Oh, for the love of muff…

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Portrait of Ms. Ruby May, Standing, by Leena McCall. Medium: Oil on canvas.

Can you see what’s wrong with this picture? I can’t.

I hear that it was deemed “pornographic and disgusting”, which I’m sure would come as a laugh to anyone who’s actually seen disgusting pornography (and I have). I have to wonder at the delicate sensibilities of the fuddy-duddies who thought this was too much, while allowing another portrait — fully nude, but more conventionally posed — to pass. (And by “conventionally posed”, I mean with the woman model as passive object of the male gaze.)

Perhaps the problem with this is that Ms. Ruby May has what appear to be henna tattoos, draped like tendrils over her shoulders and collarbones. Perhaps it’s the fact that she’s half-dressed in turn-of-the-last-century drag. Heavens to Betsy, a woman in a vest and knickers! (And no, British readers, that’s not an undershirt and panties, that’s vest as in gentleman’s waistcoat, and knickers as in bockers.) Perhaps it’s the fact that she’s wearing a watch-chain, another masculine touch underscoring the drag sensibility of the whole. Or maybe it’s that pipe (an obvious prop, since there’s no perfumed smoke curling daintily from its bowl.)

No, no, that can’t be it. What is it, then?

Oh my gawd, her pants are undone. And what is that I see peeking out? Why, the lady has pubes! Oh noes!

As everybody knows by now, female pubes are a terrible scourge and a menace to society. They must be scraped away, torn out at the roots, and the roots killed with fire, lest they ever sprout again. As everybody knows, lady-pubes allowed to run rampant will molest little boys. And kill babies!

The only thing worse than the scourge of lady-pubes is the terrible curse of the Elderly Vagina. And if we allow women to proudly possess pubes, even if we don’t all go around showing them off as Ms. Ruby does here — why, what’s next? Will we also be proud of our nether hairs when they turn silver — or, in the case of us natural redheads, purest snowy white?

Oh, the horror. Female self-esteem! The HORROR.

No, no, we can’t have a woman proudly showing her pubes. Not even if she’s painted by Gustav Klimt himself.

Oh wait, that’s allowed. Klimt was a man! It’s quite all right for men to paint women in a sexual context. Those who did so a century ago to public outrage and opprobrium are now revered as Great Artists. But for another woman to do so, as Leena McCall has done? Dangerous! Why, just look at that thing. The woman isn’t passively subjecting herself (and her unshorn crotch) to the male gaze, but actively looking back out at us! And worse yet, she’s doing so with a challenging glint in her eye. A glint that is equal parts “hey, sailor” and “fuck you”. Or, if you want to get all stuffy about it, a look that says both come-hither and go-thither.

No, we can’t have a woman undressing us with her eyes, and perhaps contemptuously withering us with that same sexy gaze. It’s too much like she’s looking right through us, and finding us lacking. Lacking in courage for not being able to handle the sight of a set of female genitalia not artificially made to resemble those of a harmless, helpless newborn baby girl. Lacking in the wit to understand what we are seeing. Lacking in the visionary guts to realize that women can, and MUST, have sexual agency, the right to say yea or nay, I-want-you or I-want-you-not, as we will. Lacking, in short, the understanding that a woman is more than a body, and that she is not just some consumable object, but a person in her own right, and as much so as any man. She has will. She has desires. And why should she not have the explicit right to express all that?

Why doesn’t she, already?

Well, here’s why: We live in gormless times. We have never seen the virgin/whore dichotomy quite so polarized as it is today. Even the Victorian era has nothing on the present. On the one hand, we have every kind of porn, depicting every depraved thing people can do unto one another, with literally no holds barred (including the death-grip on the throat, usually of a woman). On the other, we have something ickier, creepier, more spiritually deadening, and more depraved still: purity balls, where fathers take on the role of surrogate husband to virginal girls, and pledge to “cover” them until they can pass them off, presumably while still virginal, to a suitable real husband. We have Rush Limbaugh slut-shaming Sandra Fluke because that shameless hussy dared to put in a good word for birth-control pills, between fistfuls of OxyContin and Viagra — and nary a word about himself jetting off to sex tours in the Dominican Republic, where child prostitutes are dirt cheap and nauseously easy to find. These guys are all running around with total impunity, ordering women to do as they say, not as they do. And, under protest, we let them. Be it in porn or in purity culture, women are both infantilized and objectified, passed around like bongs at a party, and above all, NEVER allowed to be sexual on their own terms. It is always at the whim of a man, whether a creepy photographer like Terry Richardson (and a creepy businessman like Dov Charney), or a porn director…or the “priesthood holder” of the house, dear ol’ dad himself.

