Not an Odalisque

Posts Tagged ‘men

Violence Against Harassers

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I’ve been having violent fantasies for two days. Not the good sort, where I close my eyes and imagine a big strong man who wants to have his wicked way with me, in spite of my insincere protests (note for men: don’t try doing this is real life unless you want a rape conviction). No, these are fantasies of turning to the stranger who grabs my bum in a crowd and punching his face until blood and bone fragments are trickling from his nose. Or driving my knee hard into a groper’s crotch and watching him double up in pain. Bashing the rape apologist’s face into his computer screen witnessing him trying to extract the glass shards from his eyes. I could go on, but I’m sure you’d rather I didn’t.

I’m not a violent person, generally. I once broke two of my ex-boyfriends toes after he hit me and then stood between me and the door, but I feel that was justified. I’m mostly quite peaceable. I’ve worked for peace-building organisations. So the violent images running through my mind are rather disconcerting.

I think I know where it started. Yesterday I was walking along Blackfriars Road, deeply involved in conversation with a friend. A passerby leaned in close and said “nice tits.”

I would love to believe that you are sitting behind your computer screen thinking “what a git!” but I’m a realist, so I will add this information: I had paid the man no attention, and, in fact, was hardly aware of him until I heard his voice. I was wearing an ankle-length skirt and a woolly jumper, no heels, no make-up and no revealing clothing. So whatever version of “asking for it” you can come up with, I’m pretty sure you’re wrong.

It would be lovely to live in a world where men didn’t think it was appropriate to comment on my breasts as I walk down the street, but I’m a realist and I don’t ask for too much. Wherever my personal comfort zone is, someone will always act outside it. Some people are socially inept and some people delight in provoking reactions, especially negative ones, and will do whatever necessary to get one. I know all this, but the comment got to me, all the same.

As these sorts of experiences accumulate, I feel like I’m under siege. Every woman has tales to tell. The comment on Blackfriars Road was so ordinary that the friend I was with didn’t even feel the need to comment on it. Since then, I’ve mentioned it to two women, and both of them had stories of harassment: a man sat next to my friend on a train wouldn’t stop rubbing his leg against hers; another friend has been followed home my numerous men.

Don’t get me wrong, I think flirting is great. I think spontaneous compliments are lovely and I very much enjoy the sensation of a hand stroking my bum (or smacking it, but that’s another story). I even like it when men come home with me. The thing is, I like to choose the men. In general, it’s best to wait for an invitation. If it’s true of calling in for a cup of tea, it is certainly true of grabbing my privates. You don’t need a high level of socialisation to work that out.

I’m tired of men saying “it could have been a misunderstanding” about everything from inappropriate comments to rapes. You don’t need to be highly skilled in non-verbal communication to interpret a woman edging away from you. You don’t have to get stuck in a quandary of “does she want it or not?” for the entire duration of the life of your vocal chords: you can simply ask. The most compelling evidence to show that miscommunication isn’t a relevant excuse, though, is the satisfied smirk on the face of the man on Blackfriar’s Road. I saw him gloat.

Men, I challenge you. Next time you witness, or hear of a woman being harassed, don’t offer possible excuses for the aggressor. There’s no need to be defensive, the woman isn’t using her harasser as a specimen to critique all men. Instead, try to put yourself in her place. There’s nothing a woman can do to defend herself. Even if I had the strength and speed to enact a violent revenge, I don’t really want to do it. I just want to be able to walk down the street unmolested. I have a woman’s body, so there’s nothing I can do to achieve that goal. No matter what I wear, how I act, the gits keep coming. Imagine living with that every day and then, perhaps, praise our restraint.

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Written by Not an Odalisque

May 12, 2010 at 11:48 am

Meeting My Inner Stripper

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I don’t like pole dancing. I don’t like exotic dancing, and I certainly don’t like lap dancing. I recognise that there’s some gradation from artful spinning around a pole to grinding a man to orgasm with your naked buttocks, but I’m sorry, I don’t like it.

I’ve had to confront my dislike of it in the last two weeks. One of my characters got a job in a gentlemen’s club. I can’t actually go to one myself, because they require women to be accompanied by a man, and I don’t have any local male acquaintances I would be willing to ask. I could take pole dancing lessons, though. I haven’t so far, because I have been able to find an excuse every Wednesday.

Next month there’s a burlesque workshop on in Leeds.  I’m so excited! It’s much further away, longer and more expensive than the pole dancing, but who cares? I could learn burlesque! I can see myself in heels and stockings, learning how to sensually slip elbow-length gloves from my fingers. I have a burning desire to be a burlesque dancer.

Surely if I find pole dancing repulsive, I should feel the same about burlesque. The purpose of both is to make entertainment for men out of the female body. They are, at core, commodifying and objectifying. I’ve always assumed that my objection to strip-clubs was a feminist one. Now, I’m not so sure.

Given that I love burlesque, could my objection to pole dancing be based in class? Pole dancing is trashy. Its fabric is nylon and its heels are Perspex. It is available in every town to everyone (male), the staple of sleazy middle-management men and stag parties. Burlesque, made of silk and satin, is an entirely different beast. Or do I resent the pressure that pole dancing puts on me, as it becomes more popular and its looks become more mainstream? No one wonders why I’m not dressed like a burlesque dancer (to the best of my knowledge) but high heels and thongs seem to be expected. Is my love of burlesque simply the effect of nostalgia on something equally terrible?

I’ve been going around in circles like this for weeks. Tonight, I identified my feeling about pole dancing. It’s the same feeling I get when I tell my father what I’m making for dinner, and he says “I’d rather have beans on toast.”

It’s sadness, rejection, disappointment, betrayal. I’m quite a good cook. I bake my own bread. My scones are light and my pastry crisp. My meringues are little white crumb-bombs, as they should be. Last week, I even made my own butter. So why does he reject my offering in favour of a tin of beans coated in sugar and salt, topping shop-bought bread?

I can recognise a diversity of tastes I don’t share. You may eat pheasant, or fancy blondes. Fine. The thing is, though, that women are great. They vary. They can be sexy, and funny, and acquire skills like martial arts or meringue making. The whole culture around pole dancing, lap dancing and stripping seems to conspire to make women less than they are. I’ve come across numerous dancers saying they dumb down to please the guys. It’s not just that they are reduced to a body, but that they dress up in cheap fabrics and trashy shoes to embody a fantasy, and that there’s nothing clever or subtle about that fantasy or it’s practice (although I bet it’s hard work). It’s the sexual equivalent of beans on toast.

So that’s why I don’t like pole dancing. I spent all this time learning to make meringues, and I’m disappointed there’s no one here to eat them. All the same, recognising that this is a journey, I’m going to give it a go. I’ll go to the pole dancing class, as well as the burlesque class, and I’ll let you know how it goes.

Oh, and if you know anyone in Yorkshire who’d like to take me to a strip club or a burlesque show this weekend, do let me know.

Written by Not an Odalisque

April 25, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Can Feminists Jive?

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Are partner dances inherently sexist? This is a question I’ve been asking myself a couple of times a week since I started modern jive four months ago. The whole system seems to be predicated on male dominance. The men lead, choosing the moves and signalling to the ladies, who constantly read their partner, responding to his unspoken signals. The entire endeavour of a woman at modern jive is to do what their man tells them and look pretty while doing it. This doesn’t sound like an activity for a feminist.

The problem is that I enjoy it. I like the music, the exercise, the chance to meet people and, yes, there’s a part of me that likes the male attention, the chance to wear pretty dresses and twirl about the dance floor led by a firm, masculine hand. So I wonder, am I indulging my inner princess at the expense of the rest of myself?

It must be said that sex isn’t the last word on roles in modern jive. At every class I attend there are always one or two women taking the leader role. They are a tiny, tiny minority, though. Almost all women choose to follow. Only once have I seen a man take that role, for a couple of minutes to help out a friend who was having difficulty with a move. It seems that, as in most things, women may take on a man’s role, but men will not stoop to take on a woman’s.

In some sense, it seems that I can hardly complain about a role which I have freely chosen. I contest, however, that it is not an entirely free choice. Stepping outside others’ expectations is never easy, and even if people don’t make negative comments a certain amount of confusion would ensue. Learning to dance at all is enough of a challenge for me.

The division of roles creates a strong sense of gender, but the negative aspects are amplified by gender imbalance. There are usually more women than men at an event. More than once I have felt like a minor character in a Jane Austen novel as I took a seat and hoped that by the beginning of the next dance a man would pick me. Men are a scarce resource for which women compete. So, during those long minutes between dances, I sink into comparing myself with other women. Why did she get a dance and not me? Would I be chosen if wore a dress as tight as hers? If I danced closer? If I was skinnier, or wore sparklier shoes? If only I wasn’t so tall, the short men wouldn’t avoid me, and if I wasn’t so big, the men who like the dips and leans would be able to throw me about. Now and again the rivalry spills over into bitterness. When a woman said, last week, “there are too many women here, aren’t there?”, I had to bite my tongue not to retort “yes, that’s because you and your marauding band of middle aged divorcees walked in after the lesson!” I suffer dancer jealousy when I notice that a woman has repeatedly been picked by one of my favoured partners and a sense of smugness when I am the one chosen. It can’t do much for sisterhood!

