I sit in my office, foot tapping wildly. The room is an ice chamber of glass and words and gray paper. Letters and numbers swirl around the blizzard, confusing all of us. The anxiety in the stale air echoes along with the tapping of my foot on the ashy concrete. Cold air brushes against my skin and seeps into my chest, soaking my heart in icy fibers.
“Judith,” My assistant’s voice scrapes out of the intercom. I take a sharp breath, calming myself from the shock of her unexpected rasp, and tap the glass.
I sat on the rickety, college-funded bus, head blaring, rain pouring on the window, listening to the woman behind me talk on the phone. As we passed soaking wet orange leaves, sadly drooping down from the trees, as the ground below sped by in a haze, I could only just sadly stare off as she spoke.
My head was full of grainy, sharp air. It started at my throat, spreading through my blood vessels up to the top of my head, where the air spilled out all over my hair, down in front of my eyes, and then, eventually, over my lips. My ears were screeching, bleeding sharp air, down into my throat. Up from my throat, my tongue was glass; red, grainy glass. I was a hot air balloon, an ancient fabric, filled with carbon dioxide.
I was sitting in economics class. It was boring as fuck. My seat was right by the door, next to the trash can and recycling bin. I held my head up with a hand, staring at the blue tub. It was one of those moments when I felt like thinking of something super philosophical, real poetic and nuanced. I was just paper to be recycled. No. Everyone was just scraps of paper, waiting to be changed into something new. Cliche. I couldn’t really think of anything new. I couldn’t really think of anything. I mean, it was an old, faded recycling bin. I was staring into space, trying to find the meaning of my life within a paper metaphor. My thoughts were folded origami. I could unfold every crease, just without surety of being able to reform that paper bird.
I zoned out. Hunched over in my seat, I felt an empty feeling that accompanies unfolded paper. I felt beige and spacey. Sometimes, when I fall deep in thought, my mind gets loud and unfocused. I find it troublesome to think of one thing at a time, or have one philosophy or sense of purpose at a time. A rope is tied at each arm, pulling me apart. But that day, as I stared at the recycling bin, my teacher humming on in the distance, I thought of nothing in particular. My mind sat stark, a desert. And that paired feeling, that beige feeling, flooded in.
I can’t really describe the feeling other than nothingness. But it isn’t a lacking in feeling, it’s a feeling of nothingness. There’s no pain, there isn’t a sadness involved at all. It’s just a starchy stretch of non-being.
I went home and tried to forget being this way. I tried washing it out of my mind, cleaning up the beige waters. Maybe being away from school, from the boring as fuck classes and boring as fuck people would make me feel better. I distracted myself, tried folding my thoughts back into their previous shapes. It wasn’t purposeful distraction. I had no intentions of recognizing neither the feeling nor the repressions of the feeling; my empty mind just found the room to do so.
Re-creasing the edges is difficult, sometimes. Especially if the paper is folded the other way. Sometimes it can be easy to make a new crease by accident. Sometimes new thoughts emerge out of the coursing river, toes skimming the desert below in a struggle to swim. While I sat at home, knee bouncing up and down, I skipped the whole thinking process and came to a decision. It’s incredibly impulsive to do that, to have decisions as thoughts. To skip the careful folding, the refolding, the reevaluation, and just crumple the sheet entirely.
I went into my bedroom and sighed. I wasn’t acting impulsively; I was mindlessly doing some repetitive task, walking through sand, swimming through feeling. I got out a sheet of lined paper. I held the pen in my hand, tapping it against the desk. I was so submerged in the feelings of nothingness, I had nothing poetic to say. I had only the practicalities and simplicities of the moment. The pen had a Christmas ribbon tied round the cap. I looked at the red dots, shaped like hearts. And then wrote two sentences and signed my name.
The white water of feeling washed over me, cooling me, keeping me calm. I also felt dragged down, away from myself and from everything around me. I was just doing some task. There was no weight to anything, really. My legs floated in the waves and the crumpled paper got soft and clumpy. Everything I did from then on was through the constant nullity of thought.
Read longer stories on the short stories page. Since summer is finally here, hopefully I’ll be writing and posting more frequently. -Kylie Eileen
Your feet are sending a strange ache up both legs, a pulsating pain that stresses the ‘both.’
When the train almost fell off its tracks to the left, the tilt lifted your entire body, smashing your head’s back against the window pane in perfect synchronicity with those of a dozen others (you could swear that you heard the clonk, deeply satisfied, like an orchestra musician), then dropped you all back onto the benches. Only the benches had moved, too, and in some non-Euclidian reality, as it were, shaped by odd angles and dented lines. Your feet hit the floor, but your ass missed the seat, and though a reflex in your legs kept you from falling altogether–preventing much more serious harm, possibly–that reflex came at the cost of…whatever this is, you are thinking. Something permanent or temporary? A pulsating ‘both, both, both, both,’ which, you fear, will not be very…
“Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.”
