Saturday, January 31, 2009

On Beauty

I've been thinking, a bit, about the pressure to conform.

We all have to subscribe to some ideal beauty to be happy; I guess we all live in a culture of fear, to encourage consumption. And of course, it's always harder on women than on men.
After all, men aren't told they have a sell-by date. Men don't have to wear make-up to pass, they can walk around with acne scars, dark circles, with no-one commenting on their tiredness/"petite mine" as they say in French. Men can have grey hair, it's stylish; women have to dye it. Women are expendable, dontcha know? So we have to stay pretty. Have to wear heels, make-up, uncomfortable stuff, sexy stuff, have to look good for others and not for ourselves, because we don't know what we want and are just there to provide eye-candy for men.

I wasn't pretty as a pre-teen. I was fat, badly dressed, mainly because it didn't interest me that much, and spent my time reading. But I still started wearing make-up in my third year of middle-school (there are four years of middle-school and three years of high school in France), mainly because it provided an armour, something distinctive other than the fact I was a foreigner. I liked colouring my eyes a lot. And then I developed acne, so that started me off on skin stuff, foundation and the like.
And I continue to this day.
I love make-up. I love how it makes me look, I love how it makes me feel. I'd say I wear it for myself, but that probably wouldn't be true, because I know make-up makes me prettier, whatever my boyfriend might say about loving me without it. It's also somewhat of a societal pressure, since a woman with make-up is seen as making more of an effort.
I'm definitely not going to stop, although i've been going easier on the skin stuff, having stopped wearing foundation, and I hate that some can call me antifeminist or stupid for this. I understand some of what's behind my make-up wearing, but I'd just rather go on telling myself it's my choice and I do it for myself. Ultimately, I believe it is, but I know there are pressures out there that have made me who I am.

My roommate wears make-up once in a blue moon, because she has insanely sensitive skin, and no-one gives her stick about it, except her boyfriend, who is very much attached to appearances. I worry about that, and try to gently point it out when it comes up, but I can't really take his behaviour head-on. But that's a whole different post. And she's fine like that.

Sometimes I wonder if it hasn't been a lot easier for me growing up here than it would have been in the Uk or the US, because I don't feel as many pressures as others seem to. I feel that women are more casual here, or maybe I'm imagining it.

Or maybe I'm just extremely privileged.

I mean, I'm conventionally attractive, I'm white but not 'pasty', I have dark, thick, straight hair that hairdressers coo over (I recently went to the hairdresser's for the first time in five years-I just find them annoying) but that I ultimately leave alone- I was amazed to meet Brit girls my age when i was fifteen: every single one of them I met had hair straighteners and they all used them once or twice a day, even the girls who already had straight hair. Us Frenchies were baffled, since the most I do to my hair is blow it dry-hey, it's winter^^although I do possess a pair of straighteners, present from my aunt, uncle, cousins when I was sixteen (on my mother's side, the Brit side of the family).
And my American cousin kept telling me her hair was usually a lot nicer because she hadn't brought all her hair products with her-no idea what she intended to do to it, it looked fine to me. People confuse me.

As for clothes : well I hear that French women are classy and often boring, wear too much black, etc etc.
I think simplicity is valued here, but I'll direct you to Garance Doré's blog on more about the cliché.(here's the English version)(it's a great post, really well written and funny :) )

Our stereotypes are that British girls let it all hang out, with clothes that are too tight, too short, too vulgar. This, of course, isn't always true, but many of the girls/women I've seen on the street do fall into this. And I find it extremely ugly, but that's only my opinion, after all, to each their own. I just find it strange, because I'm taking that they dress this way because they feel good like that, at least, I hope so, for them. There's nothing more unpleasant than dressing in a way that doesn't fit or suit you, that you don't feel comfortable in.

I like feeling attractive; I like feeling sexy. I love dresses-in summer. The rest of the time I run around in jeans and a top. I can't stand feeling constricted, so I shun anything too-tight, too short, scratchy or fidgety. My version of sexy doesn't always fit in with mainstream expectations; right now I'm wearing a soft green jumper and a pair or grey trousers-probably what would be called slacks-that float around my legs, and I feel extremely sexy. Add on my beloved combat boots, and I'm happy.

But this is just another version of what's acceptable.
In France, casual clothes are more common; the short, over-the-top sexy stuff is for parties, and frowned upon in everyday life.Not t say that you can't wear a mini-skirt, but the "only one" rule is very well assimilated; basically, show cleavage, or your legs, but not both at once.

And I just don't know how you get away with clothes that aren't practical; This migth stem from the fact that people in France walk a lot more than in America, because of the way cities have been constructed historically, I guess. But I walk everywhere; uni, friend's places, food-shopping, clothes-shopping, everything. So shoes that are going to hurt, a skirt that's going to ride up, a dress that's going to trail along? nope.
it's like high heels. Just not practical, and made, IMO, for men's enjoyment. But I love a pretty pair of heels. I just love shoes in general. But I'll never wear anything that will hurt. I don't really get the point, and the women i know seem to agree :)

But still, only women...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Blog for choice

So all over the blogosphere I've been seeing people talking about what Roe vs Wade means to them.
Maybe I read too many US-based blogs.
For me? Well, on a very personal level, nothing at all. Roe vs Wade doesn't sit in my psyche the way our abortion law does, or the way Britain's abortion act does.

