Carbonated Wit

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Category Archives: Feminism

Black hair? White hair? Femininity? Strength? Confusion.

I love this story: www.slate.com/blogs/behold/2013/10/15/endia_beal_can_i_touch_it_explores_gender_race_and_generational_gaps_in.html

But I especially love how the pictures look in a series of smaller headshots, at http://cargocollective.com/endiabeal/Can-I-touch-it.

They look proud, powerful, and a little strange; it’s like they’re the board of directors of a major corporation in the early 19th century or something. I read these women as having indeterminate gender: because they are older, because they are staring the camera straight on with confidence, because they’re wearing power suits, but most of all because the hair is not white female hair of any kind, not even white female powerful women hair.

Pretty interesting, and pretty awful, that my unconscious read of black women’s hairstyles is apparently “not female” or “not feminine” when it’s on white women’s heads. Also interesting, maybe less awful (maybe not), that I read it as powerful.

My reaction to the large pictures in the Slate article was “okay that is gorgeous” and thoughts about mechanics of hairstyles and maybe more white women should do these and then concerns about appropriation and then it gets complex and I am very privileged here.

Quick Link

I found this recently, and I feel I must share. I sometimes have that fury.

Trigger warning for domestic abuse.

Dear Fanny: Burning The Myths: Letter to an Angry Young Woman

Wombly Speaking

In the past few weeks, I have had some changes in my relationship with my uterus. It’s a very strange thing.

Adorable pink alien monster

Cute, but do you want this growing inside you?

First off, it turns out I have a relationship with my uterus. I hadn’t really thought about it, most of my life; it was just this part of me that I had to make sure didn’t get pregnant. Or, as I was wont to think of it, infested with an alien parasite. It was also the thing that, once a month or so, hurt like a motherfucker shortly before producing a lot of blood.

Yeah, I have had serious cramps for just about 25 years now. Once a month, it’s the Day of Pain. Some hormonal treatments helped lessen it, but with other side effects. I tried to do the Seasonale thing with four periods a year, but the dose on those is too small for a fat lady and I had breakthrough bleeding the whole damn time — along with randomly scattered Days of Pain.

Now I’m on medication for other problems that leave me spotting every day. This is just not okay. At the same time, I know that I do not want to host an alien parasite, not ever, no matter what people say about the maternal instinct, or how much I love and adore other peoples’ babies.

So, a few weeks ago, I got a referral to a great gynecologist and went in for a consult about two magic procedures: ablation and sterilization.

The sterilization I had my eye on, Essure, can’t be done at the same time as an ablation, so I’m going to have a two-for-one ablation and tubal ligation. At least, that’s the plan. It sounds like a great plan!

Before I can be ablated, though, I have to have some testing. I needed a pelvic exam, a vaginal ultrasound, and an endometrial biopsy. If, for some reason, I had a problem and didn’t qualify for an ablation, the next option would be a hysterectomy. (I figured, hysterectomy, sounds good, get rid of the thing that hurts and bleeds and just be done with it all! Oh wait, abdominal surgery. Yuuuuuck.)

For some women, these tests are trivial and easy experiences. I had a more difficult time, though.

All this, and some other stuff, have come together to make me much more aware of this little organ inside me, and the trouble it’s caused. I’ve got more of a relationship to it, and I’m not sure I like it. I’ve got a lot of anxiety, pain, and fear.

So today I’m starting a series of posts called Wombly Speaking. I’m going to talk about some of these procedures and my experiences with them.

Policing Appearances

About a month ago, Pat Robertson said a terrible thing, and the internet was like “Whoa, Look What That Jerk Said!”

What he said is basically that it’s women’s fault when their husbands drink or cheat, because the women have gotten ugly and sloppy in their dress.

The Internet is totally right to call this guy out for saying such a terrible thing.

But you know what?

In a lot of places, I see comments about how ugly Robertson is. Check out how ugly he is, who is he to talk? For instance, here, at about 2 minutes in.

Sure, it’s an easy shot. We love hypocrisy, right? But the problem is not that an ugly dude is telling women to be pretty for their husbands (lest their husbands become alcoholics or divorce them). It wouldn’t be okay if a handsome dude was telling women to be pretty for their husbands. The problem is not who’s saying it, the problem is what’s being said.

