The blog Single Dad Laughing had a post so thought provoking, it took me days to formulate a proper response. And once I had it, there was no way it was all going to fit in a comment box. Here's to hoping Dan comes over to read what I had to say, because I think he's started a truly fascinating conversation.
Women are ugly.
Women are fat.
Women are bad mothers. Women are bad wives. Women are bad daughters.
Women are lousy cooks. Women don't keep their houses clean enough.
Women have too much cellulite in their thighs. Their abdomens are too flabby. Their under-arms are too Jell-oesque.
Women are terrible singers. They are terrible dancers. They are terrible public speakers.
Women are stupid. Women are scatter-brained.
Women are weak. They are powerless. They are defenseless.
Women don't dress well enough. They don't have clear enough complexions. They have too many freckles.
Women don't have full enough lips. They don't have skin that is soft enough.
Women are too dominant. Women are too passive.
Women are too mean. Women are too nice. Women are nothing but doormats.
Women aren't good enough. Women will never be good enough.
Women are, simply put, worthless.
Yes, they are all these things. If, that is, I am to believe the very words that are constantly being spoken by women themselves (which I don't). These are their words. And I've heard them declared again. And again. And again. To me, to other men, to other women, and for all I know to their pets and their plants.
Worthless. What a concept. To hold no value. To be less desirable than a can of dirt. Are you freaking kidding me? Every single statement on this list, including the worthless comment, was a declaration that at least one woman has made to me, for whatever reason. I bet there isn't a statement above that we all haven't heard at least once; most likely hundreds or thousands of times. Why would any of these horrible, degrading beliefs spill across the lips of any woman?
What hurts me the most is that most of these things have been said to me by more women than I would care to count.
Get real for a moment, ladies. How many of these statements have you yourself said or thought? Be honest. Go through the list, one by one, and admit to the number. I'm genuinely curious. I'm genuinely sick about it. How many of them have you said or thought just since you got out of bed this morning?
I did. And I was startled.
I am ugly. I am fat. I will be a bad mother. I am a bad wife. I am a bad daughter.
Why on earth is it ok for me to say things like this about myself, but if someone said it to me, or about another woman, I would be livid? I recently blogged about my negativity, and how in the past I've simply felt that I am honest with myself. But seriously. Saying all of that? Again and again? Believing it? Shit, what am I doing to myself?
My new therapy group has very quickly shown me just how powerful my mind can be, but the Law of Attraction theory has been just a little too much for me to swallow. Wishing I had a pony doesn't instantly make one pop into existence, and not calling myself fat isn't going to make me stop thinking I'm fat. However, if I really want that pony, keeping it in my mind is the best way to get myself to put things into action to get myself a pony. On the flip side, not allowing myself to call myself fat puts a little less pressure on my self-esteem, makes a little extra space for me to think positively about myself, and that is great motivation to start down the path of self-love and healthy living.
I understand the reason you constantly let slip these damaging statements. I understand the reason why you actually believe these things. I understand the real reason you feel this way. And the real reason breaks my heart. (...)
Guys... It is our fault. The blame lies with us.
Whoa! You're about to say a whole bunch of interesting things that I kind of agree with, but let's pause here before you martyr yourself. Men do not own this problem, they didn't create it, not alone. Yes, men influence women. But you don't make us. We are the sum of all of our experiences, filtered through our own thought processes.
We have destroyed the very beauty that women are.
We've replaced that beauty with a standard that is, and always will be, impossible for them to hit. We've decided what the perfect legs are. We've decided what the perfect body is. We've decided what the perfect breasts are to be shaped like. We've decided what the perfect face, skin, butt, and neck should be. And we've made no hesitations to boldly let it be known.
We declare it, and we do so with little care for the tender women standing beside us.
This is some really good insight on your part, so thank you. But the we here isn't men, it is society as a whole - including women themselves. Your concern for "tender women" is appreciated, but again you've made this a problem that men have to solve for women. Please, don't treat us kindly because you've treated us badly in the past. Treat us with respect because we deserve it as equals. Be kind because that's how you should always act towards everyone.
Now, you may be naively sitting there thinking, I don't declare that. I tell women they are amazing. That they are beautiful. That there is nothing wrong with them.
Do you not understand? It doesn't take opening your mouth to propound these things. It doesn't take flapping your lips to make a statement. It doesn't take verbal anything to spread this vicious ideology.
All it takes is you and me, stopping and looking.(...)
And that simple, repeated act is how we constantly, and never-endingly declare to women that they are not good enough, and will never be good enough.(...)
And they remember it. They store it. They program their minds to say, "what he is looking at is obviously what men want, and I must have that or men won't want me".
