ASK MYRNA: AM I A BAD FEMINIST?
Our resident advice columnist, Myrna Joy offers the Heauxs' perspective on all your nagging problems. Send her your questions—large or small, inane or petty, or inane and petty—to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think I’m a feminist. I went to the Women’s March, I talk to my niece about the patriarchy, I talk to my mom, for heaven’s sake, about the patriarchy--and that can be an upward battle, let me tell you. But then you know those moments when someone calls you out on something and you didn’t even know that something was a thing and then you’re left wondering whether you are feminist? Yesterday, my sister-in-law came over, wearing this awesome outfit, so I told her! I told her it looked great, I wished I could wear it, but I can’t because it’s not a flattering style on me. In fact, it makes me look pregnant.
Then my sister-in-law said, “When you say that, all I hear is that you think you can’t wear this dress because then you’ll look like...me.”
This response left me speechless. I guess this is where I confess I’m “conventionally attractive,” but still, SIL knows from past conversations that I try to walk the walk when it comes to body positivity. And yeah, SIL is bigger than me, but in that bodacious jazz-singer pinup way with gorgeous curves! And she's so confident, wearing slinky dresses and pencil skirts and bikinis... so why would she care what I think? And I was just talking about my body, not hers! So I’m not sure why discussing what “flattering” means to me would bother her when we obviously have very different body types. We just have different definitions for our own bodies!
I’m doubting my feminism right now, Myrna. Is it really wrong to have opinions on what looks good on me?
You’ve backed me into a corner here. No, it’s not wrong to have an opinions on what looks good on you. But yes, it was right for your sister-in-law to push back on your statement.
Because what you said to your sister-in-law was hurtful. It comes from a place that believes there is a “convention” to attractiveness. You think your sister-in-law looks amazing, but you also use five qualifiers to describe why. That’s five descriptors (count them: bodacious, jazz-singer, pinup, gorgeous curves, confident) to your one (conventionally attractive).
So, of course your sister-in-law was hurt because what you are telling her is that you--the conventionally attractive in-law--can reach some platonic ideal of the American Woman, while she--the bodacious jazz singer--is stuck trying on confidence for size. You know where this is going, right? As a refresher, this is a comparative diagram of Barbie and her perma-high-heeled feet versus the average woman. Here’s Beautyeditor’s celebrity plastic surgery before and after column (you’re welcome for that rabbit hole of a link). Here’s the Fat Heauxs on US Weekly and summer beach bods. And here’s where I remind you that no one--not you, not your SIL, not even Myrna Loy--can ever reach the ideal.
Body positivity isn’t just about thinking it’s ok for other people to be curvy or bodacious or confident. It’s about knowing that you would be ok if you were any of those things, too. Without that sense of self, you’re stuck believing that what’s good for others isn’t good enough for you--and you’re more prone to the insensitive, offhand remarks that leave your family members with hurt feelings and you doubting your feminism.
You should be constantly doubting that your opinions come from a feminist place, as should all of us, everyday, because we all are trying to rise above the misogynistic, bigoted society we live in. You should also start expanding your definition of what looks good on you because, frankly, being the Perfect American Woman gets to be pretty boring, and boring--even when pretty--isn’t a great look at all.
You didn’t tell us what outfit SIL was rocking, but I’m pretty sure you could rock it, too. Try it on and get back to us. For feminism, of course.
Peace, love and bodacious jazz singers,
I recently made a classic Chicago mistake. I bought a cocktail dress from the “spring” section of a department store for a partially outdoors event in mid-April, forgetting that spring in Chicago doesn’t really start until the week before summer. So now I have this awesome, sexy, unlined, sleeveless cocktail dress, and I’m staring down temperatures in the 40s.
Do I wear my lightweight jacket outdoors? Buy a pashmina? A stole? (Do they even sell stoles anymore?) Do I find the little bolero jacket my mom made me wear to my junior prom and just pretend I’m on a date with Dave from bio class circa 2003?
Help me, Myrna!
Out in the Cold
The answer, as always, is a leather jacket. They’re sexy, edgy, warm and cocktail party-appropriate.
Buy an lj (vegan leather works, too), have fun at your party, thank me later.