I (Lo here) consider myself a pretty hardcore feminist. And I love Jezebel.com. So I expected their “Woman-Child” article today to be just my kind¬†of internet candy. My best guess about its focus? The media’s obsession with infantalizing women to make them seem cuter, softer, more¬†likeable. But it actually turned out to be one writer’s poop parade on grown, successful women choosing to have fun, be lighthearted,¬†dress up, and not take things so seriously. (I know by choosing the phrase “poop parade” I may only be proving her point, but I’m sticking¬†with it.)
The article talks about the female counterpart to the man-child: grown women who increasingly don’t act their age. Now, far be it from me to get in the way of someone going to town on Katy Perry’s lollipop-licking, Candyland-prancing, cherry-nippled persona — hey, go to town! But in the process, the piece totally dismisses the¬†benefits of being young at heart, of maintaining a childlike wonder about the world, of always learning and exploring, of making time for¬†play and fun and laughter. Why should kids get to have all the fun?
There’s nothing wrong with an adult wanting to read an engaging, plot-driven story that’s entertaining and takes you back (hello, Twilight) — especially when you’re too overworked or stressed out from a job¬†and/or kids to finally finish David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest” right now even though you will eventually some day. Having older and¬†wiser personalities contribute to a magazine for teens like¬†Rookie¬†just makes sense. And board games are a hoot — especially when you’re¬†old enough to add alcohol to them!
So is dressing up. Now, I’m not defending the extremes the fashion and beauty industries go to in order to make a billion — namely¬†shaming women into spending way too much time, money and effort on this season’s sanctioned “ideal” look; what I am defending is the¬†right women have to wear whatever the hell they want without ridicule, especially if it’s cost effective, creative, nostalgic or empowering¬†for them. Sarah Silverman wearing comfortable t-shirts and sneakers and refusing to put her sex on display or to buy into the High¬†Fashion Industrial Complex is radical and refreshing and bold, especially for a celebrity — it’s not adolescent. And I would call¬†Zooey¬†Deschanel’s style retro, not infantile. Perhaps the writer, at least with these examples, is confusing a lack of cleavage with childishness.
And I hate to break the news, but wacky nail polish color has been around for a long time. I remember writing a bit for The Boston¬†Phoenix on the “crazy” new nail polish colors by, for example, Nars, that were new on the scene…twenty years ago. It just might seem¬†like a big, new deal right now because, during a recession, nail polish is a cheap and easy and therefore popular way to make a bold fashion statement.
There’s nothing worse than chatting with fellow moms or career women — especially younger ones — who take themselves too seriously,¬†as if having a sense of humor or a good time might get their membership in the Adult Club revoked. These types always seem to me like¬†they are playing grown up, making mountains out of molehills — when they should be making mud pies with their kids. After all, being able¬†to tap into your inner child — which includes the incredibly healthy quality of not being afraid to make an ass out of yourself — makes you¬†a better parent (and probably a better innovator and a better improviser and a better artist and a better friend…).
And I’m sorry, but pizza and cupcakes taste good. Not to mention the fact that they are economical and require minimal prep and clean up¬†– great for busy adults who want to get together with friends but don’t have the time, the money and/or the inclination to concoct five course meals with¬†linens and good silver. Her underlying argument seems to be one in favor of high status over low, rather than adulthood over immaturity. I¬†mean, are you really going to suggest that shopping at Banana Republic, where sweaters cost $100, is plebeian?
The author says women these days might just be afraid of growing up. I will concede that there¬†is¬†great prejudice in our society against women who dare to¬†age (I mean, if I hear one more joke about Madonna being elderly I’m going to hurl — the woman could literally kick most Americans’¬†butts! She’s a machine! Have you seen her guns?!?!). And this kind of shaming that happens to women and not men (who only get more¬†distinguished and experienced and dashingly silver-tipped as they age) results in horrifying Joan Rivers’ masks and Botox at 20. ¬†And so,¬†yes, many women are afraid¬†to get old. Can you blame them when such a sky-scraper high, almost moral value is placed on how women look in our society?
But are they afraid¬†of growing up? Nuh uh. Women want to be successful, competent, and powerful — at whatever endeavors they¬†choose. They stay single longer because they’ve got a lot of living to do and they want to grow their careers and their bank accounts and¬†their experiences before they get married and have kids (if¬†they get married and have kids) — which is a much more grown-up approach to¬†life than trying to live the fairy-tale fantasy of finding prince-charming at 18 to take care of you for the rest of your life.
Maturity and fun are not mutually exclusive.¬†Women can — and do — discuss feminist articles in¬†The Atlantic¬†or the dearth of female¬†directors in Hollywood¬†while¬†they are out on the town with their girlfriends, getting a relaxing mani-pedi, having a delicious cocktail,¬†cracking jokes and cracking up, taking pictures along the way to preserve the memory of a great night out with friends. (Then they post¬†those right along side their “age-appropriate” pics of their kid’s first day of kindergarten.) Sit-down dinners inspired by the Times Magazine‘s food column and¬†during which important geo-political issues are debated can be — and are — followed by epic rounds of charades.
Maybe I’m getting young in my old age, but if I have to choose between Ralph-Lauren-wearning Gwenyth Paltrow and blue-wigged Nicki Minaj, I’ll take Nicki any day. After all,¬†girls just want to have fun…and so do boys, and women, and men — at least the ones who want to enjoy this one-time ride do.