Thank you. Thank you so much for realizing that thoughts and actions, however silent, make an impact. This is such a simple truth, and yet so many people just don't seem to get it. Our collective preferences and actions have shaped our culture into one that worships perfection. This is reflected back to us in media and entertainment, further reinforcing and skewing our ideals to extremes.
This reminds me of trying to explain the concept of "institutional racism", which simply put is the entrenched cultural racism that still affects us today through the policies and opinions of yesterday. The Ghost of Racism Past, so much like the Ghost of Patriarchy Past - hard to define or put a finger on it exactly, but harder still to eradicate it.
A woman can tell herself that those images are fake until the sun goes down, but at the end of the day, her self-talk will barely matter. Not when men think that they're real. Not when she knows that men want what is shamelessly being touted from those photos. Not when she knows that men think of those photos as real.
Yes, let's talk about men. Let's talk about women ogling men, about Playgirl magazine, about paper towel commercials depicting "the perfect man", about statements like "Men can go to hell" - all socially acceptable for women. Ask yourself the next time you see a movie scene where a woman grabs a random man's ass and giggle with her cohorts, "What if that had been a man grabbing a woman?" When perturbed, women "smack" men on the shoulder or punch his gut: remember Elaine always escalating her "Get Out!" shoving of men on Seinfeld?
Women are just as guilty as men of being uncouth, insensitive, and down right mean. Men are afraid to call women on it because, apparently, women have earned the privilege to be assholes to men through historic suffering at the hands of men. This is part of our culture, being reinforced by the media, as well as the actions of men and women.
We must stop stopping. We must stop looking. We must stop fooling ourselves that such fantasies exist. We must stop wanting our women to live up to impossible ideals. We must stop seeking out images of scantily clad and naked women. We must stop filling our mind with all this fiction. We must stop.(...)
My dear brothers, can we not start loving everything about our "real" women? Can we not start ogling our "real" women instead of those fictitious fantasies in the check-out line? Can we not send a message to the world that we are no longer interested in anything that is less (or more) than "real"? That we are no longer interested in setting our standard of beauty based on images that some artist found some way to create with a damn computer? Can we not declare that we're only interested in the very "real" women standing beside us and around us?
This is a lofty, noble idea. But not very realistic. Because women and men are physically attracted to each other because of physical appearance. You can convince yourself to love someone, you can convince yourself to sleep with someone you don't really desire, but you can't talk yourself into finding someone attractive. A world where "hotties" get with "plain janes" can make a woman salivate, but what about the man?
This is where I start to make the connection with Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut. If we strive so hard to force equality, we stamp out individualism. Shall we all wear potato sacks to pretty people don't have an advantage over the not-so-much crowd? That wouldn't really do it, now would it? Golf has a handicap, and Bergeron's society has its own version: making pretty people uglier, smarter people dumber. Forcing equality isn't the way to go. Embracing each person's inherent worth, and determining that worth without physical requirements, is what's necessary.
I can't believe I am going to say what I am about to say. I can't believe I actually do want what I am about to ask. But I do. Desperately. So, I'm going to throw it out there. I think we need women to wear clothing that shows a little less instead of a little more. We need women to wear pants that are a little looser instead of a little tighter. We need women to put their boobs back inside of their shirts. I feel crazy even saying it (I'm a single guy for crying out loud), but maybe if women gave everybody a little less to compare, this whole thing would be a little easier for us all, no matter what our chromosomal make-up.
Don't get me wrong. None of this is to say that men should or can stop appreciating beauty. That would be unnatural. That would be impossible. It is not to say that women shouldn't make themselves as attractive as they can be. It is not to say that we shouldn't appreciate cleanliness and comeliness. No, it is not to say any of those things. It is only to plead with each of you. Let's bring this world back to reality. Let's make sure that the people we are attracted to are "real" people. Let's make sure that the women we stop and look at are "real" women.
And here, my friend, is where you have me truly scratching my head. On the surface, this may sound nice to you and to women: I'll stop looking if you stop tempting me. But not only is it wrong, but it won't work.
Covering women invokes the specter of the burqa and the prairie dress. When a woman wears a burqa, is she considered or treated as an equal to men? No. Do men stop wanting beautiful women? No. You suggest a woman covering up a little more, but you forget the lesson of culture skewing things to the extreme. The more women start covering up, the more they will start to be expected to cover up, expectation leads to mandates and laws. What started so innocently, if implemented, would lead to more and more parts being covered, and harsher and harsher penalties for not going with the flow.
Covering or hiding something creates taboo associations, creates both shame and the desire of the forbidden. Once something is covered, it is worth less, and worth more. A society that covers a woman doesn't treat her as an equal, but instead covets her to the point of being an object to be owned.
In the end, I have to say congratulations for gaining such insight, and bravo for writing something so honest and thought provoking. And too bad you haven't figured it all out yet. Not to worry though, no one else has beat you to the punch!