Filed under: Feminism, Sex | Tags: chauvinism, Feminism, power, sexism, the beauty myth
After years of good intentions, I’ve finally started reading Naomi Wolf’s famous “The Beauty Myth”. Here’s a quote from early in the book that I related to my own personal experience:
“Since the fourteenth century, male culture has silenced women by taking them beautifully apart: The catalog of features, developed by the troubadours, first paralyzed the beloved woman into beauty’s silence. The poet Edmund Spenser perfected the catalog of features in his hymn “Epithalamion”; we inherit that catalog in forms ranging from the list-your-good-points articles in women’s magazines to fantasies in mass culture that assemble the perfect women.
– Page 59, Culture. The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. 1990.
Reading this brought back another pleasant memory I have about a “friend” I had in my teens, Dickwad McGee. Remember him?
A little story…
Once upon a lovely, sunny, small town day a group of friends were hanging out together at a water park – Myself, my girlfriend Kate (not her real name), Dickwad and his sidekick. Let’s call his sidekick “Lumpyballs”.
Kate and I were wearing bikinis so Dickwad and Lumpyballs saw this as an open invitation to comment on our bodies. “Nice ass” said Dickwad as Kate and I ascended the stairs to a waterslide. Lumpyballs, being Dickwad’s biggest fan, started making the same comment. It became a recurring gag for them. I can’t remember how I reacted, but I remember feeling both uncomfortable and… well, honestly? A bit flattered. I wasn’t a girl who got out a lot, I wasn’t used to compliments of any sort.
Later during lunch, Dickwad came up with what he obviously thought was an awesome question – “What bits of Jessie and Kate would you combine to create the perfect body?”. After some serious discussion, Dickwad and Lumpyballs eventually came to the conclusion that my tits and her arse would make a killer combination.
At this point, I was pretty mortified (and feeling insecure about my arse) but I hadn’t yet learned to be angry. Not really. Wasn’t this the sort of conversation guys always had in movies? Wasn’t I flattered by the attention? Hadn’t I felt sexy and bold in my brand new bikini? I didn’t really know how to respond, I think I said “Fuck you.” in a joking manner but otherwise my memory is a blank.
These days, I hope that if I were faced with such a situation again, I would be angry. I hope I would show my anger. Now I know I’m allowed to dress and feel sexy without having to face dehumanising scrutiny of my body.
Eventually, I broke off my friendship with these guys and am probably forever a bitch in their eyes. Good. I’ve realised something; Dickwad and Lumpyballs always knew that Kate and I were never going to be sexually interested in them and this made them angry. The things they did and said to us were their way of asserting power over us. Sadly, it worked. Happily, not for long.
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