2017 tested our sanity, but filled us with a purposeful rage. We're speaking up, naming names, and taking over.
2017 was the year we learned the more you hate us the more we love ourselves.
As the year comes to an end women have more reason than ever to be angry. It seems we reached our collective boiling point, the one that’s bubbled under the surface for as long as the modern era can trace, finally rang our kettle of rage. Loudly. And we’ve seen this mass eruption manifest into political action, social movements and artistic expression.
Because it was always there and we had no unifying target, women have spent many years channeling this anger inward, our bodies often our victims. In a world where we felt like we couldn’t control anything, from a very young age women learned to attempt control of the appearance of our bodies via, food, exercise, and consumerism. If we could achieve, or at least direct our efforts into becoming, the media-created “ideal,” that ire had a purpose; a sick one, but a purpose nonetheless. And these standards kept changing, telling us we had to be more, while simultaneously appearing to be less.
But as 2017 concludes, and the appropriate target of this wrath becomes undeniable, I hear women speak increasingly gently about themselves. The energy once consumed by self-loathing has given way to an era of self-care. #MeToo may very well serve as the beginning of the end of internalized misogyny. Giving us permission to say, “It’s not us. It really, really, is you,” and mean it. And after years of being spoken over, ignored and/or simply not believed, we no longer care. We’ll say what we damn well please, fuck you very much.
As the attack on our very personhood and bodily autonomy by men who unapologetically wage war on our rights becomes the norm, our volley back hasn’t been only vocalized it’s been behaviorist. We are swarming cities to protest a white supremacist, xenophobic alleged-rapist-in-chief in the whitest White House. We are middle-fingers-up at the presidential motorcade, consequences be damned. We are loudly reclaiming our time. We are persisting. We are willing to die on the bench if it means protecting the Supreme Court. We are the majority of the callers harassing Congress to have some goddamn sense. We are running for office in record numbers and breaking studio records for the films we are making for ourselves. We are countering fascism by recording and supporting fact-based writing. We are forming our own writers rooms and creative collectives. We are taking to the streets and going door-to-door. Some of us are newly woke, which elicits eyerolls from those who have served long term in the feminist trenches, especially and rightfully by women of color. But any means of woke is better than being asleep if you’re willing to do the work. Some of us with white privilege have learned to step aside and let traditionally marginalized women be the leading voices in our movements, allowing these women—many of whom have been screaming about these issues for what seems like a lifetime—to feel like they are finally being heard.
And with all these new topics simmering on the forefront we seem to have finally moved a very long overdue issue to the very backburner. Conversations about appearance and exercise have shifted; we’re talking about how we feel, not about how we look. Perhaps much of this has to do with the unmasking of the many men who have controlled the media’s unattainable standards of beauty for so long; enemies of our emotional and physical wellness finally revealed for the monsters that they’ve always been.
So many men who have been outed as abusers or harassers or flat-out rapists have had a firm grasp on the strings controlling the idealized body image for women. From Roger Ailes’s thin-blonde assault on the reality of news to Russell Simmons’s (and “protégé” Brett Ratner’s) movie and music-video casting (couches) to the Weinstein empire, the scope of which includes everything from the most popular network, cable and reality television (sorry, to break your hearts, Project Runway fans), to the top-grossing movies of all time, and the Miss Universe white-Western-beauty-ideal pageants that helped erect … ah hmmm … elect Trump.
This isn’t wholly new information, of course. Terrible men in power exploiting women for their own cheap thrills is as old as Hollywood itself. Part of the reason bodies come into play in the popular terminology of fucks we no longer give is that these men, for the most part, are not pristine physical specimens themselves, which is the least of the things they should be criticized for—but the hypocrisy surrounding the issue is something of which to take note. As Gloria Steinem once noted, “If you ask men about their body image, they will tell you they look better than they do. And if you ask a woman, she’ll tell you she looks worse.” The ugliness we see in these men as human beings is far more discrediting to their opinions. Looks aside, these men have revealed themselves to be, for lack of a better term, assholes. And it’s made us all examine the multitudes of times we’ve let an asshole in our day-to-day lives sway our opinions of ourselves.
Louis C.K. received almost as much publicity for writing an episode of television that explored dating a fat woman as he has for taking his dick out whenever he felt like it. That he, an arbiter of culture, addressed a women’s body image alone gave him feminist credibility. I can assure you that fat women desire more than just someone holding our hand in public in the fade-out of a 30-minute dramedy; just like all women require that you receive permission before pulling your dick out.
To grasp the magnitude of the abusers’ impact in media, consider the women they have helped—or rather, those they haven’t. Weinstein is a most notable example. As a producer, he is credited (executive, co or otherwise) on IMDb 328 times, the first credit of which dates back to the beginning of the Reagan era. For all the positions Harvey wanted to put women in, they certainly weren’t those of power. Of those 328 productions he helmed, the number of female directors he employed was 15. Weinstein has served as a career-maker for many male directors, having produced nearly the entire film catalogs of Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Michael Moore, David O. Russell and more. Of those women who directed under Weinstein, two were credited as co-directors with their spouses, the others include notably revered directors including Jane Campion and Penelope Spheeris, and even Madonna, not one of which ever worked with him again. One can only hope that by eradicating the Weinsteins of this world, more women will be able to assume positions of power and tell stories through our respective lenses.
Weinstein, Trump, Louis C.K., Simmons, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, and all the men who have used women’s bodies against us at every turn have created a turning point in our own conversations regarding our self-worth. While working out, you’ll hear women talk about needing to burn off steam as opposed to calories. That roll of fat we obsessed over seems less of a worry when birth control access is on the line. I listen to women order in restaurants without prefacing it with the formerly requisite “being bad” or “cheat day” as an explanation. And I’m reminded of an elderly female mentor who assured me that by the time I turned 70 those things would no longer matter and that I would not bemoan the cake I’d eaten on my death bed. It’s thrilling to see that attitude become pervasive in 25-year-old femmes.
After six years, I recently canceled my gym membership in favor of getting out in the world. Rather than trudging my way up and down the stair climber while cable news blares from pervasive screens, now I walk uphill to episodes of Insecure, the audio version of Roxane Gay’s Hunger (another watershed culture contribution toward body kindness in 2017), the podcast Two Dope Queens, or blasting my old Riot Grrrl music as loudly as I can while not disturbing my neighbors—whatever I can do to make me feel good.
I urge you, if you haven’t already, to give your “no fucks” notice today. Use your body in whatever way that makes you happy, work toward equality, elevate other women and their work, and have some cake while the patriarchy eats itself.
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