Lena Dahlstrom posted a video on the mHB message boards made by the Feminist Majority Foundation called “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” and the women in it reminded me, once again, that I don’t feel femme-y enough in either style or presentation and reminded me as well that I’m offended by this PR campaign to convince people that feminists aren’t awful, ugly, fat, hairy women. So when another partner commented about being the resident “big hairy dyke” I thought, “me too.”
I’m aware that others see me as smaller than I see myself, or at least tell me they do, and of course I wax or hide most of my hairiness. Most people wouldn’t think of me as a dyke but I have for a while now, even if I’m still cautious about adopting a lesbian identity out of respect for those who are lesbian-identified and who might see me as something of an interloper. But dyke is an identity I’ve become comfortable with since I think it suits me (no pun intended) & in a lot of ways frees me. (I use ‘het dyke’, too, when it seems right.)
You all know the joke about what women would be like in a world without men, right?
Answer: Fat, hairy, and happy.
Toward the end of my trans lives class, I asked my students Julia Serano’s question: “Would you transition if someone gave you $10 million to do it?” and they, as Serano predicts, shook their heads no. But I think I would. I can joke that it’d mostly be out of a desire to write – $10 million would buy a lot of time – and out of laziness (see joke above) – but I still have this sense of having to “construct” myself as a woman all the time, of having to construct something socially acceptable, someone who worries about & watches her weight, who remembers to re-apply makeup, wears a variety of clothes that suit her, who gets her hair cut regularly and occasionally wears it down & styled, and frankly, it tires me. Mostly I want to roll out of bed to teach, leave school to write, go out to dinner without worrying about what others think about what I order, and have people measure me by my smarts and my skill and my grumpy-but-kind personality rather than by my looks.
In a way this may seem like my usual tirade, but it’s not.
Because I want to hear from others about how they construct their “woman” and how much effort it takes. I don’t mean how much time it takes you to get ready. I’m talking about all of it – how much time you spend thinking about how tall you are, or fat; I want to hear about what things you do that people deem unladylike – like laughing too loud, or smoking, or not smiling enough. I want to hear about the ways you construct your womanness that make you thinner, more petite, more gracious, more delicate, more – small. I want to hear about how you try to take up less space than you might in order to be socially acceptable as a woman.
One of the things I’ve been suspect of about that video – and about femininity in women in particular – is how much *time* it takes. Maybe for others it’s more organic. Maybe others have worked out a routine of doing their hair and shaving their legs in the shower. You know, maybe she’s born with it (but my guess is maybe it’s Maybelline). But mostly I feel like I’m busy, and it’s only when I have to walk out the door to meet someone new – or to meet up with someone who hasn’t seen me in a while – when I think, “goddamn have I become a slob.”
And I have. I still long to have a closet full of the same suit and a few shirts and three pairs of the same black shoes like Brundle in The Fly. It just strikes me that while masculinity is constructed in other types of ways, that you can still be a slob and be an okay guy. But women who are slobs – or who are overeaters, or don’t like make up, or fashion – are still quite suspect if they don’t construct themselves in some way or form.
So, you? How long does it take you to construct your woman?