Alive & Full of Thoughts

Melissa - October - file000725420068I’ve never been gone this long. I know. If there’s anybody even still out there following me, you probably thought I died. Nope. Not dead. Just feeling terribly lazy, unmotivated to write, distracted by other things and before I knew it, it was October. It’s sad, but true.

I have been distracted but this time it’s been by good things. I’ve been doing a lot more crocheting and actually sold a bunch of my hats. I had a garage sale, which of course took a ridiculous amount of time & energy.  And ended up not being as profitable as I’d hoped. But at least I got rid of a boatload of stuff. If only that meant my house was cleaner & more organized.

I also got sucked into Tumblr. What a time-suck that is. I would spend hours there, doing absolutely nothing of consequence, just looking at GIFs of celebrities I love, fandoms I’m part of and other random crap. I found that spending too much time there isn’t really good for me. It really ignites my obsessive side and I find myself unable to think about anything but Mads Mikkelsen, Jason Isaacs, Alan Rickman & Tom Hiddleston. Which isn’t terribly conducive to functioning in everyday life.

I’ve also been trying to better manage my depression. It comes in fits & starts and I’m fine for a while and then I’ve overcome with feeling of worthlessness and uselessness. I find myself wondering, “why bother?” I find myself dwelling on all my most negative thoughts about myself. I got my medication increased after my most recent visit to my doctor and for the most part, it’s doing a pretty good job. At the very least, I’m finding myself able to delve into what I’m feeling and try to uncover some reasons why I’m feeling that way.

One thing I’ve come to realize is that some of what I feel about myself comes from outside myself. I know I’ve talked before about how the societal image of women is so skewed & harmful. Nearly every image we see, every show we watch, every example we’re given presents the idea that the worth of a woman lies primarily in whether men find her attractive. Is she hot? Is she cute? Is she beautiful? If not, the woman has zero worth in our society. It doesn’t matter if she’s intelligent, gifted, talented, creative, industrious, hardworking, brilliant, or funny or anything. All that matters is if she’s appealing to men. It’s pervasive and disgusting.

For example, on a podcast I listen to, one of the men was talking about TV shows he’s watching and how he was watching Hostages, but switched over to The Blacklist because “Toni Collette is NOT hot. She looks like a man.” It didn’t matter at all whether she did a good job portraying the character she was hired to play, all that mattered to him was that she isn’t attractive enough to hold his attention. In fact, he was revolted by the idea of her making out with Dylan McDermott because she was not in his league. Instead, he chose the Blacklist because the female lead is “super cute”.

Another example – during press tours & panels for The Avengers, over and over and over again the male stars were asked about their characters, their motivation, the relationships between characters – all sorts of occupation-appropriate questions that addressed their skill, their talent, their intelligence. Then Scarlett Johanssen would be asked something inane about how she fit into her form-fitting costume. Nothing about how she prepared to play Natasha or the interaction between her & Hawkeye or anything about her WORK. Just about her body, how hot she is and how well she fit into her clingy suit. If you watch the interviews, when she’s not actively calling the interviewer out on their double standard, the disgust and frustration on her face is palpable

And this happens with every actress out there. Jennifer Lawrence has decided to just say, “Diet?? I don’t. That’s stupid”. Anne Hathaway gets questions like “how did you get so skinny for Fantine??” which she answers with a snarky, “I was playing someone who was DYING. I was trying to look like I was DYING. I’m not going to talk about how I made my body look like it was DYING.”Others just roll their eyes as they field another question about not eating or their fitness regime or the size of their boobs. It’s repulsive. Really repulsive.

