In our first week, several of us here at The Pursuit of Harpyness posted a number of things indicting popular areas of supposedly feminine interest which we find problematic from a feminist viewpoint, namely: expensive handbags, high heels, and cosmetics. Although I am no Kreskin, I expect that we’ll continue to discuss similar issues from time to time.
Some good discussion has ensued, and for that I am/we are grateful, but I’ve also have seen a lot of defensiveness and qualification about these items. Your heels aren’t that high. Your bag was really a quality piece and totally worth what you spent. You, as a professional, have to present a certain, cosmetically-enhanced image. You don’t feel oppressed by these things; in fact, you enjoy them!
Every one is entitled to her own opinion, and a holding an opinion different from another’s does not infringe on anyone’s rights or lessen anyone’s choices. Arguing about who’s opinion is “correct” is a waste of energy, anyway. Humans have the unique ability to justify anything they care to. But I’m not in this to justify my own behavior, or merely provide a forum for others to justify their own. We’ll all do it anyway, to some extent. What I want is to dig deeper, think harder, and, well, “pursue my harpyness.” I’m not there, yet. I’ve yet to meet anyone who is.
Our FAQs state that we welcome comments which follow certain guidelines, but that comments like “But I [x], and I’m a good person!” are unhelpful, and in fact antithetical to what The Pursuit of Harpyness is about. Whether (or not) you wear make-up, heels, or carry a fancy purse has no bearing on your value as a person, a woman, or a feminist. There is no contest for Feminist-er than Thou, and in fact, infighting about minutiae does the movement little service.
In my post, I copped to using make-up because 1) it’s true, and 2) I wanted to make it clear that I really don’t think myself “better” (or, for that matter “worse”) than other women. I have insecurities about my appearance. No-newsflash at 11. I didn’t itemize what I use or belabor the point because 1) again: IT’S NOT A CONTEST and 2) I didn’t want the comments to turn into a place to swap make-up tips. There are plenty of places to do that already. It’s not about drawing a line about what heel-height is okay, or how many/which products you use, or which handbags are worth the expenditure. Discussing these nuances is emphatically not the point.
The point is that whatever we do (or not), we do (or not) for a reason. I am interested in interrogating the reasons I (and other women) do things that I know are damaging to my body, my mind, my sense of self. Using cosmetics is one of those things. There is nothing inherently feminist (or anti-feminist) about cosmetics, shoes, bags, or any thing else, in and of themselves. These things derive their meanings from their contexts, and unless you arrived at our blog through a wormhole into another dimension, the context you live in is Patriarchy.
As women, we do what they must to make their individual lives better, happier, and more successful within those confines. That might mean taking part in, even choosing and/or learning to enjoy, things that are based in their fundamental oppression. If you “do it for [your]self,” or aren’t interested in men’s attention, or you know-all-this-already-and-like-it-anyway, well, bully for you. YOU ARE NOT EXEMPT FROM THE PATRIARCHY AND THE MESSAGES IT SENDS TO EVERY WOMAN ABOUT HER PLACE IN THE WORLD.
You can choose to embrace or reject the trappings of femininity as they are defined in/by the Patriarchy, and you can even choose to “reclaim,” “subvert” or “deny” them in some fashion, but you cannot choose to be outside of the Patriarchy. There is no Outside. To believe otherwise is solipsistic, or mere vanity.
If you’re defensive about your use or embrace of these things (which I maintain are meant largely to distract and/or control you), I’d like for you to think about why. I welcome you to comment, thoughtfully, about why you’re defensive. About what that means. I do not, however, welcome your unqualified defense, as I have yet to read any such statement that doesn’t aim to shut down critique, and hence, thinking.
I don’t expect–or even particularly want–you to agree with me. If I didn’t want feedback, challenges, and discussion, I wouldn’t share my thoughts. I’m not perfect; I’m not particularly interested in being perfect. I am interested in lining up my actions with my philosophies, and I am interested in taking part in a discussion with intelligent, self-aware women about how they negotiate their own way down that precarious path.