November 15. 1999
When I was out with Lauren and Jess this past weekend, we went into a little jewelry shop. One of my sister's obsessions (among others) is jewelry, so I knew there would be a purchase made by her one way or another. Since I was tired from walking around with a roll of bond paper under my arm (from an earlier trip to Pearl Art Supplies) I sat down and watched them as they conversed with the shop owner and made their selections. Although I was kind of daydreaming and not really listening to what they were saying, I quite clearly heard the shop owner say, "Well, we're women. We all love jewelry." Although I knew it was meant to be a flippant comment, it sent me off into one of those tangential thinking modes.
It made me think about what roles women make for themselves, and what we expect ourselves to be. It also made me think about how I've never been able to fit the ideal "woman" standard. I'm not just talking about a physical ideal, the long legged, thin, white, fair haired, straight teethed demon that haunts most of us. I'm also talking about ways we've been conditioned to act, to think, and what we're supposed to like. I mean, sure, we can go on and on about how women are liberated, but in reality, I think we're very trapped into one way of thinking and acting. And if a woman dares to breaks these unwritten rules, she'll get hell from other women for it. I really can't think of a concrete example at the moment, but I know it's happened to me, throughout high school and even now sometimes in college, though not as much as before. I'm really fascinated with Tori Amos' song "Cornflake Girl", with its theme of women betraying women, because I've watched it happen to me and other people so many times.
I've felt like I've broken this unspoken code for most of my life. The fact that I didn't follow the rules didn't garner me too many friends in high school, or at least kept those intimidated by things outside the norm away from me. Which may have been good in the long run, anyway. The traditional acts of falling all over certain boys in my high school just never appealed to me, and whenever these assholes came strolling my way, a few choice words from my big mouth brought them back down to size. That certainly didn't win me any brownie points with the cotillion of girls that worshipped them, my sister being one of them. I also refused to do the cute little girly thing, and more or less spoke my mind on most subjects. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't an outright hatred that I felt from most people, just a feeling of not belonging in any way. Which may have been good. I'm not sure I would want to belong to that, anyway.
I've never really felt comfortable in traditional female things, either. When I went to the prom, these feelings that had been in the back of my mind really came to the forefront. My parents fussed and took pictures, etc. etc., an made me feel all special, but throughout the whole ordeal, I just felt uncomfortable. Compromised, somehow. And I can't articulate how. But when I looked at the pictures from prom that I got back later, all I could think was "not me". It was a complete alienation from what I wanted to be and thought I was. Maybe it's because I perceive female as being something weak.
I'm not sure how being female enters into my art either. I've always hated the notion of the "woman artist", and I've fought against it in my mind from the very start. To me, if you identify yourself as a female artist, you're closing yourself off to the male perspective. This is not about women's liberation or dependence on the male. It's about trying to see yourself from all sides. I've always tried to do that, to the point that I've overcompensated and completely squashed what was feminine in me. But lately, in the last few months, I've seen a resurgence of femaleness in my work....a lot of red, pink, womb-like images. It's really weird. It makes me wonder what I'm trying to tell myself.
food: canned tuna
sight: sheet plastic, bought at Home Depot
Mother the car is here / somebody leave the light on / just in case I like the dancing / I can remember where I come from
- Mother, Tori Amos
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