Part of Katherine’s care package yesterday was a picture of a lady in a yellow dress. Two years ago, after first learning about feminism, I wrote a ranty blog about wearing yellow dresses. I have no idea how Katherine remembered that post, but I thought it would be fun to dig it up and put it here. I’ve grown up so much. My writing, thoughts, and self have all matured… but reading this made me want to give Past Lydia a hug. I was so enthusiastic, just beginning to really think about the way our society functions. I also swore, a lot. Anyway, this is pretty long (and I cut a lot of it out!) but I really do hope you always wear your yellow dresses.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Back in July, when I only bothered stopping in here a handful of times, I complained about having to construct a weird and mysterious Final Project for my Women’s Studies class. I was skeptical of this project, because it entailed building a diorama to represent how much I had CHANGED over the course of the semester, and the shortened summer term crammed that entire semester into four weeks. Four weeks?! You don’t CHANGE in four weeks! Turns out you do. Or, I do. Or, I did. At any rate, the final project was a smash success in terms of learning about myself and thinking about the principles I value in my life, the way I want to experience the world, and how I am choosing to live my life. In short: it was enlightening.
I wish Women’s Studies classes were required for college graduation. I know that it would be ill-received by many, but the course was almost indescribably amazing. It’s so easy to write off women’s issues. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people argue against feminism–that single term is like a hot-button instant turn-off for so many people. I can even admit to being ignorant of modern women’s issues. I was definitely one of those people who didn’t understand the purpose of feminism in the modern world — Hey, we got the vote! What ELSE do you want?! I’m a little embarrassed of the short period of time I held onto this belief, but, at the same time, my childhood was the epitome of old-school patriarchy. We can discuss the fucked-up details of my adolescence some other time, but if I had been a more free-thinking child I probably would have processed what was happening, in terms of parental power relations and violent situations — and deduced that women’s equality is a total myth. As it is, I was not a very ‘observe and process’ sort of child.
I took a Feminist Philosophies class last semester and was already familiar with the academic aspect, the complexities of feminist theory. I wasn’t expecting to take all that much from this introductory course, but it’s required for my minor. Practical application, as it turns out, is a hell of a lot more interesting than paper theories, which are pretty cool themselves. Gender dichotomies exist everywhere in our society. Our laws are set up to disadvantage women, to place us in a subordinate position. If this sounds terribly dramatic, it’s because it is. If you’ve been raped, or are trying to escape domestic violence, good luck. And if you aren’t white? Don’t even bother. Seriously. I thought we had moved past such ridiculous racism and sexism…? Uh, no, actually. I could go on, I should go on, and give you lots of examples, show you some of the laws that hurt instead of help, etc. I’m not going to do that right now, however, because talk about your hopeless situation. Honestly, if you ever want to pack it in and quit life, take a look at the realities of the world we live in. And that’s just the LEGAL side, we haven’t even talked about social constructs yet. Take a look at Killing Us Softly (youtube it or something) if you’re at all interested. It will blow your mind. In a bad way, but also a good way.
The “it’s so bad, but it’s also good” conundrum stumped me all semester. All four weeks, of the semester anyway. Being so immersed in this subject for several hours a day for a solid four weeks left me feeling intensely depressed. Honestly, we live in a rather hopeless oppression. It’s made even more hopeless by the folks (past me included…cringe. At least I can admit it.) who think feminism is pointless, a desperate cry for attention. (It’s not. PS.) Acknowledging the ways in which women continue to be placed in a subordinate position, and, hold your hats, this is radical and shocking; acknowledging that our patriarchal world is hurting men just as much as women, is so so important. The “men suffer, too” line of thinking is hard for a lot of women (and probably men) to digest. I know I’d like to make a full dollar like men make instead of the 82 cents I make as a woman, in this state. The national average of the gender pay disparity is approximately 76 cents for every male dollar. Does that piss you off, ladies? It should. We do the same work and make less, while often having to pay for more. Like children. That’s another story. But men, for all the advantages they are given, still suffer in this society. Men have to pretend they don’t have emotions. Everyone has emotions. Emotions don’t care if you have a penis. But in our society, if you have one of those you can’t FEEL things, too. One or the other, people! That’s why after a break-up or other traumatic event, men tend to resort to the “stick my dick in every possible thing” line of recovery, because that’s the best way to reassert their manliness. Awesome.
Being a woman in a patriarchal world is hard, and often feels hopeless. I don’t like the way I’m supposed to throw up my food and act stupid. But I also don’t like the way men are supposed to pay for those same meals I’m supposed to be vomiting up afterward. I don’t like that men are supposed to be gym-rat-auto-bots. SERIOUSLY. Do those sound like fun people?! The Amazing Adventures of Throw-Up Woman and Stoic Man!
My final project kind of turned out to be, well, completely epic. Humility? Say what? No, I’m totally going to gloat. It was awesome. I went to the dollar store in search of some barbie dolls. The only sort of barbie you could get at the dollar store is the skinny, blonde, white sort. So, if you want to open up a whole new set of issues, let’s talk about race in our society. I mean, say you’re a kid and you want your doll to, you know, look like you. If you aren’t skinny, blonde and white, you’re sure out of luck. I bought a “Summer Fun!” (stick thin, blonde, white) doll and then ventured to another store to find a more normal barbie. I had to pay THREE TIMES as much for a doll that didn’t have stick legs. (I realize this is still only $3, but you know, whatever.) Incidentally, craft store curvy barbie comes in black AND white, so that’s an improvement, but still sucks if you’re any other shade of person.
I took the $1 Adhered to Societal Expectations barbie, tossed her clothes and sharpied all over her. I wrote societal expectations of women on her body, for instance, her breasts now say “Push these up.” Her thighs highlight the strangest expectation we’re supposed to adhere to, one says “Virgin” the other says “Slut”. Why, why are we supposed to be both? At the same time? I wrapped a box in wedding paper, wrote a billion more expectations, such as “get married” and “take the man’s name” on the box, and then I stuffed her in it. Yes, I put her in a literal box. What? We’re all being put in one. I took craft store barbie, and cut her hair–because I can be a woman and have short hair, thanks much. Then, I made her a yellow dress.
This yellow dress was really the only thing I meant to talk about when I sat down to write this blog, but uh, I tend to digress. There is a bit of significance to the yellow dress. Childhood story time! One Halloween, ages and ages ago, Momster asked Little Lydia what she’d like to dress up as. In this class, I learned LOTS about the craziness that is Disney, but look, I was young and impressionable and we’ve already asserted that I wasn’t very good at thinking critically. So OF COURSE, who did I want to be? Belle. From Beauty and the Beast. I was expecting Momster to cheerfully set about sewing me that ball gown, which I thought was THE COOLEST dress ever. But what did Momster actually do? She told me I could not be Belle because yellow is not my color, yellow in fact, is a color I should never wear if I want to be pretty. She dressed me up as Mickey Mouse that year.
I gave my Real Size $3 barbie a yellow dress, because you know what? Fuck it. I don’t care if yellow isn’t my color. If I want to wear a yellow dress, I’m going to damn well wear a yellow dress. And that is exactly what I did today. One of the ladies from Women’s Studies is also in my Modern Women Writers class. Though it’s been three weeks since our final presentations, she looked at me with a proud sort of smile and said, “You’re wearing a yellow dress!” And so I am.
I hope you always wear your yellow dresses.