feminism

All posts in the feminism category

Ain’t so Real

Published August 3, 2020 by April Fox

(They tell us)

Real women have cuuuurrrrrrrvesssss

-Gotta draw that out real slow, let the word trace along the edge of the

Fat thighs, round hips, breasts like balloons every little boy

want to die in

Real women look after themselves,

legs like stilts that hold up the pedestal balanced there,

low flat belly, chest like a smooth wave in the ocean

sharp cheekbones cut like ice if you aren’t

Perfect(ly made; don’t tell me

that’s a real woman)

Anorexic overeater tell you hormones make the lady

but that facial hair they say to shave says otherwise,

now don’t it?

(They tell us)

Real women take care of their own, work hard, bring that money home and

ain’t no real women go away all day and leave her kids.

Real women stand up for themselves, don’t take no shit

get that dinner ready on the table when your man gets home

Keep him fed

Feed him good.

(They tell us)

Real women don’t belong HERE in this restroom

Real as the ache of not being seen,

real as the ache of being questioned every day, from the inside,

Who am I, and why am I here?

Real as the knowledge that power comes from the pocketbook

and that your breasts are weapons to be feared

even if

they haven’t started yet.

Real as the leaves in the hair, the rocks in the knees on a dark dirt road cause you need

a place to stay that night

and when you’re fifteen,

nothing feels like home.

Real as the blood on the sheets, the blood on the arms, the blood on your face

waking up in tears

remembering.

Real as the day long hours wondering why you weren’t made

like all the other

Real Women

with their fat flat asses and their sharp smooth hips and their

curves worn damp with time

erased

Real like knowledge

Real like the mirror, waiting to look back

And feel complete.

The Always “Like A Girl” Commercial Tackles Gender Stereotypes

Published June 30, 2014 by April Fox

Feminine hygiene products aren’t usually known for being empowering. They serve a purpose, sure, and those of us of the womanly persuasion are certainly grateful that they exist in their modern form, but they’re not exactly thought provoking, beyond “Hmmm, is today going to be a Super day or an Ultra day?” This commercial from Always, though, is a little different. It does make you think. And it might just give a little bit of power back to young women who’ve forgotten what it really means to be a girl.

This video doesn’t really have much to do with tampons or pads. Rather, it shows us a kind of sociological exercise: actors are told to perform certain actions “like a girl,” and the results are a little disheartening. Many of the actors perform the actions in exaggerated, stereotypical ways: weakly flinging a hand when asked to throw like a girl, jogging in place with arms and legs flailing haphazardly when asked to run like a girl. Even the young women actors behaved this way in the first segment. Although they are girls themselves, they acted out these normal everyday activities in ways that made them look like caricatures, exaggerated for comic effect.

The younger actors, who appear to be pre-teens, interpreted the instructions differently. One young girl appears as only a flash of color across the screen as she shows what it is to run like a girl. Another, asked to kick like a girl, jabs her leg fiercely and confidently into the air. They are doing things “like a girl,” the way they do them every day.

Somewhere along the way, it looks like doing things “like a girl” comes to mean doing them weakly and ineffectively. This isn’t going to be the case with all girls, of course. My older daughter, a former soccer star, is a petite young lady who likes wearing pretty sundresses and painting her nails. I’m fairly certain that if you asked her to kick like a girl, you’d be in danger of having your head knocked off your shoulders by a well-placed size seven sandal.

Still, I worry about this with Baby Girl– not so much that she’ll see the way she does things as wrong because she’s a girl, but that she’ll change the way she does them in order to appear more “like a girl.” It goes both ways, sometimes. Right now she’s proud of her strong, muscular legs. She’s a dancer, and it shows. When she plays sports with her brothers, she plays hard. But she’s almost 13, and I worry that she’ll start falling prey to the idea that in order to be more “like a girl” she’ll have to downplay her physical strength, start to dislike her athletic build, create a version of herself that fits the popular idea of woman as the weaker sex. I don’t want her to forget that she is beautiful with her strong legs and mind and shoulders, and then create a new, flimsier version of herself. She is absolutely gorgeous, and her strength and skill are part of what makes her beautiful. Her confidence in her ability radiates. I don’t want her to ever lose that.

I’m probably the least athletic person on the planet. I can’t catch a ball, I’m totally uncoordinated, and when I run, I’m sure I look like the sloppy, disjointed characters portrayed in this video. But that doesn’t mean that I do those things like a girl, it means I do them like a person with absolutely no coordination. It means my strength is somewhere else–just where, I’m still trying to figure out. We need to make sure our girls know that it’s okay to be physically strong, and reassure our boys that not being athletically inclined doesn’t mean that they’re “girly.” We have to make sure that we acknowledge our children’s strengths and weakness without defining them in terms of gender.

With all of the body-shaming that goes on these days–from both sides, skinny and fat–and social media having a greater influence in young women’s lives, we need more messages like this one. It’s okay to be a girl, and to do things “like a girl.” And what that means is just to be the best you can be, no matter what you’re doing.

Barbie: Taking Our Daughters to the Dark Side, One Pink Stiletto Step at a Time

Published February 19, 2014 by April Fox

When I was a kid, playing with Barbie was a given. Little girls played Barbie, little boys played G.I. Joe, and once you all hit about twelve, your moms quit allowing you to play with both of them together because dammit, Barbie’s not a hooker.