That may be why Ms. Ruby is dressed in old-fashioned men’s clothing, but only halfway. And why the sight of her standing there with undone trousers and no perceptible shame is so “pornographic” and horrifying in this supposedly so much more open day and age — when all of us, if we are honest, will readily admit that we’ve seen a whole lot worse.

It was 87 years ago today…

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Paulina Luisi, Uruguay’s first woman doctor, and prominent campaigner for women’s rights — especially the right to vote.

I don’t usually do “This Day in History” pieces, but I’ll make an exception for this one just because it’s so interesting:

The first time a woman was able to vote in Latin America was 87 years ago in Uruguay, according to the Secretariat of Human Rights of the Presidency of the Republic.

The historic event took place on July 3, 1927, in the central locality of Cerro Chato, whose administration is shared by three Uruguayan departments: Durazno, Florida, and Treinta y Tres.

On that occasion, a plebiscite was held to define which department the locality belonged to, and it was then that the first female vote was cast, by a Brazilian named Rita Ribera, 90 years of age.

The event took place several years before women were first able to vote in the national elections of Uruguay, in 1938.

This year, the Secretariat of Human Rights will commemorate the event on the International Day of Human Rights, on December 10, in Cerro Chato, which currently has a population of 3,700.

The Secretariat, which considers that vote to be a fundamental event for women’s rights, also honors the women teachers who supported school reforms in 1875, describing them as pioneers in the defence of women’s rights in Uruguay.

It was also announced that schoolteacher María Abella founded the Uruguayan sector of the Pan-American Women’s Federation in Montevideo in 1911, and that the first National Women’s Council was founded by teacher and physician Paulina Luisi, in 1916.

Translation mine.

So, the first woman to vote in Uruguay was a 90-year-old Brazilian, of all people. And this more than a decade before the female vote became official for Uruguay in 1938! One wonders how she managed to pull it off. I’m guessing that legal enforcement of institutional sexism in such a small locality wasn’t very strict. Or maybe no one had the heart to bar a little old lady of 90, so they just waved her on through. Or maybe they figured that since there was nothing about women voting on the local books, there must be no reason to forbid it, either. There is so much about this historic vote that I would love to learn. I hope it hasn’t all been lost to the ravages of time!

Brazilian women: beyond the media icons

Video in Portuguese (with Spanish subtitles — no English, sorry).

And if the first thing that came into your head when you read “Brazilian women” was a blond supermodel, or a pair of muscular buttocks wiggling in a teeny bikini, congratulations: You’ve been sucked in by a media bullshit campaign. Brazil’s TV stations are owned by just six families, and heavily invested in promoting (or rather, pimping) just ONE picture of Brazilian women: white, rich, with straight blond hair, tall and slim, heterosexual, usually surgically enhanced…and a constant, parsley-like sexual accessory to the menfolks. (In one scene, a businessman is seen talking away to another man at his desk while his bare foot is fondling the rump of a bikini-clad model lying on a lounge-chair next to him. Yes, really!)

But the “icon” of Brazilian womanhood is being challenged…by Brazilian women themselves. Black, brown, Asian and white, they’ve taken up the fight against this media campaign. The Slutwalk movement, which began here in Canada as a response to a Toronto cop who stupidly told women not to “dress like sluts” in order to avoid rape, has caught on big-time in South America, where women — over-sexualized in the media for decades, and in the minds of church and state for centuries — are now marching and chanting slogans like: “Beware, beware, beware, machista! Latin America is turning feminista!” Women are challenging not only their false image in the media, but capitalism itself…for, after all, that phoney image is there to sell things, by presenting an “aspirational” world that ignores reality, and poverty, completely. And when the media in one country — a land with a population in the hundred-millions — are owned by just six wealthy families, it’s glaringly obvious what the real problem is. And so is why women everywhere — in Canada as well as Brazil — are sick and tired of it.

