Saturday, June 09, 2007

Weird-ass late-night blogging

Now here’s a thought, a philosophical question if you will. Female beauty, how one feels about it, how one relates to it, to what extent one resents it’s ever present prominence in all of our lives…
How does one’s sexual orientation affect that? How one feels about those things? How one reacts to other women who are considered beautiful?


For those of you who are thinking “Cassandra, what are you babbling about, and why? What have you been smoking?” let me explain where this is coming from. I’ve been having a little e-mail chat with a friend, and we happened to be talking about women getting jealous of other women who are dating men the first set of women lust after. Jealous in the insane, wanting to claw eyes out, potentially bunny-boiling sense.

Neither of us seem to get it, and that got me thinking. Is this a bi thing? See, if I see a man I have the hots for with a beautiful woman my usual reaction isn’t to think “I hate her! She’s a bitch!” so much as it is to think “Damn she’s pretty. I can see why he went for her. I wonder if she likes girls?”. I usually end up enjoying looking at both of them for a while. When single I usually end up creating a fun little fantasy threesome in my head. I sit around with male friends and point out women I find beautiful, and if they say “why yes, she really is beautiful” that doesn’t make me feel bad about myself at all. I just don’t look at it as a me or her, only one queen in a hive kind of thing. There’s plenty of honey to go around.

Am I a bizarre freak of nature who for some odd reason just isn’t that competitive with other women in terms of looks, or is it because I like looking at beautiful women just as much as I like looking at beautiful men? That I see beautiful women as potential lovers rather than as rivals? Or did my mother just fail to implant me with the hatred and distrust of other women chip, radical free-thinking weirdo that she was?

And then I started thinking about radfems and political lesbianism and all that stuff. And something struck me as odd.

I went to a few radfem gatherings back in the day. You know what always seemed weird to me? How little hugging there was. Any other time I’ve been in a group of women who all know each other there’s been cuddling all over the place. I cuddle my female friends constantly. Even women I’m friendly with on a fairly superficial level get hugged hello and goodbye. I do this with my male friends too, but I realize that I may be a little unusual in that regard. What can I say, I’m cuddly. Anyway, it always seemed odd to me how little hugging there was in radfem groups, in fact how cold the interpersonal energy was in general. For all the talk about loving women and sisterhood I wasn’t feeling much affection there, which is part of the reason I stopped going.

It’s even odder when you realize that most of those women identify as lesbians. Put a room full of lesbians together and I’d expect hugging, even flirting, lots of happy physical interaction, but nothing. Nada. What’s that about? Why the coldness?

And then I think – political lesbian. What does that really mean? In most cases it means a woman who is heterosexual in orientation who has chosen not to fuck men for political reasons. Actually fucking women is not required, as Sheila Jeffries has been kind enough to point out. ATTRACTION to other women is not required. In fact, in an odd way it almost seems to be discouraged. Every time I hear the term “safe space” I can’t help but notice that “safe” seems to mean “non-sexual”, and if we’re talking about a group of lesbians isn’t that a little odd? That we would want it to be non-sexual? Why would we want that? Why is that a desirable goal?


I guess if you’re not actually attracted to other women it’s a desirable goal. If being a political lesbian is about retreat from men, who in many cases the women who thus identify have been hurt by and don’t trust, then it makes perfect sense.

But what about the actual lesbians? The ones who are attracted to other women? Where do they fit in? If they were to get flirty in that space, would that make it no longer safe? Isn’t that really weird and stifling, if they feel that they have to muffle their sexuality in order not to make the basically straight women who have chosen to self-define as lesbians uncomfortable?

And then I started thinking about the radfem dislike and condemnation of beauty rituals in all their various forms. It sort of makes sense, really, if you keep the idea “political lesbian” in mind…if one isn’t actually attracted to other women then why would one want them to be beautiful, or to make oneself beautiful in order to attract those other women? I’m not even talking about men here, I’m talking about the way women who actually are attracted to women relate to each other. How much of the “beauty practices suck” stuff is coming from actual lesbians and how much is coming from political lesbians? And if it’s coming from political lesbians…well, why should anyone else listen? That’s such a small, narrowly defined group of people and their entire ideology is founded on a rejection of sexuality, why should anyone else really care what they think about it?

