This is my response to Veet’s sexist, homophobic, and transphobic ad campaign. Sometimes I shave parts of my body, sometimes I don’t, and my choice in the matter doesn’t change my gender. I decide my gender.
This comic speaks about the anxiety many women feel when speaking up about sexist comments, particularly on social media. The fear of having our experiences disregarded, our feelings publicly invalidated, or our criticism written away as a hormonal reaction are all possible, if not probable, scenarios when calling out sexism.
The reality is that most people (on my friend’s list) wouldn’t openly invalidate my feelings on facebook because the lack of anonymity gives people a filter (it’s a whole different fear on anonymous forums). However, one does worry about the affects it’ll have on their social life. Will people still want to hang out with me? Am I still going to be invited to events? Are people going to exclude me because I “ruin their fun,” i.e. call them out for making incorrect claims or offensive comments?
The mere possibility of being disregarded one more time is enough to scare people away from calling others out. I can’t imagine the effects this has on some women who want to say something, but don’t because the repercussions are too emotionally and mentally exhausting.
Thankfully, I have some supportive friends. When I do call my friends out, I can be met with some condescension (“I lived with female feminist roommates, I know what it’s like to be discriminated because of my gender”) or some diminishment (“I don’t see race or gender. We are all the same”). However, I often feel heard out and respected even if they don’t exactly know how dehumanizing it is to be cat-called, or how terrifying it is to think that in some parts of the world I am my father’s or spouse’s property.
At the end of the day, I can sometimes feel like the woman on the first panel but never without feeling the thought-racing anxiety of the bold woman behind the screen, if even for a split second.
I often think about this while dining in a crowd. Particularly at work where all of my female coworkers are thinner, generally smaller women. Food consumption would fall under the umbrella category of “Comparing Yourself To Others.” I can’t help but sub-consciously catalog those around me’s food consumption. If they eat less, or exhibit excess self-control, I name them vain, someone who doesn’t want to have fun, but would rather make sure they look good tomorrow. If they eat as much as me I feel a connection, validation, evidence that how much I eat is normal.
I never think this while dining with men. I never think their food choice is saying something about their personality, their priorities (unless it is that they’re vegetarians for “moral reasons,” or other food choices which are inherently political), and I don’t think we should be eating the same amount, because I should either be eating less (because “I’m a girl,”) or eating as much because I’m a cool nonchalant girl who is one of the guys. It’s all part of walking that tenuous line between cool and looking attractive. A line I am trying very hard not to see, but which my feet keep returning to.