This piece originally appeared on Role/Reboot. Republished here with permission.
Warning: Some parts of this article, and individual hyperlinks, are explicit, and may be considered NSFW.
There’s a lot of pressure to have a good vagina. Rapper Missy Elliott’s mysterious “Pussycat” is a ballad from a woman to her genitals. She pleads that they not “fail her now” so her lover won’t cheat on her. Then she disguises her voice through a creepy filter and raps as her lover, backhandedly affirming that he’s “glad [hers] ain’t that gushy stuff.” Ten years later, I’m still not sure if the song is parody or commentary. It reminds us that in a culture that reduces women to our appearances, we can feel like not much more than walking vaginas. And if you flip and reverse that argument, when we sexualize women, we see women’s genitals existing to perform for a partner’s pleasure. Where every part of a woman’s body is taxonomized, judged, and sentenced, it’s no surprise that we treat our vulvas with fear and disgust.
I know a few extra things about how women regard their genitals. While creating my documentary,Subjectified, I had intimate conversations about sex with women across the United States. In the jarring words of a funny, self-confident, conventionally gorgeous 23-year-old, “I don’t think I have the prettiest genitals…I remember like three years ago I put a mirror down there, and that was the first time I saw up-front what was going on…I was totally horrified for a whole week.” Another woman described how her genitals were seriously injured in childbirth, requiring reconstructive surgery that she couldn’t afford. She felt stuck in a dysfunctional relationship because she was ashamed to show her body to anyone else. Our feelings about our genitals reverberate through our lives, and we project a life’s worth of insecurities onto our private parts. Keep reading »
The Internet Rape Joke Wars have been waged, on and off, since at least last year, when comedian Daniel Tosh responded to a woman who had challenged him during his set about the number of rape jokes he was making with, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by, like, five guys right now?” (The questions about rape jokes pre-date The Tosh Incident, of course, but that was the watershed moment in which those questions broke into the mainstream – at one point, Louis CK had to go on “The Daily Show” to address a seemingly-supportive tweet that he’d made to Tosh.) Since then, the debate has heated up and cooled down, depending on what jokes comedians are making.
Most recently, it was a low-profile comic named Sam Morril, whose set was challenged in a column by feminist blogger Sady Doyle, that reignited the issue. And last week, feminist and comedian Lindy West of Jezebel took to television and debated the issue with comic Jim Norton on FX’s “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell.” During the 12-minute segment, West made her points, Barry made his, and a lot of people on the Internet came away from the discussion with the exact same opinion they started with.
West’s argument centered around the (mathematically hard to dispute) fact that, sitting in the crowd each night a comic performs, there’s likely to be someone who has survived a sexual assault, and these jokes are likely to make that person’s night much, much harder. That’s true, and it’s absolutely worth considering. But there’s someone else who is likely to be in that room to hear it at some point, too, and how the joke will make that person feel is important, too. I’m talking about the rapist. Keep reading »
If you watch HBO’s tit-laden nigh-incoherent castle-intrigue juggernaut “Game of Thrones “(or as I like to call it, “The Peter Dinklage Show”) you’ll remember that a couple weeks ago there was an episode with a scene involving two prostitutes.
HAHA, JUST KIDDING, THAT’S EVERY EPISODE. That doesn’t help distinguish them at all. Anyway, just trust me, there were two prostitutes and they get naked — because really that is what 80 percent of the women in this series are there for — and I couldn’t help but notice that their, uh, ladygardens were shockingly well maintained. Like meticulously trimmed topiaries. So much so that it distracted me right out of the scene. Keep reading »
One day in college, during track practice, I wore a bandanna to my work out. I was having a spectacularly bad hair day and that thin piece of printed cloth made me feel safe from criticism. My coach, who was a hard ass, wasn’t having it and ordered me to take it off immediately. I ran back to the locker room, did my best to make my mane look presentable but still, I cringed as I walked back to the track, embarrassed of what my teammates would think.
Like many black women I know, I have always had a tumultuous relationship with my hair. If it didn’t look good, I didn’t feel good and often it dictated whether I would have a good or bad day. But my own criticism of my hair wasn’t something I could have ever controlled; it was something that started with my ancestors, long before I was born. Keep reading »
I do not like my nose. Although I no longer hate it with the same gusto I did at 15, I still do not accept it.
I do not like my thighs; they’re huge and riddled with stretch marks thanks to a growth spurt at 12, and my stomach refuses to be flat – but I guess I have Lombardi’s pizza to blame for that one. I wish my ass was perkier; my boobs are too big and too saggy, my lips should be less thin and pout on command, and my teeth are too small — straight, but small. My dentist refuses to give me veneers; we’ve been arguing about it for years.
