Rather than fighting for every woman’s right to feel beautiful, I would like to see the return of a kind of feminism that tells women and girls everywhere that maybe it’s all right not to be pretty and perfectly well behaved. That maybe women who are plain, or large, or old, or differently abled, or who simply don’t give a damn what they look like because they’re too busy saving the world or rearranging their sock drawer, have as much right to take up space as anyone else.
I think if we want to take care of the next generation of girls we should reassure them that power, strength and character are more important than beauty and always will be, and that even if they aren’t thin and pretty, they are still worthy of respect. That feeling is the birthright of men everywhere. It’s about time we claimed it for ourselves.
God we fuck up teenagers’ heads. We tell them that biological conditions are moral punishments and then we get all shocked when they don’t practice rational risk management of biological conditions. We teach them “sex is super desirable and all the cool kids do it, and it’s hideously shameful and will destroy your life” and we wonder why they act an eensy bit neurotic about it. If you tried to design a system for making sexually active kids confused and unsafe, you couldn’t do much better than the American media and school system.
And for once, the answer is relatively simple. Just talk about sex like it’s a part of life. Some people have sex and some people don’t, because people are different. STIs aren’t bad because they’re Dirty Crotch Rot; they’re bad because they’re contagious illnesses like strep throat or whooping cough, and you can ask a doctor to check for and treat them just like you would with strep throat. Unwanted pregnancy isn’t a scarlet A; it’s a mostly-preventable accident that sometimes occurs when people are going about their normal business of having sex. You can ask the school counselor about a variety of topics, including career planning, problems at home, questions about sex, or conflicts with teachers.
If we could just get the goddamn stick out of our collective ass and accept that sex is a human activity and teenagers are humans, maybe there wouldn’t be quite so many plaintive “I don’t understand my body and I’m confused and scared and I don’t know anyone I can ask in person” messages flying out into the world.
The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.
Letters received by Ellen Goodman (1993), in response to President Clinton’s efforts to end discrimination against gays in the military, suggest men are frightened by the kinds of violence to which they themselves subject women on a daily basis. Approximately nine out of ten letters received by Goodman were written by men. The male writers sounded panicstricken that they would have to take showers and sleep in barracks with homosexual men (as though military men haven’t always done this). Very clearly, the men didn’t want other men looking at them the way they – men – look at women! Nor did they want other men treating them the way they treat women. Goodman notes, “The fascinating thing to this – female – reader was that nearly all the letter writers shared the same perspective: that of straight men worrying about being victims of sexual assault, harassment, lusting, or just plain ogling. This garden variety of homophobia – fear of homosexuals – was fear of becoming the object of unwanted sexual attention.