― Cheris Kramarae
Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings. I chose this quote in particular because of the sarcasm, which is actually poetically ironic. You’d think that nowadays it shouldn’t be this abstract thing to be sarcastic about, females being considered pretty equal in society and the radical movement becoming obsolete. But it’s not.
Feminism is something that, especially with today’s media outputs, needs to be ever growing and stronger than before. Now, it’s impossible to cover every aspect of women, how women are portrayed, and everything under the scope of feminism, but I want to touch upon some things that are becoming more and more prevalent in what I’m seeing in the world around me.
Women in media has been a problem for decades. It’s been a problem that most of us are at least aware of, if not educated formally on. In my health class last year we watched this documentary on women in the media, and learned about all the photo shopping and standards that are set that no human being can really uphold. However, as important as we were told this was, we didn’t even watch the entire documentary. It was something that an entire semester could have been spent on… and we spent less than half an hour discussing it. You’d think that for all the hours talking about eating disorders and mental illnesses, we’d have at least had a discussion on the correlation between these standards and the illnesses that stem from them. But we didn’t. If we did, it wasn’t significant enough for me to remember. That’s the real problem.
You can’t escape pictures of women looking nonhuman, you can’t escape the marketing techniques and business practices that set up these standards. You can’t escape standards everywhere, and most people will tell you that they know they’re fake, and they are aware of the unattainable images set… but we do nothing about it. And every day young girls are admitted into hospitals partially because of this. And it’s not just things you read about, it’s not just the news trying to get viewer ratings. It’s not just health class trying to make more quiz material. Years ago I personally watched a friend of mine struggle with an eating disorder, watched her tell me how many calories a slice of bread has without even looking at the bag. Watched her do 20 laps in the pool after having 1 Oreo cookie. It’s real.
I could go on an on about this, about Anorexia, it’s correlation with modeling, advertisements, everything. And as a feminist I would love to start the movement that changes this. But the thing is, there are movements. There are many. I’ve read about and I’ve watched revolutions in modelling, in making advertisements, and they’re amazing, and it’s inspiring, but when I drove down the freeway a few days ago, I still saw a half naked women looking nonhuman while holding some name brand product.
Feminism is this radical notion that women are human.
“I love your style.” That’s been said to me a few times. And it’s a great complement, especially since I try and be as invisible as possible in most situations. The people who tell me these things usually dress nothing like me, and I don’t have many peers who dress like me, and that’s okay. Part of feminism, I think, is empowerment. Some women feel empowered showing their femininity, wearing dresses, makeup, all that. However, my wardrobe is mainly striped button down shirts. I feel most confident in a collar, maybe a tie. Not adhering to the “standards” of female fashion is something I strive to do. I hate when people dress different just for the sake of being different, and that’s not what I’m about. I still wear normal clothing, I still wear jeans, dresses, the floral shirt, but I do so in a way that makes people take me more seriously. Wearing less typical feminine clothing makes me less of “that blonde girl” and more of “Kylie”.
However, I shouldn’t have to dress a certain way in order to be taken seriously. I shouldn’t have to try and work extra hard to prove myself as capable of someone of a different gender. You can look up as many stats as you want about women in the workplace, and you can watch as many sexist old videos about such, however those “outdated” notions still rein true in many respects. Personally, living in this decade as a female, I can attest to being discriminated against due to my gender.
I had spoken over email with the manager/ son of owner of this local bicycle shop, and things were playing out well. So well that I thought I pretty much got the job. I went to meet the manager. “I’m Kylie, from the emails.” I said, with a smile. “Oh,” replied the 20-something shaggy manager. “I thought your name was Kyle. I was expecting a guy to show up.”
I didn’t get the job.
In my own high school I am employed doing AV. And though currently it’s basically all girls, when I was a sophomore the only girls were me and the girlfriend of one of the boy employees. We worked closely with administrators, especially this one guy, and he had a nice friendship type thing with most of the kids because he taught a tech class. Well, I had to work with him countless times and every single time, every single time, I had to re-introduce myself. I’m not saying he’s sexist, or anything, but since I wasn’t in the demographic of his “student-friends”, I just wasn’t very memorable.
I’m also employed by a local restaurant, and though I’m more qualified than most of the other kids, this being their first ever job and also being connected by parents’ friendships, I’m out of work because the owner hired too many people. There were four girls at the orientation, out of the almost 20 of us. One had been working in the food industry for quite some time, the other two were the types of girls who destroy everything females have worked for the past 50 years by simply existing. This creates a male dominated environment wherein the set norm for us women, just by population, are people who care more about our hair than working correctly.
If you think I’m exaggerating, then let’s reverse it.
You work with mostly girls and a few guys. One guy is a prick who uses phrases like “dat booty” and wears those flat baseball hats. Are all the males in the same area going to be treated like this guy? No, they’ll be treated better because anything is better than that one prick who thinks reciting south park quotes is cool. Treating someone human is different than treating someone as if they’re part of a hive-mind, and sadly that doesn’t always happen where women, or any minority really, are concerned.
Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.
While I wish for every woman to feel empowered, to feel comfortable in their body, to feel like they belong in society, I think that this can’t happen until we are treated like actual human beings. And by that I mean not objects.
