You Don’t Get to Tell Me Why I Do Things

Dear Jon from Babble who has a lot to say on feminism and selfies:

You are wrong.

Now, I know that as someone with a penis, hearing that you are wrong will make you flare up with anger for a split second, before you catch yourself and laugh it off with bravado, telling yourself that someone who thinks you could possibly be wrong obviously doesn’t know anything.

Oh, wait, I don’t know that.

I don’t know that because I don’t know anything about you. And I certainly don’t know anything about your penis, or how it would possibly play into your inner monologue. I also know nothing about your inner-monologue.

Even though I have a husband, and a father, and am also full of rage, much, apparently like yourself.

As such, with my admitted lack of knowledge, I would not presume to tell you about how you would react to being wrong, or why you would react that way.

Can you do me the same favor?

Because, frankly, I am getting fed up with you people telling me what to do.

Now we’ll skip the lazy argument here (man talking about feminism full stop) because I know several men who talk well about feminism, and go right to a similar, but not quite the same argument (man thinking he is using sound logic to tell women how to be better feminists). I cannot abide this.

Your whole argument is lost when you say: “The thrust of the 365 feminist selfie project attempts to destabilize traditionally restrictive notions of beauty to make room for all women in the Palace of Pretty.”

That’s not what the project is about for me. You don’t get to tell me what a project I’m doing is about. I don’t owe you this, but for me this project is a chronicle through picture of my achievements and struggles this year, as a person. It is about self-exploration, and documentation in a way I’ve never been free to do before. It has nothing to do acceptance into your Pretty Palace.

Then you really nail your coffin together when you follow that ridiculous generalization up with this: “She might write a poem a day or learn about a new woman author every day. Maybe she could do a science experiment a day or plant a tree every day. Run a mile every day? Or maybe she could make it a point to seek out a sad looking girl every day and say something kind to her (NOT about her appearance).”

After attributing faulty reasoning to the project in which I am partaking (which you do not get to do), you further do not get to tell me that projects that you deem more important than physical beauty are better for my feminism.

And seriously, I dare you to go find a “sad-looking” girl and say something “kind” to her. You don’t get to tell girls to cheer up. Neither do I. People, anyone, right now, should not be imposing their opinions on what “sad” is on poor random girls who are probably not even sad anyway. Talk about your narcissism. What makes you think anything a random person has to say to a woman he is guessing is sad would make any difference to her? You’re not talking about a tangible thing here, like, someone is struggling with the groceries so you help them out, or someone’s got a flat tire, so you lend them a jack. You’re talking about an intangible assessment of a stranger’s mental well-being.

Which basically sums up your whole piece in a microcosm example.

Other insulting things you have said include this gem: “I see your need to redefine beauty and raise you one need to question the female defined by her appearance. Women can be more than how they look and deserve to be. Step away from the cameras. Seek new ways to appear. As you explore new adjectives through which to be defined, you will emerge as more complicated nouns than pretty ones. This is perhaps the direction toward a feminism beyond beauty.” 

 
I pretty much can’t even stand you right now, so I’m going to hand this one off to Raeven Zayas, a woman in my closed FB group for the #365feministselfie project. (It’s closed, you see, because it’s not for you, or the public, or anyone. It is for us.)
 
Rae aptly points out your weak attempt at generalizing to an entire population with your sample set of, um, two. Here’s a huge clue for you, Jon, women are not the same. We are not a neatly categorizable group. I am sorry for your loss.
 
Okay, she says,

“Never mind that some of us are in Grad school, and some of us are parents, and some of us are both, and some of us are neither, and some of us have fancy jobs, and some of us are tough as nails, and some of us could get a blood stain out of a white satin wedding dress, and some of us can train a horse, and some of us have survived cancer, and some of us use our pasts and our traumas to help each other, and some of us can push a baby out of us under the water at our house with no pain medication, and some of us have awesome dreads, and some of us do amazing makeup, and some of us can make a giant cake with a Magic Mike style dancer that pops out of it, and some of us are recovering addicts, and some of us have made a huge connection to other women through this project that has indeed been empowering, and some of us have realized that perhaps we aren’t alone in our own insecurities, and some of us have helped one another embrace and love those insecurities, and some of us have learned beautiful things about each other that do not, in fact, have much to do with our physical appearance and our ability to Get a man.”

 
Oh, did I forget to quote you on that part? Hold on, here it is: “What if the seemingly natural, and cunning, desire of women to be physically beautiful — to either be included in the culture’s definition of beauty OR to alter the culture’s definition of beauty to include them — all stemmed from the basic desire to attract (uh-oh) a man?”
 
Yes, we are so cunning. We are so cunning in fact, that we think taking pictures of ourselves will prove to men that there is room for everybody in the Pretty Palace. Also, lesbians don’t exist in your world of seemingly academic ponderings. Good to know.
 
Are you even listening to yourself?
 
Rae continues:

“This isn’t his movement, it’s ours. And if he really wants the truth, I do this for my daughter. All feminism has ever been about for me is my daughter. As a mother who has a little girl that I still get to watch grow up and find her own empowerment and struggle against harsh societal standards of beauty and will spend every day judging herself as harshly as I did about the way she looks, this absofuckinglutely is about my kid. And she will be amazing, and funny, and kind, and intelligent, and generous, and understanding, and compassionate, and driven, and stubborn, and fuck him if he thinks I don’t want her to feel beautiful, too.”

And there you have it. Two different women with two different motivations for doing the same project, and both of us feeling empowered because of it.
 
Should we do another one? Let’s do another one. This is from Rebecca:

“For me, taking these pics, and being involved in this project is more about creating a supportive community, one where women can be vulnerable and honest about who they are and their daily lives (struggles and successes). For me, it has very little to do with physical beauty.”

I ask you, dear sir, why does our feeling of empowerment and community force you to action?
 
Don’t react with a hasty defense, you said. Think about it, you said.
 
I did think about it, even though I didn’t have to.
 
Because you do not get to tell me what to do. You do not get to tell me why I do them.
 
You do not get to tell me what to do.
 

Also, your scholar jargon makes you sound like a douche. And I’m a scholar, so I know about that one.

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About parentwin

Parent of twins, blogger, writer and journalist. I write things. Sometimes people even read them.
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