tumblr_muu2i3vr4n1qlugl0o1_500And this is what I’m angry about. This pervasive attitude (that WAY too many women just accept and try to live up to) has created a culture that is so dangerous to women. Starting with anorexia & bulimia, moving on to rape culture & violent assault.  Thousands of young girls grow up learning that being skinny, having big boobs and being hot is the ultimate goal. Even more women fight every day against the attitude that they are “less than” or “just a woman”. Women find themselves being afraid to do the things they love or just LIVING THEIR LIVES because of the fear that some man will see her as the object he’s been trained to see her as and assault her, rape her, demean her or commit some other violent act against her. I’m tired of hearing girls told “you shouldn’t have been there” or “she asked for it” when the fault lies with the person who commits the violent act. And I’m REALLY FREAKING TIRED of hearing/seeing guys respond to discussion of rape & rape culture with such pithy epithets as “she’s too ugly to be raped” or “you’ll know when it’s rape because I’ll be raping you” or any number or other “blame the victim” bullshit that’s out there. We don’t do this for any other crime. We don’t blame a mugging victim for a mugger’s actions. We don’t blame a gunshot victim for getting shot. We don’t blame a hit & run victim for “being in the wrong place”.

It’s just so pervasive. It’s everywhere. The big “song of the summer” is simply a catchy tune celebrating a woman’s inability say “no” to unwanted advances. Telling men that “no” means keep trying and women that no matter what they truly think & feel, they “really want it” and should just acquiesce to the guy who won’t get up off her. It’s all over the advertising that turns women’s bodies into objects – like beer bottles or cars or even cologne. (That last one is really, really offensive). Basically what all these (and HUNDREDS of ads like it) are teaching and reinforcing is that women are here for the pleasure of men. Women are of the same value as a bottle of beer or a car and that they are also a thing to be acquired. They don’t have feelings or worth beyond what a man needs. That women are simply boobs and butts and vaginas – and that these parts serve no other purpose than to attract men. And, of course, any woman who doesn’t look like this is not actually a woman.

I mean, I have much to recommend me. I create beautiful crochet items. I take photographs that edify and encourage young people in their endeavors as well as simply being beautiful. I create stunning and meaningful scrapbooks for my family. I have the ability to use the written word to express many, many ideas. I can sing quite amazingly. I can dance well – despite my size. Yes, I’m fat. I’m grey and beginning to noticeably droop. I am not young or firm or tight-skinned or sexy or fashionable or elegant or anything that society says would be attractive and womanly. But, despite this, I have WORTH. I am smart and striving to be smarter. I am quite funny. I am open to new ideas and even if I don’t agree with them, I’m able to respect them. I’m loyal. I’m supportive. You know what? I have worth BECAUSE of these things, not despite the things I don’t.

Honestly, I don’t know why we tolerate this. Why we don’t stand up and DEMAND to be recognized as intelligent beings whose worth does not hinge upon our looks. I know it’s hard. It’s difficult to stand up and say, “who cares if she’s hot – is she competent?” or “you know, it’s really degrading when you say that someone’s hotness or lack thereof is a dealbreaker”. Standing up to people who dismiss a woman who’s strong, powerful & intelligent as a “bitch”. Standing up to someone who sees a woman who wins a Nobel award or develops something important or creates beautiful art or tries to make a difference in the world and comments solely on their appearance. Our worth as women is not dependent on body size or shape, hair length, cup size, lip fullness, stomach flatness, thigh gap status or whether or not we can arouse a man. It’s who we ARE. It’s what we DO. It’s what we BELIEVE. It’s our hearts, our minds, our hands, our gifts. I hope this happens someday. That someday intelligent, gifted, talented, creative, industrious, hardworking, brilliant, & funny women will rise to the status they deserve. That WE deserve. Because we are only objects if we let ourselves be.

And for those of us who are mothers of sons I say this: TEACH THEM. Teach them to respect women as people, not objects. Encourage them to admire smart girls, funny girls, ambitious girls, caring girls, girls who create. Teach them that no means no – every. single. time. In fact, teach them that anything other than “yes” means no. Teach them that nothing a girl does makes it okay to have sex with her without consent. Teach them that a woman’s worth is far more than how she looks. Teach your boys to become men who are respectful of women. Always.