For the asexually curious and the curiously asexual

Archive for the ‘Yada’ Category

You make yourselves another: On make-up and power

“God has given you one face, and you make yourselves another”

-Mysogynistic rant in Hamlet, III i.

So while catching up on the blogs I lurk, I discovered S. E. Smith on feminism and make-up:

Few feminist conversations confuse me as much as the one surrounding makeup and beauty standards, a reminder of my outsider status in the feminist community in a lot of ways because of my gender and socialisation. This conversation is conducted in a way that assumes everyone is on the same page, everyone is thinking the same things, everyone has the same experiences, but that’s not actually how it goes. With the makeup conversation, there are some of us who feel really, really at sea, and it’s hard to express it in a way that doesn’t come off strangely, evidently.

 

Read the rest. Something about this really struck me, so much that I needed to talk about it even though I don’t think S. E.’s personal blog allows comments, and it doesn’t properly fit with the theme of this blog, though I manage to shoehorn asexuals in later.

Firstly, my experience is of agreeing with S.E. I’m young enough not to have encountered the middle-class job-market sexism yet, but the only people among my friends who feel they have to wear make-up are goths. I can name at least 3 ciswomen friends who I know for a fact have never worn make-up a day in their lives, several more of the gothy persuasion who have never worn ‘respectable’ make-up. A lot of people I know simply don’t wear make-up in their daily lives and it isn’t a problem.

And this reaction sounds a lot like “I haven’t experienced it, so it’s not a problem,”- the standard reaction of the privileged. I can’t comment on the lived experience of people of a different class, generation, culture and gender to me, who I’ve never met. If they say expectations of wearing make-up are a problem for them, I’m going to believe them. What I don’t like is the assumption that everyone else’s experiences are the same, because a lot of people really don’t have that problem.

I’m going to go further than S. E. and argue that make-up can, in some circumstances, be a source of power. S. E. points out that transwomen are under expectations not to wear make-up. As a cisguy, if the walls of gender expectation came tumbling down tomorrow, I would rush out and buy make-up. Partly because I love the performativity, partly because the simplest contouring and eye-shaping makes my face into what I want it to be, not what it is. I’ve mentioned on yadaforums a group of people who I hang with who tend to do the whole ‘getting ready for a night out’ thing with a massive amount of clothing and hairstyling for both genders, and how comfortable I feel with them. The same group of people also often spend hours sitting in a circle and, unigenderedly, putting on theatrical make-up. Again, I feel so comfortable.

So, yeah, make-up is something I want, want, want, and am never going to be able to have, and I’m going to spend as much of my life as possible appropriating that privilege at halloween and Pride marches until I’m too old for that to be acceptable. And I’m slightly bitter.

That’s not to say that you’re not allowed to complain about unfair cultural expectations on you. I am entirely sympathetic, and will fight for your right not to wear make-up. But when you consider that, in my experience, make-up is entirely a choice for all women who aren’t in the fashion buisness, your cries of “Oh god, it’s so DIFFICULT being able to do this thing that you’re NEVER going to be able to do!” are not going to make me like you.

Lots of people are not allowed the privilege of make-up. At the time when asexuals were the big ‘trend piece’ in the media, I recall there being some talk about a programme where asexuals were presumed not to want the make-up which would make them look good under the studio lights. Asexual people were refused this marker of performativity, attractiveness, which everyone else was expected to want. Asexual people apparently do not have the privilege to wear make-up, to re-invent themselves, to be whatever they want to be. Asexual people, the station presumed, are less-than-normal.

Make-up can be oppression. Make-up can be objectification. Make-up can be privilege. Make-up can be power.

Don’t assume your reality is worth more than mine.

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On yadas and community

So I tend to get easily distracted by things. It shows on my blog, where I simply cannot put in the effort to be structured. I was mining this awesome vein on simple asexuality (as in, not being messed about by aromance and gender and queerness and demines and tricky things) and the structures we can put in to deepen asexual thought, and I had loads of plans, and then I got distracted by essays. And then I got distracted from essays by Yadas (for those who don’t know, the yadas are a group of originally non-binary trans asexuals who have formed a queer-ass e-gang). So it’s finally sunk in, and now I have two things I want to talk about. The next one is going to be more about my personal gender exploration, in relation to the gender exploration of everyone else I know. This one is, unfortunately, going to be difficult to appreciate fully if you don’t know about the yadas.

I want to talk about community. Because some of my greatest losses have been the deaths of communities. And the loss of relationships that could have been. I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently looking at the good days, with friends, proto-friends, former friends, internet friends, meatspace friends, good friends, poor friends.
There’s something which hurts me just a little when I spend time with the Yadas, and that’s this sickening sense of de ja vous. Believe me, any Yadas reading, you are not the first (here comes the ‘back in my day’ story).
I remember the gang I used to hang out with on AVEN. Maybe a dozen regulars (I can remember about 6 of the usernames), and up to 30 familiar faces on the edges. We spent our time in Just For Fun, and started out just as posters who vaguely knew each other. Then came The Longest Thread on AVEN, and things- exploded. Almost literally. I think, at our strongest, we managed to get through about a hundred pages in a night. You know the chatterbox? That was made to try and contain me and my gang. We were despised! We were infamous!

And that’s the thing. I remember being the New Young Avenites. I remember our impenetrable in-jokes. I remember the way we all praised each other, and then copied each other’s praise into our signatures. I remember the thrill of making AVEN work for us, being radical. I remember hanging around the boards at midnight, taking over practically every thread as we greeted each other, and the forums rang with our delight. I remember laughing at the previous gang of New Young Avenites, as they disapproved of us, mostly just because we weren’t them and didn’t have the same jokes as them. I remember disapproving of the next gang of New Young Avenites, as they laughed our group into the fragmented darkness of the internet.

Boy, do the yadas remind me of me.

I wonder how much the name makes the community. ‘Our group’ seems to eventually get a name, and with that, it becomes something more. It’s happened with pretty much all my irl friendship groups, and the ones with a name seem to inherit a purpose. It seems to me that there’s a sharp difference- communities with names die, or are saved from dying. Communities without names just loose the potential to one day exist.
I’m vividly reminded of this by the fact that I’ve just been texted by one of my old best friends while writing. We had a gang of three, with a name. Within a gang of six, with a name. And each group had an identity. And each group isn’t going too well. And each group is starting to fight for it.

Some random thoughts. Don’t stop fighting, yadas. Really, don’t.

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