agree with her. But because she makes some valid points about her experiences/views of what it is/can be like to be female and how that applies to the treatment of women in comics and why it matters to her and many others, even me at times. ;)

I am a child of the '50s and '60s. Born in the decade when women had their place and it was at home cleaning and taking care of the kids, reaching maturity in the '60s when everything got questioned: politics, religion, freedom, equal rights, race, and yes, what it means to be a woman, debates that continued on into the '70s.

Kalinara offers this:
(DISCLAIMER: Despite the title, the following is not the universal experience of all women. This is very specific to MY experiences. We're not actually all the same.)
And here are my experiences. I can honestly say I experienced very little of what she mentioned. I got the whole "improve your appearance" crap, but it came from my mother, not my father, and she gave up after a while. It was my younger sister who gave me the most grief about my not wearing makeup. Except for trying it for a few months in high school, my wedding, other weddings I attended years ago, and maybe one or two other times, I never have worn makeup. Not even to cover the pimples of acne.

I'll polish my nails, but I won't put crap on my face that makes me feel uncomfortable. I'll wear fake tattoos on my arms, but I won't slather on mascara or rouge or even lip gloss, because that stuff bothers me and I don't like what I look like. That's not ME.

And not wearing makeup didn't stop my husband from liking me and wanting to marry me and thinking I'm cute.

Yet, the fact that this is even an issue for women and had been an issue for me when I decided, fuck this, I'm not going along with the expectations that I'll shell out hundreds of dollars a year on cosmetics, is the thing that sticks in the craw. Because how many boys and men have to face this issue?

Sure, boys have peer pressure. They should be athletic. They shouldn't cry. They'll compare how well their body parts are maturing. Well, hell, girls go through that stuff, too. They aren't supposed to be athletic, they can get what they want if they cry, and damn it if they don't compare boob sizes in the locker room before gym class or at camp.

Things are changing. A lot. Girls can be athletes and boys can be artists. Hell, if they draw comics, they get rewarded and more opportunities than the girls who can draw. So, there's still room for more improvement. For both sexes.

Kalinara discusses the whole how to dress to get ahead and I can honestly say that I can get away with wearing jeans (every attempt at a dress code for ALL has failed thus far, beyond the need to wear shoes, no sweatpants, that sort of thing), while my husband has to suffer the indignities of a tie and suit. I can do pretty much anything I want with my hair, though shaving it might not go over well, while my husband gets looks and comments if his hair gets long enough to touch his collar. It's because of our different professions with different values, and not a factor of gender.

So, no, we women aren't cut from the same cloth. We aren't the same. I wouldn't expect any one man to represent all men, nor should anyone expect any one women to represent all of us with two X chromosomes. MY experiences are such that I see a problem, but not one of gender. I see a people problem.

However, my experiences and those of friends have shown me that until a profession reaches a certain level (variable, by profession, it seems) of integration, ie percentage of women or minorities, the problem IS usually one of gender. And the treatment of women, until those professions/workplaces reach that percentage and subsequent enlightenment usually falls somewhere between paternalism and outright hostility (passive and aggressive forms). And in the case of the comics industry, I suspect women need to gain a few more percentage points on the creative end before there's a proper balance and sensitivity to the issues. I do give the industry points for sounding as if they're trying.

The one thing that is not forgivable is belittling someone's feelings or experiences. Telling someone something is no big deal. Or asking them what the fuss is and not out of a true curiosity. Yes, I often advise people to ignore much of the crap. It usually is better for the blood pressure. But if they can't do that, so what? We each, every one of us humans, have our own reactions, our own thresholds, our own tolerance levels. And blogging is a great way to express our opinions, especially when our thresholds are reached. We get to vent here in our little corner of the web.

Just don't expect us to agree. And don't be surprised when we don't. We're all different, after all.

But not so much. Because we all seem to have opinions. We own them. They help define us. Even when some of us see the same problem, we are as likely to see different solutions as we are to agree on a single remedy. Because, in reality, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to most problems.

Kalinara says this:
"I'm not writing this to condemn men. I'm not trying to say "only men are to blame." Women also do their own part in oppressing one another as well, after all. This is something bigger than that. This is society. This is something built by generations of traditions and ideas that are indoctrinated into us from birth and passed down to our children. It's something that we're all a part of, even when we don't realize it. This is something that we do to ourselves as much as each other."
I'll add only that we might not even agree on the problems. For me, my hope for society is simple, that we all treat each other with respect, compassion, dignity, but I'm not above saying some people forfeit that right. But we should start with giving them each a chance first to prove themselves unworthy, not the other way around. I just don't think we should judge another on our own standards of proper attire or appearance, or whether we want children or not, or any of the other ways people legally go about their lives. And if I or someone else, male or female, wants a bit of sexually explicit entertainment, that's fine. Just make it fair.

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