The whole debate about abortion in the US utterly dumbfounds me. Frankly, I grew up in a country where a woman's right to abortion isn't even thought about, except by one of our very right-wing ministers once in a blue moon, so discovering the whole fight it was in the US when I was a pre-teen came as somewhat of a shock.
And the non-logic astounded me-it still does.
You're against abortion, but you're also against birth control?
That destroys any argument you might've had of this being about the babies. See, if the life of a fetus was your main problem, you'd advocate birth control. You'd be pushing for it to be free, readily accessible, all that.
But no. This is about women. This is about the belief that women cannot make their own choices, cannot act responsibly, must be controlled. This is about the fact that you would have your daughters obey you and then their husband. This is about the fact that you have no respect for beliefs different from your own.
And that you despise us.

I'll always defend any woman's right to have an abortion, whatever the circumstances, be it because of rape, an accident, or simply because now is not the right time. There is no "good" or "bad" reason to have an abortion. The choice is ours. This is about our bodies, our lives-and nothing will ever convince me anyone has a right to tell us what we should do.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tired of it

I'm so tired and depressed tonight.

I'm in the middle of exams, at the moment. I actually failed one pretty badly today. Spectacularly badly, really.
I'm so tired.
I get bouts of "I'm so tired and sick of it all and I want to give up" periodically, but this one has been going on a bit too long for my liking.
I know it'll pass. But I wish I was back to my usual self, who's in my head right now screaming "snap out of it already, you twit! There's no more reason than usual for you to fail and be a total loser!"
But it's not working very well.
being depressed kinda kills any will I might have had to work in the first place, and I berate myself for it, and nothing gets any better.
And I'm nowhere near having my period, so bleuuh.

I seem to expect a lot of myself, but I don't do much to fulfill those expectancies, because, well, I've never had to. I've always breezed through with minimum effort.
I've always wondered how different things would have been if I'd had a more serious approach to things. If I'd made different choices.
Gone to a high school further away that offered chinese as a language ; passed the entrance exam to Sciences Po; basically just worked harder.

I'd probably be having even worse problems with stress, spasmophilia and depression.

I'm just moaning over nothing, I know. I'm twenty in precisely five days, I'm already in my third year at uni, and even if I fail this semester I can pass resits in September.

I just need to get a life and move on^^

Monday, January 12, 2009


I'm exhausted.
Passed two exams today, wrote a load of shit.
One of those dumbass Charlie's Angels movies is on TV and I'm screaming at its sexism every five minutes (plus racism, stereotyping and general stupidness)

Last week's exams, that were cancelled because of the snow, have been change-to moments where I HAVE FUCKING EXAMS! so I'd better get down to uni tomorrow morning and rant.

Interesting discussion at Shakesville

All I know is that it would be easier if I were a man. But I don't want to be a man. I don't want to go through life as a male, in all likelihood unaware of my privilege, I don't want to be not interested in the things I'm interested in now.

What would change if I were a man?
I wouldn't be scared of going home at night, alone
I wouldn't have to fend off unwanted (attention as much)
I wouldn't be shot down as hysterical/angry/gossipy or whatever else is used to dismiss my opinion
I could pee standing up (always wanted to do that), never ever use birth control apart from condoms again (although that is all I use at the moment), never have a period which would be lovely.
I'd probably be another version of my brother, who's average-to-tall, blond, has the same eyes and a similar face structure to mine, and his hair is nearly as long. ANd seeing as the men in my family are skinny as hell, I'd be skinny as hell, in all likelihood. I'd just have dark hair, instead. I'd be a carbon copy of my dad. With straight hair.
My mother would be sad she no longer had a daughter for all the girly stuff we do together, even if it's just chatting.
My father would be sad too, because he's proud of me for who I am.

In my choice of studies, I would have been pushed towards the better schools more than I was, although I chose not to go. My sudden inability to comprehend math when I got to high school would have been questioned and possibly sorted out, although my parents tried to get me help(I went from an average of 15 out of 20 to an average of 5).
I'm in a predominantly female field of study, but I don't feel the males in my classes get more respect than I do. Perhaps because many of our teachers are highly-qualified females, or maybe I just didn't notice.

I'd be lauded for my interest in world affairs, instead of art students like the Ex's friends trying to teach me economics when I've been doing economics courses for the last six years and he never had.
I'd be confident and not aggressive, conversational instead of gossipy, proud instead of arrogant, cocky instead of insolent.

I'd miss my girlfriends, and the strong relationships i have with them.
I might be gay, but there are good chances I'd be bisexual, since at nineteen I'm far from having totally explored my sexuality, and I'm quite attracted to women, without knowing if I could go through with it.

I'd probably miss getting glammed-up, but I'd love dressing as a male-I do my best with my brother, but it's just not the same :P
I'd miss dancing the way I do, because it would look plain weird on a man.
I'd have been pushed towards guitar or saxophone or drums instead of flute when I started music.
I would probably have my driving license by now, instead of my parents letting me not bother.
I'd have to resist societal expectations to drink a lot more.I hardly drink, and it's unusual enough in a girl, to be completely amazing in a guy.

I'd probably be braver, and possibly have my dad's ease and immediate friendliness with people. I'm open and talkative, but as a woman I've been conditioned to be careful. Without this, I'd probably dare a lot more. I might have changed countries after high school, I might've been ready then, who knows.
I'd be mysterious instead of being intimidating and cold!


Sunday, January 11, 2009


SO Christmas was good, so was New year's, spent the holidays with JJ, had a lot of fun, didn't do a scrap of work and came back to my flat thinking "shit, i'm in trouble".
My exams were supposed to start last week but five were cancelled because of the snow. (Snow!you can't understand how amazing this is to us)
ANd now i have marketing and economics tomorrow and I am so screwed.