Part One of Four (yes, I’m serious.)
Well, what a night this was. One that dredged up all sorts of psycho-emotional sludge I try to pretend no longer exists… stuff that, at age forty, I should be beyond, I guess. And so what started as a pleasurable outing with several ladies of the ‘burg, our conversations meandering innocently enough, turned quickly and unexpectedly to doubt about my ability to “successfully raise” two children, anger and shock, dismay at my evolution as a human being, and sadness that as a woman, maybe I haven’t “come a long way, baby,” and really, I have no one to blame but myself. As I work through my notes about the Women In Focus social at the Artful Dodger and the documentary Miss Representation hosted by Court Square Theater, I see they reveal a disappointing truth. Warning: this is the first ever potentially offensive ilovemyburg.com post, lol. And, the views expressed in this post are solely mine… unless you agree with me, which would reeaally make me less nervous right about now.
Women In Focus was a celebration of women’s stories hosted by the Court Square Theater, featuring presentations of Miss Representation, a documentary about women and the media; North Country, a film starring Charlize Theron as a mine worker; and The Vagina Monologues. The series kicked off with a social at the Artful Dodger. Lots of ladies, and men who love and admire them, attended – including several strong female members of our community, like Sara Christensen, owner of The Lady Jane, Lara Mack (she’s back!), Alice Wheeler, Ashley Hunter, Laurie Benade, Suzi Carter, and several others.
Brandy, Sara, and I got on the topic of Condoleezza Rice, and how some magazine called her a dominatrix because of her outfit – forget the fact that this highly educated woman was at one time the US Secretary of State and that she could smoke your butt on Jeopardy. Somehow her outfit that day smacked of sexual power (not intellectual or political power)… even though she was not at all dressed in a manner one might call “provocative.” Then we talked about what THAT means – dressing in a provocative or promiscuous way… and then the question was posed: can a man dress promiscuously?
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What would that look like? Low-slung pants? Tight pants? No pants? No shirt? And would a man look at another man’s outfit and say, “Look at that slut!”? Then again, when did “we” (whoever that is) decide that any type of attire is bad or inappropriate? I know I am uncomfortable showing a lot of skin, but I don’t know WHY I am. Gosh, this is confusing. But somehow, in terms of women’s fashion, most people equate conservative dress with frigidity/prudishness, and revealing dress with promiscuity/porn stardom.
This led to a discussion of Beyoncé’s Super Bowl halftime show. My kids and I watched the Superbowl. My daughter watched the game with great interest, and when Beyoncé performed at halftime, she made no mention of Beyoncé’s outfit, but rather remarked about the TV screen dance floor and “cool special effects.” My son, who for the entire first half of the game ran in circles around the family room, wearing a cape and underpants and wildly waving a foam sword, had a different reaction. He sat down and watched her performance, every second of it, mouth open, eyes fixed on the TV. He dreamily said, “Mom, she’s shaking her body” and “Why is she only wearing her underwear? Isn’t she cold?” Now, these are children, and I didn’t coach either of their responses –these were their natural reactions to Beyoncé’s show. Interesting. And I really don’t know what conclusions can be drawn from it. My son seems to admire the female form.
My daughter complimented her singing and did notice that Beyoncé’s entire band was female. But neither of them criticized her. What were the adult viewers thinking? Did the men ignore her talent and dedication and only see her thighs? Did the women also ignore those things and secretly hate her thighs? Geez. Now I sound like some kind of feminist. Or chauvinist. Or alarmist. Or extremist. Or maybe just a polite receptionist. I don’t even know.
Later, as the effects of this evening sank in, I wondered… should I have told my six-year-old son not to have stared at Beyoncé? Would that have shone a light on something beyond the scope of his kindergarten mind? Am I a bad mom for letting him – or both kids – see it? By doing so, have I created in my daughter a self-destructive habit of comparing herself to others? Egads. Beyoncé is a beautiful woman – yes – she’s also talented and successful, whether you like her music or don’t. Can we praise her and condemn her in the same breath?
And so I think about what I want to impart to my children. My kids see what many people don’t see – they see me in the morning, with my pale face and crow’s feet, my rumpled, frizzy hair, no makeup, frumpy bathrobe – they see me in the raw. But they also see me prepare to leave the house, in full hair and makeup and appropriate under- and outer garments. Am I silently teaching them something I don’t want to – that I am ashamed to leave the house without my mask?
As I reread this post now, I see how confused I am. Or was on that night. Or still am, because I’m not done thinking about it. I even noticed the “lol” I typed earlier, like I’m apologizing for having an opinion someone might disagree with. If I were a man, would I have typed that “lol” ?
A thousand words, and I haven’t even GOTTEN to the documentary yet. Also, the word “Beyoncé” starts to sound weird when you’ve read it/written it 27 times. Okay, I’m taking a break to watch something with Will Ferrell in it. I’ll be back with more heavy stuff soon. Stay tuned for part two.
PS–a big thank you to Court Square Theater for bringing these issues to the forefront, as uncomfortable as they might be sometimes. And to the Artful Dodger for letting us hang out.
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