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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

Women's work includes shopping and grooming

4 replies

blackcurrants · 18/04/2010 20:00

I found this article (at Pandagon) absolutely fascinating.
Marcotte is critiquing the idea that women spend LOADS of time shopping, and are therefore frivolous and silly. She points out how much of that time is food/supermarket shopping, how much is for things like kids' shoes, and then she adds that women are expected to look good (and heavily shamed if they buck beauty standards) yet at the same time they're criticised if they ENJOY fashion/makeup because that means their bimbos.

I'm very lucky in that my job doesn't require me to look 'professional' and I can get away, 3-5 days out of 7, without blowdrying my hair or applying eye makeup, or getting into tights and heels. I quite enjoy these things when I do them for a party, but when they're a requirement of my working day, then they're more work and tiring - so I like slobbing around (specially now I'm pg. Hurrah for trackies!). If anything is gender-mandatory, effort-and-time-consuming and I'm supposed to pretend it's not any work at all - I start smelling a rat. A sexist rat.

This is a really nice analysis of the whole "people who like lipstick are anti-feminist" vs "Feminists are hags who hate fun!" nonsense. Marcotte skewers this debate rather nicely, to my mind:

"What?s depressing to me is that I have to justify this by necessity. That fashion is pleasurable for many women is why it?s considered ?frivolous?, due to the long-standing cultural belief that if a woman is feeling pleasure, something must have gone wrong. So I look to the cultural pressure to look good to explain why women are stuck in this catch-22, where they?re supposed to shop and pull themselves together, but they?re shamed if they enjoy it. If there was nothing but pleasure and shame in it, a lot more women would give it up, I think. That women insist on taking pleasure in clothes shopping while being shamed over it is admirable. It?s not like the world?s greatest act of bravery to continue applying lipstick after a man snits at you that he prefers ?natural? beauty, but it does take self-assurance. (Or, if you want to move up a level of bitch, echo Dolly Parton in ?Steel Magnolias?: ?There is no such thing as natural beauty.") I admire the courage of women who say no to beauty standards, but I also admire the women who decide to take audacious pleasure in femininity. Both are rejections of the restraints of femininity, one of the standards themselves, and one of the taboos against women showing their work or taking too much pleasure in it. "

What do you think?

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SethStarkaddersMum · 18/04/2010 20:23

you have a nice turn of phrase too Blackcurrants: 'If anything is gender-mandatory, effort-and-time-consuming and I'm supposed to pretend it's not any work at all - I start smelling a rat. A sexist rat.'

I remember Germaine Greer saying something similar a while back - think it might have been on a documentary about her when The Whole Woman came out, 1999ish.
It's not ground-breaking but it's something that is still true and is well worth repeating.
'That fashion is pleasurable for many women is why it?s considered ?frivolous?, due to the long-standing cultural belief that if a woman is feeling pleasure, something must have gone wrong.' - I like this bit.
Not so sure about it being admirable exactly to take pleasure in it; I wonder how this relates to the debate on the other thread about 'choice feminism'?

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Molesworth · 18/04/2010 20:43

I also love that phrase of yours blackcurrants

Really interesting post. Need to go away and think about it some more!

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blackcurrants · 18/04/2010 20:44

Yes, I almost posted this there, but I don't have time to read the whole thread as it deserves. I'm cleaning the house, can't you tell ?

I'm torn on the whole 'admirable' thing, myself. I think it's a Greer-ism (at the end of The Female Eunuch, maybe?) where she suggests that makeup for decoration, for adornment, in a word, for creative pleasure - is an awesome thing. Makeup to hide the horrendous true nature of our disgusting female bodies... is a horrifying thing. I think I'm somewhere there, too. It's when it becomes a 'standard' or a 'requirement' or just more sodding work - that it's terrible.

Slight tangent: I remember at 15 we went on a camping trip with some school friends. Lots of smuggled beer and cider, some passionate snogging - aaah, good times - but what really stands out was the girl who wouldn't come out of the tent the next morning (when we all looked and felt rough and hungover) until she'd 'done her face.' She was a beautiful girl with perfectly fine skin and hair - but she couldn't show herself to ANYONE in her real state, because she was sure it was 'minging.'

I think episodes like that made me feminist, to be honest. She must have got those messages from somewhere. And that's where I perch on the fence about beauty stuff. It's fun to play with beauty, sometimes. It's terrible that beauty should be a requirement for being an 'acceptable' female human. IYSWIM ...
(ok, back to absolute pit of house.. must find floor, then find hoover... )

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Sakura · 19/04/2010 07:23

This might be a short thread because I think you've basically summed it up so well, blackcurrant . I hadn't heard that quote of GG's but it hits home with me.
I can relate to the girl who wouldn't come out of the tent as a teenager . It was nothing to do with my looks but due to family issues I had horrendously low self-esteem which manifested itself through an obsession with make-up and appearance.

Thesedays I do enjoy make-up and clothes, but I'm against consumerism anyway so it's just a way of finding a balance. I feel I have found a balance between not letting myself go/enjoying clothes etc and not worrying about other people's opinon of me.
I don't spend any more time on grooming than my DH: he's the one who has to shave every morning without fail . I don't shave my legs much anymore because of the effort it takes. DH couldn't care less but I haven't got the guts to bare them in public unshaven! I did go through a phase with an American hippy friend in uni where we didn't shave our armpits for about 6 months then wore little tops in the summer.... I'm always conscious of grooming being a feminist issue.

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