I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have referred to myself as a “woman.” 32 years old and I am more apt to call myself a girl or a chick. Frankly, I am even more likely to use “dummy,” as in, “Yep, I’m the dummy who just tripped *up* the stairs.”
This is not something I think about often, until recently. Usually I think of myself as something approximating a normal human being type person. A person with girl parts who likes things that normal human being type people like. There are dudes who share some of my more girly interests, and plenty of girls in my life who I can enjoy what might traditionally be considered more manly pursuits with – sports and poker being the first two that come to mind. However, in the last few weeks, enough womanish things have come steadily across my radar – and have left me unsettled enough – that I think I need to figure out what’s bugging me about them.
To start, I learned why I am not married. I read this article and felt at first a mild annoyance, which became a slow burn that then ignited a white hot rage that left me wanting to punch Tracy McMillan in the crotch. Which obviously proves her first point – I am a bitch. I can usually let crap like this – Dr. Laura, The Rules, the icky Greg Behrendt – roll off, but it didn’t work this time. I think part of it was that I found this article through a post on a friend’s Facebook page – a smart, successful lady who also thought this to be great advice. What scares me about articles like this is that they actually can come across as good advice to some women. They don’t advocate a return to subservience and they acknowledge the myriad roles that woman step into now, but they also imply – and as is the case in this piece, sometimes outright state – that it’s all at a cost. Apparently I have screwed myself over husband-hunting wise by hating Sarah Palin and enjoying my yoga class.
So, there I was, in quite a state. I finished reading the article, sat seething for a minute or so, and then remembered that another ladypal of mine had also posted something on Facebook earlier that day that I was curious about. She had posted a link to this particular episode of a fantastic podcast called George Lapinski with a note about how she had really enjoyed it and thought that other ladies might like it too. Becca is in possession of a great deal of common sense and I felt fairly confident that she would not steer me into an even deeper rage. I was right. As it turns out, George Lapinski stands a good chance of becoming one of my more favorite places on the internet. I wrote Becca a note, explaining the events that had just transpired in my own head and thanked her for helping tip the scales a little more back in the direction of sanity. Her response pretty much perfectly nailed how I felt about these two wildly divergent messages. I am quoting it here both because I agree with it and because I am too lazy to try and restate something that she got right the first time:
“I think it’s a great contrast because I was trying to put my finger on why I really hate most “by women for women” things and how George Lapinski is so different. And I think the HuffPo article is like most of the other things–annoying and paints women in a horrible, shallow, stupid, embarrassing light. And George Lapinski starts off with the assumption that women are smart and interesting.”
So that gave me some stuff to think about for a couple of days. And then, just when that was wearing off, an episode of 30 Rock about women hating women aired. I watched it solely as an episode of my favorite television show, not as a social commentary, but then I started thinking about it a few nights later when I was engaged in my Monday night tradition of hurling profanities at my television while watching The Bachelor. This season has been the catalyst for some of my most inspired streams of vitriol in recent memory. The dude is a total douche, but it’s his harem that really gets me going. I judge them left and right, to be sure, but more than that I sit on my couch and wonder about them. I wonder about what they think of themselves when they watch the show, what they were like in school and what the last book was that they read. I don’t assume that they are stupid and that actually pisses me off more than if I were making that assumption. Most of them probably are not dummies, so why do they go on this goddamn show?! The Bachelor is not meant to inspire feelings of sisterhood and kinship. I think there is probably more value in examining it in terms of they way it illuminates an ever-growing need for constant attention that is not unique to women, rather than through a post-feminist lens, but still… Even at my most judgmental on Monday evenings, there is usually a small part of me thinking, “Damn, ladies just can’t get a break, particularly from each other.”
And then… Last week. The proverbial straw. As a producer of This American Life and the keeper of a super fabulous food blog that has given me my new favorite go-to meal, Jane Feltes rocks my world in so many ways. So I was super stoked when I saw a link on TAL’s Facebook page to this video of Jane demonstrating how to apply fake eyelashes. I very nearly reposted it to my own page on the spot, without even watching the video. But then I skimmed some of the comments. Man, were there a bunch of haters. There were 65 comments that ran the gamut from outrage to disappointment that TAL (and Jane in particular) would waste time on such tripe. To be fair, there were several in the “Jeez, lighten up people” vein, but the others were just so pissy that they drowned out the rest, at least for me. There were also quite a few (from men and women alike) who would cop to liking the video, but only in an ironic way. It was all just so… lame. Like somehow, in the eight minutes and forty seconds that it took Jane to make the video, she had undone not only a lifetime of her own accomplishments, but those of women since time immemorial.
What was also lame was the fact that I read the comments and decided not to post the video. Having now watched it – it’s kinda boring and not really that funny – I’m fine with that decision, but that wasn’t my reason last week. My thought process was something like, “What if the reaction is the same as the comments I just read and people think I’m a big vapid dummy for wanting to know how to put on fake eyelashes?” I have admitted to watching The Bachelor, so clearly I’m not that worried about what you think of me, but I guess in that instant I was. And that’s stupid. Knowing that though – and also knowing that my friends and family probably wouldn’t give two shits about me posting the video only gets me so far. I am acutely aware of the copy of Cosmopolitan magazine in the next room – hey, it was a free subscription through my credit card company. I am also acutely aware that as I typed that, I was thinking, “You should write next about how you’re wearing your Red Sox t-shirt and glasses so that you come across as sporty and smart, not just a dumb girly girl.”
None of this is revolutionary. I am certain I have added nothing to the greater discourse about women, their roles, portrayal by the media and the many ways we support *and* tear each other down, sometimes in the same breath. I am also certain that I’m going to be alright as a human being and will not betray or confuse womankind by enjoying both The Bachelor and George Lapinski. If I were going to worry at all, it would probably be about the Tracy McMillan-like messages reaching the impressionable ears of some of the kickass little girls in my life. But then I think about how the parents I know are raising their kidlets – girls and boys alike – and it seems entirely possible that every single thing in this post that has caused me anxiety will be obsolete some day.
A girl/chick/woman/dummy can dream.