Whenever I stand up for feminism or reference that whole object bit, some straight white male will usually counter my argument. On the internet, in school, wherever, it’s usually this demographic that hates the entire objectifying issue. They hate it because to them it’s not an issue, or they don’t think it is anymore. Sure, people don’t usually imagine women as housewives who only cook and clean, or the other extreme, which would be a form only used for sex, but as a society we still have an issue, and this shouldn’t really be news to anyone by now but its still important.
Women are still objectified. In advertisements, movies. In a strip club or on the street. It still happens.
In most high budget Hollywood action movies, the woman is only there to be a love interest, or a reward of some sort. The Bechdel test rarely passes for the most successful movies or TV shows. And if it does, it’s either forced and unnatural just so the movie can pass the test, or it passes while still having the women characters’ main interest be to find a man. Even movies about “strong young females” (Hunger Games, Divergent, both awful movies) only allow the female to become “successful” or “happy” by involving herself with a male character. With Divergent, the only way for Tris to be treated like a strong young woman among her peers is for everyone to find out that she’s fucking the hot trainer dude. It’s better in the book, but the movie takes this already marketed idea into only a love story in a fool-proof way to make money. This type of thing needs to stop, or at least change, and it won’t because unlike our quirky male lead, females are just simple minded objects whose only place in a movie is to be “relatable” to young audiences who already have these standards shoved down their throats and wont eat popcorn in fear of being fat, or “extremely sexy” in order to market to the men watching. There’s rarely an in-between.
Women are still objectified. I live in an extremely small farm town, and I’ve been “catcalled” countless times. This objectification is more than hearing “dat booty” from some prick while walking on a busy street. It’s random “whoops” directed toward you from a passing car full of teenage boys. It’s “hey girl”s from old men while walking alone at night. It’s uncalled-for recognition that you, as a female, are walking and someone, as a male, has noticed. One summer a friend and I kept track of how many honks or whoops we got while walking in our town. It was around 25, I think. For one summer. At first we started whooping back, you know, because of boredom. How often can this happen? It eventually turned into just ignoring it because it was so obnoxious and dehumanizing.
One time I was walking home and a car slowly pulled up from behind me with two guys inside. I could hear the “hey girl” from behind and I just kept walking because, as women are taught from a young age, people are going to try and attack us and probably kill us. We’re taught “always walk with a friend” and “carry some defense weapon on you” instead of having everyone else be taught “just be a decent human to other humans”. Anyway, when they saw my face, they either realized how young I was, or that my face was too ugly to murder, one dude said something to the other, and the car drove away. This shouldn’t have happened. And I’m angry that it happened not only because it doesn’t really happen to men, but that for some women, the driving away part isn’t where it ends.
And here’s where the straight white boy will tell me some bullshit like “its a complement” or “it’s just words” or even “I’ve never done that so not all men are the same”. And, yes, most decent humans treat other humans like humans. But even those non-decent people know that treating women like objects is wrong. They know women don’t like to be called at on the street, they are aware of this because women make them aware of this. But there’s no stopping it, really.
As long as idea that women are objects still reins true within the media, within advertisements, within big action movies and thrillers, people will continue to treat them that way. Not just males, either. As long as women feel less than, the’ll continue to feel as though they are clay to be molded to what society wants, to accept the social inequality for what it is, to just exist in this world where they aren’t human.
The world is getting more progressive, sure.
The time has never been better for women to feel empowered, to act how they want, to dress how they want. To earn the jobs they strive for, to have a say in government, in corporations, in the world they live in. The time has never been better for people born of another gender to feel free to express their femininity, at least in a first world society. And as much as we’ve changed, as much as feminism has progressed, and revolutionized there is still more that needs to progress, to change, to instill a revolution.
And this is common knowledge, and things are being done, things are progressing, things are changing, there are revolutions underway. But in order to make these changes the norm, in order for feminism to be viewed as this humanizing concept rather than men-hating crowds of women fresh outta the abortion clinic, we need as a society to unite on these views. To accept the change. To accept progress.
Sadly a lot of young people, especially young women, aren’t accepting this. They seem preoccupied with looking a certain way, acting a certain way, molding themselves to the set ways of society. Those who are outliers tend to be those females to make themselves as radically different as possible, not empowering themselves but being different for the sake of being different. There needs to be common ground, somewhere that falls between nonhuman sex object and super humanly down to earth hipster girl. Oh, wait. That would to just be a person. A human, if you will.
Because, as radical a notion as it may be, women are human beings.
***There is a disclaimer on the sidebar. On the mobile version it’s at the bottom of the page.I suggest you read it if you have a problem with this post or are easily offended. It isn’t intended to teach anything, I am a human and I know that feminism is widely understood. I write about my opinions in order to start discussion and allow for other viewpoints and sides to issues. I wrote this because I’ve recently been watching some documentaries and the like about beauty, empowerment, and feminism, and it was rather inspiring. I feel like feminism gets a bad representation. Here is my take on it, as a female.