While I was sleeping last night, Musings of An Inappropriate Woman ticked over 50,000 followers here on Tumblr. To quote Britticisms, who reached this milestone five months ago (and who is partly responsible for this blog hitting it): “I’m not bragging. I just feel really proud since I’m not a meme or pornbot or anything.”
To celebrate, I’ll be sending a thank you card to everyone who comments on this post. If you’d like to receive one, just click here, make sure to include your email, and I’ll be in touch to ask for your mailing address.
It might take a while to receive them, since I’m 5 weeks and 6 days from book deadline right now (who’s counting?), but you can expect to find a little something from me in the mail.
Edited to add: To clarify, you don’t actually need to include your email address in the body of your comment (unless you want to). All you need to do is include your email along with your name when you sign in as a Guest (or using your Disqus login) and I’ll be able to view it as an admin.
My love for Simone de Beauvoir is well documented on this blog. But truth be told, my admiration is driven less by what she wrote than by the way she lived.
I love the long letters she and Sartre would write to one another, detailing their every thought and experience (proto bloggers?). I love the intensity of the relationships she had with her friends; the tight-knit, dysfunctional community she built; the sheer amount of time they spent together. I love the places she visited, the projects she worked on, the legacy she built.
I love the fact that despite her nickname being “The Beaver” (for her legendary work ethic), she actually only worked seven hours a day: three hours in the morning, and four in the evening. The afternoons she took off to socialise.**
So I’ve decided to try an experiment – to temporarily alter my routine to look more like Simone’s. Two medium sized, sharply focused bursts of work, punctuated with a break in the middle of the day to meet a friend for lunch, go to a museum, or exercise. As opposed to my current “routine” (if you could call it that), which usually involves long, meandering sessions of work, punctuated by falling down rabbit holes of internet commentary and malaise, with no clear beginning or end.
The idea? To focus more completely on work while I’m working. To separate my recreation from my work time. To feel more connected to my city and my community. To take advantage of the fact that I essentially set my own hours, instead of letting my work hours bleed into every waking hour.
Like I said, it’s an experiment. I may well abandon it within a couple of weeks, due to decreased productivity, increased spending, or a workload that literally requires me to spend 12+ hours a day staring at my computer screen. But changes don’t have to ‘work’ forever to be worthwhile. They just have to work for the moment.
Today’s excursion? A trip to the Whitechapel Gallery to see Gillian Wearing, whose posters I have been eying in Tube stations for weeks, and whose exhibit was even better than I hoped.
* Okay, not really (obviously), but you get the allusion.
** She also took 2-3 months holiday a year, apparently, which makes me laugh.
Elsewhere: Simone de Beauvoir’s Daily Routine
I’m researching an article on popular culture, powerful women, femininity and ambition at the moment, which sparked a very interesting (45 comments and counting) conversation on my Facebook wall today.
Does Hollywood portray successful woman as bitchy, regretful or lonely, while its loveable heroines are shoehorned into more traditionally feminine professions (like, say, Kristen Wiig’s cupcake shop in Bridesmaids)? And if so, how does that impact our own ambitions? Are we defining ambition in the wrong ways in the first place?
As usual, I think it’s… complicated. I don’t think women are hated on for being successful. If anything, I think it’s part of the ideal that we’re all “supposed” to live up to these days: beautiful, thin, great shoes, cute family, glittering career. But I also think that success is supposed to come easily, something that is bestowed upon you because the powers that be couldn’t help but notice your innate fabulousness.
To try is unseemly. Mostly because it means admitting you wanted something in the first place. It also suggests a certain level of ego: that you thought you were worthy of the thing you wanted and went after it, instead of letting someone else decree your worthiness and hand it to you.
As one young woman is quoted saying in this excellent Elle article from 2010: “There’s this attitude that if you’re a girl, there’s a limit on how much success you’re allowed. When I was nominated for a major award, the friends of another candidate went around telling people that they shouldn’t vote for me because I already had ‘too much’; I was the editor of the school paper and had been accepted early decision to Harvard. So the other person won.”
But I don’t think ambition has to be a bad thing. Ambition doesn’t mean thinking you’re better than the people around you, or walking over them in order to get your own way. Or at least, it shouldn’t mean that.
Ambition is about figuring out what makes you feel alive, and going after it wholeheartedly: whether that’s opening your own cupcake shop (I don’t know why that plot point was ever cast as “unambitious” - starting your own business is no easy feat), transforming people’s lives or the world around you as an activist or social worker, heading up an investment bank, being a top thinker in your field, or building an amazing, tight knit community of friends and family.
I also don’t think downplaying our accomplishments does anyone any good. Pretending things happen effortlessly only makes it harder for people to follow in our footsteps. Far better to say, “This is how I did it, and how you can do it, too” than to act coy and say, “Oh, little old me? I don’t know how that happened at all!”
Related: She who tries, wins.
I think you know the answer to this already, but of course! Are feminist arguments about make-up and compulsory heterosexuality valid? Sure. It is absolutely true that we inhabit a culture that tells women that we are prettier and altogether better people if we wear make-up (or if we just look like we’re wearing it). It’s also true that we live in a society that makes it a hell of a lot easier to be heterosexual than, well, anything else.
But that doesn’t mean that putting on make-up or dressing yourself in a traditionally feminine way can’t be a positive and (dare I say it?) empowering experience. And there are certainly plenty of women out there who are heterosexual… because (shock, horror) they just like having sex with men. I definitely don’t buy the argument that heterosexuality is innately sexist or disempowering.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Tavi Gevinson: “girls … think that to be feminists they have to live up to being perfectly consistent in their beliefs, never being insecure, never having doubts, having all the answers… And this is not true. And actually recognising all the contradictions I was feeling became easier once I realised that feminism was not a rulebook but a discussion, a conversation, a process.”
She’s a smart cookie.
See also: We’re all bad feminists, really.