30 things that will make you want to kill yourself whether or not you’re 30; courtesy of Glamour

HAY LADIES! Turning thirty? Time to crawl into a hole and die.

I found this image by googling "fancy lady"

That is, of course, unless you have a man, a sexy bra, and tons of cash. That’s right! Ever helpful, Glamour and Huffington Post have teamed up to squish women down, down, down just a little further and reinforce heterosexism and classism while they’re at it.

Because what was popular and relevant fifteen years ago is important news today, Huffington Post has reprinted a list of thirty things that EVERY woman should have and know by the time they are thirty. The list was originally published by Glamour and apparently “became a popular chain letter” — because you know how popular is it for women to hate themselves! Not only will you never be good enough but you should share this vomitous list with all your best girlfriends so they too have thirty good, concrete, written-down-in-print reasons to hate themselves if they don’t measure up.

And because a “popular chain letter” wasn’t enough, they’ve turned the hate-yourself phenomenon into a book! From the description:

“Featuring advice, wisdom, and observations from an array of prominent and beloved women, 30 Things is an essential guide (and perfect gift) for women on the brink of thirty—and for those who are already there! Fifteen years ago, Glamour published a list of distinctive yet universally true must-haves and must-knows for women on the cusp of and beyond the age of thirty titled, “30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30.” It became a phenomenon. “

“Universally true”! Like evolution, purses are a universal truth.

In any case, the original list has experience a resurgence.

Did your friends share this on the interwebs? Because mine did. Were you baffled and appalled? Same.

In order to address and cope with the mass confusion that this list is either fun or useful and in case you don’t want to read through the yuck, I’ve created a  brief summary of the list. Let’s take a look all together now for the sake of mutual rage sharing:

1) Be heterosexual and obsessed with men.

First things first. Boyfriends make the lady. If you don’t have a boyfriend, you don’t exist. Also, your boyfriends, past and present, make you.

2) Invent class mobility.

If you aren’t middle to upper class by the time you’re thirty (because poverty and lower class status slip away with age), you are a huge loser. You must have new furniture, expensive things that you’ve bought for no reason, and outfits (to impress men with, of course).

3) Lingerie.

Apparently, because I don’t have a black lace bra there is something terribly amiss in my life. I’d always wondered where that empty hole in my heart came from.

4) Become a career lady! Carry briefcase. Erase and resolve all problems and life circumstances.

By thirty, you must have somehow have managed to establish yourself in a career (hey graduate students and folks who were too busy trying to get by to build the fancy-pants version of their resume!), have a perfect relationship (with a man obv), and have decided whether or not you want kids. After thirty it’s basically too late to do any of these things.

And there’s more. Stuff about “getting away with drinking and drugs” (which I can only assume is a reference to wrinkles and presenting one’s self as a proper lady) and having a skin-care regimen — but I won’t go into all that because it’s boring as shit. Just like this list wants you to be! Turning thirty means becoming a boring, conformist, privileged a-hole. Avec fancy suitcase.

Not only is this list one that excludes any choices that divert from the straight-up middle class, heterosexual, Western, prescribed norm – but this isn’t even the norm! Do we really need to know the name of the best tailor in town?? I get my pants hemmed at the laundromat next to the grocery store. Because it’s next to the grocery store. Eff off.

How about this, Glamour/HuffPo:  I keep drinking, try to avoid making my life revolve around the men in (and out) of it and not worry too much about my suitcase? I’m pretty positive that feeling bad about my income, career, relationship status, and lack of lacy black bras is never going to feel empowering. And do me a favour, folks - stop sharing this crap. If the world really looked the way Pamela Redmond Satran seems to think it should, it would be boring and oppressive. The fact that anyone thinks the world should look this way makes me feel like we have a lot more work to do.

Women will be a lot better off once we stop giving them lists of things they should be and things they should buy in order to count as successful women.

All that said, I’ve taken it upon myself to compile a more useful and practical list of things you should know (but, honestly, that I am still working at myself), maybe by the time you’re thirty, but really whenever:

1) Too small shoes will always be too small. They will never “stretch” — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Buy comfortable shoes.

2) Do your very best to ensure that your life doesn’t revolve around a man. Men are fine and good and sometimes great, just as women are fine and good and sometimes great. But you will be told, often, that your intimate relationships with men define you. They really don’t.

3) Value your friendships and put work into them. Friends are important. Make an effort.

4) It’s ok to watch TV. Don’t feel guilty about it. That’s dumb. Intelligent people can watch TV and be intelligent at the same time. It’s a fact.

5) Spend lots of time cuddling with dogs. Unless you don’t like dogs, in which case, don’t, but I really can’t alter this advice with any sincerity for people who don’t like dogs because dogs are what true love and joy and unconditional love look like.

6) Wine and cake?

7) Don’t believe people or lists that tell you that your life should look like some kind of dumb, imaginary rom-com life or that you should be married or have babies or have some kind of career or a certain amount of money or material things or anything else. Those lists of full of shit and will only make you feel bad about yourself which is a waste of time because the whole world already spends an inordinate amount of time trying to make you feel bad about yourself because you’re a woman which, according to dominant culture, means you are always flawed and that your life is less important than a zygote’s.

 

 

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The Pink and Blue Project

A long time ago I got into an argument with a friend of mine.  I said that piercing the ears of young girls is cruel, and that its primary role (like all things pink and blue) is to clearly display the gender of the baby.  Because, heavens to Betsy, we all know that mistaking a baby boy for a baby girl (or vice versa) is the worst thing you can do to offend a new mom!

Anyway, unfortunately, my friend had had her ears pierced when she was an infant.   And she (rightly) attacked my tone – it was now her body and her life that we were talking about.  But I wish I could have pulled JeongMee Yoon’s photos at the time (I also wish I had known the word “heteronormativity,” but I was pretty out of the loop).

JeongMee Yoon is a Korean artist who has done a series of photographs entitled “The Pink and Blue Project.”    Perhaps you’ve seen them before.  She asks children to gather together all of their pink and blue things, and photographs them with their collections.

Here are the results:

JeeYoo and Her Pink Things -- The Pink Project -- JeongMee Yoon, 2008

 

Jimin and His Blue Things -- The Blue Project -- JeongMee Yoon, 2007

I think the best response to these ridiculous displays of gender binaries is from this little girl.  You’ve probably seen this linked on some other site, but it’s great.  She also looks pretty much exactly like our own resident feminist Ellie Gordon-Moershel, and is complaining about the same gender binary bullshit that Ellie did at her age/still does:

 

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Link love: Occupying Valentine’s Day across the interwebz

Last month, Samhita Mukhopadhyay wrote, in a blog post:

…in an effort to push the bounds of that exclusivity that so many of us feel on Valentine’s day, I wanted to think about the ways we can rethink love and romance to resemble who we are, as singles, couples and community. Celebrating love is a beautiful thing but shouldn’t depend on if we are in a relationship or not, our sexual orientation, our class background, our citizenship status or our marital status.

In response to dominant cultural norms and expectations around love and romance, Samhita created a tumblr called Occupy Valentine’s Day.

Check out all the awesome and inspirational pieces that have worked to challenge the romantic industrial complex and couple-talism or have, more generally, looked at love and romance through a critical and feministy lens:

 

1) Sady Doyle wrote an amazing, must-read piece a couple of weeks ago over at Rookie about Bad Romance: how to recognize when you’re in one and how to get out.

YWCA Moncton is celebrating Galentine's Day this year!

2) Samhita Mukhopadhyay writes about marriage, class, and the romantic-industrial complex at The Nation.

3) Sady Doyle writes: “Love, according to one line of thinking, is our first and most important education in social justice,” in her piece about Occupy V Day over at In These Times.

4) Kelsey Wallace at Bitch Magazine writes about Galentine’s Day, a day invented by Parks and Recreation character, Leslie Knope – Galentine’s Day is all about female friendship and  “ladies celebrating ladies.”

5) Yay! You can find out more about Galentine’s Day and how to send cards to your most-loved ladies on YWCA Moncton’s website.

6) Clarisse Thorn provides an alternative perspective on Occupy Valentine’s Day at Role/Reboot because, hey, she likes getting red roses!

7) Tracy Clark-Flory looks at various anti-Valentine’s Day movements and events at Salon, asking: “Why has the holiday generated such cynicism and, sometimes, downright hatred?”

 

Of course we, at The F Word have been loving Occupying V-Day ourselves. Here is my take on love and romance in a patriarchal world and check our Occupy Valentine’s Day podcast, featuring an interview with Samhita Mukhopadhyay, at rabble.ca.

 

I highly recommend spending V-Day singing songs with Etta James, but however you choose to do it, happy Occupying!

 

 

 

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Occupy Valentine’s Day

Most of my love stories end with me feeling like I put a whole lot of energy into trying to build something out of nothing. Lust turns to love so easily and before you know it you’re invested in a relationship that seems more important than you. You end up trying to save a relationship for the sake of the relationship rather than trying to save yourself.

Before you all start accusing me of being bitter or hard or cold or damaged or whatever else women with personalities and life experience are, I’m not anti-romance and I’m not anti-love. I get sucked into all that lovey crap like the best of us. That said, I like to keep a healthy level of cynicism (hey, let’s just go right ahead and call that realism) on hand.

In a world that places an inordinate amount of value on heterosexual, we-only-need-one-another-forever-and-ever, marriage-type relationships, I think it’s important to challenge the notion that love means one thing and one thing only. Or that intimate relationships should look a particular way.

From personal experience, I know that one person isn’t meant to fulfill our every need and our every desire. No one can be your everyone.  And yet we are told the opposite. The contemporary story of love, marriage, and family says that we are supposed to meet a soulmate and that person should to make us happy forever. That seems like a lot of pressure to me. It also seems like a great way to feel a constant sense of disappointment for the rest of your life.

There have been times in my life when I’ve wanted those big, material displays of affection. Diamond rings, expensive dinners, proposals at sporting events (I used to date jocks, ok?) – these things are thrown in our faces so often as examples of romance and as representative of what real love looks like. It’s easy to fall for it. I never even wanted to get married and these fantasies would still weasel their way in.

In retrospect, it feels like the times I’ve wanted those symbols of affection it was because the actual real love was missing. That isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy food and gifts, because I do. Yes I do. But I’ve never expected my friends to buy me jewelry in order to prove they care about me. I really just want them to hang out with me and listen to me complain about stuff. Maybe if my romantic partners spent more time listening to me complain and less time paying for dinner those relationships would have stuck too.

I don’t want one person to meet my every need. I think it’s co-dependent and creepy. I certainly don’t want someone to think that if they pay for enough dinners or buy me enough stuff it should somehow make up for a lack of effort or compassion or caring. Somehow in romance-land, women are still expected to do the bulk of the emotion labour in heterosexual relationships while men are expected to “show their love” by doing things or by paying for things. Men are often excused from making a real effort to communicate and listen and think about their partner’s feelings or experience because their role as MAN means they don’t need to do emotional work so long as they are able to spend two months’ salary on an engagement ring. I remember an ex-boyfriend telling his buddy, upon hearing of this friend’s engagement to his girlfriend: “Well she deserves it – you really put her through hell.”

I certainly don’t think all men think this way but there is an overarching understanding, in our culture, that marriage and commitment is a favour men do for women. Men are excused from emotional labour or thoughtfulness or sensitivity so long as they make up for it in material or “romantic” ways. I have definitely, in the past, been rewarded with gifts for putting up with abuse. Vanessa Bryant (previously known as Vanessa Williams) was gifted with a $4 million “apology ring” from Kobe Bryant after he was accused of rape. There’s something about heteronormative representations of romance doesn’t really seem very loving.

In opposition to mainstream messages, love relationships or marriage are not actually the most important things in life. Let’s face it, these relationships are often miserable or they fall apart. Sometimes you find yourself in an intimate relationship with someone who fucks with your head to the point where you start to doubt every thought that crosses your mind and sometimes you find yourself in love with someone whose primary relationship is with drugs and alcohol and your heart breaks over and over again because you’ve committed to a person who loves crack more than anything else in the world. There are good relationships to be had and there is lots of love out there in the world but putting your relationship or your marriage ahead of your love for yourself, your well-being, and your happiness isn’t romantic. It’s stupid.

Valentine’s Day plays into all of this. It buys into the notion that material things equal love and it perpetuates the idea that heterosexual couplings, in particular, are the most significant relationships. Coupledom, according to V-day, means you mean something. It means you have worth. It says that the unmarrieds are just waiting for the right one to come along and that they are incomplete until that happens. And, in the end, Valentine’s Day doesn’t even really seem to celebrate real love. I mean,  if you’re going all out one day out of the year in order to make up for not paying attention the rest of the year, is that really all that romantic?

Occupying Valentine’s Day seems like a good way to celebrate the meaningful relationships in your life, regardless of who they are with, and to look for things that have real value and bring you happiness in ways that don’t simultaneously force you to compromise yourself. Marriage and diamonds are symbolic, sure, but in the end, you are going to be your best partner and you’re going to have to live with yourself until the day that you die. You may as well go ahead and try to nurture that relationship.

According to dominant narratives, I am supposed to start feeling desperate sometime soon. I’m over 30 and single. Somebody kill me or make a romantic comedy out of me. But I think, in my case, this romcom would have to tweak the ending so that, instead of putting on a wedding dress and making promises I’m not sure I should even try to keep, I can put on my bitch-face (to ward off the creeps, of course) and walk off into the sunset with my doggie. We’ll share some pizza later and will, without a doubt, live happily ever after.

 

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