I had an exchange with someone this morning after I heard him complaining about the lady who had made him pasta for lunch. Please bear in mind, this is an adult male, forty-plus if he's a day.
"She's a real Italian," he said, "got a moustache and hairy armpits and hairy legs... disgusting."
At which point, I piped up and said that I have hairy armpits and hairy legs - so what? And then I explained that it's cold out still (oh, BC how I love thee), I'm covered up, so why am I going to care about something no-one can see when it takes an extra ten minutes in the shower and I could be doing useful things in those ten minutes like making a lunch or whatnot?
His response was that I disgusted him. That it's gross. That sure, I can do what I want to, but it's revolting.
I chose not to answer aloud. This is my answer.
I don't shave my legs or my armpits when I don't have to, but I don't know a single man who shaves his legs if he's going to be wearing shorts, or going swimming. There is no earthly reason why I am therefore more disgusting than my imaginary example man. I shower regularly, I wear clean clothes. I am not gross.
So why am I disgusting if I choose, for practicality, to abstain from an optional step in the hygiene procedure? And why is a man who chooses not to shave his face (oh, another optional step!) not equally disgusting?
Is it perhaps, then, that I am disgusting to you because you feel that I should conform to your ideals of what a woman should be like? Well, let me go back to an earlier post to remind you that no-one should come from a cookie-cutter. Just as we're different sizes, we're different people. My sister wants to be a homemaker, and doesn't want a career. I am not my sister. I'm actively pursuing a career. Neither opinion is wrong, even though they're nearly polar opposites, and I have to say, I don't always understand my sister's opinion, but I can allow for a difference. In the same way, just because you have a certain idea of what womanhood and femininity should be, doesn't mean you get to invalidate my understanding of what womanhood and femininity are for me.
Actually, if you think about it, men should have less opportunity to criticise these things, because they are not women. Let's put it in very ridiculous terms, overstating the concept for clarity.
Take, for example, an orange and a fish.
The orange could say to the fish, "You are not swimming properly. Don't they teach you these things in school?"*
Or the fish could say to the orange, "You're not juicy enough. Try harder."
Neither of these things make sense, because the orange is not the fish, and therefore cannot determine between proper swimming and useless flapping about in the water; but neither is the fish the orange, and therefore cannot see what difficulty it would be to change its very nature and makeup.
I use the analogy both ways, because women equally ought not to tell a man what manhood and masculinity are made up of, but the issue under scrutiny right now is chiefly men specifying womanhood and femininity. Because to be honest with you, I see the latter much more than the former.
And one of the things that really tweaks me the wrong way is the act of womanhood being defined on my behalf. I am a woman and therefore I have womanhood; I am a female and therefore I am feminine. My understanding of that cannot be thrown out as being outlying data. Doing so would negate the fact that I have a gender, whether or not my femininity is different from your perception of what it ought to be. And this holds true for every other woman you will ever meet, even if we all approach womanhood from our own angles and viewpoints, it's still womanhood because we are women. So even though my sister and I are very different in what we want from life, I cannot say she's more or less feminine than I, or that she's more or less of a woman than I.
Anyway. Wasn't intending to make this a full-on rant, but it sort of turned into one. My apologies. And semi-congratulations, if you read the whole thing. I won't judge if you didn't, though. Also, I didn't realise I was this emphatic of a feminist. Heh.
Oh, and for the non-redditors, yesterday's post title beginning with TL;DR - it's shorthand for Too Long; Didn't Read. You're welcome.
*pun very much fully intended.