I had a friend forward me this the other day.
I appreciate flow charts more than the average person. I giggle with glee when I see them. But this one is so apt surrounding feminist conversations today. I continually hear people claiming that feminism is so “outdated” or that men and women “practically have the same rights anyway”. And I don’t want to be just another voice in the crowd echoing that we don’t. We really don’t. I want to posit something to the conversation, and therein lies the challenge.
For what it’s worth, stats don’t turn me on. I don’t jump for joy when I see numbers as support. I think that anything that’s worth arguing well is deserving of words – substantial, opinionated words.
Hence the substantially opinionated flow chart. Enjoy.
I need to preface this post by stating that I am a millennial.
There are multiple posts out there about the millennial generation. They range from positive to negative and cover a broad range of topics, about how special we think we are, how entitled we are, and even how wrong our parents were. Call us what you will, albeit it GYPSY, Yuppie or narcisisstic, we may in fact be all three, because there’s nothing we do better than… well, everything.
But what I’ve recently been drawn to, is merely an observation that I’ve made for which I’m seeking more conversation. I have no studies to back my theory, and I certainly don’t have the time to research it, I’m too busy becoming successful and saving the world. No, what seems to be trending in my generation today is a prevalent obsession with commitment.
What I mean to say is that the idea of commitment captivates our thoughts. Because when we’re not thinking about what our next successful career or thrilling adventure is going to be, we’re usually committing our lives to our multiple jobs, internships, and full course loads at schools that we can’t afford. Everyone I talk to now has at least one job, an internship, and is a full-time student. (And I can’t claim exemption, because I work three part-time jobs and take 18 credits.) My time is so precious, I rejoice when I have an hourly interval free for lunch and a coffee, because it certainly doesn’t happen every day.
Because a lot of us are students or fresh to the career world, the overwhelming majority of us view this stage of our life as a “necessary but inconvenient step” toward success. School is necessary, but only because it will get us where we need to go. And that part-time job is so we can afford to live the lavish-esque lifestyle we were expected to have handed down to us from society while they were praising our skills and talents. And that internship? Networking opportunities, of course. Because we simply have to make those connections now if we want to be successful. It’s like taking off one hat to put on another.
The implications of these roles? To put it simply, we’re overcommitted, but not to things that we consider really important, because as Mark Edmundson so poignantly claims in his essay, “Dwelling in Possibilities“, we, as a generation, are deathly afraid of closure. We find happiness when we can see all our possibilities in front of us, not necessarily when we achieve them. Because we were taught to dream, to aspire, and to be the best we could be.
We were told that the world was at our disposal. So it’s not surprising to find a lack of commitment when you consider our approach to personal relationships. We’re quick to over commit to the professional world, but we like our friendships like we like our coffee. Quick, accessible when we need it, and a way to boost ourselves. And this is largely in part to the fact that we live in a fast-paced, technology driven culture that has radically changed the way we communicate.
This practice has carried over quite seamlessly into our views and practices of romantic relationships. Most interaction is done electronically – online and through each and every smart phone social media app that exists. Sociologists theorize that this is the phenomenon that has led to a prominent hookup culture. One that prizes the idea of a quick, non-committal physical encounter that doesn’t require the time or effort that a committed relationship demands. Take Tinder for example – the wildly popular dating app. Time magazine claims, “Tinder gamifies it all—dating and mating as a portable match game, with an unending succession of faces appearing on your screen, all dispatched with a swipe one way to pick the winners and a swipe the other to designate losers—and somewhere out there, your face is being swiped too.” In a way, we see dating as one big game. We’re afraid of committing to someone because that means closure, it means we have sealed off other possibilities, and we do, after all, dwell in possibilities.
While it may be technology, social trends, our upbringing, or a myriad of other reasons, it’s undeniable that the majority of all millennials are over committed, yet paradoxically remain deathly afraid of commitment. And it’s startling because I can’t explain it. I feel it, too. I am a product of this generation, and there’s very little I can do about it. And I too, am trapped between a career and a love interest that’s not a true “relationship” but also a bit more than a “one night stand”. I’m not certain how I’m supposed to feel, or how I’m supposed to act. But it’s deathly frightening. And in this I know I’m not alone.
From a millenial.
I knew there were two friends I could truly call my “best”, but they share two very different, yet equally amazing, relationships with me. I refer to both of them as my best friend, so much so, that as I talk about them in conversation, people who don’t know them can never tell which one I’m talking about. It can be confusing, seeing as one is married with a child and the other is as single as could be and loving it.
In fact, they’re almost like polar opposites. One of them has tattoos, gauged ears and at one point sported some amazing dread locks. The other looks like Taylor Swift. (I don’t lie) I met one of them in nursery and the other one in high school. But they both have had such an amazing impact on my life.
