Apr 23, 2017

The One Where 2017!Kara Catches Up with 2008!Kara

I was looking through old blog posts and found this one that I wrote in 2008. There's even a small reference to the '08 primary.

Life has changed for me in the 9 years since I wrote this. I've gone through multiple jobs. I upgraded from a used Chevy Cavalier to a used Honda Civic. I bought a house. The boyfriend I mentioned here -- later, my fiance -- is out of my life, having gone from dead-to-me to being quite literally dead. And yet the external circumstances that led to this essay still remain.

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I floated through much of my life unaware that my having a vagina put me at a disadvantage in the world. I'm not even sure if I knew that my gender was considered by anyone until a few years ago when I started dating my boyfriend and his combat-boot-wearing sister expressed dismay at his dating such a "girly girl". And even then I shook it off as an insult by someone hell-bent on hating me.

That being said, I was still insulted. I wasn't a "girly girl". I grew up in an all-male household where I was taught to love computer games and Roger Corman horror flicks - I even watched sci-fi, dammit! Sure I caked on the makeup and lined my eyes with a charcoal black eyeliner, but I didn't even wear skirts and not one item of pink could be found in my wardrobe. It was all blue jeans and black skirts for this gender-neutral girl. Fuck that bitch for thinking otherwise.

And fuck me for being just like her and thinking there was something wrong with being feminine.

I've always tried to be as masculine as possible because I thought there was something wrong with being a woman. I knew that sexism existed but didn't think it applied to me. I thought that if I could throw away all of the things associated with being womanly - the cooking, the cleaning, the pink, and the skirts - and adopt male-oriented hobbies, I would be viewed as an equal.

But I'm still not viewed as an equal. My encyclopedic knowledge of the Star Wars universe doesn't make me one of the guys. At most, it makes me "pretty cool for a chick."

My workplace is a boys' club. Every day at noon, my male boss takes my male co-workers out to lunch. No girls allowed. The rule is written in the atmosphere. When a new guy is hired, he's invited to this lunch on his first day; no woman has ever been invited. The same is true of their smoking club, which they've dubbed the Fresh Air Club. During my first week of employment, an unknowing male invited me, a chronic chain-smoker, to join this exclusive club. After a week of awkward smoke break silences, another guy pulled me aside and said, "Don't take this the wrong way - I mean, you're a really cool girl and all - but we've discussed it, and you can't be a part of the club anymore because we can't talk about 'guy stuff' around you. We wouldn't want to offend you."

But in that statement, he managed to fart out the one thing that was offensive to me.

I was offended in a way that was much different than how I was offended when my boyfriend's sister called me a girly-girl. This time, I wasn't offended because I'd failed in my quest to become genderless, I was offended because someone had discounted me on the basis of my gender. I'm not worthy of talking to at lunch or on a smoke break just because I have two X chromosomes. If I had an X and a Y chromosome, my personality would be acceptable.

It's akin to how two presidential candidates can run on nearly identical platforms, yet the one with less experience gets the nod because he fits the XY qualification. The XX candidate can put on a pantsuit and pick up a rifle, but she's still a woman with a gun. The macho guys will be threatened by her power, the girly-girls will laugh at the color of her pantsuit, and the hardcore feminists will say that she's wearing too much eyeliner.

Many feminists have been going about this the wrong way. It's fine to wear combat boots, watch sci-fi, and shoot a gun if that's the kind of gal you are, but doing it just because you think it will make men see you as equal isn't going to work. And telling other women that they can't curl their hair, bake cookies, or watch soap operas because such things are "girly" makes you an asshole. When a woman derides another woman for being too feminine, she's only feeding the belief that feminine is bad.

Feminism should be about choice. It should be about women being able to choose their own paths in life instead of being forced onto a path by an external force by anyone - and that includes men and women. And, yes, that choice even extends to the woman who wants to stay at home with her kids.

Take a moment to bitch about the woman who uses her kids as an excuse to make you do her work - letting off steam is healthy - but try to be more forgiving of the woman in the cubicle next to you whose only fault is wearing passion pink lipstick. She's not the reason your male boss hasn't given you a promotion in two years.

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