i’m going through this major personal change right now. it’s (terrible) exciting and i’m (completely worried) thrilled to see how i will turn out at the end of it.
i’m trying to empower myself and figure out the ways in which i shrink from my full, emboldened self. i know it sounds like a Cathy cartoon where i just end up eating ice cream out of the carton in high shorts. i hope it’s not.
one of the first things i find, as i look under the middle school rocks and behind the fear files, is this complicated theme of how my being female impacts my identity. how my perception of what it is to be female, what it is to be feminine, how society now and through time has looked at females, impacts how i see myself.
what does it mean to live in a female body? to have a female voice?
doing my research of reading, listening, living and observing the world and my/women’s place in it- there are days i want to give up and sit down and be quiet. and i think even now, here, there is a strong, persuasive argument that it’s best if women just do that. that my voice should be meek or apologetic or quick to demure to stronger voices around me.
there’s also a strong impression that my sex, my parts, my body, my ‘honeypot’ is the most valued or important part of being female. (did she just say honeypot? gross). but ‘valued’ isn’t really the right word. neither is ‘important.’ those words signify a characteristic that will have an effect on success, survival or well-being. the ‘value’ placed on my parts by the world is by it, not by me. my value in them is rarely discussed.
like shakira said, i like my shapely legs because they help me run fast. i like my breasts because they helped me feed my kids and also because they hold up my shirt in a cool way. i like my GI tract because it is very efficient. i like my pale blue eyes because they are lovely and sometimes they freak people out. i think sometimes people assume i’m a sorceress and i am WAY ok with that.
it’s easier for me to tackle the things i think are more mind over matter. the issues of feeling unsafe/threatened/despised simply because i am female and acknowledging that there are (a lot) of people in the world who are looking to assault or omit me on those grounds- i don’t know what to do about it except be sort of jumpy and paranoid and mad. and i can easily get bogged down by the inequality in the world against women and feel like it’s a lost fight before we start.
but. i’m doing what i can, in my head, twisting how i view me. i’m planning on ‘owning’ my female body and my voice and not letting them get owned by others. in really, really tiny baby steps. prepare to be not impressed at all.
i suspect that our conditioning to believe that we never look pretty, thin, princessy, enough is a great tactic to slow us down and keep us worried about all the wrong things. i have always assumed Cosmo magazine is written by men who are threatened by what women could do if they had time to stop worrying about new pubic hair removal systems or men’s orgasms.
sorry. i should have started this whole thing with, pour yourselves a drinks, folks, cuz we’re going to talk about blow jobs and pubic hair. but not, in, like, a fun way. so you’ll actually really need that drink.
i’m still doing things to my body that are expensive and time-consuming, uncomfortable, and possibly even toxic, because they are socially expected for females (and not males). i spend time and money unnecessarily removing my mammalian body hair, i wear long, inconvenient head hair, i do lots of skin treatments, i wear makeup, i keep my eyebrows (mostly) separate. but i’ve gotten to the point where i refuse to wear uncomfortable clothes. i won’t dye my hair and plan to stick to that when i go gray/white because jamie lee curtis and gloria steinem and helen mirren told me to. i don’t cry over my gut that i have as a 35 y/o mammal who’s unloaded two human childrens out of her body. i certainly won’t complain about it in front of my kids.
i’m excited for my wrinkles because they’re in the places where my face folds when i’m thinking hard or listening empathetically. they show my time, my wisdom, maybe. they make me seem more legitimate, perhaps. there’s inherent added weight and dignity to aging because we learn some things over their years…..men, historically get this privleged status and older women not so much. i assume it’s because there’s SUCH a cultural focus on young female bodies, that old female bodies and their owners are seen as less good.
absolutely fuck that. old women can be brilliant and powerful and don’t have to care about the stupid stuff anymore. what a relief it must be. i’m getting there. 35 years old now. come on, 70!
(i will fart so much and not care).
it’s not about being like men. it’s about being like men in that we have respect and power without having to fight for it or shrink from it. our bodies are not what make us good or bad.
and our bodies are not just baby incubators. that’s another way that i’ve found some freedom and power. it was very cool what all my body could do while carrying and delivering my kids. amazingly cool. i’m so grateful. but now that i’m done with that use for my body, i don’t want to deal with it anymore. i’ve got shit to do. so, i don’t have periods and i don’t have to worry about pregnancy any more because of my progesterony IUD (intrauterine device for contraception). it’s not for everyone, not everyone has those results, etc, etc. but for me–i have visions of a 6′ tall version of it and i holding hands and skipping through sunny fields together. i want to mouth kiss the scientists who came up with this gorgeous little T sitting in my uterus. seriously. mouth kiss. this has been the great equalizer. for the first time in my life, i can live my whole month without blood coming out of any part of me and without thinking about birth control. just like men have, for their whole lives. that’s kind of huge.
so much more could be said about our lady parts. but you’re probably already 3 drinks in and i don’t want to lose you completely yet. i’ll get there in a later post (ooh. can’t wait. will you talk about endometrial lining more, please? it’s so so fun)
anyway. i try to maintain that my mind, spirit, personality is way more valuable than my body/face/shiny shiny hair or reproductive organs.
if we women are not busy depilitizing our body hair (that’s a word, shut up. who’s writing this? not you) and decorating ourselves and we’re putting the rest of our person forward first, how much more can we accomplish? and how much less will we feel invisible or imperfect or used if we’re standing in judgement for our ethics, our humor, our intellect instead of our skin suit?
and people will judge me for how i look, but i don’t have to care. that’s hard but real.
for people to know the other stuff about me- that i’m kind, funny, smart, etc…is that i talk. i talk and i talk and i talk and i write. and i stop apologizing or wincing at having the floor or being trusted for my input. and that’s hard. it’s not instinctive. i do the whole, “well, it’s just my opinion, but…” and shrink from eye contact less than i used to, but it’s still there. i’m working on it.
i’ve typed all kinds of retractions and caveats along this post that i’ve then deleted. i don’t want to step on toes, but i also don’t want to be afraid to put my foot down. you know?
one last thing before i go pluck my eyebrows and cry over white wine…we’re all trying. these are the things i’ve figured out so far. i have great days where i feel like i’m discovering new things about myself, taking great risks, being very brave. and then i have days where i feel small and hopeless and old and fat and like any change i make is either going to inconvenience/freak someone out, or it’s never going to be enough.
i just want to keep on. i hope you’re doing your own thing to make yourself a little braver and fiercer and better able to identify who the voice in your head is, telling you what’s good/bad about you. is it yours yet? or is it ‘the world’s’ or an ex’s or a parent’s or…whomever. i’m, like, 60/40 in favor of mine now, and it feels AMAZING. and i’ll take suggestions if you’ve come up with something really good.