Come see me eat nipples!

Y’okay. Now that we’ve got the silliness out of our systems (and the deliberately bad English translations of Bollywood dance numbers), let’s talk a bit about nipples.

Perhaps you’ve seen the Tata Top, and heard of #FreeTheNipple? Yeah, boobs are in the news again. And it’s all because female mammaries are (a) sexualized, and (b) CENSORED.

Oh yeah, and also because (b) is a direct outgrowth of (a). And vice versa.

And because the Puritans are dead, but small-p puritanism still lives in the US, and Canada too, by extension. Even though it’s legal for women to go topless up here, and has been for decades, most of us won’t do it unless we’re strictly among people we love and trust.

And some of us — me, for instance — won’t even do it in our own backyards.

Granted, I have sound health reasons for not taking advantage of our liberal clothing laws. I’m a natural redhead, and that means fair skin that burns easily. I don’t tan for shit, and I don’t want skin cancer, either. So when it gets hot, I tend to run for cover. And let my big, baggy ol’ t-shirts be my shady tents, especially if it’s too hot for bras.

But even if sunburn weren’t an issue, I’d still be reluctant to go out in a bikini top. Never mind one that’s cleverly colored (and printed) to look like bare breasts.

Now, why do you suppose that is?

Well, for starters, I’m very well endowed. Not bragging, but not ashamed of what I’ve got either. I love my bazookas, even though they complicate my life no end.

And yes, they do complicate it. I’ve been sexually harassed even while fully clothed. By strangers. By acquaintances. By people I thought I could trust. And this has been going on for as long as I’ve had boobs at all. Even tiny, barely-budding ones, at the age of 10. Know what that means? It means that for the past 36 years, I’ve been covering up in a vain and useless attempt to ward off unwanted attention, comments, grabs, and general grossness.

It’s like me having boobs gives random guys some kind of licence to get all yucky with ‘em. And that’s why I can’t have a simple, uncomplicated, happy affection for my gazongas.

And it’s not just me. In fact, it’s not even just women who’ve had to face this sort of creepy censorious/sexualized treatment of their bodies. As Scout Willis found out, men once had to fight for the right to go shirtless in public on hot days. And I recall reading that in Spain, during the Franco dictatorship, newspapers had to hire photo-retouchers just to paint undershirts on prizefighters in the sports section, lest Spanish ladies have their modesty offended by the sight of — gasp! — male nipples.

Well, my modesty isn’t offended by the sight of a man’s bare chest. I’ll gladly look at attractive ones, and even think to myself that cool dude so-and-so sure looks hot with his shirt off. I like guys; love them, even. So why should my modesty be affected by the sight of one running around half naked?

In fact, as I’ve pointed out before, what some call “modesty” is nothing more than our right not to be sexually molested. It exists no matter what we wear, how we act, or where we go. But by putting the onus on women to “keep modest” so as not to be molested, it puts the burden on the wrong person. If I could be harassed (as in fact I was) while wearing a puffy coat, baggy jeans, and Doc Martens — and not a speck of makeup — then clearly what I’m wearing or not wearing is not the issue. (For the record, I’ve also been left strangely unmolested while wearing miniskirts.) The blame should be on the harasser, not the harassed. And since I didn’t harass myself, but guys harassed me — gee, you don’t suppose maybe guys could do with a bit of educating, do you?

Nah, of course not. Men are all perfect. Rape culture doesn’t apply to them. Their bodies aren’t sexualized like ours are. It’s we women who have to cover up, worry about how we look, and second-guess ourselves constantly. We have to do it all for them, so they never have to do it for themselves.

And that, pardon the expression, really chafes my tits.