Still, I’m not sure that I can blame the dance form for our communal psychosis. When so much of culture is telling women that they need to be skinnier, prettier, and more exuding of charm to ingratiate themselves with men, and that this is a worthy aim in life, it is hardly surprising that these thoughts perpetuate through dancing as well as dates, manicures and waits with the magazines at the dentist.

People don’t help, though. Teachers say “girls” when they mean “ladies”, so infantilise a room full of women, some of whom are well past retirement age. People make sexist jokes about men’s temporary power. Instructors assume that men need to be told not to stare at women’s breasts during moves which give them the opportunity and male partners often invade my personal space and furtively grope at available flesh.

Representations of modern jive hardly paint a picture which would dissuade the gropers. ‘Jive Magazine’ features a dancing couple (the image above) on the cover of its current issue. The sexualisation of the man’s outfit is restricted to a few undone buttons. The woman, on the other hand, is presented to the camera, clad in a sequinned bra and fishnet gloves, revealing a lot of cleavage, her stomach and two very toned legs. Don’t get me wrong, if I had a stomach as flat as that, I’d want to show it off, too. I do think it says something, though, that this image was chosen; it doesn’t exactly send out the message that woman’s role is not primarily a sexual one. It’s worse inside. Karen Sweeney offers advice on “How to be popular on the dancefloor”:

“Guys: I know we girlies sometimes tempt you with the occasional low neckline, but don’t forget where our faces are.”

I am in no way a girlie. I’m getting on for six foot tall in my dancing shoes and even with the addition of ribbons and bows there’s nothing sweet about me. Partners may also want to consider the possibility that I’m not wearing the low cut dress to tempt them personally. Statistically, it is unlikely that I’m dressing for you.

Sweeny goes on:

“Dancing is the vertical expression of horizontal desire. They say that a lady can tell by the way a guy dances how good he is in bed. Think about it…no pressure then!”

Dancing is sometimes an expression of desire, but then, washing up, performed provocatively enough, is too. Most of the people I dance with are decidedly unattractive to me. I’m sure that they would be as horrified as I am at the idea that our dances were indications of anything sexual, not least because often they are performed under the gazes of their wives and my father. That isn’t to say that dancing never leads me to think of sex. I haven’t slept with anyone since January; glancing through car windows in traffic jams makes me think of sex.

Where does all this leave us? Is modern jive, like the current craze for pole dancing, a way of making a sexual spectacle out of women’s bodies for the enjoyment of men? Not in my experience. The sexual element is present, as it is in all human interactions, but no more so. Some people use dance for sexual access; I’ve met men with wandering hands and women looking for a second husband (there may be women with wandering hands, too, they’ve just never felt me up, and men seeking wives who just haven’t proposed to me). It is also true, however, that a sizable number of people come looking for a lover and discover that they don’t want one after all, now that dancing fills the lonely evenings.

There are problems. Most of them are not inherent to the form of dance, but products of social ineptitude and opportunism. The gendered elements of jive are not set in stone. It isn’t a feminist dance, but it could be, if we chose to make it so. At a Salsa workshop with a great imbalance of men and women, the instructor did away with the language of ‘ladies’ and ‘men’ and gave us instead the options of ‘follower’ or ‘leader’. That will probably never be widespread, but choosing your own role, rather than allowing your gender to choose it for you, could be more common. It would be good to see same sex dancing partners more regularly, too. I’ll offer myself to help the cause.

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy wearing swirly skirts twirling under the hands of authoritative men. Please don’t think too badly of me.

Written by Not an Odalisque

April 23, 2010 at 7:53 pm

My Imaginary Lap Dancer

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I write stories. I try to tackle the issues people debate in the abstract with a personal approach. One of my characters has decided that she’s going to work at a lap dancing club. I hadn’t planned it, but it seems like an interesting path. Feminist writers and bloggers have a lot to say on the topic, as do campaign groups like Object. It is much harder to find the views of the people who work in the industry, or the clients. My personal experience is limited to seeing some pole dancing once in a lesbian club in Soho.