The problem I have is that I don’t think the word “best” does any justice to their level of commitment to our friendship – to me. Best is the absolute superlative of ‘good’, which somehow makes it sound like their friendship is somewhat performance based. But that’s the farthest thing from this relationship. Yet I hesitate to settle for “closest” friends, because a lot of people know me fairly well,
But when they were holding me, letting me cry with a bottle of wine because the man I thought I would marry introduced me to his fiancee, I realized two things.
Somehow, somewhere, I grew up.
And my best friends grew up with me.
It was beautiful, you know. It was one of those moments captured in a novel that rarely plays out in real life. It was the triumph of friendship, of ultimate companionship and camaraderie, and it was truly beautiful.
It was a sunny New York winter day. The kind that almost felt like it was still fall.
I was in a coffee shop, reading a novel. Romantic, right?
But then I saw him. His sparkling blue eyes met mine and I knew we were meant to be.
I shyly glanced away, but when I looked back up, his gaze met mine yet again.
I couldn’t bear it. I looked again, and I knew. It was love at first sight.
He met my eyes and his face lit up. This was a real smile.
It was almost as if he read my mind. I glanced away and so did he.
When he walked out of that coffee shop, I knew I would never see him again.
Such is the tragic state of love in New York City.
Earlier today I was talking with one of my co-workers about this phenomenon known as “No Shave November” or even “Movember”, which are kind of not really the same thing. Now, if you’re unfamiliar with the concept, no-shave November was founded as a way to raise awareness and funds for cancer. The philosophy is that by embracing our hair, which cancer patients usually lose due to chemotherapy and radiation treatments, we both raise awareness for the cause, and ideally donate whatever money we don’t spend on grooming products to help support cancer research and treatment. Movember, more specifically, raises awareness of men’s health issues including prostate cancer. Same concept, same month, but No Shave November includes women! Or does it?
See, my male co-worker was surprised to find that I intended to participate in No-Shave November, and more specifically, that I had in the past. He inquired as to whether women were even “allowed” to do that. Now, I’m a relatively quiet feminist. I’m one of those “lower case” feminists, you know? The one that thinks that feminism, like all rational, human-rights related issues, should be a conversation, not a single-sided argument. But when he asked me, I almost scoffed, and not intentionally! Why would it be so absurd for a woman to stop shaving for a month, if it’s so socially acceptable for men to be unshaven? To further the gap between what society considers a normal “gender conforming” behavioral pattern to look like, there are men who think that women should be (and generally are) sleek, slender, smoothly shaven human beings. And there are women who actually are sleek, slender, smoothly shaven. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! I get it. Hair bothers some people. And for the most part, people are generally “OK” with leg hair. But anything else? Absurd.
My thoughts are this. Beards are in style. Armpit hair on women, for whatever reason, is not. But in New York City? Is it truly this absurd to see a woman with armpit hair?
I have three standard questions about No-Shave November that I’d like to address. They have all been asked of me, and are repeatedly asked of me every November for the past three years.
1. “Can girls even do that?”
Well, yes, we can and do refrain from shaving. Don’t we get to raise awareness about cancer too?
2. What if your significant other doesn’t like you with hair?”
I have two thoughts on this. First, I’m not dating my significant other because they like my smoothly shaven legs. I like to think that they’re fond of my personality, or that they even like the way I look sometimes. Maybe I’m fun to be around, you know. ‘Cause I’m a person and all that. And second, if the existence of body hair on my body is really that difficult for my significant other to handle, I shave. Because, a relationship is more important to me than a silly month of hairiness.
3. “But why?”
And this is why I’m writing this post. Why? Simply because you’re still asking me this question. If I were a man, who respectfully decided to refrain from shaving for the month of November, the conversation would be entirely different. Let’s take the idea of Movember for example. Men not shaving to raise awareness for men’s health issues. Great. Sometimes men grow mustaches because they look good, too. My opinion? Women not shaving their armpits to make a statement is going to raise a lot more awareness than a group of men growing facial hair. That’s relatively commonplace. Especially if you live in Bushwick.
Here’s to the remainder of the month. To all you hairy creatures, cheers.
I fall out of love with New York City daily. It’s a process. When I first moved to New York, I enjoyed what may have been a normal, glamorous honeymoon phase. We were lovers for a while. We flirted, we bantered. New York captured my thoughts, evoked my imagination, and stole my heart. But now, it takes each new day for New York to win me back. And without fail, it succeeds each day. Yet somehow I know that the day I wake up and can’t seem to love New York anymore is the inevitable day when I may just leave.
But each day I’m a little more thankful that today is not that day.
This. This is necessary.
