Thursday, June 9, 2011

The People Previously Known As Women

[TW: Gender policing, body shaming]

A radical notion:

"That is what I like about women. They don’t give a damn. Their neck bulges over the back of their collar? So what? Their ears are hairy, their hands are rough, they snore and make noise and take up lots of space. That is what women are supposed to be like, and if they are going to start frowning into the magnifying mirror and getting all teary when bathing suit season comes around, then we might as well just call it a day. Good night, America. Sorry, Ben Franklin. It was a pretty good country, but it’s over now.

So how did we get here? The generation of women who were perfectly at home with homeliness hasn’t even completely died off yet, for pete’s sake. Wrinkles, rough skin, bow legs, calluses and crow’s feet—these used to be the signs of femininity, the evidence that a life had been lived. It was in the late 1950s that things began to change....Now leg and chest waxing, manicures, and highlights are commonplace for people previously known as as women. Botox? Why not? They don’t even feel the need to make discreet appointments anymore, because everyone’s doing it."

Of course, Catholic writer Simcha Fisher was actually talking about men, above, and specifically, men who opt for cosmetic procedures.

Yet my gender reversal is interesting, no?

In Fisher's bizarre piece about how vasectomies have apparently led to the de-masculinization and metrosexualization of men, we see yet another instance of the conflation between masculinity and authenticity. Even though many women naturally possess wrinkles, deviated septums, rough skin, bow legs, calluses, crow's feet, hairy ears, and fat, Fisher frames these characteristics as masculine ones. She claims "these used to be the signs of masculinity- the evidence that a life had been lived."

And in women, these are signs of what, then?

That some of us are men? That we are manly?

The truth in plain sight becomes apparent when the genders are reversed in Fisher's piece: Many women- cisgender and trans- actually have to do a lot of work, including engaging in multiple surgeries, in order to be seen as Real Women precisely because authenticity is conflated with masculinity.

For, the logical extension of her idea that the traits of being hairy, fat, bow-legged, etc. are endearing in men precisely because they are essential to men is that women are then excluded from the class of persons who are able to possess such traits and retain our femininity. Under her reasoning, wouldn't any woman who is hairy, fat, and/or bow-legged be by definition manly? It's as though she takes the man-as-default to a literal extreme: Women are actually men until we shave our legs, reduce our body fat percentage, stop farting, put on make-up, and go to etiquette school.

Now, if Fisher's goal is the eradication of beauty standards for men, I am with her. There are many ways to be a man. Including, ahem, being a man who has gotten a vasectomy.

Yet, one gets the sense that it's not so much the application of beauty standards to humans that she is objecting to here. Rather, to her, what's unfair is the application of certain beauty standards that have long and unfairly been applied to women now being applied to men as well. Criticizing women's bodies is just treating women like how we're supposed to be treated. But men, they are entitled to exist in their natural, hairy, fat, wrinkled states of being without objection because that's just part and parcel of being a Real Man.

Under Fisher's criticism, a man's compliance with beauty standards is loathsome precisely because that compliance is coded feminine. A man's compliance, according to her, turns him into an artificial man. A girly boy.

And, rather than acknowleding the many industries that promote and create beauty standards for women, she takes it as a given that a woman's compliance with whatever arbitrary beauty standards are in fashion at the moment is evidence of women's naturally vapid, vain, and shallow natures. Thus, by association, a man's compliance with "feminine" beauty standards becomes infected with this taint.

We see that what might, to some, on the surface appear to be an article about liberating men from beauty standards is actually a piece that further entrenches both women and men into them.

(Leftist Gender Warrior tips her beret to Personal Failure)

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