Being a feminist can be exhausting. Every news story, every new show or movie, every walk down the street is fraught with misogyny and anger. There was a time when I didn’t really pay attention to things. I identified as feminist but was not actively engaged. I could get by with an eye roll and my name on an online petition, then back to whatever young, carefree thoughts I had at that time.
As I’ve gotten older, the shit the world throws at us has become worse, or more constant, or maybe I just have less energy to ignore it. Whatever the reason, I can get tired of awareness. Yelling at the television and ranting about the patriarchy is a full-time occupation and I already have too much to do. So, I’ll purposefully not think about all of the things currently pissing me off. I have little escapes and watch decidedly anti-feminist tv. I’m referring specifically to Tosh.0 on Comedy Central, my guilty pleasure.
I wanted a girl. I wanted a girl SO BAD I convinced myself that I had one inside of me instead of the boy I knew was in there before I even had that damn ultrasound because I like to pretend I have a sixth sense (I don’t). But I grew up with 2 older half sisters, one younger, uh, full? sister, and a plethora of female friends. My plan was to raise her to be a little badass. Play guitar, read Steinem, fight against the patriarchy, listen to 7 Year Bitch. (Some might have suggested “SPORTS!” but we, as a clan, are not athletically inclined at all.) So when I got that ultrasound, and saw my kid poking at his wiener in utero, I thought: What am I gonna do with a boy? Was he gonna grow up to be like his irresponsible father, unable to grasp the concept of accountability? Could I teach him to respect women, despite what his “boys” might dictate later on? That catcalling WON’T win him any points with the ladies (or with me)? Would he follow in the footsteps of way too many dudes in my family, dudes who enjoyed making comments about other women (for better or for worse) in front of their wives and daughters? Worse yet, would he grow up to be an entitled fucktard who was mean to girls? Or, my worst nightmare, a boy who thinks that what happened in Steubenville was okay because girls who are labeled as “sluts” are asking for it? Cue panic attack.
During my pregnancy, I had already resigned myself to the notion that I would mostly be in charge of the kid’s upbringing. His father is…much like a child himself, a statistic of a broken home that I did NOT want to translate to our son (look at me, being diplomatic). So, when our son was 3, I did what any smart feminist would do and gave his father the boot. He sucked up my money, time, and soul and I knew our son was not being brought up in a happy home, nor one that was teaching him how to accept responsibility for himself. In true feminist fashion, my already amazing friends (both male AND female) stepped up to help me out with childcare, advice, and wine.
Pretty is one of my least favorite words/ideals/concepts. It’s a little word that brings so much grief, I wish I could banish it. It’s usually given as a compliment, as a word to value and cherish, as a point of pride, but it’s actually condescending and limiting. It’s a way to damage a girl’s self-esteem, one tiny “compliment” at a time.
I know there are people out there reading this and shaking their heads, tut-tutting silently, thinking “goddamn feminists, are you every happy? Can you ever take something at face value instead of shoving your hang-ups into everything? Quit your whining, be happy someone calls you pretty.” But that’s why it’s so insidious. It’s not big and scary and violent, so you don’t complain.
Pretty is a word used as a compliment almost exclusively for women. Call a man pretty and its an insult – you’re saying he’s feminine, delicate, fragile, ornamental, and probably not all that smart. Here’s the thing – you’re saying THE SAME THING when you use it to describe a woman. But we’re supposed to be proud of those things, because…vaginas? Pretty doesn’t carry the gravitas of beautiful, it’s a couple rungs down on the attractive scale. It has no power, no strength, no use beyond “I like the way your face/body looks.” And it’s given to girls as an accomplishment.