The thing that is the problem is called “appearance policing” and it is about socially requiring people to look a certain way in order to qualify for certain social benefits, such as basic respect from a spouse. Or an employer, or a shopkeeper, or whoever. Leggings aren’t pants is the same thing (even if I passionately hate the use of leggings as pants).

When we go off and say “Yeah, what a terrible thing to say and what an ugly dude who said it!” we are doing the SAME THING AS ROBERTSON. We are saying that the problem is with what he looks like, not with what he said. We are playing into his hands, agreeing with his basic assertion that a person’s appearance determines what value they should have.

And really, what he looks like is perfectly fine old white guy. There’s nothing wrong with his appearance — not that it matters, it really doesn’t. But it just makes it worse, because the problem isn’t even that he’s some essence of ugly, it’s just that he’s old.

It’s not okay to police the appearance of old guys, calling them ugly for being old, even if they’re assholes. Even if they’re Pat Robertson, professional asshole.

Call him a sexist asshole. Call him wrong. Say how angry you are that this old fucker is going on as if he knows something about you and your marriage and how it’s all your fault that your husband is an abusive alcoholic. That’s all totally legit.

Just leave his looks out of it.

Problematicity

Moved here from Captain Awkward. Somewhere down in the comments I got all confused because a little spat about problematicness arose, about single women possibly being jealous and/or bitter. It took me a while to catch up with what was actually going on. The we is all about the commentariat over there.


I think…. okay, I think that generally when we’re gonna talk about problematic things, we’ve got to talk about them in generalities and not specifics, unless the specifics we are faced with are clearly problematic. And when the specifics we are faced with are problematic, if we’re going to call them out, we need to call them out in detail, preferably with compassion although I personally would accept clever snark. (note:  it should be clever!)

I say this because problematic is a thing that is all about The Context and the Culture and all that stuff that has clever jargon I can’t remember because it’s been too long since someone summarized judith butler at me. So if we’re going to be all about how single women being jealous and bitter is problematic, we’re talking about cultures and tropes and shit like that.

At Captain Awkward, we are talking about specific people in specific situations, and so I think it is unhelpful to get into abstract concepts or jump on specific language and just stop there. It’s not about Being Right, here, it’s about Being Helpful. I think.

But if someone’s Being Problematic Right Here, then it would be okay to talk about that specific incident, including how it fits within the Greater World of Problematic Shit, but always being anchored in what’s happening here.

At least in spaces like the Captain’s blog, whose owner can obviously disagree with me.


As for the bitterness and jealousy question, I think that yes, in fact, it is a loaded concept when speaking of single women, who are socially valued according to the men in their lives, and who are expected to feel those things when they are unmarried at an advanced age. Where advanced is, depending on who’s talking, anywhere from 21 to 35 or so. Pretty much everyone seems to understand that women who are still single at 35 are suspect.*

In that CA post, the letter writer didn’t use the words bitter or jealous, so that language came from the Captain. However, upon investigation, I think it is appropriate to use those words to describe the behavior of the LW’s friend. Especially since JenniferP is saying “It is okay to feel bitter or jealous, and it happens, but it is not cool to get that emotional yuk all over your friends.” We don’t know how the friend would describe her feelings, but we do know how someone describes her actions.

White Rabbit reasonably posted that hey, you can be single and grumpy about it and not be jealous and bitter. She also pointed out that she doesn’t act like the LW’s friend, so… it’s kind of a point of info, and not any big thing.

Since everyone who’s saying anything specific about jealousy, bitterness, or singleness is saying generally reasonable things, I think that the source of the grumpy is all about the idea of “problematic” and what does it mean.

Thus, my analysis above. **

I conclude that Sarah is the one who went most astray in that commenting section. The big problem with her posts is the lack of stuff. I mean, yeah, there might be something problematic with an advice writer reaching for jealous and bitter as words to describe an unhappily single woman. That might be interesting! But she didn’t really talk about that, I’m just guessing that it’s what she meant. I’m still not sure why she thought JenniferP was trying to insult her commentariat.

*I got married for the first time at 36. I’m in generality-space in that paragraph.

** Everything since the previous asterisk is in specificity-space. See the difference?


White Rabbit wants to talk about problematicness! So I invite everyone over here to talk about it. Go nuts.