Thursday, 20 February 2014

Too Right, Pretty Fucking Hurts.

 
BeyoncĂ©’s feminist anthem Pretty Hurts is a relief to hear; it’s about time that someone in her position verbalised this message.  There is no point in her having all this power and not using it for good (as I’m sure she would agree).  She has always been behind songs that empower women, but this song really gets to the heart of the matter when it comes to the objectification of women in today’s society.  I have included the lyrics at the end of this post if you wish to read them for yourself but I would also highly recommend the song as the emotional message is obviously far more effective in this format.  If you have already heard the song I am sure you know all this already.  This post is about the thoughts I had when I was listening to the song one day in the car and it made me cry; I am pregnant so that is a definite factor in my emotional response but the point is that it perfectly summed up something I have always felt inside of me, as I’m sure many women have.  This is how music works a lot of the time and why we as human beings love it; this time I felt that there was more to be said on this topic.

The idea that ‘Pretty Hurts’ has multiple meanings in my eyes and I want to outline a couple of them.


Pretty hurts when you have to pluck, shave or wax sensitive areas of your body in order for them to be deemed acceptable for public consumption.  I’m not sure if any woman who chooses to ignore the rules about female body hair imposed by our society would be considered ‘pretty’.  It hurts when you put bleach on your scalp, have to squeeze ‘unsightly’ in-growing hairs or blemishes or poke yourself in the eye with various make-up products.  Now, I personally enjoy wearing make-up and only do so when I feel like it (for the most part), but how many other women out there do it because they don’t feel they look like ‘themselves’ without it?  Or don’t feel they would be attractive to men?  Or acceptable at work?  It hurts to have to get up earlier than our male counter-parts, losing vital sleep, just to make our image acceptable for the day ahead.  I have no experience with such things myself but I’m pretty sure anal bleaching, facial peels, Botox and other more extreme plastic surgery hurt too.  A lot.  To feel so unhappy with your appearance because it doesn’t look how we are told it should.  It hurts to feel your body is so unacceptable in its natural shape that we punish ourselves for eating some cake and berate ourselves when we don’t look how others do in a bodycon dress. 

But this is just the surface of how much pretty hurts.

Pretty hurts when you are considered to be ‘naturally’ attractive, beautiful or even stunning, with no cosmetic assistance.  It hurts when you are leered at, groped and harassed in the street.  Didn’t you know it was their right to do that to someone who they find attractive?  It’s a compliment, it’s what you should expect if you dress, or even if you look a certain way and you have a vagina.  Being considered pretty by a large amount of people because you have big eyes, a socially acceptable figure or long blonde hair hurts just as much as what other people have done to attain pretty in the first place.  It hurts when people won’t take you seriously in your career because they are too busy looking at your arse or are so overcome with sexual desire they can’t see you as a human being, they can only see you as a sexual object.  You were sexually harassed, or even raped because they wanted you.  They desired you as that sexual object and they couldn’t help but take what they wanted, despite what you wanted, because you are not quite a human being with feelings of your own.  You are an object to be taken.  Yes, being ‘pretty’ fucking hurts. 



Pretty also hurts when it is the word that haunts you, the one that is never used to describe you.  It is always your friend, your colleague, your sister, that is ‘pretty’, desirable and wanted.  If you’re lucky someone will tell you that “you look nice today” like it’s a surprise and a massive compliment because you have made an effort to put make-up on or wear something bright and flattering, but no-one will ever swoon over you.  They won’t all look when you walk into a room.  You are not naturally socially-acceptably beautiful, you have a big nose, no tits, a fat arse.  Your hair won’t grow all over your head, but it sure as hell wants to populate your chin.  You are a ‘paper-bag job’, a whale, the pity fuck.  ‘Pretty’ hurts when it is something you will never obtain because you don’t match up to those standards that the world you live in has set up for women.  No matter what you do you won’t emulate anyone’s icon, be anyone’s fantasy, be on anyone’s ‘list’.  If you are lucky you will meet someone who loves you because of who you are, but you will still be considered invisible and worthless in society.

