It was a beautiful, warm spring day. The windows were open and the sounds of neighborhood life were floating gently on the breeze that swayed the skirts of the curtains. After hours of errands, chores, and preparing dinner – I had sunk into the recliner to watch a bit of television.
It was an entertainment news show. Heavy on the Kardashians, light on the news. It was simple, uncomplicated, and just what was needed to relax after my bout of pleasant domesticity.
The show featured a segment about celebrities who overshare on social media. While I am of the mindset that most sharing on social media is oversharing (does anyone really want to look at your face in cat ears and bugged out eyes?), I was intrigued by what this “news” segment would bring to the table, considering half of their breaking stories involve what celebrities post on their various social medias.
The segment began – a thorough and harsh crtitique of a young actress who posted a bikini wax video on Instagram. They showed video of her also shaving her arm pits, which were full and thick with hair. From there they ridiculed other celebrities who post when they are in the bathroom doing the sacred duty of emptying their bowels and bladders. Also on the chopping block – female celebrities who post videos of their annual gynecological exams.
What was acceptable? According to this segment: Babies, beach photos, workout vids, and naked bedroom selfies. Obvi.
Now, I have never desired to see another woman receive a bikini wax. I’ve had two of my own and the memory sticks with you. No need to empathize with another’s procedure. But I found it interesting, fascinating, disturbing that what was “acceptable” photos and videos for women to share were beauty, motherhood, and sexuality. Not the uncomfortable and human processes that lead to the glamorized end result.
There were no male celebs talked about in the segment, however a male did present the dos and don’ts list to the audience.
A while back, I asked my 3rd grade class if there were rules for girls to follow. Hands shot up all around. “We are not allowed to be smelly.” “We can’t run and play like the boys.” “We have to cross our legs.” “We aren’t allowed to sweat.” “We can’t shout or talk too loud.” “We can’t burp.” “We have to look pretty.”
When I asked the boys if they had to follow any rules, one boy raised his hand and said, “No, we can do what we want, so long as don’t hit a girl.”
The lesson has been taught at an early age. Women. You are meant to be pretty, you are meant to be sexy, and you are meant to be a mother. If you can be all three things – great. If you cannot, you can be quiet.
If you have hair where it is deemed socially unacceptable, if you go to the doctor for and discuss publicly “lady things,” if you sweat or burp or poop – you are not a proper girl. You are disgusting. You are oversharing. Go back to being quiet.
After the recent attempts at defunding Planned Parenthood, I wrote a tweet and a Facebook post saying this: Women. More heavily regulated than guns.
The outpouring of response was amazing. Men, women, young, and old shared, liked, and retweeted. I felt good. Heard. I rolled my eyes when a Trump-supporting, ex-roommate chose the “ha-ha” reaction on Facebook, but mostly I was blown away with kindness and support.
I felt that if this many people agreed with me, the bad guys couldn’t win.
Then I got a message in my Twitter inbox from a man I’ve never met. It read, “I like your pinkness.”
I felt sick to my stomach and quickly clicked through to his profile to see who the man was. He was liberal – staunchly. He tweeted often calling out the current administration for inconsistencies and wrongs.
I thought that I must be overreacting. Clearly this was some movement or feminist calling that I didn’t know about.
Until he messaged me again. “I like your pink.”
So often, we have been punished for speaking out. We are told we speak out in the wrong way, our voice is too strident, we are yelling, we are whiny or bossy or (worst yet) unladylike.
Glennon Doyle Melton, a blogger, author, and speaker famous for her blog “Momastery” recently wrote a book called Love Warrior. I had heard about it for a year, thanks to the amazing, spiritually-minded group of women I follow on social media. (No workout videos or Pap smear selfies yet.) She was an Oprah Book Club choice, a guest on Liz Gilbert’s podcast “Big Magic,” and a speaker on Super Soul Sunday. When my free monthly Audible credit hit (Dance Party!!), I scooped it up.
It is heartbreaking, vulnerable, honest, and authentic. She speaks openly and candidly about her husband’s infidelity, but what’s more is that she discusses her former life of addiction and alcoholism, her invitation to a new life (in the form of a positive pregnancy test), and her inability to fully connect in sex.
My commutes have flown by as I’ve listened to her read and reveal so much about her broken, beautiful, and complicated life.
When I went online to see what others were saying about her courage and vulnerability, I was horrified to see the people complaining about her “whining about her life,” that “mostly it was just about her not liking sex,” and that it was a “narcissistic” and “self-indulgent.”
It’s a memoir… Self is kind of the key component here.
I went through the list of art about men that would never receive this type of treatment. “Ugh – it was mostly about this guy who watched bullfights and couldn’t perform. So self-indulgent.” “Oh god, have you read Hamlet? This guy just couldn’t stop talking about himself. How narcissistic can you be?”
Where I found it brave to discuss a dislike for sex and a fear of intimacy, revolutionary, even, others were horrified. And I’m not sure exactly why.
Our culture teaches us that sex is something that happens to women and it must be enjoyed. The more instantaneously the better. Television and movies do not show females asking for or looking for sex. They receive it and accept it. They are the wide receivers, never the quarterbacks. Porn is muddied messages of male aggression and female pleasure for male amusement.
I don’t doubt that there are women out there experiencing the same fear and dislike that Glennon wrote about. How can there not be? How can any woman enjoy sex if we’ve never been taught how to? How can it ever be healthy if we never see what a healthy sexual relationship can be?
But if women do like it, they better not like it too much. If women like sex, they are called sluts, whores. To put it simply, as a Real Housewife said this week: There should be an EasyPass on your vagina.
If you like sex and actively have it, you are no better than a state turnpike.
Alright… You got it, world. Lesson learned.
Here is what I have learned this week: How dare we talk about self and fulfillment. How dare we discuss our uncomfortable examinations. How dare we have the examinations in the first place. We cannot sweat, we cannot pass gas, we cannot dislike sex, and we sure as hell can’t like it too much. We must cross our legs and wait our turn and apologize when someone bumps into us. We must remain small, hairless, quiet. We must stay GIRLS.
But, I learned something else. Ladies, the biggest lie we’ve ever told is that we are against each other. We are gossips. We are catty. We are backstabbing.
This. Is. Bull. Shit.
This week I have spoken to four girlfriends, all but one of whom I have known and loved since kindergarten. We have laughed together, gotten married together, cried together. I would trust each one of them with my life. We are complicated and messy and we have each other’s backs. Hearts. Souls.
Men are not our enemy, but we are not our enemies either. There is a call out to men to change the current climate towards women and gender. Now, I’m calling us. Women. Not queens or goddesses, girls or ladies, but damaged, broken, hurt, loving, authentic women.
It’s time to put our fingers down. It’s time to stop pointing at others and saying, that’s what is wrong. It’s time to end this narrative. Together.