So, here’s my radical thought for the day: Guys, remember that your forefathers had to fight for the right to walk around half-naked where others could see them. And remember, too, that even though your right to seminudity is fully legal and unremarkable, hordes of women aren’t running after you, catcalling you and pawing your body, no matter how effin’ gorgeous it is. There’s a reason for that: We got Nice Girl training. We are taught from an early age not to be rude, forward and unmannerly. But more than that, we know how gross we’d feel if someone did that to us. And we don’t view you as our property. We don’t think you’re there for us to just wipe ourselves on. We think you have a right to be left in peace — to not be touched unless you make it clear that you want us touching you.

And if you reciprocate, and stop making such an idiotic fuss about our boobs, you might in fact be making this world a much better — and cooler — place.

Quotable: Ellen Page on feminism

No, of COURSE misogyny is not a problem anymore. Silly ladies!

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Awwww. Isn’t that a cute widdle hammy-wamster? It sure is. A pity that what it stands for isn’t nearly so adorable.

Yes, folks, I’m talking about misogyny today. The M-word. The one that half the population fears, and the other half doesn’t seem to know exists.

The half of the population that fears it isn’t all women. Some lucky ladies are so privileged that they can’t even see misogyny, much less how it affects them, how narrowly it circumscribes every aspect of their lives. The half that fears it is a mixed bag of genders, but what we have that the other half doesn’t is the wits to recognize the monster behind that cute widdle fuzzy golden face. And to dread it, knowing that we are up for one helluva fight.

What must it be like to live on the other side? The privileged side, the one that doesn’t even see the problem? The side that is mostly, but not all, male? The side that has internalized misogyny so the boys will like them better?

Well, here are some clues.

How about the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons, who don’t seem to see a problem if a religious doctor privileges private “conscience” over a woman’s basic human right to complete medical care? Ontario is a big province, and not all of us live in cities where, if one doctor refuses to treat us, we can simply flip through the vast phone book until we find another who will. In rural and northern areas, women often have to travel many miles just to see a doctor at all. What happens if that doctor is one of those who say “Nope, I don’t do abortions or birth control, because God won’t love me if I do”? Where else do you go, when you have to get on a small airplane and fly hundreds of miles south just to see THAT useless halfwit?

Why, you just go home, to your kitchen, like a good little lady. Stay barefoot and pregnant and out of sight. That’s where you go.

But wait, that’s how it is for the half of us with the wits to know and fear misogyny. We’re still trying to figure out how that other half lives. The kind that says we belong in concentration camps and that only a few of us should be kept alive, in semi-starvation, for breeding purposes. Can’t forget about them, can we? After all, they dominate our world, whether we realize it or not.

Oh yeah…about that concentration-camps thing. Did you know Elliot Rodger’s grandfather was among the first to photograph the victims of Bergen-Belsen? I only found that out today, while looking for links to insert in the above paragraph. But wow, that’s one helluva clue. I can see through this that to live on the other side is to be possessed of a very twisted and minimal sense of human decency…and no sense of irony whatsofuckingEVER.

And for those who think there’s no connection between a young suicidal megalomaniac, Nazi death camps, and doctors who refuse to treat women as fully adult, autonomous human beings, capable of making their own medical decisions and with a right to expect doctors to abide by them, let me remind you here and now that the Nazis didn’t believe in abortion either. And that they rewarded women for bearing lots of children, Quiverfull-style.

My own paternal grandmother got a Mother’s Cross for having four children — and the irony of that hit home when my grandpa dared to complain about how Germany had gone to shit since the Nazis were in power. He got called up on the carpet by the Gestapo, and the first words out of the officer’s mouth were “Sie haben vier Kinder…” (“You have four children…”)

It was a straight-up death threat. The Gestapo man was saying, in not so many words, that if my grandpa wanted his four acceptably-German children to live, he’d better shut the fuck up about the Nazis. If he’d made good on that threat, my dad would not be here today, and neither would I.

And, mind you, these were the same Nazis who set up “life camps” for unwed mothers to spawn the next generation of “pure”, “Aryan” denizens of the “Thousand-Year Reich”.

I’m sorry, I’m not doing a very good job at all of getting how these misogynists think, am I? It’s all hurting my poor widdle lady-brain. And so early in the morning, too.

Guess I’d better toddle off to my kitchen and start cooking lunch, now.