Why am I writing about something I haven’t experienced? If I don’t, then all I will ever produce is my autobiography. I think it is going to be interesting in terms of understanding gender construction, objectification, power relationships and sexuality, all of which are my area. We’ll see what happens.

I need more input. Have you ever worked doing lap dancing or pole dancing? Have you ever paid for these services? I want to hear from you. I realise that the experience is not uniform, the people, their motivations, what goes on at work all varies. Nonetheless, my character is a representation of people who seem to be talked about more than heard. If I have more information she can be a better representation.

I will take anything I can get. How did you get into it? How do you spend your time at work? What are the good bits, which bits don’t you like? Do you feel that it changes other people’s perceptions of you? How do you feel about your employers and the customers? Anything you want to tell me will be welcomed.

For the customers, I would love to know what your time at a club is like, what you enjoy about it, how the experience makes you feel, or whatever you want to share.

I don’t need anyone to tell me “lap dancing is wrong because…” I already know those arguments. If your story ends with “boo” or “yay” that’s great, though.

You can post in the comments section or email me at not.an.odalisque@gmail.com. For this, I offer you my everlasting gratitude. Many, many thanks.

Written by Not an Odalisque

April 3, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Tell Me How To Say “No”

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A few months ago I resolved to start saying “no.” I think that the part of me that tells potential partners to go away is missing; I’m trying to find it. It isn’t all about sex, you understand. I still haven’t managed to tell my father that I’m not going to read the copy of ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ he bought me for Christmas. I’m likely to assent to a coffee, a meal, or a slow dance, and then realise that I haven’t been wary enough of romantic expectations.

You see, people come along with their narratives of who they want me to be, and I don’t want to disappoint them. They seem so happy when I get it right. Because of that, I’ve played successively the ingénue, the other woman, the struggling writer and the sunny girlfriend. But it has to stop. People get so disappointed when they find out their ingénue is someone else’s femme fatale.

More than a year ago I was sat at a bar in Prague airport waiting for my friends. I’d already spent the flight there playing the idealistic charity worker to a fellow passenger’s successful but jaded businessman. I wanted to start my holiday with a coffee and some quiet time, but a man came in, got a drink and wandered over.

“What are you writing?”

“My diary,” I say.

“Am I in it?” he asks.

“I’m afraid not.” I reply.

“Where are you from?” he wants to know. I don’t want to talk to him, but all the time he keeps asking questions I can’t get out of the conversation without being rude. By the time he’s suggesting that he sets me up in a little flat to be his “private English tutor” I feel like I’ve led him on so much by engaging in conversation that I can’t tell him to take his sleazy proposal elsewhere. I find myself making excuses rather than looking at him disdainfully and stalking off. Sighing with relief when my friends appear, I escape. You may think that these problems don’t arise very often. You’re wrong. I was asked out by three men during a ten minute walk from the tube to my destination in London recently.

The situation in Prague wasn’t too difficult, since only a very small proportion of my social circle can be found there. Other areas are more complicated. I once had a boss who used to ring me in the middle of the night for pointless conversations about the next day’s meetings. I never did find out quite what that meant. A married man asks you to meet for coffee. Do you trust that he’s faithful? Last time that happened to me I found myself in the other woman role before I even realised that his wife didn’t know my name. After that incident I decided to carry a big, flashing sign saying “No, Thank You”.

There are three problems with my sign. One is that I tend to sabotage it. Auto-flirt if triggers when I don’t want to answer the question or feel the need to keep someone at arm’s length. I’m flirted with auto-flirt almost always activates immediately. If you’re an older man with a bit of authority to your presence I have no chance. For me, flirting with such a man represents both conformity and resistance, it is a vehicle for pushing at the boundaries a little, while being rewarded with a bit of approval.

The second problem is that there are a few people I don’t want to wave a “no” sign at. I don’t know that I want to wave a “yes” sign, either, but I’d take the opportunity to find out. There’s a rather nice man I see at dancing, for example, who I’ve thought about more than once. If I began flirting with him exclusively, however, he might realise that I’ve thought about him. It all sounds a bit too risky to me.

My biggest problem, though, is that being hyper-aware of messages means I don’t get to do things that are fun. I don’t get to go for coffees with interesting—if unattractive—people, I don’t get to do the close moves at modern jive for fear of feeling a hard-on pressed against my thigh (yes, that really happened, and it was icky). These seem like silly sacrifices, because I’m sure most men can drink coffee and dance close without a thought to their willies. If you’re male, please let me know if I’m right.

