Sunday, December 08, 2002

The Problem with Girlism

I'm still playing catch-up on all the various femblogs (in the sense of both "blogs by women" and "blogs by feminists") coming on the heels of Halley Suitt's comments about "girlism" reproed earlier here on Blogsisters. So maybe it's too early for me to jump into the deep end of this, but I'll skim my rock across the surface anyway. Please bear in mind, none of this is designed to constitute any attack on anyone's opinions, particularly Halley's. Just because we disagree doesn't make one of us good and the other evil, it just means we, you know, disagree.

I think my particular warning bells came at reading Halley's opinion that, in order to achieve power in the workplace "...women want to be sexy girls and use all the tricks girls use..." First off, of course, there's always a danger in making broad generalizations, particularly generalizations of broads. Even by broads. Just because we share a double-x chromosome doesn't make our desires monolithic, even as it doesn't make our interests monolithic. (I've had to deal with this a lot in Friends of Lulu, explaining to folks that the goal of targeting comic books to women is tricky because women are no more a monolithic reading group than men are. So one can get oneself in a good deal of hot water by starting from a view of "women want..." (as we all remember from when that wacky Siggy Freud did it).

So following up on that, I confess I don't "want to be [a] sexy girl..." in large measure because I cannot be. I've never had that choice. I don't know what Halley looks like, but I imagine from her "it's just so easy if we do it this way" attitude she's probably young and vivacious and thin. She probably falls into the mold of what's acceptable in the default (i.e., male-opinion-dominated) society as "sexy." I don't, I never have, and I never will. I'm fat, I have thinning hair, I wear glasses, I'm loud-mouthed, I've got this Jewish honker... none of these things are ugly to me, but they don't scream "sexy" to most men in our society. Besides, the entire rule of judging a woman's worth primarily by her outward appearance seems to me a male thing - and when guys set the rules, they're in charge of the game, and there's no way a woman can "win" by playing a game she doesn't control.

I understand the concept of sex as power - at least I'm trying to. As I say, it's a game that Mom Nature never qualified me to play. But if sexual power is only identified with and discussed in terms of one gender, to my mind it isn't really power at all. It's pretend, it's dress-up, it's playing into the whole battle-of-the-sexes crap that perpetuates and traps people in gender stereotypes to begin with. It's like looking at a badgirl comic - "hey, guys, she may be 'powerful' wink wink but she prances about practically naked, that means she's really only kicking butt to give you a show and turn you on... hey look, a boob-and-crotch shot!" Oh, and you women who don't have the physical assets to allow yourself to be identified primarily through sex? Sorry, since nobody but obviously abnormal people wants to ogle you like an object (and therefore somehow bestow power on you through their benificent male gaze), you don't get to have power. But hey, you get to be angry about that and perpetuate the stereotype of ugly man-hating feminists and that'll do just fine because it helps marginalize feminism into irrelevancy and we still win!

I'm not good at games, whether they're power games or sexual games or whatever. I never dated normally, singles bars and personal ads and the like; both my ex (with whom I'm still friendly) and my current husband are guys I came to know through long-distance courting before I ever met either of them, and those courtships came about on mutual terms (the first through a zine I was self-publishing, and my current husband through Usenet). Even online, even in chatrooms, I've never done personas or fake handles. I'm capable of it, I used to write wacky articles and fictional bits in my zine under pen names, but I never saw the point of subterfuge when dealing with other people. This sort of stubborn honesty means I'll never get ahead in any realm which requires a particular talent for playing social games, but again, I knew that years ago and made my choice in favor of being a real person, with all the complexities that entails. And anyway, I prefer to believe that saying things like "my sexuality doesn't define me and is, by the way, none of your business" is far more subversive than trying to redefine feminism or girlism in the same sort of terms once used by the civil rights leader who opined that "the best position for women in the movement was prone."

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