Monday, August 10, 2009

What's the problem here? Is women-hating-women really a major concern?

So, I mosied over to Urban Curlz on my Google Reader (a must-read for curly-headed girls, but also a source of wisdom on weightier topics). A post called "Sistahhh, you been on my mind..." offered:

In the past few days, I've been noticing articles, Facebook updates, emails and conversations about women, particularly black women, and our love/hate relationships with each other. I feel particularly engaged by this subject because I'm a firm believer that women need to support each other in order to reach our full potential. I would go crazy without my girls! Who understands the headwinds we face each day better than another woman? The tension between women comes from the damaged self-image we have that tells that we should feel threatened by anyone who has something we don't have. Instead of looking at each other and seeing ourselves, we look at each other and see what we are not. And just like that, in the flash of a side eye, judgment is passed: "She thinks she's cute" / "She's ghetto" /"She's weird" /"She's a hoe" /"She's stuck up" . We look for flaws in other women to make us feel better about ourselves. We believe the hype that most women are dishonorable and can't be trusted. We try to avoid hate by hating.

Here comes the conspiracy theory: I think this miseducation is a strategic plot against us. Why should I hate my sister? Is she not made of the same stuff that I am? Why should I cancel her out and write her off? So we can be weakened and divided by fear, that's why. If just one of us is able to disassociate from the fear stories that tell us we should judge each other in order to feel safe, then that one person can start spreading a new attitude and enhance the unity of the whole group. Read more...
So true. For any group, particularly marginalized ones, unity makes it easier to "overcome." With women accounting for more than 50 percent of the U.S. population, we could change the trajectory of this nation forever if we could only work together to harness our power. And in today's consumerist times, where corporations are king, women drive more than 80 percent of all buying decisions. If we made purchases only in the ultimate best interests of ourselves and our families, what then? How would the healthcare debate change if women's voices were louder?
While there is no shortage of women's advocacy and activist groups, and women informally working together to tackle issues that effect us, there is no doubt that we could be stronger. But is the reason we are not because we hate each other? There is this accepted wisdom that when it comes to other females, women are singularly petty, hateful, judgmental and undermining. Is that accepted wisdom truth or a distraction?
Oh, I'm not being Pollyanna. I've known women who can't resist throwing shade on their sisters. I've known women who have unabashedly repeated misogynist beliefs about their own kind. I've known women who proudly crow that they don't get along with other women, preferring instead the company of men. (Interestingly, these women often cite the problem as other women's jealousy and "cattiness," when in reality the tension usually lies within the "man's woman" herself.) I've known these types of women and steered clear of them. They are victims who have internalized society's anti-woman bias. By far, though, most women I have met have been appreciative and supportive of their sisters.
So, why are women's relationships with each other perpetually defined by the bad apples not the majority?
This is particulary true, I think, when it comes to women of color. I recall once telling an acquaintance that I could never get into "Girlfriends," the Kelsey Grammer-produced, black girls "Sex and the City," because I couldn't get past the boyfriend poaching among the protagonists. This is something no real friend ever does and I was disappointed that, in comparison to the SATC girls who, no matter what, stayed true to each other, these black women were portrayed being disloyal and cavalier about their sisters' hearts. My acquaintance replied, "Yeah, but this show is about black women. You know how black women are!" Huh?
I have long suspected that the focus on woman-on-woman haterade is a by-product of how women's competitiveness is denigrated, while male competitiveness is celebrated. Men have their ways of undermining each other, but rather than being disdained, man-to-man combat is viewed as the natural order of things, like bull moose locking horns over territory. Hell, consider the rate of man-on-man violence, which seems far worse, with more global impact, than any mind games women might be playing with each other. For a pop culture example of what I'm saying (cause I'm that sort of gal), remember the episode of "Seinfeld" where Elaine's dislike of a creepy co-worker was constantly greeted by men with a "reeer" screech that implied cattiness, not legitimate differences? Then consider Jerry's ongoing beefs with men like Newman and Banya on the same show. No one ever accused Jerry of going against the brotherhood.
Like UrbanCurlz, I have a conspiracy theory, but mine goes like this: I think the constant drumbeat that we women are our own worse enemies is meant to distract us from our real enemies. Cause we'll have less discussion of domestic violence and poverty and environmental racism and the wage gap and reproductive freedon and healthcare and a host of other important issues if we're busy spilling ink about who said "that chick over there thinks she's cute."
Thoughts? Are women's relationships with each other really broken or is the notion simply myth and distraction?