A few random thoughts on yesterday’s Ontario election

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So, the Ontario Liberals have formed our new government. And it’s a majority. We now have our first elected woman premier (who is also our first elected out gay premier). Tim Hudak was handed his Not-So-Progressive Conservative ass, and has resigned in the wake of his resounding defeat. Meanwhile, Andrea Horwath, who led the provincial NDP — supposedly the most progressive of the three mainstream parties — got handed an object lesson in how NOT to win new friends and influence people. People who neglected to vote got just what they deserved, too: NOTHING.

And I, who swore over a decade ago never again to hold my nose and vote for a Liberal when the party lost to Ernie Eves and his nasty band of Harrisite leftovers (of which Hudak was one), have voted for a Liberal. I did not hold my nose this time.

And I’m not even sorry.

I didn’t leave the NDP; they left me. And they did it right around the time that Andrea Horwath decided it was clever to court the business vote and maybe pick off a few disgruntled SupposiTories, and throw the real, long-time NDPers under the big orange bus. And to cap off the ignominy, the provincial New Democrats ignored my demands to be taken off their call list, and instead deluged me with donation requests by phone and e-mail, as well as robocalls trying to rope me into an “unscripted” town-hall that I had no desire to take part in. I was pissed as hell over that. And yesterday, around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I finally took my frustrations out in the only way I knew. I voted for the local Liberal in my riding. And he won.

And that’s why I’m not sorry. My riding is a swing riding; it could go either way in any given election, and vacillates between Lib and Con. An NDP vote would be wasted here, and doubly so under the circumstances. The Liberal I voted for unseated the Conservative doofus who’d been squatting uselessly in Queen’s Park on our supposed behalf, making idiotic proposals to attract more tourists to our area by building covered bridges. Yeah, that’s right: he was shooting for The Bridges of Madison County. Only this is NOT Madison County, and it doesn’t have a lengthy tradition of covered bridges to preserve, let alone add to. But hey — wouldn’t it have looked cute? Guess that would have created maybe a couple dozen of those million new jobs Timmy promised us. No wait, that would be public-sector jobs. And Timmy was for chopping 100,000 of those. He seemed to think that with fewer taxes to pay and less accountability than ever, the private sector would pick up the slack. Since when has it ever done that? Since, oh, about NEVER. The only thing that trickles down from Uncle Miltie Friedman’s economics is raw sewage — and, if you have the misfortune to live and work in Alberta, tar-sands waste.

And Ontario voters, those who showed up yesterday at any rate, aren’t stupid. You can’t piss on our heads out here and tell us it’s raining. Which is what Tim Hudak was trying to do. And Andrea Horwath, too. The one was handed a harsh lesson in how not to do economics, and the other, in how not to do progressive politics. On both counts, they are bullets that I chose to dodge. As for the Greens, they’ve long been off the progressive radar here, because their environmental solution boils down to too much capitalism and not enough socialism. And again, Ontario voters not being stupid, we know that that’s not enough to keep our province clean and healthy. Trying to appeal to the goodness of a businessman’s heart is a losing proposition, because they don’t have one. Big Business will almost always pay only the merest of lip service to progressive causes, and very rarely do things differently out of a knowledge that the common good is also good for business. If you don’t believe me, watch The Corporation. If corporations are legally persons, then the kind of persons they are is diagnosably psychopathic. (And just think: That’s who Andrea Horwath was trying to court, too. Oy.)

So, all bullet-dodging and ass-handing aside, what was this election about?

In the end, the “surprising” Liberal majority tells me that there was something more at work here than just avoiding the worst and punishing their fellow-travellers for jumping on the dumb populist bandwagon. Hazel McCallion, the mayor of Mississauga (and the longest-serving mayor in the country), nailed it when she picked Kathleen Wynne for her endorsement. Hurricane Hazel is no lightweight; she shepherded her city through the great train derailment of 1979, when she was newly elected, and Mississauga was newly amalgamated. It could have been the kiss of death for her, but it proved to be her finest hour, because that was when she proved not only her political mettle, but her unswerving dedication to her constituents. Hazel McCallion has never lied or played her people false. She always stood up for them, and that’s why they kept voting for her, term after term after term. So her recommendation bore some weight with me. And lots of other Ontarians too, it seems.

