Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Breakdown of "Girls With Short Hair Are Damaged"

When a friend of mine from work told me that she was going to send me the link to this article I recoiled from the title. When I discovered that it was written by a man I became more disturbed. Then I read it... and as upset as I was about the title, it was nothing compared to how I feel now, having read the rest of it. I'm not going to link you to the article because I don't feel comfortable contributing to his page traffic, but if you feel so inclined, you can google it.

My first thought based on the title, was that I'd really like to retort, snarkily, that Men who feel like it's possible to judge an entire group of people based on a hair cut are pretty damaged themselves.
However... I am trying really hard to not be snarky about people I disagree with (the world needs a lot more kindness and even if someone is being absolutely horrible, like this particular human is, I can still try to be kind). So, I'm going to simply break this down in the simplest, kindest terms I can manage.

In the very first line of his article this man says,
"No woman in all of human history has ever looked better with short hair than she would with a head full of healthy locks."

So, we can all agree that this is a remarkably subjective statement right? I know plenty of women who I think look quite beautiful with short hair, perhaps more beautiful that with long hair. I also know men who have told me, while I had long hair, that they preferred short hair cuts on women. Despite these bits of evidence, the writer calls his statement an "irrefutable fact" (snarky me really wants to add, "...maybe he should look up the definition of the word irrefutable").

Then, our misguided writer claims to know the "true reasons" all women have for cutting their hair short, he also makes sure his readers know that "donating their hair to sick kids or the summer weather" are not "true reasons."
The reasons, he insists, have more to do with girl hate (women telling each other that short hair is cute so they won't grow it out and become competition), and with having been "damaged." He only gives one example of being damaged when he shares an anticdote about a woman who told him she cut her hair because she needed a change after going through a breakup. She told him that she cut it so she would not be hit on so often, she said she "wanted to be alone for awhile after [her] break up." Another reason, he insists, is due to the "fact" that women have a higher "copy-cat instinct than men." He says this "fact" is "well documented," although he does not provide a source.

Okay, so lets break some of this down.

Firstly: Women and men have all kinds of reasons for doing any of the things that men and women do. If a woman cuts her hair short it could be for one of the reasons he's listed above (besides the copy-cat thing, because that is complete, ridiculous, bullshit), but it could also be because she wants to donate her hair to sick kids, or because she's sick of her head being so hot and heavy in the summer, or because she hates taking the time to do her hair in the morning, or because she wants to save money on water, hair product, and drying time. Maybe having long hair is dangerous or inconvenient for the kind of work she does, maybe.... well maybe one person can't possibly know all the reasons another person could have for cutting his/her hair.

Secondly: If a woman feels like she needs to chop all her hair off or gain a lot of weight or otherwise noticeably alter her body to stop or slow the advances of men maybe it isn't a sign that she's damaged at all. Maybe it's a sign that our society is damaged, that our society doesn't respect the autonomy of women, that society doesn't recognize women as human beings as much as it recognizes us as objects or accessories. 

Next he talks about a woman in Argentina who told him she would "rather die" than cut her hair short. She tells him about a friend who asked for two centimeters cut off her hair, when the hair-dresser took 4 centimeters the woman was devastated and cried every morning for at least ten days.
Uhm... okay? What does this have to do with women having short hair? Two women love their long hair, so there can't be a woman who doesn't want that now? I'm going to assume my readers are intelligent and will not stoop to explaining this fallacy any further.

The next paragraph starts with this:
"The truth of the matter is that long hair's almost universally attractive to men..."
And I will get snarky here because really what he's saying is that he, and most other men, think women with long hair are more attractive. So I'll just say two things to him:
1. You have no right to generalize all men.
2. Sir, I don't give a flying f*ck what you find attractive. I care about what is comfortable, functional, convenient, and attractive to ME. Because guess what??? It's MY body and MY hair; it has absolutely nothing to do with you, or any man, or any other human for that matter.

A bit later he lists some qualities women who choose short hair will have. He bases these qualities on women he's met in bars and says short hair is a "near guarantee" that a woman will be more
abrasive
masculine
deranged
bitchy
confrontational
aggressive

He takes the opportunity here to also call women with these qualities "cunts."
He also mentions that short-haired women he's encountered have used "filthy" language, using words like pussy and cock "even," *gasp* "when [their] clothes were on."