Feminine presentation for trans women is a life or death Issue

[Tami's note: Last week, while we were talking about privilege here on What Tami Said, I read this article by Monica. It helped to highlight a privilege I have as a cisgendered woman: I can choose to embrace or reject some societal standards of femininity and beauty without much concern for my safety or acceptance. I had never considered that before--that my nails are almost never "done" and often bitten and that I haven't worn pantyhose in years and that I rarely wear heels (though I love a good pair of hot, high-heeled boots)--but my eschewing all these societal markers of femininity is okay, because people are unlikely to challenge my womanhood. Thanks to Monica for continuing to be a voice for her trans brothers and sisters, ensuring that their voices are heard.]

written by guest contributor Monica Roberts; originally posted at TransGriot and Global Comment

My cisgender girlfriends tease me sometimes about the amount of time I spend perfecting my feminine presentation. They will also needle me about the lengths I will go to ensure it is as flawless as I can humanly make it.

But if they walked in my pumps for a minute, they would look at it in a fundamentally different way and understand why I and other transwomen place so much importance on a flawless as possible feminine presentation.

I know how to apply my makeup to compliment my face and own a set of makeup brushes to do so. I experiment with new ways and various color combinations to create my various looks. I own three makeup books for African American women that I refer to on a regular basis. One is written by Oprah's Emmy winning makeup artist Reggie Wells, another is by makeup artist Sam Fine, and my third is one authored by Patricia Hinds for ESSENCE magazine. I go to the nail shop twice a month to have manicures and pedicures done and keep a few bottles of my favorite nail polish shades at home to touch nit up between visits. I keep my eyebrows plucked, waxed and arched and do relentless maintenance on it. I ensure that any body hair that shows up on my legs, arms and underarms is expeditiously removed. One of the first things I did when I started transition in 1994 was spend countless hours and cash in my electrologist's chair getting my face zapped. I'm planning to get laser done to hit the areas that stubbornly will not die when my cash flow improves.

In addition to stuffing myself in foundation garments, every now and then I indulge myself and get some of my bras and panties at Victoria's Secret on sale. (My inner Taurus still refuses to pay full price for them.)

I get my hair done and in between trips to the beauty shop I have a wig collection that is approaching Regine Hunter levels. My shoe collection is constantly evolving and expanding, and I can comfortably walk and stand in heels up to 3 inches in height. I do it so well that I once had a cisgender female co-worker ask me if I could teach her how to walk in heels.

I'm always on the lookout for fashionable clothes and accessories to go with them at reasonable prices. And yes, I shop for pantyhose in various shades and styles to complement and complete my look.

Even though I'm 15 years into my transition, I make sure my feminine deportment and gestures are on point, I'm speaking using a feminine speech pattern and maintaining a feminine pitch level.Much of the rationale behind me doing this is because of my speaking engagements, Trans 101 presentations and lobbying. I'm also considered a role model in the trans community as well and the image I project to others is important to me and the community I represent.

Another reason is I simply wanted to be the best woman I can be and I enjoy reveling in my divatude. When you grow up in the wrong body, you tend to appreciate that suppressed femininity more when you finally get the chance to openly express it and live your life. But one of the other reasons I'm so diligent about it is because in the back of mind, even though I'm consciously making the choice of projecting my evolving femininity in this way, I'm cognizant that performing my feminine gender presentation as flawlessly as possible impacts my life.

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