And then there was the Globe & Mail’s editorial board. They all endorsed Wynne too, in a consensus that took time and thought to reach, only to have orders come down from on high to throw their weight behind Hudak instead. Now, those board members were not idiots, either. Whoever told them they were going with Hudak was. But then, the Grope & Flail has always endorsed the Tories, so I guess that was to be expected. Even though the party leader was a complete twit, it didn’t matter; tradition is tradition. And the editorial high command ended up mopping egg yolks out of their beards for that.

But then, is that really so shocking? Ontarians can’t afford to vote based on tradition anymore. And neither can politicians rely on conventional, traditional strategies for roping them in. The conservative base is aging and dying. They can’t be counted on in the numbers they once had. And that’s a good thing for progressives, even in this ludicrous first-past-the-post system we have. Because we younger voters of Generations X and Y are informed by grassroots movements like Occupy, Uncut, and the 99%. We are restless, and we don’t give a hang for party loyalty when the parties betray us. We are the untapped progressive vein that the traditional party strategists are missing. They think we’ll fall for some right-wing yutz when, in fact, we are much further to the left than any of the big parties. And we are the ones with an increasing power to force the most progressive candidates to the top. In this case, it was Kathleen Wynne…who ran as a Liberal, but sounded a lot more like a New Democrat than the NDP did. For me, she was a no-brainer choice.

My polling station was surprisingly busy, given that I live in a fairly small town. Line-ups are uncommon on voting day at any station here. Usually you’re in and out in less than five minutes. But yesterday, I found myself waiting behind another woman, who was waiting for yet another woman to vote. I wonder if we all voted for the same candidate. I wouldn’t be surprised if we did! I smelled motivation in the air…and desperation in the Conservative camp, which indeed there was. Maybe my single vote wasn’t much on its own, but then again, lots of others were probably thinking the same thing. And, quite possibly, that was what put our local Liberal very soundly over the top, with several thousand votes over the incumbent Conservative doofus. If you vote, you can still make a difference; if not, you might just end up getting not the government you want, but the one you deserve.

And now that that’s all over, it’s time for the next step: holding all the new electees’ feet to the fire, as well as those of the losers, and making sure they don’t get away with more of the same old. Which is to say, politics by, of and for the money, rather than by, of and for the people. We have to make sure they don’t go throwing a “surprise” austerity budget at us. Let’s hope they’re learning a thing or two from the Eurocrisis, and specifically, the French, who are throwing debt out the window in favor of the public interest. Ontarians should get a referendum on whether a “balanced budget” is really a worthwhile priority, instead of an inflexible law. It’s time to scrap the legacy of Mike Harris and Ernie Eves once and for all. No more tax cuts for big business, and no more austerity budgets to appease the suits. For that, we’ll need concerted action.

And a lot more of it than just dutifully turning out on election day.

Why does the vagina age?

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“And thereupon

That beautiful mild woman for whose sake

There’s many a one shall find out all heartache

On finding that her voice is sweet and low

Replied, ‘To be born woman is to know –

Although they do not talk of it at school –

That we must labour to be beautiful.’”

– William Butler Yeats, “Adam’s Curse”

If you’re a woman who can read Spanish, I can’t recommend Proyecto Kahlo highly enough. It’s a Spanish-language site dealing with all kinds of ladybusiness, particularly as pertains to self-esteem. It’s named, as you might have guessed, for Frida Kahlo, who had more than her share of self-esteem issues to deal with, and who dealt with them as elegantly and imperiously as no one but a great artist can. The site is in keeping with her spirit. And last night, I came across the following, which is so topical that I just had to share it with you, en inglés:

Sunday, 11 a.m. Peace. Coffee in hand, I discover an article which grabs all my attention. “Why does the vagina age?” I take a swig of caffeine that wakes me up. I am so moved to think of the person who published this content, who yanked the blanket from my head, and I can’t do anything but type out on my computer the following lines:

I am writing to you as a reader of your magazine, to offer all my knowledge about the topic that concerns you, which isn’t much, but I guess it’s sufficient for the case. I understand your concern about our vaginas; I don’t want to make you wait any longer for the answer.

