Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 8
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

editorial: On womanhood

I have a hard time writing about women.

“Feminism” always makes me uncomfortable. What is “feminism”? If I am going to be a feminist, do I have to refrain from shaving my legs? Do I have to like to say “vagina”? Do I have to stop reading Cosmopolitan in favor of Bitch Magazine?

Even the word “woman” gets under my skin. What is the difference between a “woman,” a “lady,” a “chick,” a “babe”? Would I be wrong to refer to myself and other women as one of the latter two terms?

But two months after Women’s History Month and two weeks after the “Vagina Monologues,” I have written about racism, classism, vegetarianism and Livejournalism, carefully skirting femin-ism all the while. The time has come.

I’m a loud-mouthed person. Offensiveness is just an inherent quality of my speech patterns. Last month, after reading a T. S. Eliot poem for a literature class I announced during discussion that “Eliot makes me come.” I sincerely can’t help it: these things just slip out. That’s why I want to be a print journalist instead of a television pundit.

As a result of my unbridled vernacular, I hear a lot of this: “You’re not really a girl at all, are you? You’ve got enormous balls hiding under your skirt.”
Actually, no, I don’t.

Then there’s the incident last week of one of my housemates belching loudly in the kitchen (as is her common practice), followed by another (female) housemate looking at her and saying, “You’re kind of a man, aren’t you?”
I’m not really sure what makes someone a man. I mean, the obvious testosterone thing is there, I guess, but “man” and “woman” seem like awfully small boxes to fit inside, even today.

Gender definitions are long overdue for a serious change.

According to an article by doctor Susan Ghosh, “Gender identity is defined as a personal conception of oneself as male or female .… It is intimately related to the idea of gender role, which is defined as the outward manifestations of personality that reflect the gender identity.”

Personal conception. So if I see myself as a woman (or a man), then that’s what makes me one (or both). I am a loud-mouthed, rude and crass woman. I’m not tucking any testicles that I’m aware of.

But here’s the thing: I’m not that strong.

I’m not strong enough to speak on behalf of women everywhere when someone tells me I’m “ballsy”; I can’t stop caring about how I appear to everyone else around me.

Last semester I lived in Chicago with two dichotomous depictions of “woman”: Janie (not her real name) was a full-figured woman with a shaved head and unshaven legs; Amy (also not her real name) got Brazilian waxes and wore an inch of make-up. These are both acceptable versions of woman, despite their physical and personal differences.

I was closer, though, with Amy. And Amy liked to say, “Okay, Janie’s legs are so disgusting and gross. If she’s going to make that choice, she at least needs to do the world a favor and wear long pants.”

To which I typically would say something like, “Yeah. And she should lose some weight.”

That’s something I’d like to take back.

The only excuse is that everyone in my life up to that point told me to act that way. In middle school, I was five-foot-four and I weighed 220 pounds. This was clearly unacceptable. I was taken to nutritionists and doctors, read every day at lunch because I was dismissed as repulsive by even the most socially low cliques and was even told by my grandmother that I was “an embarrassment to the family” and she would “have to get me on Weight-Watchers.”
Granted, it’s physically unhealthy to be 220 pounds in middle school.

Unhealthier, though, was that the emphasis was not on how bad it was for my body to hold all that weight; instead everyone focused on how it looked to the rest of the world.

There are eating disorder stories here; there are bad relationships, too. Everyone has stories like those, so I won’t bore you with mine.

What’s pathetic is that we women continue to treat each other in ways that make us hate ourselves.

I don’t think that I’m a “feminist.” Or maybe I am. Regardless, I am a woman. I am a slightly-chubby, overly-enthusiastic, vulgar, unreasonable woman. And fuck you if you tell me otherwise.

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