About a week and a half ago, The Huffington Post featured a post in its culture section by Peg Aloi entitled “Tough Gals: Do They Still Exist?” This article was pointed out to me last night by one of my friends. Where was I on August 11th? How did this particular article escape me for 9 days? I know I worked that day, and I’m guessing I had rehearsal that night, because that’s pretty much been my life for the past month or so. I do remember seeing mentions on Twitter over the past week, women saying that they were cupcake-baking, knitting, kick-ass women, but I didn’t know it related to anything in particular. I just thought they were giving their own personal credo, or something. And they are kick-ass women, so I approved of that message.
Although I’d like to not give Ms. Aloi any additional traffic, I do encourage you to click above and read the article. If you’d rather not, for one reason or another, here’s a brief summary:
Women who blog about cupcakes, Hello Kitty, gardening, knitting, and cats are girly. Not that there’s anything wrong with the blogs…but there’s something wrong with being girly. Because we’re women! And we shouldn’t be girly! We should be badass! Feminists who came before us fought hard for that right, and we’re throwing it away with these girly pursuits! We’ve “lost sight of what it means to be a badass, tough, strong woman”! Women aren’t having fun – instead, we like cooking, Jane Austen, and heirloom tomatoes! We’ve “become complacent”! “We’re not tough anymore; we’re soft”!
Oh, for the love of Sanrio.
Listen. LISTEN. We’ve talked about this, here, on my blog, in the past. Women telling us what to do and what to feel and who to be because the author knows the right way to do these things, under the guide of feminism. Because the author is the arbiter of womanhood. Because there’s a mold, and women should fit that mold, and if they don’t, they’re lesser – lesser human beings, lesser women, lesser examples of shining femaleness than the author herself.
I AM SO GODDAMN TIRED OF BEING TOLD WHO TO BE.
Men, sorry to leave you out, here, and I’m sure you face societal pressure up the wazoo as well, but as I am not in possession of a Y chromosome, I don’t know what those are, exactly. This is not meant to slight you. I’d be interested, actually, in reading a post about the type of societal pressures a young man faces; if someone wants to point me in the direction of a good one, it would be appreciated.
Women, from a young age, are told how to act in order to fit society’s norms. There are exceptions, but overall, even in this day and age, there are toddlers in frilly dresses and bows scotch-taped onto the bald heads of baby girls for photo day and the moniker “tomboy” (usually said either with a sneer or a knowing nod.) As we get older, more expectations. Makeup. What to wear. How to act. At what age to start dating. What’s appropriate and what’s weird. The list goes on; I’m sure the women reading this can think of a million examples in their own life where they wanted to be doing one thing but were gently (or not-so-gently) nudged in another direction because it wasn’t “cool” enough or “girly” enough or whatever enough to fit in the very strict lines that were drawn by whoever draws these things.
But as we grow up, we realize things, like being who we are is more fulfilling than making other people like us, and that there’s nothing at all wrong with, say, watching Vh1 Celebreality all day rather than shopping or getting a mani-pedi or whatever it is the “cool” kids are doing. We’re not here to please anyone but ourselves, when we get older. And that’s a nice feeling, you know? It’s a feeling I’d like to be able to go back and bestow upon the teenage me, who was always scrambling to keep up with what was expected of her and failing miserably and very unhappy in the bargain.
But then you get women like Julie Klausner telling us that we’re too infantilized if we like Converse sneakers, cupcakes, Etsy jewelry, or birds, and Peg Aloi telling us that we’re not tough if we like knitting, gardening, Hello Kitty, or, again, cupcakes. (Why so much cupcake hate? Do these women equally hate sheet cakes? Who hates cake? I feel like hating cake = hating America, honestly.)
These women are just grown-up versions of the bitches in high school who set the trends. The Plastics, really. The Wednesdays-We-Wear-Pink girls. The girls who arbitrarily decide “on this side of the line is what’s cool, and on this side of the line is what’s not, and I’ll tell you how high you have to jump and how hard you have to beg to be on the right side of the line.” And do you know how to tell they’re bitches? Because they’re telling you you’re not good enough. They’re making you feel less-than. They’re telling you, “Listen, if you like this, this, and this? You don’t measure up.”
I don’t want to be in your Special People Club.
It doesn’t make you less tough if you knit, bake, or garden. The article actually contradicts itself all over the place – Aloi will make a blanket statement like “Tough girls don’t knit because that’s what our foremothers did!” and then couch it with “But man our foremothers, right? Whoo! They were certainly tough, you know, in their own way!” Why are the two mutually exclusive? Why can’t you be a badass tough-as-nails mofo AND make a mean cupcake?
Because Aloi SAYS SO.
