I know that everybody must be sick and tired of my rantings about the excessive use of the passive voice in feminist writing. This is an important topic, though. Just like #OWS protesters, many feminist writers suffer from addressing vague complaints to unidentified sources of aggravation and this undermines any hope for productive activism. Take the following excerpt, for example:
I wear makeup. Not much — unobservant people would call me a non-makeup wearer — but enough to cover the “imperfections” and make my lips and cheeks a bit more rosier than they were when I woke up? Why do I do this? Generally I’m treated better when I look “prettier” in society’s eyes. Conversely, I have the choice of going barefaced, which I have on occasion. But that choice comes with the baggage of being labeled “unfeminine,” “unkempt” or “unprofessional.”
This post leaves the most interesting part of the story concealed from view. Who are the people that treat this blogger better when her cheeks are rosier and label her as “unkempt” when they are less rosy? These must be people with a lot of free time on their hands to enable them to notice the degree of rosiness of everybody’s cheeks. So I’m genuinely curious who they are.
Another question that is even more important is how the feminist in question reacts to these observations. Let’s imagine she is at work and her boss comes up to her to say, “Look, your lips aren’t all that rosy today which makes you unfeminine, so that promotion we discussed? Forget about it!” I’m not saying this can’t happen. Idiots abound, so everything is possible. It would be great to hear what the insulted feminist does in response. Takes the jerk up on a sexual harassment charge, I hope. Now, this is a story I would like to read about instead of these vague complaints about some unspecified evildoers who treat one badly and label one all kinds of things.
I’d love to participate in this struggle myself. However, I haven’t encountered a single person in the course of my long and eventful life who would be willing to discuss the lack of rosiness of my body parts. I wouldn’t be averse to meeting such an individual, to be honest, because it would be so much fun to unload on them and then describe the process here on the blog.
Sometimes, I wear a lot of makeup. Sometimes, I wear none. And for the life of me, I can’t say that anybody even notices. My colleagues are very busy people who have more important things to do than notice whether I have lipstick on. My boss notices whether I have published anything recently but I can’t imagine him giving a rat’s ass about whether I use mascara. I’m certain that he’d prefer to see me with zero makeup but a stack of publications to seeing me with the best makeup in the world and no publications. My students obviously could care less about my makeup. My friends are supposed to love me no matter how I look and calling each other “unkempt” or “unprofessional” is simply not something that we do to each other.
Mind you, I’m not saying that women don’t get treated worse if they avoid makeup. I don’t know if they do or they don’t because every single article or blog post I have ever seen on the subject suffers from the same vagueness as the one quoted above. I suggest we start putting nouns into our sentences. That’s the only way to create actual change. Instead of saying, “I’m being treated badly and labeled XYZ”, let’s say “Today, Mr. Such-and-such came up to me at work and made an unacceptable comment about my appearance. I told him that he is a vile jerk and I will be reporting him to the Dean’s office. This is a procedure I followed and I hope it will be useful to other women who find themselves in the same situation.”
Wouldn’t you agree that the second course of action is a lot more likely to produce results?