But maybe she is.

I’ve heard a surprising number of mothers say they won’t let their daughters play with Barbie because she’s a bad influence and promotes an unrealistic ideal of beauty to young girls. Okay, first of all, your average girl of Barbie-playing age thinks the height of beauty is bright turquoise eyeshadow, a sparkly tank top that looks like it came off the rack at Discount Drag, your grandmother’s old Easter bonnet and a pair of Dora the Explorer slippers. I’m pretty sure Barbie’s color-coordinated outfits are an improvement.

She has long, blonde hair, blue eyes, and a figure that looks like she got her chest stuck in an industrial vacuum for about four years. Yeah, the boobs are a bit much. I admit, after six kids I look at Barbie lying there all perky after, what, fifty-some years? and when my kid isn’t looking, I slam those pointy little plastic suckers in the kitchen drawer a few times, just for spite. But really? Come on. Kids are surrounded by women of all shapes, sizes, colors… do you really think your daughter is going to grow up with a complex because she doesn’t resemble a hunk of plastic? Nobody raises a fuss because they think their kids are going to grow up depressed because they don’t have giant, misshapen heads like Dora. I have four boys and not one of them has ever screamed from the bathroom, aghast because they’re not eunuchs like all those plastic action figures they play with.

The fact is, some women do have lovely figures and long, shiny hair. It doesn’t mean they’re bad people or less worthy of your respect than anyone else. It’s unacceptable to look down on someone because they’re not conventionally attractive, or they’re overweight, or learning delayed. People do it, but it’s not considered something you do in polite company. So why is it okay to belittle the worth of this poor plastic lady? Yes, I’m anthropomorphizing the doll, because-to use a phrase common in the age group that likes to play with her-you started it. When you say your child can’t play with Barbie because she promotes an unrealistic ideal of beauty, you’re telling her that that is what’s considered attractive, and she might as well give it up.

Beauty vs. the Brain

One of the big arguments I hear is “I want to raise my daughter to know that beauty doesn’t matter, and brains do,” or some minor variation thereof. The thing is, I have two girls that happen to have copious amounts of both qualities, and I’m quite sure mine aren’t the only ones. Now, what are you going to say? Are you going to pretend my girls are the only ones with good looks and smarts? Or are you going to–wait for it–tell me that all parents feel that way about their kids? Maybe even get a little defensive and tell me your kids are bright and beautiful too?

Of course they are. They all are. So rather than telling your daughter she has to be one or the other, why not reinforce that not only will she be both, she already is? I don’t mean you should streak her hair and stick her in miniskirts when she’s five. I’m not saying teach her that she has to look like all the little tarts on the teen soap operas. I’m saying let her cultivate her own beauty along with her brains, and appreciate them both. And in doing that, you have to learn to appreciate your own. If you complain constantly about your post-kid belly or your frizzy hair and then turn on Barbie and accuse her of being a fake plastic tramp, you’re the one teaching your child that there’s a narrow definition of beauty-not the doll. Rather than pointing out how unrealistic Barbie’s perfect shiny hair is, point out how pretty it is when the sunlight catches your daughter’s curls on the playground. Quit slamming Barbie’s poor exaggerated breasts in the drawer and take a minute to think about what yours have seen you through.

When she does well on a test, praise her. When she puts on a new dress, tell her she looks pretty. When she scores a goal in her soccer game, be the loudest voice on the sidelines. Celebrate all of her gifts, not just the ones that aren’t obvious at first glance. Allow her to decide who she is-don’t limit her with your own insecurity.

About that Bad Influence Thing

Okay, so Barbie is a bad influence because she’s hot. Let’s look at the reality of this, shall we? First, she’s plastic. Seriously. Not plastic as in manufactured pop star, but actual plastic, injection molded chemical compounds or whatever the heck she’s made out of. It’s not like she’s whispering in your kid’s ear at night, telling her to pray to the goddess Britney Spears and eat nothing but honeydew melon.

As far as her lifestyle, she lives in a nice house (several, if you’ve kept up with the upgrades over the years) and drives a cute little convertible. She takes her sweet fluffy pets with her on vacation in her RV. Yeah, she went through that kind of tacky “Barbie and the Rockers” phase back in the 80’s, but come on, she’s not even fully jointed; it’s not like she could gyrate or anything. And to top all that off, she was with the same guy for her entire life, and if you’ve ever taken Ken’s pants off, you know there wasn’t any hanky-panky going on.

It’s not like she just sat around eating plastic bon-bons, either. Barbie may be a hottie, but she’s no slacker. She’s been a veterinarian, a teacher, a pediatrician and a businesswoman, among other things. If anything, Barbie is the ultimate feminist symbol: she’s gorgeous, wealthy, takes care of herself, has more degrees than South Florida on an August afternoon, and hangs out with a guy who’s been emasculated. Have you seen those stilettos she wears? Man-killers if I ever saw any, am I right? This isn’t some soft little bimbo teaching our girls to pucker up and have dinner on the table when the man walks through the door; this is a renaissance woman, evolving with the times and showing generations of little girls that they can be anything they imagine they can.

*I first wrote this for Yahoo! several years ago. I feel compelled to point that out, so they don’t come along and try to sue me for reprinting my own work or something.

%d bloggers like this: