Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Starving feminism

I’ve always had a hunch that unattainable beauty standards were invented to keep women under the glass ceiling, too busy on the StairMaster to actually, er, metaphorically climb any symbolic ladders. Twiggy’s popularity was just too well-timed with second-wave feminism, and I don’t think any male politicians have had to worry about their “cankles.” But it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I actually saw this dangerously effective distraction in action.

I was attending a meeting of about 20 marketing colleagues that was run by an attractive, fit woman, probably in her 40s. I’ll call her Boss Lady. I had never seen her in person before the meeting, and her attractiveness was actually the first thing I noticed upon meeting her. (I realize that makes me a bad feminist, but the first thing I noticed about a male colleague was his wonky cross-eyes, so hopefully this habit just makes me shallow.) Boss Lady was very put-together, sporting a flattering pants suit – the kind that reminds me I’m in the wrong profession, as I could never pull the outfit off, and have no interest in spending the money to try.

On the second day of the meeting, Boss Lady was at the front of the room in another power suit, “whiteboarding” our ideas (kind of like waterboarding, but in business casual), when a colleague walked in front of her to get back to her seat after stepping out. Boss Lady was in the middle of saying something about strategic marketing strategies but lost her train of thought when the other woman walked by, who was probably in her early 30s and wearing skinny black pants – possibly jeans – that, if I hadn’t been second-guessing my push-up bra and sweetheart necklined dress that day, I would have thought were slightly inappropriate for our conservative office.

Skinny Pants apologized for interrupting, and Boss Lady excused her, saying “Oh, it’s not your fault. I was just thinking how it’s just not fair how some people get to be so skinny! Like you, and you!” She accusingly pointed at Skinny Pants and another waifish woman in the room. Disturbingly, I was a little insulted she didn’t point at me. Maybe it was the cleavage.

Slightly less disturbing than my reaction, and that the comment was made at all, was that Boss Lady appeared to be in excellent shape, and Skinny Pants was, in my opinion, verging on dangerously thin. When she had walked by the front of the room, I was actually noticing her wispy hair and wondering if she might have an eating disorder.

So at least two professional women in the room were more interested in Skinny Pants’ body than discussing strategic strategies – in my case I’ll blame it on the fact that my job bores me to tears (some days literally), but I’m worried about Boss Lady. Her outburst was followed by an uncomfortable silence – and a loss of authority.

And I’m pretty sure she was just saying out loud what many women are constantly obsessing over internally when they could be thinking about strategery, or reproductive rights, or world peace – something other than the unsolvable problem of their inner thighs touching.

To quote Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, which has recently inspired me to stop being such a crappy feminist (Thank you to my feminist role model/sister for recommending!), “You can tell whether some misogynistic societal pressure is being exerted on women by calmly enquiring, ‘And are the men doing this, as well?’ If they aren’t, chances are you’re dealing with what we strident feminists refer to as ‘some total fucking bullshit’.”

1 comment:

Caroline said...

Amen sister! You are brilliant and amazing and not a bad feminist!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin