Well, it's been a while. So let's try to get writing again, with a topic that always inspires me somewhat...
Possible trigger warning for some rude sexism and sexual violence related words. No graphic descriptions or anything though.
There's been a bunch of interesting articles a while ago (e.g. this one, or this one), from women realizing they used to be sexist, too. Watching Feminist Frequency's older videos, reading some stuff on the Everyday sexism website, got me thinking quite a bit about the topic. This article on Tomb Raider being empowering helped as well. But it's this write-up about distinguishing appearances from personality which was the real wake-up call. And I realized that, well, I used to be sexist, too. Let me explain.
My closest friends were always girls, but never "girly girls". Part of me thought that trying to be pretty, putting on make-up, shaving your legs and such was giving in to social conventions, and synonym with being stupid and weak. So I was never going to do that, right, since I was so much smarter and better and blah blah blah? I slowly became more tolerant, but only saw recently how messed-up that was.
During my higher studies (three years of Computer Science), I was one of the only girls in the class, and a pretty good student. Part of me loved that, being so special and everything, and I was pretty cold to other female students by default. Something in me thought that they didn't belong there since they weren't as good. Or something. And I was especially nasty to them when they showed up in skirts or that kind of thing, like for those simulated job interviews we had. They were being weak, right?
Me being "one of the guys"? Yeah, there was some of that.
And if only that was the worst. Thanks to the image of men that society builds for us (Internet is especially guilty), I finally unearthed something really dangerous in my thought process. I have no memory of ever being harassed for being a girl. A few annoyings remarks here and there but nothing traumatizing. I never got hit on by anyone, except some "Eh mademoiselle t'es troooooop belle" in the metro once in a blue moon by random dumbasses five years younger who probably say that to every girl. You'll tell me, that's nice, good for you. Well, something in me was saying "Never been harassed? Must mean you're completely unattractive considering how all men are."
I probably turned very, very pale when I finally pinpointed that. It's so wrong, on so many levels. First, as mentionned, I never made any effort to actually look even remotely nice before recently. Even in that broken frame of thought it didn't make much sense. But the most important? I've internalized the idea that it should somehow be normal, be flattering to have people not respect you. Also, it's kind of insulting to guys when you think about it. So, let's state a few things here both for myself and for anyone reading my blurbs.
No, saying "I'd gladly fuck / rape you" is NOT a compliment. It's at best irrelevant unless you're in a rather specific context, and plain creepy and threatening otherwise.
No, trying to be pretty is not "asking for it" or anything. Don't do slut-shaming or victim-blaming, that's plain nasty. I've changed my style quite a bit lately, and I realize that looking better just feels good. Attracting people is irrelevant. Also, kudos to the people at the office who complimented me as looking "awesome" and not any other adjective!
(On that note though: in theory one should be able to do whatever one wants without being threatened. The victim is never the guilty one. We don't live in a perfect world unfortunately, so watching out somewhat can't hurt. But if anything happens? It's not your fault, no matter what. Period. As excellently stated on domestic violence here, violence is a choice of the perpetrator, and a very bad one.)
No, a girl actually caring about her appearance is not necessarily shallow or dumb. Looks have nothing to do with that.
No, the correct way to make a female character strong is NOT to rob her of every bit of sex-appeal and to make her breasts smaller. It's so much more complicated than that, and yet so simple. Just write a good character, and stop taking male as the default option.
Now, does anyone have a time machine handy? I've got a 12-year-old me to go lecture. Or a 20-year-old me as well.