I saw an article, “5 Conversations Women Should Stop Having,” by HuffPo and got excited to get my feminist morning-read on, but….what was I thinking this is HuffPo. Of course it’s just “5 Conversations People Should Stop Having” …if they want to stop being boringgggzzzz. Everybody talks about being stressed out, “traumatized” by their parents, annoying people, where to eat dinner, and clothes. This article is not news.
Good on HP for not resorting to all-out disgusting stereotypes, but if this was supposed to be an appeal to female readers it was weak. Actually, no. Shame on HP for implying that these conversations are only problems, only annoying, when they are had by women.
These are the 5 Conversations Women Should Stop Having, Really:
1. I am not a feminist, because… You’re actually some kind of feminish. Fine. We get it. There are so many different ways to be a feminist, and so many disagreements about those ways. Some of us take CGS classes. Some of us raise boys up to be good men someday. Some of us burn things. Some of us just try to go about our day without ruining anyone else’s. But unless you truly believe that women don’t deserve equal rights with men…you’re a feminist. Pretty much.
I’m not going to argue with you; you can self-identify however you want, but you’re wasting precious breath that we could be spending on “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” That’s all feminism is to me.
2. Your body is amazing/beautiful/perfect but my body is sad/horrible/flawed. Actually, I do think there can be value in comparing our bodies and our feelings about them so that we can learn and grow. But I’m sick of impossible compliments, sick of the whiplash of first trying to process the nice thing you said about me and then the gloomy thing you said about yourself.
HOWEVER. I am trying to teach myself to hear the little plea in such statements: “Please see that you are privileged and acknowledge your advantages over me because you are socially recognized as attractive.” Because I know I’m a minx with glorious hair (er, actually, that I don’t face discrimination for my weight, physical health status, and race), I think I hear this plea and I try to answer it when I can.
Sometimes, though, it isn’t so obvious that I might have a particular privilege and it really just comes across as another beautiful lady telling me I’m more beautiful-er than she. Um?? Girl you’re amazing. I guess I’m just supposed to say, “Stop it, no you are.”
Here’s the conversation I’d rather have: “I’m dissatisfied with _____ part of my body and I’m reaching out to you as another woman to help me contend with that. Maybe I just need you to boost me up, or maybe I need you to agree with me that you are fortunate to not have this problem and that it’s ok for me to feel disadvantaged sometimes.” And I’d also like to make time for this super special conversation, “I am proud of _______ part of my body and I’m reaching out to you as another woman to help me celebrate that.”
3. “She needs to stop wearing the Hijab.” One woman will say, the Hijab is a symbol of oppression, and muslim women (in America) should not wear it. Another woman will say, it is her choice, her freedom of religious expression: “Don’t bother her.” The two will argue, neither side will concede.
Which of the two will also say that revealing clothing degrades women? Which of the two will counter, it’s her choice, let her wear those daisy dukes and boob toob? (It’s not always a predictable pattern.)
We should not argue over how much or how little cloth we use to cover our bodies. We should instead agree that what is more important is our freedom to choose for ourselves. Whose eyes do you feel when you get dressed in the morning? I’m a femme lesbian; I feel the eyes of women who might think I should put on a flannel instead of a frock. I feel the eyes of women who see the advantages of my femme invisibility, and yes I acknowledge and understand them to be true. I ask them to see the loneliness in my femme invisibility, too.
Can’t we just agree the whole point is to have the freedom to wear what you want? Please let the communities who wear particular items of clothing discuss within their own communities about the symbolic significance and/or necessity of those items, and shut up and enjoy your high heels and/or combat boots.
4. I’m not like other girls because…. You. Are. Not. Like. Other. Girls. I know. Thing is, we’re all incredibly different from each other.
Don’t tell each other this, don’t believe this. If you form a friendship on the basis of, “It’s ok, we’re not like the others,” you won’t make it through those moments where she is like all the others. You’ll be sniffing out each other for signs of the enemy, The Conforming Woman. You’ll want so badly to be seen as Not A Typical Woman that you’ll erase yourself, you’ll erase entire identities.
The only time we should see each other as fellow women is when we are on the same team, when we are sharing in our suffering or our growing, when we’re listening to the experience of someone who is going through “woman” differently than we have — or soul-touchingly “the same.” Otherwise we should see each other as other human beings.
Which leads me to….
5. I have all guy friends because I don’t get along with (normal) women (but you’re an exception). If this is a conversation you hear yourself frequently starting, you need to Just. Stop. Go stand in a mirror and practice a new conversation: “I don’t understand why I’m insecure in my ability to relate with other women. I need to heal this in myself.” I get that it’s tough sometimes to form relationships with women when the patriarchy often pits us against each other, but if you believe it’s only other women that are the problem, then you’re part of the problem.
This conversation breaks my heart more than all the others. When a woman starts this conversation with me, I wonder, does she think she’s not getting along with me? Does she think we have reasons to be enemies simply because we’re both women? “I’m not like other girls, don’t fear me,” she says as if it’s a truce. Excuse me, but I like women. I love women, actually. You can’t take that away from me. You can’t make me some sort of “not really a woman” woman.
And if she knows I’m gay, do I not count as a woman, because I might look at her the way a man does? Does she think I’m not capable of valuing her as a person rather than a person I’d like to touch naked?
Does she realize the poison she is spreading between women by perpetuating this conversation?