A potentially preachy soapbox! Maybe your FHE needs some spice?
On the whole, I'm not a huge fan of gendered statements. The whole "men are from Mars, women are from Venus," stuff. Not because I don't acknowledge differences between men and women, but because I don't see those differences as interplanetary. For example, say we use a scenario oft found in women's magazines:
Woman has a problem. Men hear about the problem and offer a solution, infuriating the woman who didn't want a solution, just a listener. Enter a bunch of "Can this Marriage be Saved" hijinks, fade out on Lucy and Ricky hugging it out. Lucy promises to tell Ricky how he can best respond to her problem, Ricky promises to listen. Yay!
I understand how that scenario is appealing, and how many, maybe even most, women and men identify with it. So I'm not going to say it isn't valid in some cases. However, I would not go as so far to say that men always want a solution, and women always want a listener. Sometimes men like listeners too, and saying otherwise implies that they are just Tarzan -like doers that must be trained to listen. Sometimes women like solutions, and saying otherwise implies that women aren't solution oriented.
Gendered language bothers me because it easily dissolves into exclusionary language. A person's masculinity or femininity shouldn't be defined by a series of black and white statements.*
Surprisingly though, the previous paragraphs are not my "main" soapbox today. In fact, it is just a cleverly disguised disclaimer for a gendered statement I'm about to make:
(Some)women are mean. We've all watched it on TV (Tina Fey** at least makes it funny,) read about it books, and most importantly, experienced in real life: the girl-on-girl woman-on-woman hate that eats at our souls and makes men call us "crazy."
(Some) women are mean, but I don't think it is an innate behavior. I don't think women are born mean, or that there is something in about double X chromosomes that make us meaner than our XY counterparts. (Evidence: High school, where I've seen boys gossip, and girls sport black eyes.)
I do however, believe that we live in a culture that encourages women to be mean, especially in areas relating to physical appearance. For instance, in my experience, a man calling a woman fat is generally thought of as a pig, but if a girl makes a comment on how "She shouldn't be wearing those pants" well, that's okay. It is especially okay if done in a funny and sarcastic way, or by a very pretty girl.
Other areas in which it is okay for a woman to pass judgement on a woman's body:
Breastfeeding without a cover (Gross! You're making me feel uncomfortable!)
Pale skin (If you can't tone it, at least tan it!)
Anything over a size four (Ewwww, muffin tops!)
Clothing not found, or at least similar to, clothing found in magazines. (Frumpy!)
Personal Hygiene routines that do not feature razors, waxers, and make-up prominently (It is your job to use these so that men will like you!)
"Immodest" clothing (Slut!)
I know it is socially acceptable to mock these things because I've been guilty of it, and gotten away with it. Past selves have made comments on how she's "let herself go" or "gotten big" or "frumpy." I've said it, but seeing in crop up, and even celebrated in the blogosphere makes it seem less funny than the Means Girls sequel, and more depressing than, well, the Mean Girls sequel.
The idea that our foremothers would fight for control over their own bodies, only to have their granddaughters dissect them on a limited and superficial scale...it is just mean, and it ought to stop. I don't think girls develop negative self-image simply from seeing air-brushed photo on Cosmo, they develop negative self-image from the women who tell them they are failures for not looking like the images they see.
So here's the deal, from now on, I'm not going to-
1. Tell you how often you need to shower, wash your hair, shave your legs, or wax, in order to be "attractive" or even "clean." I will trust that you know your body, and what it wants. This also includes comments about how much or little you need to weigh in order to make me happy.
2. Tell you that your husband, boyfriend, significant other, or partner "deserves" a version of you that requires you to alter your physical appearance. If you want to wear make-up, wax yourself bald, and strut in high-heels, I salute you, but not because it will make your husband happy. Because it makes you happy. Apparently.
3. If you chose not to cover up your body while feeding a baby, I will realize that I too have control over my own body and mind. I can chose whether to see boobs as "awkward" and "gross," or I can chose to see it as natural. Thinking breastfeeding is gross doesn't make it gross. Making comments about how disgusted you are is gross.
After all Lindsay-Lohan-acting-as-Caddy-written-by-Tina-Fey said it best,
"And that's when I realized,making fun of Caroline Krafft wouldn't stop her from beating me in this contest."
So from the vaguely- hippie- liberal -soapboxers- who -sometimes- forget- to- shower to the shower- nazis-grossed-out-by-bus-breastfeeding-moms-plastics: making fun of us won't stop us from beating you in this contest.
What? I said we shouldn't be mean, not doormats.
* Including statements about providing and nuturing, but you already know how I feel about that.
**Tina Fey is not mean, Regina George is mean.
Controversial post check-list: Gender relations? Check. Breastfeeding? Check. Soapbox? Check. What am I missing, what am I missing? Oh, right: BENTLEY WILLIAMS IS A JERK.