There are currently 326 comments under her article. I didn’t read them all – I actually do have a life, sorry to disappoint! – but have read a large number of them, and the themes running through them are:
- Screw you, Peg Aloi, you judgmental hag.
- Why can’t you kick-ass and knit?
- What the hell?
- This isn’t the 1800’s. We aren’t *required* to knit now. It’s a *choice* we make.
- I kind of want to stab you with my knitting needles.
- You know what’s awesome? Feminist women telling others how to behave.
And do you know what’s missing? Ms. Aloi. She hasn’t made a PEEP. She is GONE. Just like Julie Klausner, who, to the best of my knowledge, dropped that load-of-shit article on us back in June and never commented on the fury it ignited, Ms. Aloi hasn’t responded in the least.
Now, I’m not saying she has to. She has the right to her own opinion. It would be hypocritical of me to say I can’t stand women telling me how to behave and then turn around and tell Ms. Aloi how to do so. On some level, I almost, almost, think I get, in a tiny way, what she might have been trying to say. Because listen, girly-girl giggly shit sets my teeth on edge, too. Feigned helplessness. Doe-eyed false childishness. But that’s never mentioned, so I assume that’s not what she’s referring to, and what I take objection to in these behaviors is that the women using them are pretending to be something they’re not because they think that’s how they have to act in order to get what they want – a man, a promotion, taken care of, etc. (And yes, I realize I’m being a little hypocritical – I tell people they’re doing douchey things on here all the time, and even in judging these type of women, that’s doing something I’m calling her out for. Thing is, I have a blog that doesn’t have a fraction of the readership that The Huffington Post does, and I’d like to think that I wouldn’t make a blanket statement like “knitters= weak women so go out and learn to shoot a gun instead” at all without my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. And “pretending you’re helpless to ‘catch’ a man” is very different than “baking cupcakes = weak”, no?)
Here’s what it all boils down to, for me. First, being tough is not measured by your leisure activities. Toughness is a state of mind and is reflected in how you react to situations, I think. Am I alone in this? Second, being a bully does not make you tough. Being a bully is actually one of the biggest signs of weakness a person can show. And what Ms. Aloi is doing in this article is bullying. She’s bullying women into thinking they are not good enough, that their pasttimes are an affront to womanhood, that they are weak and small and unimportant and childlike because they like traditionally domestic activities.
Personally? I bake a mean cupcake (although my cookies are to die for – seriously, if you’ve had my Double Dark Chocolate Chunk Espresso Cookies, you know, I am the queen of cookies), I’m wearing a Hello Kitty band-aid RIGHT NOW (honestly, it’s because there was this kickass sale a while back and I got a ton of boxes of kiddie band-aids for free so that’s all there is in the house at the moment), I can’t garden, I hate tomatoes (both heirloom and regular), I love my cats, I can cook enough to keep myself fed, I like Jane Austen but am not in love with her, and I can’t knit. But I can crochet. Like a madwoman. And I’m a badass crocheter. I mean, I can make CLOTHES. I’ve made WHOLE BLANKETS. I’m very, very good at it.
I’m also tough. And no one telling me I’m not, based on my habits and activities, is able to take that away from me. I’m secure in the knowledge of my strength. Bigger bullies than you, Ms. Aloi, have worked me over, sorry to say. You’re small-time.
If you’re not secure in your own inner strength, Ms. Aloi, don’t try to pass that off onto the rest of us. That’s not very tough of you. And as for women who aren’t having enough “fun” – well, I’m glad you’re the fun police? What a nice title to have! But please let me be the judge of what’s enjoyable in my own life.
Women – if you take anything away from this, please let it be this. You are good enough. You are amazing. You are just who you are meant to be; you love what you are meant to love; and anyone who tells you that you are not good enough, and that you don’t measure up, and that your behaviors and the things you enjoy are not acceptable? IS AN ASSHOLE AND A BULLY. People like this should not be in your life. They are emotional vampires. They will take away your inner strength and use it to prop themselves up because they don’t have any of their own. You are the only person who can stop this behavior; you are the only person who can say, “No, you know what? I don’t accept this treatment, I deserve better than this” and get gone, either by removing them or removing yourself.
I’m not telling you how to act; I’m not bullying you; I’m just saying your personal net worth is immeasurable, and you can’t even imagine the weight that’s lifted the moment you realize that.
(Side note – research on Peg Aloi tells me that she teaches at a college here in the town where I live. So, that’s fun. And maybe when I’m buying groceries I’m rubbing elbows with her! Good gracious I hope I’m not buying heirloom tomatoes OH THE HUMANITY. Don’t worry, I’m not. I hate tomatoes.)
(Title’s from a Cranberries song – “A Fast One.”)