Monday, January 7, 2013

Cloudy with a chance of sexism

Not by me, of course.

You know, I do like to think of my family members in a good light as best I can, but as I get older I realize that they are human just like the rest of us. 

When I was younger I used to take everything they said personally -- for whatever reason, my family is very focused on appearance and it used to reflect on me. My grandmother, God rest her soul, was always very critical of what I wore and if I asked her if something looked okay, she'd either give me a backhanded compliment or a criticism. My uncle Mike...well, we'll talk about him later. My uncle Paul (whom I will be focusing on in this particular entry) would make comments about people being un-attractive or attractive, and my mother thinks fat people are disgusting. 

Let's start with my mother. Growing up, I was overweight and still am although I am changing my lifestyle bit by bit to be a healthy one. I remember for one of my dancing pictures she made me suck in my tummy so I would "look good". I was never happy in dance class because I was bigger than the other girls. Whenever she saw a fat person on the bus, train station, etc, or someone on the news like Honey Boo Boo's mother (that one was recent), she would call them gross or disgusting. So I not only despised my own weight, but the weight and appearance of others.

My uncle Mike is sexist in a different way, and it's mostly because of religion. The gender roles in my house are very segregated, and my mom and I usually end up in the kitchen while my uncles wait for the food. Now, I don't mind cooking, I really don't. I'm also pretty sure that the reason that we cook is because Mikie can't - he can barely use the microwave - and Paul's idea of cooking is making chicken plain or having a TV dinner. 

When I asked Mikie what he thought about me covering my hair or just hair covering in general, he thought it was great because hair, to him, is attractive and covering it would save HIM the distraction of being turned on by it (in so many words, of course). Not for me also, because that would be creepy, but just in general.

But, um, EXCUSE YOU. A woman covering her hair doesn't do it for a MAN. I can't generalize, of course, but usually a woman who wears hijab does it for herself and her own empowerment. She chooses what she wants to reveal or cover and that in itself is empowerment. And that is where my uncle Mike has it wrong.

Now, my uncle Paul. He's kind of like a dad to me and taught me almost everything growing up: how to tie shoes, how to ride a bike, to rollerskate, ski, and to drive. He gave me punching lessons when my (now non violent) friend Jamie was being a bitch in camp when I was 10. So you get the idea. A dad. Cool. But he is also terribly sexist, and although I didn't want to believe my mom when she used to tell me, I've come to my own opinion that yes, he is a bit.

Tonight after dinner we had a small conversation that sparked this whole journal entry. Who knew my life was so blog worthy, eh? Me either. He came to my room and we were chatting about old actresses and he said that one of them "had a face like a truck". I responded with "No, all women are beautiful" and he said that "no, some are just ugly". He also made mention that if there were two Karen's in an interview and one of me was "pretty" and one was "ugly" then the pretty one would get the job. Firstly, that's impossible, and secondly, if there were two me's then I would both get the job because let's face it: I'm awesome. Also, maybe I could get a job based on, oh, I don't know, my merit instead of my looks?

I know that some people do focus on looks when hiring. For example, the modeling industry. Or acting. Both of these examples shouldn't, but they do. And while it is true that ageism and sexism are both prevalent in some offices, it doesn't mean that this is the case everywhere and it certianly doesn't mean it's right. I am also going to go into an industry where my looks are not a factor, nor should they ever be. I also plan on wearing a headscarf one day, so the people who inteview me have to be faced with my actions and my accomplishments instead of my hair, cleavage, or makeup. 

My uncle Paul also said that being taller also helps women get jobs. Well, I'm 4'11 so I guess that means I'm never going to be hired then. He said "well, you can just wear heels then." Oh, I can? Sure, lemme just pull my stilettos out of the closet to please you. A year ago, I would have worn heels. In fact, just last March I wore heels to my observation hours in an elementary school and let me tell you, it was a terrible, terrible mistake. This winter break I'm doing observations again and (OH DEAR LORD, WHAT A TRAVESTY!!) - I'm wearing jeans *le gasp*. Since dating my boyfriend, who is a lovely lovely person and very smart in many ways, he's convinced me that wearing heels is not a way to go. First off, they hurt. Secondly, they cause major leg, hip, and back problems. Third, they were invented by a man to make a woman look good. They are also very common for fetishes, but that doesn't go in to why I don't wear them.

I have realized, with some help, that I don't have to be a slave to the fashion industry and the media telling me that I'm not good enough, thin enough, pretty enough, or that I don't wear enough makeup. The fashion industry, who's top execs are men telling girls what to wear or not wear to make them look pretty. Look at who owns the top magazines - Vogue/Teen Vogue, 17, Cosmo, etc etc etc. Men. 

Okay, before you get any assumptions, let me assure you that I am not a man  hater. I really am not, despite what you might think because of my rant. I am simply stating that it is the opposite sex telling women what looks good while I personally think that women, if they had no previous disposition or had never read a fashion magazine in their life, would choose to be comfortable instead of trendy. It's not the general male population's fault that much of media outlets are owned by men. I'm not on a crusade to hate or destroy men or say that they are all women haters, because I know that is so untrue. Men and women both can be a victim of what society thinks about the opposite sex. I know I was like that, and it can be hard to get rid of. It can be done, though. 

It should be the woman's choice to wear what they want, to be pretty how they want, to feel sexy how they want. There shouldn't be any outside influence

Unfortunately, there is, and I feel so liberated now that I'm not a part of it anymore. Growing up, I used to watch America's Next Top Model, the Tyra show, etc, and no one ever told me that it's okay to look like how I look like. It's okay to show my natural hair color. It's okay to wear T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers and NO HEELS. No one ever told me that makeup isn't only bad for me and the environment, but that I shouldn't have to wear it to feel confident. No one ever made me feel secure in myself, is what I'm getting at. I am now, thanks to my boyfriend and a few others. Mostly, I accredit it to myself. I can thank Tony for introducing me to the concepts but I was the one who listened, and for that, THANKS ME :)

So no, Paul, there is not one woman or man who is ugly. There is only society's definitions of ugly, which I see you have fallen prey to. For that, I pity you. It must suck to be a slave to society. 

I don't need heels or to be taller to get a job, and neither does any other woman. I can get a job based off of who I am and what I've done.

All people are beautiful, and all shine with a light from within. God made you. He/She/It made you perfectly. It is what you do that makes you, not what you look like. I can dwell comfortably in that now, and I hope that you can or will as well.

-Karen
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