“They can kill us with their bare hands.”
It’s a sound bite from college that has stayed with me. The conversation was with a dear friend about feminism. She’s much smarter than I am. I don’t remember the progression that brought us to that point. But I remember it being a big aha moment for me.
I guess the gist was that men and women are not created equal. And that human beings cannot escape the fact that we are animals by nature. That one being’s ability to kill another being will always play a role in how those beings relate, no matter how civilized.
Perhaps that was when I stopped putting on make up each day. Maybe I didn’t ever consciously link the two ideas – murder and cosmetics – but on some level I must have thought, “Men will always have more power. They will always subjugate us according to how they value us, so why should I spend precious moments of my life doing things I hate, like blow drying my hair and dieting, just to conform to their idea of a thing that is fuckable.”
Yeah, I was an angry Post Teen. This is how I’ve started referring to the 20-something Ruth – as a “Post Teen”. See, if 40 is the new 30, that makes 20 the new 10. Think about it. Think about a bad choice you made in your 20’s. It works, doesn’t it?
Okay, where was I? An angry Post Teen. Right. Picture a pale faced young woman 20 pounds overweight dressed in a black sack dress, a too big flannel shirt, thick socks and Doc Martins. Her mantras were “I am not my body,” and “Men are just desserts.” Of course, with that attitude, the only dessert she got for a while came in Sarah Lee boxes.
Somewhere between 19 and 39, I gradually got in tune with the fact that taking care of my body and nurturing my own appearance didn’t have to symbolize surrender in the battle over gender power. I’m still a jeans and t’shirt gal to a fault, very much in need of a wardrobe stylist, but I’ve made some strides in the right direction.
I’m learning to value men in spite of our vast inequalities. I guess the circles I run in don’t involve random displays of brute force. Thank God. Dwelling in environments where creativity, ingenuity, sensitivity, flexibility, responsibility, humor and exploration are values has shown me how bright the male animal can be.
I’m still bitter about the fact that having a shaved head is an acceptable hair style for a man and that such a ‘do reduces his primp time to less than 12 minutes – including flossing and moisturizing. I know men are held to standards of attractiveness as well and that “survival of the fittest” includes cultural standards for What Is Handsome vs. People Who Just Aren’t Fun To Look At. I’m aware that appearing and feeling attractive can be a challenge for both genders, but when push comes to shove, a guy really can just shave his head and get away with it. And I’m way bitter about that.
But I am no longer a Post Teen. Acceptance is becoming as natural and soothing to me as strong black coffee.
This is the world we live in. Men can kill women with their bare hands but in my country, they rarely do. And as much as I hate it to admit it — for whatever-god-awful-unfair-biological-reason-I’m not even interested in researching — I like feeling pretty.