A blamer mentioned yesterday that there’s a new post somewhere arguing that I’m a “bimbo-hating radical who undermines feminism by trying to take women’s sexiness away.”
Just one? I was shocked.I have not read this post, and, with regret, I must deny myself the pleasure of doing so. When I tell you that my reading list currently measures about 6.79 times as long as one of those articles in The New Yorker that nobody has ever finished, and that at the bottom of it is Genji, and that at the middle is Dorothy Parker’s Sunset Gun, and that at the top is this weeks’ People magazine, you will understand. Legion are the Internet feminists who misconstrue my worldview because it is inconsistent with what they wish to believe about their status re: life’s rich pageant, and every one of them has written a gripping blog post about it. Fascinating reading, without a doubt, but there are not enough hours in the day.
Fortunately, I have already read so many of these posts that I can, in my mind’s jaundiced eye, reproduce the one in question verbatim. They appear frequently, as spores after a soft rain — that is, whenever I publish an essay condemning as antifeminist one or another of the beloved rites of femininity. Blow jobs. Beauty. Pencil skirts. Burlesque. “Sex work” as a “choice.” Recently I jotted down a couple of lines on a study commissioned by a cosmetics company. This study purported to show that cosmetics benefit women. My response to this study was, in sum, a Bronx cheer (may I mention that on the planet Obstreperon, we don’t use our mouths for this? No, I didn’t think so.).
No doubt my dim view of makeup, and by extension, of the quest for pure sexiness, ruffled a few marabou bustiers. Long, long ago, argue the bustiers, when Andrea Dworkin roamed the earth, femininity may well have been a tool of the man. But, they claim, no more. Today’s feminist, empowered by all those articles on vibrators in Bust magazine, chooses choices of her own free will. These choices mirror her own unique sartorial, sexual, and philosophical personality. That these unique choices happen to align precisely with standard male porn fantasies, and that they are therefore rewarded with positive attention, is purely coincidental.
Such a viewpoint is a luxury of youth. It is the great tragedy of the women’s liberation movement that fully-realized feminist consciousness is too rarely achieved by women who are still young and fit enough to take on Dude Nation in a knife fight. Too often, it’s only when a woman ages out of pornosity, and is too old to do anything but take pictures of cows, that she discovers what the world really thinks of her.
Lest I be misconstrued as a prudey old sourpuss: nobody understands the reluctance to grok the fullness of patriarchal oppression better than I. I will illustrate this point with, not just an autobiographical anecdote, but with photographs.Born a mousey intellectual, in my twenties I discovered all the perks of Porn2K-Compliance. I amassed drawers full of Chanel makeup. I had boxes of wigs. I combed the thrift stores incessantly. I had so many clothes I had to turn a spare bedroom into a closet. I spent hours every day assembling outfits, dying my hair, and styling my edgy hipster look. I never wore the same thing twice.
It was expensive and time-consuming, but my resulting reputation as a glamorous wisecracking ballbuster sexpot dominatrix made me famous and adored. Everybody wanted to know me, photograph me, take me to dinner, put me in their fashion show. I had fans. I had protégées. I told men to fuck off and I wrote songs about vibrators, so I thought I was a feminist. I was too dumb, when I was young and adored, to grasp that all I had done was to succeed at femininity, and that femininity is no pinnacle of human achievement.
It would be many years before I would understand that femininity, the practice of femininity, and the fetishization of femininity degrades all women. That femininity is not a “choice” when the alternative is derision, ridicule, workplace sanctions, or ostracization. That femininity is a set of degrading behaviors that communicates one’s level of commitment to male authority and women’s oppression. That femininity is coerced appeasement, regardless of how successfully it is now marketed to young women as feminism.
I turned out OK, so I’m not too worried about these sex-poz young ladies who think I want to deprive them of sexiness. They really can’t be blamed, either for thinking I’m a buzzkill, or for being deceived by Dude Nation and mistaking sex-attention for love; Dude Nation puts considerable effort into selling its message. Certainly by the time women age out of the system, although one hopes well before then, it will have dawned on them that femininity isn’t just a matter of personal choice, but is in fact a major element on the continuum of global misogyny that begins with “choosing” to wear lipstick for fun and ends with violence and murder.
In the meantime, at least they’re having a fucking good time.