So what am I to do? Declare this a failed experiment and indulge my need for universal approval with playacting and/ or prostitution? Fight the flirting and live with the limitations on my drinking and dancing? Please, if you’re a good girl, tell me how you do it!

Written by Not an Odalisque

April 1, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Votes From Women!

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It has been rather nice to hear recently that people are competing for my vote because I am a woman. It is rather worrying to realise that the government and opposition hadn’t noticed half of the population before now. Apparently women’s votes could make the difference in the next election. Well, that’s good to know.

What have the parties done to seduce women? The Liberals have announced a female porn director for one constituency, and she would certainly get my vote. If you can break into an industry as sexist as that one and then tailor your product to women, revolutionise the aesthetic and win awards, then politics shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. Brown and Cameron aren’t being so radical. Both of them have rolled out their wives to bolster their public image. This is what Samantha Cameron had to say:

“I’d say one of the brilliant things about him is he loves cooking. But he, you know, he makes a terrible mess. He is not very good at clearing up as he goes along. He is not very good at picking up his clothes. He’s a terrible channel flicker. I have to be quite firm about him not fiddling with his phone and his BlackBerry too much, ‘cos it can be, you know, quite annoying.”

I rather liked Zoe Williams’ analysis of this:

“You look at David Cameron, someone tells you that he’s not very good at clearing up as he goes along, and that’s the most annoying thing about him.

“I mean, sure, I bet he doesn’t do a lot of washing up. If she’d said: “He has this insufferable sense of entitlement, which extends to a high-handed failure in all aspects of domesticity,” I would buy that more, even thought it would effectively mean the same thing.

“This, though, it doesn’t even sound that personal. It sounds like she’s flicked through Take-A-Break, put together a compendium of innocuous things women say about men, chosen the most innocuous and ta-da! Here he is, a three-dimensional human being, not-very-convincing-wart and all!”

I think she’s right, but I also think that Sam was tapping into a common contemporary conception of men. Now that women are expected to do the housekeeping, raise the children, have a successful career and look damn sexy, which is a lot to be getting on with, how do they accept that their partners aren’t doing all that? The common approach seems to be to claim that they don’t have the capacity. Poor men, they can’t multitask, they don’t know how to separate the delicates for the wash, they’re just like overgrown boys, really. I think that we can expect a bit more of blokes, but in the meantime we should be wary of what we are saying when we encourage this image. It gives the impression that women are the practical ones, while men have the elevated thoughts. They are making calls and talking about policy on their Blackberries, not thinking about mundanities. I honestly don’t care about Cameron’s laundry, but I think a nuanced understanding of gender would be a good thing in a Prime Minister.

Cameron and Brown are appealing to women through Mumsnet and Woman’s Hour. I don’t know about you, but I would rather listen to the Archers than to Woman’s Hour, and I’d rather spend fifteen minutes in an enclosed space with Ann Widdecombe than listen to the Archers. I do know several men who like it, though (Woman’s Hour, not Anne Widdecombe). Because I’m a dedicated blogger, I tried, just for you. I got to the point at which Brown was saying that he was more comfortable working with women than men before I had to turn it off. Why do men think that saying they’re more comfortable with women is ingratiating? It doesn’t make us think that you respect women, it makes us think that you need a mother, or an emotional labourer to smooth things over. Except in this case, as we know that you surround yourself with men, and have heard reports that you use women as “female window dressing.” Then we just think you’re a liar. Oh, and repeating the words “very, very professional,” every time you mention working with women gives the impression that you’re surprised women can do paid jobs. We can, or at least we could, if you’d sort out the economy.

My biggest problem with the appeal to women is that the range of women’s issues seems to be so small. From the Telegraph:

“Here’s another shopping list of women’s concerns. Protect public services where possible: more women than men work in them and use them. Focus on inequality. Help those, mostly women, who are currently providing free care worth £89 billion a year to the economy. Stop treating women offenders more harshly than men. Stop paying women workers less.”

All of that sounds good, but this is what I don’t understand: why do we expect women to care more about these things than men do? Do women all vote for the party which will be more lenient towards female criminals because they think they might want to rob a bank one day?

I strongly believe in many “women’s issues” including the need for more rape centres and rape justice, work on domestic violence, equal pay, and, screw it, more woman-focussed pornography. I care because the victims of rape, violence, discrimination and bad pornography are people, not because they are women. Because I care about people, I also care about human rights, surveillance, nuclear weapons, care for asylum seekers and the environment. I emphatically don’t care about the state of your kitchen, your taste in biscuits or fox-hunting.

