“not like other girls”

The other day Threadbared pointed me towards this excellent post over at Meg Clark’s Good Morning Midnight, which brought to mind some stuff I’ve been mulling over for a while. And by “a while,” I mean a seriously long-ass while. Like, since I was 13 and started involvement in Alternative(TM) subcultures.

Like me, Clark was a grumpy alternateen in a school system filled with what she and I would probably have termed “Aberzombies,” or suchlike, at the height of our teenage angst. Now a fashion blogger, she says that during those teen years she styled herself as “anti-fashion”: “I was so utterly convinced that I was fat and ugly and disgusting and so hopelessly excluded from the pretty people of the world that all I’d ever have were my brains and possibly the fact that I could be ‘interesting,’ so I might as well make a point of hating fashion. ” That was me in my teen years as well. From what she describes, even our wardrobes were pretty similar. (So glad I do not wear wide-legged pants anymore. They don’t look good on anyone, really, but especially not if you’re barely over 5 feet tall with wide-ish hips.)

Anyway, a thread (ha!) running through that post is Clark noting that “anti-fashion” is not necessarily as anti-fashion as it hopes to be, and that the disparagement of fashion fits in with the general disparagement of things typed as “feminine” (and therefore not worthy of serious consideration). I agreed wholeheartedly with her “anti-fashion is still fashion” contention. Both now and in my “blah blah I don’t care about fashion” teen years, I do pay attention to the aesthetics of my personal appearance, even if it doesn’t seem like it sometimes (biggest fashion influence: post-apocalyptic movies, particularly The Road Warrior and its villains). I was still crafting an appearance deliberately, to show off my participation in subcultures I cared about. If I was 15 I would have loudly argued with this claim, but ten years on I can acknowledge it and not feel bad.

And a “hell yeah” to Clark’s anger over the dismissal of “feminine” pursuits like fashion as being beneath serious consideration. I agree with her argument in both the particulars and the ways I think it applies in a more general sense. For instance: the reason I don’t read a whole lot of “radical feminist” (in the old-school sense of the term) blogs, besides some obvious and fundamental political disagreements, is the contempt I often see for other women who are unacceptably feminine. Women who work in the sex industry, women who adopt a traditionally femme appearance, women who enjoy certain sex acts: I’ve seen them either patronized (“oh, the poor exploited things”) or referred to as deluded “sexbots” and shit like that. Not by all writers in that category, but by enough that it really sticks in my craw. And it’s fucking sad.

I used to be one of those females who proudly asserted that I was “not like other girls.” I wasn’t swooning over Hanson. I never read teen magazines. I would never be caught watching any show on the WB. (I am totally dating myself here, but you’re just going to have to deal with that.) And it was only later that I realized that by making fun of and dismissing things I thought were “girly,” I was playing into the idea that “feminine” means stupid, bad, and weak. (Yes, I know that’s a very early-’90s riot grrrl kind of revelation, but unfortunately that shit is still relevant.)

I see it in heavy metal subculture as well. I’ve mentioned this before, but a while back I received a zine from someone who liked my writing and thought I might be interested in her one-shot about women in metal. It was a fun little read for the most part, but it bummed me out how she talked about other women – scorning the ladies in miniskirts and teased hair, asserting her seriousness by mentioning her shaved head/band t-shirt/boots ensemble. While I don’t think that being a woman in a male-dominated subculture necessarily means that you have to pal around with every other woman in that subculture, I’m not really OK with talking shit on other ladies just because they dress “trashy” or whateverthefuck. If I dislike someone, it’s going to be because of their personality, not the length of their dress or the height of their heels.

A while ago on the We Make Zines forum, a woman issued a call for a comp zine called “I’m Not Like Other Girls,” which was to be a compilation of sentences beginning with “I’m not like other girls because…” I was iffy about this premise to begin with, and my suspicions were confirmed when someone responded with “I’m not like other girls because I actually care about things that don’t involve me.” Setting yourself up as a special lady snowflake accomplishes a whole lot of fucked-up business: dismissing “girly girls” (because the stereotypically feminine is only worthy of your contempt, doncha know), implying that womankind is a monolith (and you’re the exception to the rule), attaching a whole bunch of shitty stereotypes to that monolith (why, those ladies! I am not like them because I don’t give two fucks about shoes! Blar har har). The poster of that statement went on to blather some vague apology about how some girls in her history class had said something stupid and she was in a bad mood, etc. All I could think was “and this is why we give things two seconds or more of thought before we put them on the internet.” Yes. I am a cranky little lady. DEAL.

PS – hey readers! I’m drunk right now. I mention this because I think it’s the most lucid drunk post I have written yet. I think this is because I have stuck to beer instead of hard liquor. (speaking of which: if you drink, you should try Twinings Lady Grey tea and bourbon. It’s sooo good!)

Also, this has nothing to do with anything but I’m going to mention it, just because I’m stoked about it: The last time I talked to my ubergenius guitarist pal Rob (he plays in this band and used to play in this band) he mentioned possibly hanging out and playing Motorhead songs. I love playing those songs because they are usually really easy and are (duh) super awesome. Maybe I will wear my aviator glasses and draw on a fake mustache for the occasion. Your opinion, readers?

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~ by Smellen on March 7, 2010.

5 Responses to ““not like other girls””

  1. HELL YES AND AMEN

  2. I know exactly what you mean.
    I am not yet out of my teens, but I still considered myself anti-fashion when I was 15, but I still loved all feminine things (I still have my Vogue photos-filled scrapbooks), which I never was able to share with any of my closest friends and still is a very much hidden part of myself. I love any ways of self-expression and fashion is just another way of expression. However, my group of friends always frowned upon being feminine and fashionable.
    I am proud to say that I got to the point where I am confident enough to be and do wear anything I wish to.
    I think that within today’s society’s structure, you can become bogged down with things that simply don’t matter.

  3. I was on the other end of the same spectrum: the more fancy and stylish I looked, the angrier the other boys got.

    Kudos to Earl Grey and bourbon!

    And yes, you must do Lemmy drag for any Motorhead playing.

  4. […] together” and says that “femininity is unenlightened, and also dumb.” I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again: when people denigrate the conventional trappings of […]

  5. […] Helen, “Not Like Other Girls“ […]

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