And then I’m back to where I started. I love looking at beautiful women. I enjoy having them look back at me. To whatever extent I indulge in beauty practices, it’s as much to appeal to other women as it is to appeal to men. Not only that, it’s to appeal to MYSELF. If I can look at another woman and find her beautiful, why can’t I look at myself the same way? And is that maybe why, although I certainly have tendencies to beat myself up about the slightest weight deviation, in general I cut myself more slack than most women seem to? Because I look at myself the same way I look at other women, with an eye that seeks to find beauty rather than to find fault? Or is it a cultural thing to do with growing up in the Middle East, where women are in general far more inclined to praise other women’s beauty than to look for flaws?

How does everyone else feel about this? I know there are a few people hanging around here who’re not entirely straight…does any of this make sense to you? What about the women who are straight…does this sound totally nuts?

I’m curious more than anything. Indulge me. How do YOU feel about all this? How does it affect your politics? And how you relate to other women?


Also, some big heavy questions in the post below that are not entirely unrelated to the stuff here. I’m on a roll! A radfems are pissing me off roll. So what else is new?


28 comments:

Sassywho said...

I am not the most straight woman I know, although I have had sexual relationships with a few women... men tend to be my default.

yet, i love women, and def sexy women.... there is a different kind of space that is between women that is both erotic and natural in a sense.

political lesbianism seems to deny sexuality... and in my mind leads to a denial of self... removing a healthy and important piece of one's self.

Twinklecup Slithersby said...

I don't understand why political lesbians who aren't sexually attracted to women can't call themselves political asexuals. That's essentially what they are. "Lesbian" implies some kind of love for or attraction to women. Why do they feel the need to appropriate arbitrary labels for themselves?

And my mother says she's straight (I can't exactly delve into the depths of her mind and explore that or anything, but I'll take her word for it) and she's incredibly nonjudgmental and unjealous of other women's looks. She'll be critical of people's choices in clothing but I don't think I've ever heard her say something like, "God, she needs to lose a few pounds," or "Her nose is too small for her face!" or anything like that. I think it's because her father used to make disparaging comments about the way women on TV looked and she always felt really uncomfortable hearing that, so she didn't want to do the same thing. It may also have to do with the fact that she was a young adult in the 60's when Twiggy was popular and people were extremely critical of anyone who wasn't ridiculously skinny, which she wasn't. People made her feel absolutely horrible about herself, so I think she decided to take that experience and react to it in a healthy way, by making a point of not doing the same thing to other people, rather than an unhealthy way, by getting bitter and nasty. So ultimately, I think that whether or not a woman reacts jealously to other attractive women has a good deal to do with her maturity level.

Veronica said...

Uh...

Usually if there is a Gorgeous Dude with a Gorgeous Girlfriend, it's all like, razzle dazzle and glow from that corner of the room. More, "WOOOO, THEY'RE PRETTY!" than me thinking I have have chance of doing either of them. But, I don't think that I've ever been, "Jealous in the insane, wanting to claw eyes out, potentially bunny-boiling sense." Ever.

And, I'm straight. And, not at all cuddly.

P. Burke said...

Hi Cassandra, I clicked over via Kim's excellent calliponian post.

This really resonated with me. I had to consciously train myself out of being jealous of other women, and I did it by teaching myself to appreciate their beauty. I would look at pretty women, and practice thinking, "How soft and touchable her hair looks", rather than "I bet she's a humongous bitch". It helped that I made friends with a woman who was both breathtakingly gorgeous and a really cool person (completely het, alas).

I usually label myself heterosexual, because I've never had any sort of sexual experience with a woman, and I'm not looking to (I'm in a monogamous long-term relationship with a man). But I'm also attracted to women sometimes, so I don't know where I fit on your sexual orientation map.

belledame222 said...

Interesting, wrt the radical feminist group. That sounds...really strange. And yeah; did you see winter's post on that, wrt the desexualization of "safe space" in all -women settings, and what that meant for lesbians & bi women?

And yeah, "politically celibate" would be more accurate, and I wish they would. I think, you know, there's this idea that they SHOULD be "lesbian" because "lesbian" in that mindset means, like, "supra-feminist," you know, you can LOVE women if you just grit your teeth and set your mind to it. (they seem to do a lot of that, gritting teeth and setting mind).

To answer your question in another way, I remember when I was a kid, how I'd been told that my attraction to other girls just meant I wanted to BE them, and how i tried to internalize that. And how easy it -was- to do that, because sometimes, hey! it might also be true to a certain extent. Hey, I'm a femme and I like femmes; I might really love someone's hair or dress & either covet it, or not, or lust after her, or not.

but, a lot of the time--nope! i really do just want to kiss the back of her neck and feel her soft skin.

belledame222 said...

I'm not sure the insanely jealous thing is ultimately tied to sexuality, really, at the bottom of it all. I dunno -what- that is. I mean, to some extent I see what you mean, if you're very very locked into certain roles and your whole meaning is tied into it, so the "other" threatens your whole Manhood or Womanhood...but, i dunno, something else. as my best friend says, "there's a wee want, there."

belledame222 said...

what kind of radfem gatherings were these, CS, and where, can I ask? I'm curious. like I've said, my experience with anything at all like that sort of energy was Dyke Drama Group, and...there was weirdness there too, but not really -that- sort of weirdness. I don't think? (ponders)

belledame222 said...

anyway, what i get from some of the online radfems (it's hard to tell how anyone would be in person, but) is 1) an overall wariness of intimacy and touch 2) a lot of internalized misogyny 3) gotta say it, but deeply ambivalent attitudes about sexuality in general.

Add in a forced sociopolitical ideology and with all that working together it's no wonder people'd be stiff.

Cassandra Says said...

Sassy - If they just wanted to deny THEMSELVES sexuality I would be OK with that. I mean, it's a little wierd, but who am I to judge? The problem is that they tend to be very aggressive about insisting that ALL feminists should follow their template. They don't seem willing to accept "sorry, I have a libido" as a counterargument

Cassandra Says said...

Twinkle - That word "appropriate"? That's the crux of my problem with the whole thing, really. They're redefining "lesbian" to mean what they want it to mean, but the thing is, that word already HAD a meaning and I'm not really seeing why the people it already applied to should be obliged to reshape themselves to fit the new definition.
Or, y'know, what Belle said.

Maybe the not being bitchy and competative thing isn't about orientation, then. Hey, it was just a theory!

Cassandra Says said...

Veronica - "But, I don't think that I've ever been, "Jealous in the insane, wanting to claw eyes out, potentially bunny-boiling sense." Ever."
Neither have I. That's what I'm trying to figure out - where does that come from, and why don't I get it? Is it about the way a woman relates to other women, or something else?

Also...was I sounding really obnoxious and conceited in my post?

Cassandra Says said...

P Burke - I tend to define orientation by attraction rather than what a person actually does, but that may not be the standard. You could use the term "bi-curious", but that sounds pretty dorky.
It's interesting that you managed to train yourself out of being jealous. Were you attracted to women before you tried to do that or was the attraction a result of that process, do you think? Is it attraction, really, or simply aesthetic appreciation, the same way you'd enjoy looking at a painting or a piece of sculpture?

Cassandra Says said...

Belle - The radfem groups were mostly college related and in London. The energy really was wierd there, and not pleasant for me. I also went to one in San Francisco a couple of times but that was even worse since I was living with a man by that point - clearly I was a traitor.

Cassandra Says said...

Belle - We could just start calling them political celibates or something similar. I mean, if they're going to appropriate words that don't really belong to them...
Sorry, I'm feeling rather combatative right now.
Also, when you're talking about when you were younger...do you mean that you told people you were into girls and they tried to convince you that you weren't, or a more subtle sort of socialisation?
I never actually told my family that I was attracted to women, although I think my mother probably knew.

Veronica said...

That's what I'm trying to figure out - where does that come from, and why don't I get it?

It seemed to start in Junior High. So, maybe they're just really immature?

Is it about the way a woman relates to other women, or something else?

I dunno. I'd honestly say that in the specific case of women that are jealous of other women over men, it has a lot to do with how those women relate to men, how they view themselves, and how they view het relationships as a whole. Again--junior high. "She's so pretty, she must be a slut/bitch" implies a whole slew of assumptions: boys are only out for sex, boys only care about looks, boys are stupid and shallow, etc. I mean, you have to look at Beautiful Boy and assume he's a moronic hornball if "she's a bitch," but then you have to WANT the moronic hornball for yourself? How much sense does that make? Then, of course, it sets up a convenient false dichotomy: "Sure she's pretty... but she's gotta be a bitch. At least I'm nice/smart/not a slut/etc." It's a way of assuring you're own value on the hormone-soaked pubescent market, when you're gawky, and "developing," and really, really insecure.

