I used to hate being called a girl. ‘I am a woman, dammit. A girl is less than 16 years old.’ But now I like the term and use it regularly, hoping to reclaim it. Oh no, I am endorsing a 1990s consumer invention called girl power. Must repress painful memories of the Spice Girls. Shudder. Just in case any old men are reading this blog, you are still not allowed to call me or any other woman a girl. And if, god forbid, you are that type of presumptuous old guy who thinks that he has the right to talk to all women younger than him–at the gym, the supermarket, in line at Shopper’s Drugmart–making stupid jokes while always expecting a friendly response, I am here to say ‘stop that you wizened jackass because we owe you nothing.’ Furthermore, if you demand that I ‘smile’ I will cut you. But I digress.
I still hate being called a ‘good girl’ (isn’t that something you say to your dog or perhaps a sheep-herding pig?). Unfortunately, I have been called a good girl several times since undertaking Feminist Figure Girl. Looking hotter by leaning out, growing my hair, and wearing more make up is changing the way I am being treated. I am not actually better looking than I used to be. Instead I am now visibly conforming to the rules of femininity and being rewarded with improved, even preferential treatment. In her book Self-Made Man the lesbian journalist Norah Vincent describes what it felt like to wear a suit while passing as a man. She/he was treated with respect and good service wherever she/he went. Vincent then outlines the female suit, a costume consisting of large breasts, blonde hair, heavy make-up, and general thinness (ie. skinny-fatness). Any woman donning this suit will be considered desirable even if she is not at all good looking. I think that making the effort to be appropriately feminine and attractive to others is rewarded in itself. Women who clearly do not give a rat’s ass about their appearance will be punished for it in many subtle and not so subtle ways. Right now I am following the rules as much as I possibly can. I am trying to please you. I am a good girl.
Sometimes being a good girl is indeed pretty good. For example, on the way home from France my luggage was almost 15 pounds overweight, likely because of the flour and vergeoise sugar I had purchased to make creme brulee for my friends later. The airline man dressed in his little blue uniform told me that extra fees were now mandatory. Then he stared at my breasts inside their push-up bra and tight red tank top and declared ‘but you don’t have to pay!’ Hell yes, I thought to myself, flashing him a smile and batting my mascara incrusted lashes while vowing to remember the moment for later writing projects. Sexism can be great for women. That is one reason why it persists. And that is why some women conform so readily to the oppressive mandates of feminine demeanour and attire; it pays off, literally. I realize that I am stating the obvious, but Foucault lurks behind my understanding of the productive aspects of powerful regimes that should actually be demolished–or at least challenged and revealed…
I often wear tight low-cut tank tops at the gym. Or form fitting t-shirts emblazoned with ‘World Series of Poker 2010’ or some other man-pleasing topic. My slightly subversive favourite is a pink tank that I purchased online after watching the entire Buffy the Vampire series. I am about ten years behind the times but Buffy swag is still for sale so a loyal fan base must exist. This shirt features a female silhouette–you know, the kind you find on bathroom doors, where a non-descript figure wears an A-line skirt. This feminine signifier is, however, holding a pointy stick, likely ‘Mr Pointy,’ the stake Buffy used to kill pesky vampires. The Buffy reference is not noticed by many these days. People might think that I am an angry feminist (I sure used to be but now I am just really tired), or else understand it as a sign of girl power run amock. ‘I fucking love being a girl and now I am going to stab you!’ I kind of like that interpretation. I shouldn’t have worn it at the gym in France, though, for my explanations of ‘c’est la femme qui tue les vampires’ fell rather flat.
Here are the circumstances in which I have recently been labelled a good girl: while submitting to a medical procedure, and visibly losing weight. A good girl is cute, sweet, compliant, undemanding, and takes care of herself as well as others. Fuck that shit.