Updated: Apr 25, 2018
I was introduced to this incredible story by Jamaica Kincaid by the one and only Icess Fernandez and it has inspired a LOT of thought and emotion. Feel free to read it yourself, it is very short. It is titled Girl.
That story also makes me think of my mom. We used to talk about how there is always something that we are afraid people will think of us- our greatest fear of portrayal. We broke down people that we knew, tried to determine what fear shaped their behaviors. For her, it is the fear that people will think she is not intelligent. When you look at her life, the decisions she has made, the places she has gone and career paths she has gone down, it all makes perfect sense. I tend to feel that part of that fear is the reason she chooses not to wear make up, or dress a certain way, even keep a certain posture.
For me, however, it has always been the fear of people thinking I am boring. I can think of nothing worse than dying without ever having creating something transformative in someone. And I don't mean just my little humans. I mean really leaving carvings in stones that will echo centuries later. Now I think about my poor mother, struggling with a daughter that embodies privilege, and has both the craving and ability to devour men both for lunch and for dinner (an occasionally even as a snack in between). I am in for a world of trouble if my daughters are the same. But I find power in sexuality. It makes me laugh when professors make comments about me scaring all the boys because that was my life from the start. Funny how when boys are scared they don’t run away, they stare. Deer in Victoria’s Secret pushed-up headlights. I’ll tell you one thing, that was nature’s mistake. Fight or flight goes right out the window where there is a change of your soul being set on fire. Or a little bit of heavy petting.
The other coin of the patriarchy is that we have created a world where women have control in forms of puppet strings and micro manipulations. Harder to break the habits that already get you exactly what you want, than the ones that force you to behave authentically. The reality is that my beauty mark closes more sales the moment that I walk into an office than my credibility and expertise ever did. And this is why my mom doesn't wear make up. Maybe there will come a peak in my education where my name is Ethos enough for anyone to shut up an listen- even on a radio show.
Harsh but true, academia is not the place where you gain recognition for anything other than what has been gracefully designated to you. The same world where 1/10 women in undergraduate programs report being sexually assaulted or raped (in graduate programs the number spikes to 1/4!) men are also being sexually assaulted. Men are also being drugged. Men are also reaching out for connection and understanding. And they are getting more of the stigma we ever had, and none of the support.
Beautiful actions like the #metoo movement will inevitable cause change, and we all would like to hope that it is the type of change towards safety, freedom and equality. But why if what comes of it is giant corporations using a woman's beauty as a risk that they are not willing to take? What if a woman who has always embraced her sexuality now becomes a target for another type of discrimination- an investment that no corporation can afford? The future very likely could look like opportunities only for the less attractive, and the same rates of rape and assault, with none of the credibility we have all fought so hard for. There's no way fat Amy was raped, who would even want her? It's important to keep at the forefront of our battle the realization that rapists and abusers are only fighting for control- not pleasure. And until what we are using as a tool is something that causes a shift in our personal need to take control at any cost, these rates will not decrease.