Monday, January 7, 2008

On Being Pretty

I feel fairly comfortable saying that I am an attractive woman.  I have my own style, a nice smile, and freckles. I'm cute. This is something that I have been made keenly aware of since I was a pretty little girl and something that I have consistently tried to avoid precisely because of the amount of attention that pretty little girls receive on a regular basis.  My prettiness has changed over the years: as a teenager I was conventionally pretty--long hair, lots of make up, skinny, shy, and dressed appropriately girly.  As a young adult, I switched it up a bit, grew some 'locks, wore less make up, dressed in vintage clothing, but still, pretty. When I came out, I pushed the pretty box further and eventually cut my hair really short, wore thick glasses, quit smoking, put on a few pounds, and bought some steel toe boots. Still, I am routinely told that I am pretty.

I get it and I'm okay with it. But, who is a "pretty" dyke supposed to date? I'm single, so I am often talking to my friends about women that I've dated, am interested in, or the women they want to fix me up with.  However, I'm also a self-identified femme who is mostly attracted to butches, which can make this conversation a little tricky. Wait, did I say mostly attracted to? I think it's safe to say that I am overwhelmingly, pleasantly, emphatically, happily, enthusiastically, giggly, joyfully, and unabashedly attracted to butches. They are my pleasure, indeed. Now, I know you can be femme identified and be attracted to other femmes, and I have been, but generally I prefer butches. And, I've never gotten hung up on the butch/femme thing, I'm attracted to butches, period. I love them. I especially love that a butch woman dresses, talks, thinks, walks (or swaggers in some cases) exactly the way that she feels expresses who she is. That's something that most of us never, ever do. And I've been reminded by my dear friend Holly to openly appreciate what I love about butches, even random butches on the street...hello butch!

Still, as a pretty girl, I have been told that the women that I choose are not attractive. Yeah, even in those words, by straight people and queer people alike. And, oftentimes, this translates into her not being pretty enough. At the same time, it is also a subtle yet firm critique of my decision to date and love other women. In other words, if I am not dating a "pretty" woman, then what's the point? Now, my straight friends can date the baldest, baggiest jean wearing, sweatiest smelling, poorly put together outfit wearing man ever and never be told that he is "unattractive." That doesn't fit into the conversation once a woman is interested in someone...he's a man, so it doesn't matter (David Beckham aside). If his teeth are brushed, great! Women on the other hand, are always supposed to be attractive and look like a woman and if you're a woman and you can't see that, then there must be something wrong with you. If she's too round in the middle, looks too much like a guy, if her eyebrows are too thick, or she has hair on her chin, then she may not be good enough. And this critique applies to all women--butch, femme, in between, we're all subject to this harsh scrutiny. And I know we all know this, sexism, yes, yes, yes. But, this is something that I foolishly thought I had escaped when I came out and surrounded myself with women--a mistake that others foolishly think queer women escape as well. Still, it's the homophobia that also stings quite a bit in these comments about the women that I date, the ultimate judging of women who choose women. And that's me you're judging and it's not for you to decide. 

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A Black President?

Happy New Year! I've been knee deep in grading some good and bad papers, so it's taken me a minute...Just logged on and saw that Barack Obama took Iowa. I don't have much too say and could have waited til I have more, but I think it's worth stating that I'm in a state of shock. What does it mean that we are this close to having a Black president? I'm also a little scared. What does it mean that we are this close to having a Black president? Is it progress? Is he more palatable to folks because of his mixed racial background? Is he going to be killed the closer he gets? Even his tone in his victory speech had the same intonations as Dr. King and other Black leaders, the same cadence. To a mostly white audience, he said Iowans have done what the cynics said we couldn't do. And, 'We are one nation, one people, and our time for change has come...unity over divisiveness.' All good, political words, and it will be interesting to see what exactly they translate into throughout this election year. I'm speechless.