In other words, I’m not very keen on my body, and I certainly don’t accept it. If one more person tells me I have to, I’m going to lose my shit and throw something really heavy and dangerous. Keep reading »
This piece is crossposted with permission from Role/Reboot.
My dad grew up a poor boy from a small fishing village, just minutes away from the site of Shakespeare’s “Othello.” He spent his childhood playing along the walls of the great Venetian fortress. His village dates back to antiquity, his childhood colonialism, and his youth decolonization. He fled his country to get educated and build a better life in New York City. And he did. With graduate degrees from an elite institution under his belt, he rose up the corporate ladder and married two times to American women. Despite all his economic progress, he held fast to tradition.
I grew up a middle class girl in a suburban town just minutes away from New York City. I spent my childhood playing soccer and hanging out at the mall. My town dates back to the postwar era, my childhood consumerism, and my youth social justice. I fled my country to get a more affordable education and build a global dream of equity in Montreal. And I did. With graduate degrees from elite institutions under my belt, I moved through the social justice industry living and working in Latin America, Africa, Europe, and the South Pacific. Despite all my cultural development, I fought to change my father. Keep reading »
Dear Gentlemen Of The World:
Hello. My name is Sara Benincasa. Pleased to meet you. I’m an author and a comedian and a human with a vagina, otherwise known as a “lady-person.” I’m about to school you in exactly how to tell a stranger lady that she is great. I’m also going to teach you how not to talk to girls you don’t know.
But first, I’d like to tell you a story. I know, women be talking, am I right? But seriously guys, listen up, for I have knowledge to share. Useful knowledge. Think of my words as tools, and your brain as a box in which to place said tools, and a mutually satisfying encounter as the project you are building with these tools.
Okay then. On to the story. Keep reading »
Last week, I was in a conversation on Facebook in which I admitted to not liking kids. (My comment: “Real talk: I don’t actually like babies, actually, or children.”) I thought about taking it down as soon as I posted it. An hour later, I was still thinking about taking it down. No one paid much attention to the comment; it’s not really a secret among my friends that I feel this way, although one friend wrote “Yikes,” which I’m still not sure how to respond to. Nevertheless, I felt like I had crossed some serious line. I post everything I write — mostly personal essays that connect to my political beliefs — on social media. As such, this status is definitely not the first time I’ve insulted someone with my beliefs. Yet affirming my dislike of children on Facebook seemed like a whole new level of evil.
But still, I didn’t take the status down. Keep reading »
As a kid, I was used to standing out for lots of reasons, like my “Star Wars” obsession or the black eyeliner and vampire chic that made up my high school wardrobe.
I never expected my race to be one of those reasons.
I grew up as an Asian-American among Asian-Americans, so I certainly wasn’t used to being viewed as what we English Lit majors call “the exotic other.” Even when I went to college in St. Louis, it wasn’t that much of a problem. I did go on a date with a guy who went on about his trip to Japan and the extreme “femininity” of its women, but that was about it.
It wasn’t until I moved to the UK that it kicked in: men – and it was always men – shouting “NEE HOW MA” or “KOH-NEE-CHEE-WAAAH” or even “Me love you long time!” as I walked down the street; starting conversations with “Soooo … are you from … China?” before they’d even asked my name; playing up their supposed interest in Asian culture while going on about how “feminine” and beautiful Asian women are. Keep reading »
“Game of Thrones” is one of my favorite shows on TV, not just right now, but of all time. I must be some kind of magical unicorn, because by virtue of the fact that I have a vagina — I literally just double-checked and, yep, still packing lady parts — I am supposed to hate “Game of Thrones.” This is according to Thrillist’s Renata Sellitti, who wrote an article about why women “hate” the show and offered advice for how “Game of Thrones”-loving men can entice their girlfriends into watching it with them. It is, as you might expect, the biggest pile of direwolf excrement I’ve seen on the internet this week. I am tempted to print out her article, pull down my smallclothes and make water all over it, that’s how bad it is. I’m breathing wildfire I’m so pissed. As Cersei Lannister would say, if she were a woman of the 21st century, BITCH, PLEASE.
Now, I don’t disagree that there are certainly some women out there who hate “Game of Thrones.” (I just don’t happen to know any of them so they clearly weren’t in Renata’s control group. … She polled a wide variety of women in order to determine that basically all of us hate the show, right? I’m sure she did.) But there are also some women who hate “The Bachelor,” “The Real Housewives” franchise and whatever other female-targeted TV shows likely litter Renata’s DVR queue. (I’m not hating on your boob tube choices, girl, I watch those shows too.) And there are certainly men who hate “Game of Thrones,” possibly even for some of the reasons Sellitti claims women are turned off by the show. Oh, yes, the reasons. Let’s review and refute them, shall we? Keep reading »