I noticed, basically the first week of middle school that the girls that got called "slut" were usually virgins. And, that most of the popular girls, who were so often cited as being "pretty," were just really good at teasing their hair. (Of course, I entered Junior High in that Kelly Bundy WAVE OF BANGS period. So, maybe that's just me.) I never jumped on the "She's SUCH a BITCH" train. I accidentally befriended our year's "Biggest Slut," because we were both exempt from PE jogging units, and she was the sweetest, whisper-iest girl in the world with a truly awful homelife. And, I so I didn't have a chance for that Jealousy Dynamic to carry on into my adult life.

I have weird taste in girls. If I'm bowled over by a woman, usually if I mention it to someone I get that scrunched up "REALLY?!" face from whoever I told. I've never really mixed up "beautiful" with "socially successful." And, I think a lot of the jealousy thing is being envious of social success more than looks. And, I never really thought I was ugly--even in high school when I got called names. I wasn't blind; it's not that I was hideous and freakish. I just went to school with a bunch of country-fried assholes.

As for rad fems?

Christ, I dunno.

To go all Dr. Phil on you, I don't think that radical feminism is really about being happy--it's about being "right." So, who cares if I'm miserable and isolated? At least I'm Pure and Steady. Like a Rock of Righteousness jutting out of a sea of mundane humans who haven't seen the light. I didn't want to be invited to that party, anyway.

Also...was I sounding really obnoxious and conceited in my post?

Nah.

P. Burke said...

Cassandra,

My answer got kind of lengthy, so I've put it here, rather than writing an\ jige autobiographical novel in your comments.

A thought: do you suppose ex-gays and political lesbians are similar? They strike me as having similar attitudes toward non-prescribed kinds of sex.

P. Burke said...

That last comment by Veronica is dead on.

Renegade Evolution said...

I'm straight, I can still think a woman is sexy, and not be jealous of her for having an attractive man.

Octogalore said...

I'm straight, and I've been jealous of women who have been with men I wanted to be with, in the past. Maybe because now I'm married, or look at what I want out of life over a larger spectrum of things besides looks, when I see a sexy woman now, I'm more likely to want to ask her where she shops or works out.

And I agree about political lesbianism. I can't say it any better than the above descriptions of coopting and redefining.

SallySunshine said...

Cool Question.

I'd be more inclined to think a lack of jealousy is really dependent on one's appreciation of beauty. Yes, it probably helps to have an attraction to other women, but I'm not sure that implies causation.

When one has refined tastes and enjoys beauty just for the sake of gazing upon it, jealousy takes a back seat. Jealousy is an ugly unrefined emotion. I don’t know bout’ y’all, but even if I do feel jealous on a rare occasion it's not of the eye-clawing variety, which certainly isn't very lady-like. heh.

Anyway, C, it's gotta be that Libra Ascendant operating, Venus appreciates beauty in all its forms and gets lost in its sensory experiences (good food, good sex, amazing art ect..) As long as its aesthetically pleasing, it's easy to view people in a way one would view a piece of art, in a completely detached manner.

And another thing,

POWER.

Women who understand their power and boundaries (in a "I like to take up space just because I can" kind of way) are incredibly sexy and probably should be envied by other women who aren't as free. It's something to admire.

And no, girl! You don't sound conceited or obnoxious at all. In fact, just the opposite. Your posts are always thoughtful and conscientious - which is more than I can say for my own. ;)

~SS

Cassandra Says said...

Veronica - I dunno. I'd honestly say that in the specific case of women that are jealous of other women over men, it has a lot to do with how those women relate to men, how they view themselves, and how they view het relationships as a whole. Again--junior high. "She's so pretty, she must be a slut/bitch" implies a whole slew of assumptions: boys are only out for sex, boys only care about looks, boys are stupid and shallow, etc. I mean, you have to look at Beautiful Boy and assume he's a moronic hornball if "she's a bitch," but then you have to WANT the moronic hornball for yourself? How much sense does that make? Then, of course, it sets up a convenient false dichotomy: "Sure she's pretty... but she's gotta be a bitch. At least I'm nice/smart/not a slut/etc." It's a way of assuring you're own value on the hormone-soaked pubescent market, when you're gawky, and "developing," and really, really insecure.