Women aren’t a separate tribe. You want to know the one thing that would get my vote? Electoral reform, because it doesn’t matter who I choose, in my constituency the Tories always win. I’m pretty sure that there’s no way of spinning that as a “women’s issue”.

Written by Not an Odalisque

March 16, 2010 at 1:25 pm

I Think You’re Gorgeous

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We all have our naughty moments. We believe things wholeheartedly, but now and again we allow ourselves a moment of abandonment. For me, it is usually a little window in which I don’t try to be understanding. A few seconds in which I think that the author of this article should stop complaining and cease stuffing his face at MacDonald’s. A minute, while cornered by a woman telling me about her childhood trauma, when I believe that she should, at age sixty, deal with her issues in her own time. Then I feel bad, because it must be awful to be overweight in a society obsessed with slimness, and because I had a happy, shiny childhood, and still manage to bore people with my troubles. At other times, the slipups are entirely personal. I don’t worry so much about those. My inner feminist is coping quite well with the spanking (or would be, if I were getting any).

http://postsecret.blogspot.com/

Last week, however, I discovered a prejudice I didn’t know I had. I was out dancing. As a spectacle, dance encourages you to look at other people’s bodies with admiration, attraction, envy, surprise or repulsion. Dancers don’t mind you staring. Some of them wear eye-catching spangly outfits. Some must consume a huge quantity of calories to do that much exercise and maintain that much weight. Now and again I endure stabs of envy, when, for example, a petite girl is picked up, swung through the air and returned to the ground. I’m five foot ten, no one is ever going to do that with me. Mostly, though, I spend my time wishing I was a better dancer, and owned a pair of sparkly dancing shoes, rather than considering waist to hip ratios.

A couple of nights ago, as I digging in myself for the courage to ask someone to dance, a beginner breezed up to the nearest man and swept him onto the floor. She was tall, she was blonde, and she had the body of a fashion model. “If I looked like that,” I thought, “I would have the confidence to ask men to dance, too.” I had conveniently forgotten my previous post on annoyance about people dancing with me because of my looks.

I didn’t stop there, though. My jealousy grew. “She looks like a boy, anyway, all lanky, with angles and hard edges. Straight men don’t want that. Real women have hips and breasts. I have damn fine breasts.”

With the exception of the fact that I have damn fine breasts, the above is codswallop. She was a real woman, evidenced by her existence. The definitions of femininity and feminine attractiveness are not immutable, they vary from culture to culture; no version of ‘woman’ is any more valid than another. Fortunately, while the fashion world, Hollywood and women’s magazines have a standardised version of beauty, real people are more idiosyncratic. Some would pass me over for a skinny, hipless blonde, and some would prefer a short, obese woman with full lips, or a woman with red hair, or tattoos, or the ability to play the clarinet. I think that’s great.

So why am I threatened by skinny blondes and not short, fat, redheaded clarinettists? Presumably because the skinny blondes are on the front of porn sites, film posters and music videos. Is it important? Well, yes, actually. Our cultural beliefs about beauty tend to reinforce inequalities of race, class and gender. Why did it used to be fashionable to be pale? Because only the wealthy could avoid working outside. Why is it now fashionable to be tanned? Because only the wealthy can afford foreign holidays. Why are we so obsessed by the blonde? Dare I say that it has something to do with the fact that most blondes are white?

Every time we find beauty and attractiveness where culture tells us it shouldn’t be, we challenge oppressive power structures just a little bit. Because I’m not one of the skinny blondes at the top of the artificial tree, that feels pretty good to me. But what if I was?

I’m no stranger to privilege. I went to a private school. I’m middle class, I’m white. I know that these things gave me advantages, but it still upsets me when people hold them against me. They were not choices I made, but facts of my life. You don’t have to tell me that I might not have got good grades if I’d attended the local comprehensive, but what do you want me to do? Hand my education back? I’ve rarely had to struggle against racism. Sorry.

Skinny blondes, with the exception of peroxide-abusing dieters, didn’t choose their genes. They might get advantages because they fit a mainstream model of beauty. They might get more of the disadvantages I’ve pointed out, in the form of constant sexual attention. The system’s a bad one, but they didn’t create it. So one of these days I’m going to do something really radical. I’m going to make a grand political statement, and date a skinny blonde.

Apply within.

Written by Not an Odalisque

March 13, 2010 at 7:13 pm