Firstly, Renegade Evolution, who is one of my blog heroes and has great taste in men, broaches this question while guest blogging at Feministe.
There is also the thought that a woman should not be judged or mocked for her appearance, and while her choices with regards to how she presents herself or what she may or may not do to modify her natural body can be questioned, she should not be judged or made fun of or disregarded because of those choices. One can ask why (or why not) a woman wears make up, or gets body waxes, or gets tattoos, works out or diets, gets piercings, dyes her hair or gets a nose job, exploration into the “whys” is…acceptable…but I’ve often seen feminists say that a woman, no matter who she is or how she looks or what beauty rituals she does, or does not, engage in, well, she should not be judged, mocked, or made fun of.Me too.
But that happens, even amid feminist circles. And rarely is the woman who does not shave, or diet, or wear make up who is mocked, it is the woman who does. Often times being thin, via nature or diet or time in a gym is thought of something horrible. The intelligence of women who wear make up or get any sort of cosmetic surgery is guestioned, and often they are made fun of. Women who enage in any sort of “Patriarchy Approved” grooming or body ritual, well, when they admit it, they appologize for it. They are appologetic or ashamed of being thin, or wearing eyeliner, or having blonde hair.
And I wonder why.
Look, I'm a nearly 300 lb 5' 10" woman of color. I don't fit any patriarchal standard. However, I love my long hair. I love makeup. I'd consider some plastic surgery to remove some of the extra skin around my abdomen after childbirth. I usually wear dresses. I'm married with a child. I was a stay-at-home mom over the summer. None of this makes me any less of a feminist.
I like my long hair because it's a striking statement about my ethnic identity. Also, It's easier to care for, less poofy and all over the place, and requires less products to deal with when it's longer. I don't do it to attract men. I love makeup, mostly as a holdover from my punk days when I used to wear green glittery lipstick. I don't wear it to attract men. Ever since childbirth I have this hanging flap of skin around my abdomen that's hot and uncomfortable. I wouldn't remove it to make myself more attractive to men. I wear dresses because it's hard to find pants that fit my body type (my waist, despite the aforementioned skin flap, is narrower than my hips, so if I get pants that fit my hips they either fall off my waist or ride up my crotch). I don't wear them to attract men or to conform to the patriarchy. My husband and I got married for the tax breaks. Selfish, I guess, but more a pragmatic move than a wish to conform to the patriarchy. I had a child...well, right now she's screaming for me to put Elmo's World back on the TiVo, so I'm not sure why I had a child. Sigh.
The thing I've heard time and time again from radfems is that they want women to examine their choices. Well guess what, I have. None of the 'sparklepony,' or whatever the cutesy word for it is, things I do are to conform to patriarchal standards. Don't assume a woman is a mindless patriarchal tool just because she looks different or wants to look different or acts different or wants to act different than you.
And also, something that kind of bugs me on an academic level, there's nothing inherent about any cultural artifact or practice. Marriage is not inherently oppressive to women, BDSM is not inherently oppressive to women, porn is not inherently oppressive to women. These things and many others can and are usually practiced in a way that is oppressive to women. But there's nothing inherent about it. Study Cultural Anthropology for about five seconds and you see that calling anything inherently, universally oppressive is hard to support with cross-cultural data.
Go read the whole post, although I recommend avoiding the now 500-plus comment thread, where people are stomping their feet and holding their breath until they turn blue and pretty much acting like babies.
Secondly, Blue Milk, a blogger I've just recently discovered, writes this about non-parents criticizing the actions of parents.
Oh I love a pious non-parent’s thoughts on parenting. Blah, blah, blah, I’d never do this, and all you need to do is that, and why can’t she see it, when I’m around her kids I just do this and they always co-operate, she is just making problems for herself, stupid parents.Yes, I've also encountered this attitude amongst supposed allies in the feminist blogosphere - the idea that people without children (or, as they rather loadedly refer to themselves, the "childfree" - might as well say "cootiefree") know so much better who to deal with crazy children having temper tantrums in public, or whatever mild annoyance they have had to face.
Hey, I’m not going to judge you too harshly for your judging, non-parents. I did a bit of that judging myself before I was a parent and truth be told I still do from time to time. But when we do, you should know that you and I are speaking out of our arses. Really, out of our arses. Becoming a parent is a humbling experience, I’m sure there are other ways to be taken down a peg or two but few with such rapid results spring to mind.
The first thing to go out the window when you bring a baby home is everything you thought you knew. Things like scooping a kid up and taking them out of the store the minute they start to squeal might seem like the right thing to do when you don't have kids. But it might not be in that situation. You might not want to teach the child that if they want to leave the store, all they have to do is scream. You might not want to teach the child that if they want your attention, all they have to do is scream. And you know what, making sure my daughter knows that screaming won't get her what she wants is more important to me than you not having to be mildly annoyed for five minutes. I am her caretaker, not yours.
Another phenomenon that happens when people with no children encounter children in public is that they have no idea how children look when they're a certain age. When Abbie was 10 months a woman at Target thought she was 2 years. Now a 10 month old is not capable of the same level of behavior as a 2 year old, so that may also be fueling some of the disapproving tsk-tsking of the "childfree."
Go read that post too. And wish me luck on my Russian quiz next week.