In truth, vaginas age because the women who bear them age as well. It has to do with a complex process which has taken place over millions of years. It’s called life.

I’m sorry you didn’t know that important fact before publishing your work. It’s a real shame because you could have called me. By coincidence, I am the bearer of an adult vagina, and I could have prevented the question, even the entire article, yes, because I’m going to play a trick on you.

I suppose you didn’t call me because, apart from not knowing of my existence, you want to take the opportunity to consume those leading products, so fashionable that you gave them publicity throughout your article, even though it appears you put them there like someone who didn’t want the thing, like someone illustrating some letters with the first thing you had to hand, such as distracted examples with telephone numbers and directions on the side.

I’m talking about the interventions with local anesthesia which you recommended for us to solve what you describe as our problem of vaginal “aging”. I’m talking about that laser treatment which you invite us to try at the end of some paragraph so that we can all bleach our vulvas and make them pink as cotton clouds. I’m talking about those surgeries so that we’re tighter after childbirth, accompanied by the most expensive creams to lighten the scars, which have to be applied without fail, because it’s not enough to get slim one month after giving birth, we also have to rejuvenate quickly so no one notices it.

Let me tell you what I understand, and that is that we have to give our partners the pleasure they deserve. How can we let them think that those small, slim, bright pink labia exist only in porn? That would be disturbing for all. As well, I know that we have to be assured that they won’t find a single hair along the way, because that would kill the magic.

When pubic hair existed on our sex, everything was different. We couldn’t see our dark vulvas, we didn’t know they were unhygienic, and we didn’t have a complex that would make us consume knives, lasers, wax, skin bleaches, and feminine deodorants, and that was very bad.

I understand, I know that we have to sweat and cry while a stranger pulls out our body hairs without pity, you know why, in a systematic way. I understand, because we are women, because our priorities consist of that, because then they sell us our own aspirations. Duty is duty.

I understand, and can do no more than offer my support for the next time you want to answer such difficult questions. And now I bid you goodbye. I don’t want to take up your precious time, which you spend making us understand that the world of vaginal rejuvenation has to be a new priority in our life as women.

Please receive this warm greeting from a woman of standard sex, of those which have different colors, shapes and sizes. Perhaps you should try some intervention out of those which you publicized, but I greatly fear that I will have to explain to my partner that he is sleeping with a woman and not a shiny baby piglet. Thank you for your offering, but your arsenal of self-esteem-trampling publicity will have to stay with you. Have a good day.

Amanda, 28, Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain).

Translation mine.

I don’t know if the very articulate, polite Amanda has by any chance seen The Perfect Vagina. It seems germane to the subject.

And with all due respect to the great Mr. Yeats, no one is born a woman. All women are born girls, and only become women as we grow to maturity in body and mind. Some of us who are trans women may seek medical and surgical help to make it clear that they are women, and before that, they have to gain social acceptance as girls. Which is by no means an easy task for them. It has to be learned, from an early age, the same as spelling or math or geography. Knowing that one is a girl is one thing; expressing oneself as a girl (and later, as a woman) is quite another.

And yes, it is in fact taught to us at school, albeit informally, that we must labor to be beautiful. When I was 12 or 13, I can remember taking a middle-school elective called, I shit you not, “Making the Most of Yourself”. It was aimed strictly at the girls. And of course, because I was young and insecure and wanted to learn how to be pretty and popular, I took it and learned a thing or two. And learned it much more gently than this disabled young Australian, who apparently had to learn it by way of humiliation in front of her entire class. But it still made me feel so hopelessly awkward. There is something squicky about knowing that no boys have to learn things like that. They got to take much neater stuff like rocketry and gun safety, after all. (Yes, gun safety was taught at my rural middle school. We wuz hicks, heh heh heh.)