Clearly I don’t think these things mean shit because we all know that being yourself, being comfortable with who you are naturally, and spending time with people who love you as just that is more important than anything.  But these ideas are all there, all the time, haunting us as women who move in the public sphere; and they are hard to ignore.  Especially when you are young and these things rule your world; being a teenager is tough and this is when a large part of our self-image is formed.

We need to change the way that we see ourselves and the way that we judge each other.  We need to teach our children to do the same.  The less we objectify women in this world, the less ‘pretty’ will hurt.



"Pretty Hurts"

Mama said, "You're a pretty girl.
What's in your head, it doesn't matter
Brush your hair, fix your teeth.
What you wear is all that matters."

Just another stage, pageant the pain away
This time I'm gonna take the crown
Without falling down, down, down

Pretty hurts, we shine the light on whatever's worst
Perfection is a disease of a nation, pretty hurts, pretty hurts
Pretty hurts, we shine the light on whatever's worst
We try to fix something but you can't fix what you can't see
It's the soul that needs the surgery

Blonder hair, flat chest
TV says, "Bigger is better."
South beach, sugar free
Vogue says, "Thinner is better."

Just another stage, pageant the pain away
This time I'm gonna take the crown
Without falling down, down, down

Pretty hurts, we shine the light on whatever's worst
Perfection is a disease of a nation, pretty hurts, pretty hurts (pretty hurts)
Pretty hurts (pretty hurts), we shine the light on whatever's worst
We try to fix something but you can't fix what you can't see
It's the soul that needs the surgery

Ain't got no doctor or pill that can take the pain away
The pain's inside and nobody frees you from your body
It's the soul, it's the soul that needs surgery
It's my soul that needs surgery
Plastic smiles and denial can only take you so far
Then you break when the fake facade leaves you in the dark
You left with shattered mirrors and the shards of a beautiful past

Pretty hurts, we shine the light on whatever's worst (pretty hurts)
Perfection is a disease of a nation, pretty hurts, pretty hurts
Pretty hurts, we shine the light on whatever's worst
We try to fix something but you can't fix what you can't see
It's the soul that needs the surgery

When you're alone all by yourself (pretty hurts, pretty hurts)
And you're lying in your bed (pretty hurts, pretty hurts)
Reflection stares right into you (pretty hurts, pretty hurts)
Are you happy with yourself? (pretty hurts, pretty hurts)

You stripped away the masquerade (pretty hurts, pretty hurts)
The illusion has been shed (pretty hurts, pretty hurts)
Are you happy with yourself? (pretty hurts, pretty hurts)
Are you happy with yourself? (pretty hurts, pretty hurts)

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Is it feminist to ... take your man’s name?


Bump and ring highly visible for work.

I am pregnant and engaged; both things involving the same handsome man (just to clarify).  The pregnancy was entirely unplanned, but in no way unwanted (we are thrilled and excited), and the engagement was entirely planned (not due to knocking me up, so he assures me).  Obviously at the moment my partner and I have different surnames.  The first decision about surnames we must make will be the surname of the wee one, as he (yes, I had to find out) will arrive before we get married.  But that is irrevocably tied up with what my name will be in the future.  I had always, even after discovering feminism, been comfortable with the prospect of changing my name at the time of marriage.  Although that has not changed as such, I now have a dilemma.  Due to recent deeper involvement with feminism (research and starting this blog) I find the idea of changing my name to his rather troubling.  The reason I was fine with it before recently is because I was never that attached to my given name and, due to re-marriage, always had a different surname to the rest of my nuclear family.  I didn’t want this to happen when I made my own family, I felt very strongly about the symbolic nature of a family all having the same name.  I was fed-up of being the odd one out for the first part of my life.

                                            Me, him and our first baby purchase for the boy.

