When I hear a woman talk about getting blown and lovin it, my first reaction is to cringe. The same cringe I experience if a friend shows me a “dick pic” a boy sent her after exclaiming, “He sent it to me because he likes me!” The same cringe that happens when I hear someone reference a woman’s vagina as “meat curtains” -the slang makes me so disgusted with my own anatomy that I wish I was just a crotch-less Barbie. But that is me, call me rigid but it’s all just not very…empowering to me. So when Beyonce dropped her new album and I read the lyrics to the song “Blow:”
Can you eat my skittles?
That’s the sweetest in the middle
Pink that’s the flavor
Solve the riddle
I’m-a lean back
Don’t worry it’s nothing major
Make sure you clean that box
That’s the only way to get the
All I could think about was how enjoying my favorite candy would feel slightly spooky now- but why? I should feel empowered and free, right? I can’t diss Saint Beyonce unless I want to be burned alive at the stake, and I understand that “Blow” is a representation of a woman owning her sexuality because hey, men do all the time, and women enjoy sex too- sex is a natural part of life. I also recognize that it is extremely arrogant to claim just because you don’t like something- in this case the song “Blow,” does not mean it is empirically not good-in this case a new wave of feminism and empowering women. And I cannot ignore the fact that my opinion on the whole matter is highly undermined because if I were to write a song or poem about men and sex it would go like this:
Went to the vending machine
He bought Skittles
Gave me all the cherry flavored ones
I love him.
But my indifference to Beyonce’s message infuriated my friend. “How can you not like a sex positive message for women? It’s feminism! Feminism helps everyone,” he said. I thought about this. I think the conversation about feminism today is very complicated, specifically how it is discussed in for-profit industries like the music industry or entertainment industry, which let’s face it, is who the masses are literally buying into. There’s the Lordes’ voicing their opinions about the Selena Gomezs’ singing “come and get it,” as not a positive outlook for women. And then there’s the Selena Gomezs’ snapping right back with the claim that not supporting another female artist is not a very feminist stance. There’s the Katy Perrys’ who are roaring and the Taylor Swifts’ who are crying. You have the naked women dancing behind Alan Thicke in the Blurred Lines music video. Beyonce singing about getting her skittle pleasured as she gyrates against a brick wall. Miley Cyrus. Tina Fey reminding girls we probably shouldn’t call each other sluts. I get so confused about who is contributing to an oppressive environment for women and who is breaking down walls, and more times than not, my thoughts completely escape me and I get lost in a flashback of this one Halloween in seventh grade. I dressed up like a boy and the combination of my height, muscular calves, and my long hair tucked away into a hat exposing my prominent jaw line, made me realize that while I was kind of a goofy looking female, I was a really attractive boy. Girls kept checking me out. “Who is the new guy? He’s cute.” I went around all day opening doors for girls and looking them in the eye instead of staring at their butts- I was very respectful and the outcome was great. I had way more of a chance as a boy at getting a date to the dance than I did as a girl trying to appeal to a boy.
I was trying to figure out if I could use this example now, to illustrate a point, but then I didn’t really know what point I was trying to make, or why feminism makes me recall a time I pretended I was a boy for a day. “When I was a boy, I was a gentleman who respected woman. It was easy, I just had to think about our differences and how I would want to be treated if I was a woman.” I told my friend. “When you were a boy? If you were a woman? WHAT?” I ignored him and carried on. “Tasting my skittle, to me..something doesn’t feel..like I am taking back a constraint men put on me…I feel like now Beyonce is putting a constraint on me,” I said, cringing. “Ok, but that’s not the point. You just don’t like vulgarity, that’s fine. But do you believe you should be equal to a man?” my friend asked. “No,” I said. And then I burst into flames.
Words started firing out of my friend’s mouth, rape, abortion, self governing of one’s own body, equal rights, equality. “I thought we were talking about how I don’t like men referring to my anatomy as curtains of beef, and how I don’t want to refer to theirs as a bologna pony?” I said. “But how can you say you are not equal to a man?” I thought about this, yeah, how come I thought that? If I’m doing the same job as a man I should be paid the same, why did I say no? My initial response was to say no because I instantly saw myself with my tiny bird arms wearing a helmet and competing against a male NFL player in a game of football. In my mind, regardless of whether or not I would have the equal opportunity to try out for the NFL, I would still be at an unequal disadvantage, resulting not in equality between me and men, but inequality still. I might even somehow set women back by my performance as a professional football player. There’s a reason there’s a WNBA. We are all not matched equally- a man to other men, a women to other women, a man to a woman. Which brought me to my second thought- who is equal to anyone else really?
Everyone enters the world with their own physical, mental and emotional characteristics, unique to themselves- that they had no control over choosing. We all begin life unequal in many different ways- biologically, socially, economically, culturally. No one is a duplicate of someone else, everyone is different- and even though we, humanity, are all fundamentally human, it doesn’t mean we will ever be 100% equal to another human being- no matter what. We don’t want everyone to be 100% uniformly the same, but we also want everyone to have the same fundamental human rights and be treated fairly. So what do we do? How do we, humanity, a society of human beings who individually face different inequalities on different playing fields, balance the social, economic and political standing among individuals despite differences in race, religion, sex, social and economic status and culture?
If we are born into the world unequal, then we want to provide every individual with the same equal opportunities to improve his or her rank or condition in life, and fulfill their potential, but that’s complex- there’s a million different scenarios with different outcomes to take into consideration- economics, sex, ability, gender identity, etc, etc. Is it fair to say a child born with a learning disability should be tested the same as a child without a learning disability? If they were to be considered and treated as equals then they would be- but are they getting an equal opportunity to fulfill their potential? Should society view the child with a learning disability as less human than the child without a learning disability? Am I less human than the NFL football player because I am physically different? Absolutely not, but that doesn’t mean we are suddenly equal. Is a handicap ramp for someone in a wheelchair an attempt to make them more equal to a person not in a wheelchair? Is there some perfect human being who is biologically, mentally, morally, sexually, economically, religiously, culturally superior and who has all the opportunities and all the benefits and capabilities that the rest of us are all fighting to be equal to? Who, where are they? Is it Kanye West? It seems to me absolutely everyone no matter what is unequal to someone else in some way or another- no one is perfect, or has everything, and no one ever will- and that the problem doesn’t lie in this notion of becoming “equal” but when a member of humanity allows an inequality to create prejudice or bias that interfere with someone’s rights as another member of humanity, or alienates any member of humanity to feel less human.
To me, proclaiming that I should be “equal” to a man or anyone else makes me cringe the same way I do when I hear Beyonce’s song “Blow.” I’m unsure if either are truly freeing me from the constraints, challenges and complexities I am confronted with as the person I am in today’s world. I don’t think it’s a simple or easy thing to just confirm. Should I be treated free of prejudice, fairly, and with respect as a worthy yet unequal human being, by the whole of humanity? Yes. Everyone should. Our differences don’t have to alienate us or prove anything except that we are, in fact all human, and we are all here together- and it’s going to take a whole lot of empathy for one another as we all try to navigate a difficult world.