My favorite aunt recently surprised me with a package through the mail that turned out to be Leibowitz and Sontag’s “Women.” I have seen this book in many places on and off through the years, and it continues to move me as the photos of women are honest, diverse, and provide an upfront portrait of what women’s lives are really like – unattached to gender stereotypes. These women have nothing in common except that they are women – i.e. back in 1999 when women were defined by biology.
Because women are defined only by biology in this book, you have coal miners (see above picture), bull riders, debutantes, soldiers, various athletes, show girls, writers, artists, farmers, and women simply representing the poor and forgotten, such as the picture of a teen outside her row house which is under a highway bridge in Texas.
I was originally going to just write about the book but then I discovered Janelle Monae’s “Pynk.” “Pynk,” in case you don’t know, is a supposed anthem for all women, according to Janelle Monae, celebrating “…US (no matter if you have a vagina or not) all around the world!” It is supposed to celebrate female sexuality, specifically utilizing the color pink and vagina pants – but is also supposed to be trans inclusive, because Monae does not believe that one needs a vagina to be a woman, which is supposedly why not all the women are wearing the vagina pants. The critics and internet and liberal feminists love the video, of course, going so far as to refer to it as a “female call to arms.”
Except that it isn’t a female call to arms, it is a femme anthem to femininity. It is in no way inclusive of all women. The only women represented in this video are women who follow extreme femininity.
* A brief aside: I understand that “Pynk” was geared specifically towards black women; however, white women are also embracing this video as representative of female sexuality and empowerment, because popular art impacts everyone, and everyone internalizes popular art to a degree. Furthermore, if you look through “Women” you will see that black women as well as white women do not always revel in femininity – whether by choice, circumstance, or both (see above picture, and keep reading for further explanation).
Everything they do in the video relates only to stereotypes of women according to femininity – even the slumber party scene. And then there is the butt scene, which re-establishes women’s sexuality as young and thin.
Where are the butch women? Where are the coal miners? The elderly women – do they not possess sexaulity? The farmers laboring in the fields? I get it – there are women whose personalities lend themselves to stereotypical, gentle flows as portrayed in Monae’s video and by the music, and that is fine. Empowerment doesn’t necessarily need to be aggressive. But this video is so narrow in its portrayal of women that I can’t believe it is seen as an anthem to all women or at all empowering.
Actually, I can believe it, because if women aren’t defined by vaginas, what does define them? Well, femininity, as it is clear in Monae’s video and related commentary. Perhaps Monae would disagree, but that is certainly the message the video portrays. That it isn’t just pink that is related to vaginas, but femininity. Thus it is not a“a glorious, pink-hued celebration of female sexuality and empowerment” as proclaimed by The Mary Sue. It simply reaffirms female sexuality as femininity – from which feminism was once helping women to break free.
Some may say “who am I to criticize Monae’s art, her view of woman?” Well, I probably wouldn’t be as critical if the disingenuous statement was made that the video celebrates women around the world. And here is where I compare it to the book “Women.”
Many women in the book are not in any shape or form “femme” or “feminine.” The farmers have short hair, no makeup, and are wearing clothes that could be viewed as male or female. The same with the coal miners and the bull riders. And then there are the elderly women in all their wrinkled glory. Sure, maybe they go femme up in their free time. I doubt that, however, because farmers, coal miners, and bull riders can’t afford to proscribe to the femininity pushed by “Pynk” and by trans ideology in general. Literally, they can’t afford it because it would interfere with their livelihoods, and that shit takes time to put together.
See, “femme” is a vanity that not all women can utilize, depending on how they live in society. That is why it should not in any way, EVER, be used to represent or define women. When you do that, as Monae did, you leave out a HUGE chunk of women, women who may not be able to be femme and wouldn’t even if they could, because let’s face it – the coal miners pictured in “Women” are by far not the only women involved in coal mining. So why would this community value the type of femininity featured in Monae’s video which renders women rather useless in hard labor? Same with the female farmers and bull riders – oh, and the female soldiers. The women in “Women” also complicate the entire concept of gender as “fluid” and the whole “nonbinary” and “gender non-confirming” concept. Are these coal miners and bull riders and farmers and soldiers considered “gender non-confirming” or “nonbinary?” Or does this only work when your place in life gives you the option of “choosing” an “identity?”
So what we have is two representations of women. In one representation, the artist believes that not all women have vaginas, so, in order to make the word women mean something, she unites women, and men proclaiming to be women, under the umbrella of femininity. There is even a scene focusing solely on the women’s stiletto heels – so the message is quite clear.
In the other representation, the only thing that defines a woman as a woman is possession of a vagina.
Pray tell me, which one is ACTUALLY more representative of ALL women? Contrary to trans gender and liberal feminist claims, defining women purely by biology as in the book “Women” actually INCREASES the diversity of women portrayed. Of course, they would counter with “but trans women…..” Which I would cut in with “are men” and thus don’t belong in a book entitled “Women” – and then be branded as a transphobic TERF. Again. Even though it should be obvious to anyone that uniting women by a feeling of gender identity, so as to include men who think they are women, restricts women to the feminine gender – which is restrictive in and of itself, and leaves out a good portion of women (ACTUAL women). Well, it SHOULD be obvious — but it isn’t.
Which brings me back to my aunt. This particular aunt never played with dolls, I have never seen her in a dress or heels except when she married her second husband. She owns a motorcycle and makes awesome sculptures of wood and plexiglass. So, obviously, she knows how to use big tools. And she would undoubtedly see Monae’s video, hear the “female call to arms,” and be like “Really?”
I do not in any way relate to this video’s obsessive femininity, as I have been trying to ESCAPE these expectations my whole life, and in fact I find the idea that this video is representative of women all around the world quite offensive and EXTREMELY clueless on Monae’s part.
Monae’s video is frankly everything that is wrong about today’s feminism: it’s shallow, reinforces stereotypes of female sexuality, and in trying so hard to be inclusive it is actually EXCLUSIVE of many women.