Lots of buzz this week regarding the Golden Globes, especially all the references to women’s empowerment in the industry. As you all know, many of the female attendees banded together to wear black to protest the industry’s prevalent sexual harassment. I’m happy to notice that, while the community of show biz women expressed their outrage via the color of their attire, they were still eager to show their femininity and style. From deep cleavages to hourglass shapes to enhancing sparkle and shine, these impressive women looked sexy and feminine.
I’m not writing as a fashionista or style commentator here. I’m writing as an empowered woman who is eager to help empower others.
I’ve been struggling a bit with my feelings about the #metoo movement. Undoubtedly I support a woman’s ability to live and work free of sexual harassment. After all, I, like so many of my friends, have faced harassment in some shape or form from my school days to today. In fact, I was encouraged by my followers to write my version of #metoo stories. And I did. But I never published them. It wasn’t that I was ashamed. Partly I didn’t want to incense my readers and then leave them with no inspiration. But, really, I think I was concerned that all of our anger would lead us to want to disallow our femininity and sexuality.
We are starting to see the backlash from the movement: from women showing their support for men in social media to French celebrities, led by Catherine Deneuve, criticizing American women for “confusing” violence with seduction. They argue that the movement reduces our sexual freedom, that “instead of empowering women, the #MeToo and #BalanceTonPorc movements serve the interests of the enemies of sexual freedom, of religious extremists, of the worst reactionaries,”and of those who believe that women are separate”.
I certainly DON’T want people — women or men — to misjudge me because of my gender or how I appear. I’ve been burned by it. BUT, what I also don’t want is to feel I have to hide myself either. I want to own my beauty, sexuality, sensuality, femininity — whatever you want to call it. Could the #metoo movement lead some of us to inhibit our sexuality out of fear that we are advertising for sex or “asking” for it? Could our efforts to encourage men to judge us for our creativity, intellect and point of view, also push us to dampen or quell our femininity?
I’m not saying we should all be wearing lingerie to the office. But, from what I’ve experienced, even while wearing a suit and high-necked blouse, people have still judged me as being too provocative. In the end, it’s not just what we wear, it’s our whole aura: our style, how extroverted we are, how confident we seem.
What I’ve learned is that the biases we face or the harassment we may encounter is not about US, it’s about them — the harasser. Any anger or mistreatment of us is a reflection of others’ own issues, particularly issues with sexuality. Thanks to our Puritanical underpinnings, U.S. culture is conflicted about sexuality and beauty. We either deify or demonize it. To make matters worse, we have a hard time believing women can be both smart, and beautiful. To this day, we’ve failed to successfully debunk the negative “dumb blonde” stereotype still floating around our culture. The BBC created an ironic skit, showcasing the amazing Tracey Ullman, aptly demonstrates the biases we face towards women and their expression of their femininity. But she turns the tables. In it, the almost all female police team, make a men dressed in a suit feel like he deserved getting robbed at knifepoint since he look so “provocatively wealthy.” Have a look yourselves:
In all seriousness, we should be able to express ourselves, including our femininity or masculinity, without the fear of harassment. We can change this. We HAVE to #TimesUp.
We need to appreciate beauty and sexuality — our own and that of others. If we embrace it, we won’t feel so conflicted by it — and treat it with the respect it deserves. Once we embrace it, we won’t feel so conflicted by it. And I believe our affirmation will mitigate others’ power to use it against us. Think about it, we apply the same logic to religious or ethnic expression, right? Do we feel we should shut down people’s ability to physically embrace their specialness? No way! I’ve given up trying to appease people who feel uncomfortable with beauty and femininity. If they want to deem me somehow inferior, that’s their problem. They will lose what I have to offer.
To all of you — men, women, and or however you define your selves — don’t lose that unique and wonderful part of you that is beautiful, sensual and magnetic. And if that means wearing a powerful pair of pants, a body conscious dress, or short sleeve shirt that shows off your sculpted muscles, go for it!