If patriarchy had a red button, I’d push the shit out of it
I admit that being conventionally attractive (although less so today than before, being that I stopped caring about what pant size I wear) and white severely benefits my social reception. It also helps that my French and South-eastern European background always give me a “knowledgeable” air by the nature of my sharp features and dark hair. Regardless, I absolutely notice the difference with how people treat me depending on what I wear. I used to be very self-conscious when I ran to the corner store in wrinkled shorts and sans makeup, but recently, I find myself forgetting to shave my legs for a week or more. I still do the “fat check” in the mirror, and I wish I could stop. I put on clothes, and then check to make sure, at various angles, that bits of untoned and flabby stomach, thighs, and back don’t noticeably show. I hate this tendency in myself, but I have no idea how to stop it. Perhaps someone, someone blindingly stupid, might read this and think, “gee Jenn, lose some weight and you’ll feel better about yourself!” And the fact of the matter is that no, I won’t feel better about myself or lose weight, thanks ever so much. I feel better about myself when I am in shape and doing well in my social and school life. When I was the skinniest I ever have been in my life, a size two, and closely resembled Natalie Portman, I thought I was the ugliest and fattest girl in school. My negative body-thoughts now, at a size 12, are much less frequent. Still, they persist.
The fact is that I still wish I could change this in myself. Ha! I might as well submit myself to the illusion that I am a god, not a human, and that my perception of myself is not at all linked to society’s judgement. Humans are inevitably social creatures. Every time I submit to patriarchal guidelines of dress my submission is rewarded with praise, attention, and sometimes, love. To think that anyone could erase that influence in their lifetime is beyond absurd. To even dream that my “fat check” ritual is a choice in the real sense of the word is shear idiocy. I know that this lack of choice and individuality bother the typical Western “master of my own destiny” philosophy, but we should all know by now what I think of the utter bullshit that taints mind of the average American.
I apologize for the digression, but it is relevant. I notice how people perceive me in public simply because a social organism, I am programmed by evolution to do so. For someone to come along and say “stick it up and stop caring what people think of you!” is just so utterly simplistic that I seriously question the validity of conventional wisdom. One day, I will write a critically acclaimed philosophical treatise on what utter nonsense conventional “wisdom” is, and how it serves the interests of those in power. Perhaps this is wishful thinking.
Nevertheless, when I venture out of the house bedecked in large trendy jewelry, clingy tops, matching shoes, and a tastefully made-up face, I definitely notice the difference between that and “normal mode”: unshaven legs, no makeup, shorts, old faded tees, hair up, and sometimes, godforbid, glasses. My hygiene is always impeccable in either case. My hair, even when I don’t do much to it, stays neat by the good care of my fantastic hair stylist and her shampoo recommendations. I never ever smell, even in the disgusting Arizona summers. But still, in “glamour mode” I find that men smile at me, clerks make small talk, my friends make more eye contact, women graciously let me cut in front of them if I have fewer items, kids grin at me, and my family talks more about my successes than failures. In “normal mode” I am completely invisible. I still can get stares by the nature of my disproportionately large breasts and lips, but it’s in a “eww slutty homeless crack addict/hooker” way, not in a “where did you get that cute top?” way. Men ignore me. Clerks don’t make small talk and get angry if I notice a mistake rather than apologize. Women look down on me and turn up their noses. Children stare at me, sometimes point out my hairy legs to their mothers. And my family, the worst of all, tells me how worried they are about how I don’t have a boyfriend, how I seem depressed, and how I come off as cold and bitchy. All of this after I have taken painful introspective care to make sure that my mannerisms do not change at all regardless of how I am dressed.
And it is beyond stupid to ask myself to be angry because I am too shallow to let go of what others think about me. I simply cannot, and I submit that no other human on the face of this planet can either. We can bottle these feelings of inadequacy up as much as we want, but they will persist in things like depression, domestic disturbances, eating disorders, and various other widespread social ills. What makes me so incredibly angry is that I feel this way at all. I cannot defeat human nature. What humanity could do, and it chooses not to, is destroy these stupid gender expectations. Erase the taint of marketing. Ship everyone out who uses power to sell a product or idea on our inadequacies to some deserted island, and then wipe it off the face of the planet with those stockpiled missiles. I, personally, would push that little red button until it cracked in half under the strain of my fervor. Everything in me hates this violence humanity submits itself to, and then viciously defends regardless of social class, political alliances, or privileges. And the shear gall of those who would deny it! Humanity as we know it is terminally ill. The thought that my inclination to destroy those parts of our culture that I feel are responsible for most of our present ills would be reviled as insane rather than praised as enlightened is truly a testament to how far this madness has encroached on our mental territory.
To this day, I hate myself no matter how far or close to the patriarchal guidelines I find myself. The only thing that at all diminishes this relentless self-hatred is the knowledge that I never, not once, consented to this nonsense. I urge everyone else to stop thinking of themselves as the instruments of their own self-destruction and start recognizing how the system we inhabit is specifically designed to make us hate ourselves and destroy ourselves, and then fool each other into thinking that everything is alright, that the most oppressed is responsible for our suffering (racism anyone?), or that the individual who cries silently to themselves with the thought that they cannot overcome this madness is pathetic and weak.
There are two kinds of people in this world: those that are oppressed by the patriarchy, and those that think they are not.
But godammit, if you’re going to try to push my hands away from that red button, at least understand my urge to claw your fucking face off.