And oh yeah, how about all those products to beautify a body part that ought to be recognized as beautiful no matter what? Not for nothing did Georgia O’Keeffe paint those big, ruffly, downright labial orchids as metaphors for ladybits…but how soon we forget, amid this constant bombardment of ads for creams to bleach our skin and paint our labia pink if they’re not that color already. Or wax and laser treatments to eliminate all traces of that same pubic hair that marked the end of my little-girlhood and contributed to my raging inferiority complex in middle school, even though no one but me ever had to see it. Or, oh gawd, that dreadful medical procedure euphemistically known as the “honeymoon stitch” — or, even more ugh, the “daddy stitch”. Because bloody wedding sheets are how men prove their manhood. They do it on our bodies, don’tcha know? And because, as Amanda points out, no evidence must exist that a woman has had a baby, even though men are constantly telling us that to have “their” babies is our whole purpose in life. When we’re not laboring to be beautiful at their demand, of course.

And the supreme irony is that a lot of them can’t actually tell the difference, anyway. The vagina is made of nice, strong muscle, and its nature is to expand and contract as needed. It can open up to accommodate a whole baby, then close back down again, even if it isn’t exactly identical to its pre-pregnant configuration. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be. A good partner isn’t going to suddenly lose interest in you just because you squeezed out a kid. And many women find out that sex is actually better after a vaginal delivery, because their sensitivity has increased. Which is also good news for their mates, because not only do good men not lose interest in a new mom, they still love to please her. Because she’s their partner, she’s not damaged goods, and they love her.

Ohmygawd, stop the presses: Men can love! Women need pleasure too! No silly products, sadistic cosmetic treatments, or dangerous operations required! I don’t suppose any of that has occurred to the unnamed author of the unlinked article Amanda criticizes, but maybe it should. It would save so many of us so much anxiety about growing up, giving birth, and yes, even getting old. And, really: An elderly vagina isn’t the end of the world. For many, it isn’t even the end of their sex life. Good news for all of us, because we’re none of us getting any younger.

And we have bigger things to worry about than whether our genitals are up to scratch.

“Not All Men” is still too many

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Not all men are like Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who stabbed three roommates to death before going out on a shooting spree motivated by an unholy cocktail of misogyny, mental illness, and frustration at his “incel” status and his failure at picking up women.

Not all men are like this bunch of hooligans, who took potshots at some young women just for not having sex with them.

Not all men are like Marc Lépine, who went on an antifeminist crusade with a Ruger, killing 14 women and wounding several other people.

Not all men are like the boys who harassed me on an almost daily basis when I was between the ages of 12 and 17 — the same ages which, according to Julie Lalonde, demarcate the age bracket in which the greatest number of males will commit sexual assault.

Not all men are like the stoned-looking weirdo who sat masturbating in his car in broad daylight while asking me for directions to a street just a few blocks from where I lived during my student days in Kingston.

Not all men are like the older man who rudely propositioned me behind the wheel of his car when I was 20, grabbing my hand and sticking my finger in his mouth and telling me he wished it were my nipple.

Not all men are like the young guy who pulled up to the curb next to me in Toronto and tried to get me into his car, thinking I was for sale just because I was female and walking alone.

Not all men are harassers, rapists, murderers or creeps. But tell that to any woman who’s ever had a too-close encounter with one of them. “Not all men” is cold comfort to an awful lot of women.

“Not all men” is no comfort to me. I still have trust problems thanks to all those guys who made my life a shitpile over the course of my formative years.

“Not all men” is no comfort to one who was a student, and volunteering at the Queen’s Women’s Centre, when the Montréal Massacre went down. I remember how so many of the victims were in exactly my own age bracket then, too. It’s no comfort to me, because I went to school — and the Women’s Centre — terrified that I could have been next. And if not me, then maybe some other young woman I knew.

“Not all men” are why I keep saying “No thanks, I’d rather walk” when offered a ride by a “kindly” male stranger — or even a “nice” guy I know. “Not all men” are why I walk away when I see a car with a male driver slowing down as it approaches me. “Not all men” are why I walk faster if there’s a man directly behind me on the sidewalk. “Not all men” are why I flip the bird at any guy who can’t take a polite hint when I want to be left alone.

No, of course not all men are like that. Not even a majority are. At least I hope so. But I honestly don’t know. I’m not the one to tell, because I have run into way too many who were like that.

“Not all men” still covers an awful lot of men.

“Not all men” is still just too damn many, because NO man should be like that.

Quotable: Diana Vreeland on “pretty”

Posted in Quotable Notables, Uppity Wimmin. Comments Off »