Okay... so first of all, I wonder what kind of pick up lines this guy uses... he's obviously pretty ignorant, sexist, even misogynistic. Even if I were single and this man tried to hit on me in a way that made those things clear, I would likely react to him in an abrasive and "bitchy" way. Mostly because I've encountered many situations in which a polite refusal was not respected by ignorant, sexist men. And based on this article he's written he has no issues telling a woman with short hair that she's ruined any chances of being found attractive by him. I am currently wearing my hair in a short, layered A-line, if this guy had the bad manners to inform me of his unattainable interest I would have a hard time resisting the temptation to tell him where he can shove his sexism.
Also, I'm pretty sure... okay, 100% sure, cause I just read it again, that he used the word "cunt" to describe women with "short-ass hair" but he presents it as a sign of being "damaged" that a woman would say pussy or cock outside of the bedroom. Again, I know you're intelligent, so I just won't... expect to say that who a woman is inside and outside of the bedroom shouldn't have to be different people unless she wants them to be.

He talks about another short-haired girl he dated who gave him a hand job while texting her "secret" boyfriend and another who was emotionless during sex (uhm.. red flags for anyone else??) and used racial slurs. I think this has a lot less to do with having short hair than it does with a whole lot of other issues. How is short hair not completely incidental in these examples? If this man's biggest problems here are about hair length, it makes me feel like he must not really see women as being the kind of full human beings men are... how else can these huge issues be taking a back-seat to a hair cut?

He ends this piece by writing,
"Not only is short-hair unattractive, it's one of the biggest signals a man can get that a woman is damaged beyond repair. There's no such thing as "pulling it off.""

Again, I don't care what this guy thinks is unattractive and I don't think that women have any kind of responsibility to make themselves attractive for men. I suppose that if a person really believed, as this writer seems to, that women exist mainly to be found attractive by men it would make sense that an act contrary to that obligation (like having short hair) could be seen as a "signal that a woman is damaged." However, women do not exist to be found attractive to men. The fact that this writer and many other people seems to believe this myth is troubling to me. If women only exist for the pleasure of men, and if women aren't as fully human as men, what right does a woman have to say "No" when he wants more than visual pleasure?

This also writer mentions, at one point, that there are "people who have no business commenting on the attractiveness of women, like gay men." Well, dear writer, I feel I must inform you that you are correct in assuming that there are people who have no business commenting on the attractiveness of women. YOU are one of those people. In fact, EVERYONE is one of those people unless an opinion is specifically asked of them.

Why would anyone think it was any of their business to comment on the physical ways any another person chooses to express themselves? Let's take some advice from our old friend Thumper; if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sincerely, One of Many Women Who Are Fed Up

When I started reading "Sincerely, One of Many Girls Who Care" I was optimistic. I, like the woman who wrote the piece, feel very sorry for boys growing up in our current cultural climate. I feel just as badly for them as I do for the girls. We are shown hundreds of images every week, every day sometimes, of unrealistic, exposed, and objectified women's bodies.
At the same time, we're encouraged to internalize shame associated with the exposure of our own bodies and the bodies of the people who are physically existing in our spaces. We are taught that our bodies, women's bodies particularly, are at once dirty, evil and tempting. It's no wonder that the 9 year old our caring girl talks about can't forget the first naked woman he saw, it has little to do with the woman, or even the nakedness, and a lot to do with the way our culture presents the ideas of these things.

Unfortunately, my optimism dwindled as I read,

 "When I think about the guys in my life who are striving to live with a pure and Godly mindset, it honestly breaks my heart that they’re surrounded with so much temptation."
 
See, when I think about the unrealistic standards for, and objectification of, women's bodies in the media and the other, varied, plentiful examples of female dehumanization, it breaks my heart to think of  the men who, in response, are made to feel that they cannot be emotional, cannot cry, that they must seem to enjoy violence and certain kinds of trauma, and that they can't like pink (because if they are anything like women, they are less than a (hu)man). It breaks my heart to think about the many, many, many women who suffer sexual violence at the hands of a person who has been told all their life that she is less than human.
 
The internal struggle of a young man who does, and does not want to have sex, simultaneously is, comparatively, kinda low on my metaphorical "heart-break totem pole." 
 
