To Thine Own Self Be True
I’ve been heard many times publicly chastising young girls for their choices in Homecoming dresses. They’re too short. Too much boob. Too tight. I have also been heard, just this week, giving a rousing shout-out to girls who choose modeling and bartending as a rather fruitful way to pay their bills. Wow! The hypocrisy, you say? No. These are very different situations.
There is a video circulating on the Internet right now. You can watch it here before we move on if you want (but here’s a warning…it has explicit language): fckh8.com. Good people all over America are appalled by it. They say it’s child abuse. Give me a break. Not me. I love it! It’s just words. But I am also one of the many ladies (and some say “ladies” is debatable here) out there who use the F-word. I say it like a man would, like a sailor would, or someone who just slammed their finger in the car door. You know, with fervor. I don’t condone sexism but I can’t exactly define what that is, at least pertaining to the dilemma of today’s independent woman. So what are the rules regarding how respectable women are supposed to dress or how we are supposed to speak?
Who am I to determine this? Who are you?
I can’t explain my gender philosophy in exact terms. I am a staunch advocate of girl power and when I’m dead and gone, I hope this is one of the things people remember about me. On the one hand, I don’t like it when I see beautiful young ladies showing off their bodies just for attention. You know, when there’s no purpose in it beyond “Look at me, I want you to think I’m hot.”
Why then, on the other hand, am I so proud of the young ladies who are modeling in bikinis and serving up drinks in mere straps of clothing? I’ll tell you. It’s the work ethic that makes the difference. I believe the working girls are to be admired and congratulated, no matter what their vocation. I don’t think there is a single thing in the world wrong with making a good living using the skills and talents you have spent time honing — trying to make your way in the world in whatever way you can, all by yourself. It’s respectable in the biggest way. It’s girl power at its best.
There was a debate I learned of once, it was called Gamergate. The issue was sexism and the exploitation of women and the perpetuation of negative female stereotypes in video games. When I first heard of it, immediately I facepalmed and thought to myself, What do you expect to find in a male-dominated industry? Of course there will be big boobs and rampant helplessness. Men love that stuff. I know what’s in these games. Abuse, name-calling, women being demeaned and insulted. That’s just another reason why I don’t play video games (but not even one of the main reasons. I think they’re stupid).
If you want to talk about negative stereotypes, let’s talk about the ‘losers’ who often play these games. To many, a gamer is an unattractive, slimy loner in his basement spending hours in his own distorted reality because he can’t get a real girlfriend. Is that true for all men who play video games? Of course not! But it’s not any more or less true than the perception that all men who play video games then go on to abuse and exploit the women they know. I don’t think that most people, the men who play video games or the women who know them, have a hard time separating reality from fantasy. Are there exceptions? Sure, I suppose, but not for most.
Have you watched television commercials recently? Like, ANY of them? They are chock full of men who can’t do anything right. The wife stands by frustrated with her hands on her hips, shaking her head and rolling her eyes as she single-handedly saves her family from her husband’s ignorance and stupidity in trying to fold laundry properly. Are any men out there offended by these stereotypes? Probably not but according to mainstream advertising, it’s because they’re too stupid to pick up on them. We all know that’s not true and I would guess it’s because men care as much about Bounty paper towel commercial imagery as I do about the bimbos in Grand Theft Auto.
Are the girls serving you drinks at Twin Peaks or Hooters (“sexist” restaurant names) stereotypically stupid, doomed to a life of hair twirling and eyelash flapping? Some might believe so, and some perhaps are just that kind of girl.
Not usually, though.
Most of these girls are like Katie, a stunner, who made herself into a bonafide brand through hard work and good business sense. Her work has nothing to do with “Look at me and think I’m hot,” but everything to do with, “Hire me so I can save up money for tuition.” Her work in the modeling world promotes the idea that there are some jobs that not many people can do. So if you can do it, by God, do it. You have the rest of your life to do all the other jobs. How is she any different than the twenty-year-old athlete at the top of his game, trying to play a few lucrative years of ball before his shoulders or knees wear out? We aren’t young forever. We aren’t in perfect shape forever. We have to capitalize on the timing of our prime, and any girl that’s got a great body and a pretty face that she can use to make an honest living should do just that.
“I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. And every job I had was a stepping stone to my next job. And I never quit my job until I had my next job. And so opportunities look a lot like work….
And being sexy…. The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart. And being thoughtful, and being generous. Everything else is crap, I promise you. ”
Some of these girls were once my straight-A students. I know how smart they are even if their customers don’t. Sexiness and intelligence are not mutually exclusive. The girls I know are both. I happen to know that they are pulling As in college now, as they model and tend bar after a full day of classes, making ten thousand dollars more a year than I do. They are not living at home. They are not married to men who take care of them. They are not doing what they do simply for the attention. They are working and making a good living for themselves during a very temporary period in their lives. That’s called opportunity. I respect that. I respect the shit out of it, in fact.
One more story. I used to follow a young mother on Tumblr. She was a stripper and often posted pictures of herself on the way to work. Her hair was big, her tattoos were provocative, and her makeup was thick. Often, she was holding her little three-year-old daughter, taking a last-minute selfie before she dropped her daughter off at the sitter. These pictures were amazing. Her daughter looked healthy and happy, and you could tell that they shared an intense bond that comes from the two of them being totally on their own. I can’t know with certainty, but she looked like a really good mother. The hate this girl got was nauseating. Judgment and criticisms about what she did for a living were endless, with not a single inquiry into what all she had done and seen in her life. I picked up on little things: She left an abusive boyfriend, possibly saving her daughter from seeing her be abused. She left an alcoholic father, possibly breaking the pattern of substance abuse in her own life. She chose to dance, because at twenty-three, that was a window of opportunity that won’t always be there. She was going to college. She was traveling to pediatric appointments. She was making peanut butter sandwiches. And every day, she got up and went to work. Like I do. What do I predict her daughter will think about her when she grows up? I believe her daughter will be proud to say, “I hope I grow up to be as strong for my kid one day as my mom was for me.”
So here is what is sad about this whole thing: the hate and discouragement that girls are dealt, mostly from other girls, and grown women — that’s what’s sexist. The judgment that is heaped upon them pisses me off. If I have but one piece of advice for them, it is this: To thine own self be true. Know who you are on the inside. Know what is important and set your goals high. Nobody who ever did anything great did it the easy way. History is full of women people judged harshly. Be your own kind of success, and know that I am proud of you, super proud…for whatever that’s worth.
And only God can judge you. Remember that.