I read this post by Julie Klausner after it was brought to my attention by one of my followers that she had used one of my photos (the photo above) without my permission* in the post and also neglected to credit it or link it back to the source. This kind of thing doesn't really bother me that much because we live in the age of google image search, tumblr, and weheartit where people regurgitate images without any regard for original sources. I read the post that Julie wrote, though, and it really made me think, since so much of what her post refers to is stuff that I run across on a daily basis in the blogosphere. The main point in her post is that women these days infantilize themselves by liking "girly" things like cupcakes and wearing things like miniskirts and converse sneakers. "Women with master’s degrees who are searching for life partners, list “rainbows, Girl Scout cookies, and laughing a lot” under “interests, on their Match.com profiles," she notes. Her main point is that, by creating this image of girliness and frou-frou sparkly-eyed femininity, what we're really aiming for is making ourselves less intimidating to men. That ultimately, our main goal is to not scare men away by reminding them of those little girls they picked on in 2nd grade.
While I think that she does have a point, she makes an over generalization. And maybe I'm taking it personally (since my picture was used as what I'm assuming is an example of how I embody this infantilized girly girl who is un-intimidating to men), but picking out one type of girl and saying that she is the kind of girl we shouldn't aspire to be, is non-productive. When I looked at the photos she used and examples she gave of dead giveaways of this type of repulsive girl-woman, I thought of Elsie Flannigan (well, now Elsie Larson), who of course loves cute cupcakes, dresses with vintage (maybe girly girl?) shapes & cuts, etsy shops and so on. But Elsie is one of the most intensely driven, strong minded and impressive woman I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. And I would guess that she's very intimidating to men, simply because she's not this wilting flower of a girl that Julie would make her out to be based on her outward general criteria.
Why I have to fit into someone else's criteria for what a woman "should be" to be acceptable to men is the same as men telling me what I should be to have them like me. I won't let anyone tell me who I should be, and I certainly won't let them tell me I should be this or that so that men will like me. If I like wearing rompers and eating FroYo instead of drinking wine and reading Ayn Rand, so what? And what if I like doing both? Are dressing the way I do and being a strong, independent, smart and driven woman mutually exclusive? I say that's bullshit.
Granted, I do get her point. And she has some valid takes on things. Ladies, we should never EVER dumb ourselves down to be more attractive to a man. Don't ever make yourself seem more stupid, a worse driver, not as good at sports, not as business savvy, etc. just so that the man you're with or want to be with will accept you. He should accept you as you are because otherwise your relationship is a lie because you have become a lie. Having dated boys in the past who have wanted me to be that weak, wilting flower of a girl so that they would feel more secure in their "manhood", I know first hand how demeaning and frustrating that is. Whether they want you to look a certain way, act a certain way, be in a certain career (or none at all), or so on, what they're really saying is, "I'm not secure enough to bask in the incredible power that you exude as a woman." And that, my friends, is a weak man. I believe that we as women have this incredible strength and power built in to us. I mean, lets be real, we have the ability to create and birth another life. How much more bad ass can you get? That power was given to women. But even beyond that, we are resilient, nurturing, clever, loving, protective, and so much more.
I am not going to change who I am, how I dress, what color my hair is, what books I read, what food I like to eat, or anything else because of what a man or a woman says I should be to make a man like me. Who I am as a person should have nothing to do with making men like me. A man should like me because I am working on being the best me that I can be. What that looks like should and will be intensely individual. I feel like it behooves every one of us to take a step back and look at ourselves and ask why we are who we are. Are we being who we are for others, or for ourselves? Are you changing yourself to better fit someone else's idea of what they think you should be?
I want girls (well, all people really, but I feel like most of y'all are sporting two X chromosomes) to feel like they can be contradictory. You can wear feminine dresses and drive a '73 winnebago across the country alone. You can love etsy shops and cupcakes and be a med student in the middle of her residency. You can be a style blogger, run a successful local business, and be a published author. You can graduate at the top of your class with a double major and like baking too. I am going to be the fullness of myself. I'm not going to hide myself. This means not hiding my smart, athletic, fearless side as well as not hiding my feminine, soft side.
If Julie really believed, like she says, that "you can make your own modern womanhood," she wouldn't tell you that you can't be a real woman and like rompers, birds, cupcakes, rainbows, etc. I believe that we are indeed making our own modern womanhood, especially here in the blogosphere, by rejecting the image we're fed over and over again in the mainstream media of what society tells us a woman should be and putting our own voices and images out there and saying, "Look! I am woman. I don't fit in any box and that's okay! In fact it's more than okay, that's how it should be."
I wasn't intending on writing this post, but a lot of these thoughts have been mulling around in my brain for quite some time and I have a feeling that in my work with high school girls this summer a lot more thoughts along these lines will be popping up in my writings. I'm kind of glad that Julie used that photo and that one of my readers emailed me to tell me about it. Reading it broke the dam of thoughts in my head and they flooded out. I guess I'll just let the cat out of the bag that I'm going to be writing a series of posts this summer about stuff like this called "The Summer of Love." It will be a series of posts all about loving yourself, loving each other, loving our communities, loving our earth and so on.
I'd love for you guys to be involved and share your own posts on these kinds of things so I'm going have the ability for you all to link up your Summer of Love posts as well so everyone can check them out (kind of like how Mandy has her Steppin' out Saturdays set up). You can write a response to something I wrote or write something you want to share or an experience you had, etc. I really love the idea of making the blogosphere more personal and community oriented, so the ability to interact with readers and other bloggers like this will be awesome, I think!
*I contacted Julie and asked her to either credit or remove my photo and she has now included a link.