 

Now, don't misunderstand me, I was once very religious. During that time of my life I, and most people I associated with, believed strongly in the idea that waiting to be sexually active until marriage was the best way to live a happy, healthy, righteous life. One of these people told me once that in a relationship where one person hasn't waited, the other will always feel hurt. This made (and still makes) sense to me. The struggle associated with finding the right time to make your sexual debut is real and valid. I think about how important sex is to my relationship and how meaningful it is to be able to express my love to my companion through such intimate connection. If I had never experienced sex before being with H, I would very likely feel insecure about his having had that kind of experience with someone else before me.
That being said, because I had sexual experiences before meeting H, I understand that the sexual partners I had in my past could never diminish what I feel for and with H. I know he views his past experiences in the same way and this understanding dispels the insecurity I could feel.

But more importantly, I understand that my previous sexual experiences could never diminish ME. The young man striving to postpone his sexual debut for a single, life-long companion is choosing a perfectly valid path, but it is not a path which has the ability to diminish his value as a person in either instance.

Okay, moving on... one of the next things this "girl who cares" says, in her piece is,

"Not only are you surrounded with a world that’s obsessed with worthless, cheap sex and relationships that mean nothing outside of sexual appeal, you’re encouraged to take part in seeing women as only objects of sex and instant pleasure.... I wouldn’t be surprised if its all you can think about."
 
... Yeah. That is a big part of the problem. But a bigger part is the fact that many people read that and then, especially in this context of men as the primary victims of this phenomenon, interpret, mostly subconsciously, that women who engage in "cheap" or uncommitted sex or relationships, which mean little or "nothing outside of sexual appeal" are worthless. That when women seek sex for the sole purpose of sexual gratification they become "only objects of sex and instant pleasure." And instead of calling out the ridiculous notion that ANY person is less than a full human being at any time, she says, 'Oh, those poor men, they're programed to enjoy sexual gratification, how dare we make their lives so hard by exposing them to all these women!?' (I sure hope that double standard is perfectly clear).
 
So next, she gives a bunch of stats about pornography that I've tried to verify, but can't... likely because they are not true. Honestly, I don't know enough about the porn industry to offer any kind of insight into the way it affects the culture of sexual violence and gender inequality in our world. The sex industry is such a nuanced topic, I don't feel prepared to make any kind of statement about the pros or cons. I cannot speak to who pornography has the most occasion to harm.
 
Next, "Girl Who Cares" tells all those boys:
 
"ENOUGH to all the lies thrown your way about how you CAN’T be good enough for a Godly girl or more importantly, God’s grace."
 
*How about: Enough to all the lies thrown your way about "purity" and women's bodies as evil or objects?
 
 
"ENOUGH to allowing the pornography industries treating your temptations and natural desires as a way to lavish themselves in money."
 
*How about: Enough to allowing the media to tell you that you should not be expected to stay in control of yourself?
 
 
"ENOUGH to the petty girl who you have been beating yourself up for."
 
*How about: Enough to treating women as accessories?
 
 
There's a lot more article after that, but it's mostly scripture verses and as an atheist I don't feel particularly inclined to argue for or against what I believe to be pieces of a work of fiction at best, and psychological warfare at worst.
 
 
So, in conclusion, let me say again that I agree with her that we should feel sorry for our boys. We should feel sorry for our boys and our girls, our women and men. I feel bad for the woman who wrote this article too, she's as much a victim of this culture as she is a perpetrator.
 
Yeah.... I feel bad for her. And for other women who read this article. I mean, as a victim of sexual violence, the only conclusion to draw from this, at the end, is that women who are sexually victimized have no one to blame but themselves and/or other women. My rapist grew up seeing all these sexualized images; he was surrounded by "temptation" so when he couldn't be strong anymore, against such overwhelming odds, he had little choice but to rape me. Right? I mean, it's not really his fault, it's the fault of other women who drove him the edge. It's my fault for letting him know that I had been attracted to him and then for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. So, of course, he shouldn't be punished, I should be punished, other women should be punished, it's our fault, right?

Hmmm.

So, to "Girl Who Cares,"

I'm a woman who cares too. I care about you. I care about the fact that you think your value and worth as a future wife and as a human being, are such precarious things that they can vanish with the removal of your clothing. I care that you see yourself and other women that way, I care enough to tell you, and them, that your value is infinite and nothing could ever change that.
But I'm also one of many women who is fed up. I am fed up with having to defend my value. I'm fed up with having to explain why my rape was not my fault. And I'm fed up with seeing your article and others like it.

Sincerely,

A Feminist Slut