This morning I looked in the mirror and criticized my appearance to with excruciating detail. I thought about how I would need to wear contacts for a party tonight, because I hate myself in glasses. I thought about my lack of thigh space. I thought about how if I lost just 10 pounds that my cute round butt might become a cute small butt. My mother used to comment on my vanity. She would chastise me for appreciating clothes a bit too much, for concerning myself with my appearance, and claim that beauty came from the “heart”. But my mom wouldn’t smile in photos because she hated her crooked teeth. She never missed a day on the treadmill, swearing off all sweets, dairy and gluten. She is 5’1″ and weighs 110 pounds, which is just 5 pounds too heavy. And each morning when she would comment on the wiry, untamable nature of her dyed hair, I was there watching.
Today I called my mom. While we talked, I glanced at myself in the mirror again. I sucked my stomach in, then pushed it out. I leaned into a flattering angle, considered my curves, then gave a small sigh. I’m a small girl, I inherited my petite frame from my mother, I stand a proud 5’2″ and my weight fluctuates from 115-119 pounds. I’m a 32 D with a 27″ waist. I know that I’m “small”, but I still never feel small enough – correction, “thin” enough. I brush off comments about my body from friends and strangers alike, because I never feel adequate enough to deserve them. Now, I don’t struggle with an eating disorder, and I don’t think that I need psychological help. But when I watched the video of Lily Myers performing “Shrinking Women” at the 2013 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational, I identified with everything she was saying. Something I think to be a trend that is largely not associated with body image issues. I’m accustomed to reading article after article of how “society” tells us who and what we should be, or how we should look. All of us see the magazine-covers of celebrities and models who are beautifully airbrushed and stick-thin. But I’m not used to hearing that body image is something learned or even “inherited”.
If you haven’t seen the video, watch it before you continue reading.
This (dare I say) provoking piece has been floating around my internet circle for the past week. When I finally watched it, I understood why. And then I read the youtube comments.
Where are all these shrinking women? seems everytime I go to super walmart it appears to be getting smaller
wahhhhhhhhhhhhhh life is so hard!
This comment has received too many negative votes
This girl is just a sexist little whimp. If you can’t have the confidence to eat a piece of PIZZA, that is your own damn fault. Feminists are such diluted pieces of shit. Women have the same rights and opportunities as men, yet MEN are the ones required to sign up for the draft. MEN are expected to hold the door for women, and pay for dinner. This girl needs to rethink her own decisions, and GROW UP before writing such an ignorant BULLSHIT “poem”. Men and women have the SAME RIGHTS.
this is just bullshit. feminism doesnt really have a purpose anymore in the 1st world, lets face it, you get paid the same, you can vote, you get the same rights as everyone else. stop trying to be better than men and just be happy being equal. in many cases where women were the minority, they’re now the majority, which is fine…i dont have anything against women at all, but hearing that they’re so suppressed is just nonsense.
And while I could write a response about the perhaps surprising reality of INequality to every one of these negative comments, I won’t. Because this isn’t a feminist debate. Though it could be. It’s a woman to woman conversation. Myers says,
“I never meant to replicate her, but/ spend enough time sitting across from someone and you pick up their habits/ that’s why women in my family have been shrinking for decades”
And while I stand in the middle of my New York City apartment, my mother across the country also stands looking in the mirror, sucking in the stomach that she felt deserved to have seven children, stretch marks that were well-earned by her necessity of deprivation, a concept well learned from her mother, my dear, sweet, frail grandmother at a slight 98 pounds. I wish that instead of asking me, “Honey, have you put on weight?” that she was asking what exciting restaurants I’ve tried recently. I wish that she was congratulating me on my job promotion. I wish that she was not criticizing every detail of her own body, but encouraging me to accept my own.
Myers’ poem so poignantly states,
“We all learned it from each other, the way each generation /taught the next how to knit /weaving silence in between the threads”.
The subjects of the poem are the shrinking women who are being taught, one generation to the next, that the way to survive is to shrink. I, like those women, was taught to shrink. I remember my mother shrinking when my father would verbally abuse her, raise his voice in his ignorance and do everything in his will to provoke her as an attempt to claim the power he never felt he had. I remember my mother shrinking when my grandfather died, the man who raised her right, instructed her, and then withered away as he slowly lost his memory. I remember my mother shrinking with every tear that fell from her frail face when her marriage was crumbling around her and there was nothing that she could do.
The conversation is not “MEN HAVE WRONGED WOMEN, FEMINISTS UNITE”. The conversation should be “Women, encourage your daughters to grow strong and healthy to stand up for something they believe in and support them in their desire to vocalize their opinions.” I wouldn’t have a problem starting this blog if I hadn’t obsessed for weeks over feeling unqualified to write this post.
I don’t understand why I feel the necessity to deprive myself of food, beverages, company, pleasures, or the simple joys of life. I can’t explain why I feel like in a city of 8 million people I need to shrink from their critical eyes. Maybe because I was taught, like Lily, that all I could be, was a woman shrinking.
And then, please, when you’re done reading this post, by all means check out this wonderfully written (contrary) response to Myers’ poem.