Recently though, as my involvement with feminism, and therefore my feelings about the cause, have deepened, it has lead me to question this.  As well as a family all having the same surname, what I also think is very important, mainly when it comes to bringing up my children, is teaching them that men and women are equal.  When two people create a child it is a 50/50 effort.  Ok, so men don’t have to surrender their bodies to the cause, but that’s not their fault, and my partner for one is making up for that by looking after me as if I were royalty.  So if this is a 50/50 thing then shouldn’t the name be too?  I like the tradition of having a double barrelled surname with one name from each parent.  Nice and equal; symbolically representing the forming of a new family by creating a new name.  The fusion of both of our families to make a new one.

We've known each other for a while...



“But then what’s the problem?!” I hear you cry.  The problem is, he doesn’t want to change his name; not at all, not one bit.  I am more than happy to put our two surnames together in a pleasing order and for all of us to take this on as our family name.  As a woman, I was brought up in a world where surnames are flexible.  Keep it, add to it, change it all together; whatever you like really.  My mother has been married twice and has a child with each man, and both times has chosen to change her name and give me and my brother the names of our fathers.  It was her choice to do so and she is very comfortable with said choices, but she has always emphasised the idea of choice to us.  So, in essence, I am used to the idea that one day I will change my name; most men are not used to this idea.  For most, they haven’t even considered it due to the patriarchal society in which we live.  One in which, historically, men rule and their names are more important than ours.

Even though changing my name does not trouble me, what does irk me is the idea of completely surrendering my identity for the sake of tradition.  A lot of the time I see traditions like these to be the practice of doing something purely because loads of other people have before you.  But I wouldn’t consider asking my partner to surrender what he considers his identity either.  His name has very strong family ties and connotations; he is very close to his whole family and they are so often known by their surname to friends and aquaintences that I think it would just be too odd for him to change it.  We also cannot ignore the fact that in society it is still unusual for men to change their surnames; however subliminal this may be as an influence, it cannot be dismissed.  My lovely man is more than happy for the kids and myself to have the double-barrelled version of our names, but he will not (at this point in time, things can change) change his name at all.  So if the baby and I both had a double-barrelled version this would then leave my partner as the odd one out, which takes us back to square one.

The source of so much debate; how he looked at 20 weeks.

So I am left with a dilemma.  Either I change my name to his and we all have the same name, or I stick to my feminist values and go for the option where the kids and I have (what I deem to be) the feminist version and he has a different name.  I am unsure whether I feel so strongly for the double-barrelled version due to wanting to set my children a good example and have that symbol of equality, or whether I am worried that I will no longer be considered a feminist if I ‘just’ take his name.  BeyoncĂ©, always a strong female icon, but especially since her recent forays into outspoken feminism, has changed her name to Knowles-Carter.  But, so far as I can tell, her daughter Blue is simply Blue Ivy Carter.  No Knowles in sight.  It would trouble me for my children to have a different name to myself; after everything I will have been through to create them, surely I deserve an input into their family name?  Although on the other hand my mother is no less my mother just because she has a different surname to me, and in no way was I ever made to feel like I was the odd one out amongst the three people I grew up living with, despite them having a different family name.

Does the symbol of equality that a double-barrelled surname provides really matter?  Or are the actions of how you live your life more important?  I am filled with rage if anyone ever calls me Miss and I’m sure Mrs will bother me just as much after I am married.  Ms and Mr are equal titles for men and women; they represent equality.  But that really is my choice alone; the surname of my fast-developing family is not only my choice.  I want to, and must, consider the feelings of the man who is my best friend and partner through life. 

After much discussion we recently came to a deal that I think could suit everyone.  If I compromise my feelings on the matter and we all take his surname, then I get final say on the first names of our future children.  What do you think?  Does that seem fair or logical?  How would you, or have you dealt with this situation?  Is this business of names really important in the battle for equality?  Do I still get to wear my feminist badge if I take my beloved’s name and discard my own?  How far should your beliefs affect the decisions you make when it comes to the feelings of the one you love most?  Will it make me a bad role-model to my children if I concede?


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