Yeah, there is that. It sort of makes sense when they're young, but I've met so many adults that act the same way it's mind boggling. Maybe people just get used to thinking a certain way and if they never encounter anything that challenges their assumptions then the assumptions stick?

Interesting to note that none of the women I went to high school with do that, and all of us shared an environment where nobody was labelled as the designated slut. People just didn't care who anyone else was sleeping with. That may be a key thing. What if the ones acting like idiots never talked to the "slut" and realised that she was a normal girl just like them?

Cassandra Says said...

Also, V, you speak my mind here.

"As for rad fems?

Christ, I dunno.

To go all Dr. Phil on you, I don't think that radical feminism is really about being happy--it's about being "right." So, who cares if I'm miserable and isolated? At least I'm Pure and Steady. Like a Rock of Righteousness jutting out of a sea of mundane humans who haven't seen the light. I didn't want to be invited to that party, anyway."

They certainly seem to view anyone who claims to be doing anything because it makes them happy with deep suspicion. They're kind of like our little Maoists, really.

Cassandra Says said...

Sally - Appreciation of beauty may well be a component, too.

Also, about the power thing...I do notice that the only occasions on which I've ever felt jealous have coincided with periods where I was feeling powerless for one reason or another. When I feel strong and confident jealousy seems like a ridiculous emotion.

PS If the chart reading is still on offer I'd like to take you up on that. I still can't figure out what time I was born, though - I knew last time I had my chart done but I've forgotten.

Zan said...

I've never been that jealous of anyone, period. I can't imagine being that insanely jealous. Being that angry at someone, sure. But jealous? I don't get that.

I have to be honest though, I'm not much of a lookist. (Is that even a word?) I don't often find supposedly beautiful people all that attractive. I mean, I can appreciate the aesthetic, but they don't really appeal to me on a viceral level. And if you can't catch my attention on a very primative level, I'm not that into you. In fact, I've been known to simply not see parts of people I don't find terribly attractive. In that, I can tell you what they look like, but unless they have some feature that's particularly outstanding, I couldn't give you details. ya know? I mean, they're people, right?

I didn't date at all in high school, although I had a huge crush on the same boy forever. I was the scary, intimidating smart girl -- aka, undateable. So I never really got too caught up on the whole 'oh, bitch. if you weren't so pretty he'd be MINE'. I just don't get that. People are what they are. Either she's naturally lucky or she works hella hard to look like that, either way, what does that have to do with me? And why would I want to be with someone who only wanted pretty girls anyway? That seems shallow and boring to me.

UneFemmePlusCourageuse said...

"I remember when I was a kid, how I'd been told that my attraction to other girls just meant I wanted to BE them, and how i tried to internalize that. And how easy it -was- to do that, because sometimes, hey! it might also be true to a certain extent. Hey, I'm a femme and I like femmes; I might really love someone's hair or dress & either covet it, or not, or lust after her, or not."

I think this might be true...for someone like me, whose attractions to women are few and far between. But if it's a 'usual' thing, if women are the ones a person is always-or-almost-always attracted to-- then yeah, they're probably a lesbian, not an 'admirer.' Just my opinion.

UneFemmePlusCourageuse said...

"I noticed, basically the first week of middle school that the girls that got called "slut" were usually virgins."

Yep. During the time when most people were calling me a slut, I was still very much a virgin. I was past middle school, though.

Cassandra Says said...

Zan - What's a looksist? I mean, I very definately have aesthetic preferences, and the chance of me ever having sex with anyone who doesn't match those preferences pretty damn closely is pretty much nil BUT the looks alone aren't enough. I can think someone's incredibly hot from across the room but if they open there mouth and start talking and they're stupid or shallow or have politics that I find abhorrent or I just plain don't like them for whatever reason then I'm going to lose interest in that person pretty quickly. At that point the way they look is irrelevant because the personality isn't a match for man. So, am I still being looksist?


I do know what you're talking about with the primal thing, BTW, it's just that for me there needs to be that primal thing PLUS certain aesthetic elements in order for me to be interested. If the primal thing isn't there the person isn't going to hold my interest for very long, though, no matter how nice they are.

H said...

"Am I a bizarre freak of nature who for some odd reason just isn’t that competitive with other women in terms of looks, or is it because I like looking at beautiful women just as much as I like looking at beautiful men? "

No you just happen to have your head screwed on straight, and it seems a minimum of excess baggage mucking up the place, enjoy the clarity.