Thanks for your letter on my rad hairy legs!
You made some interesting arguments about challenging gender roles, but I think you missed the point. You say not shaving is just my way of being a nonconformist, but while wearing mismatched socks is met with, “That’s so quirky,” the hair in my armpits is met with, “Ew.” (Your words exactly.)
You say that if I really want to challenge gender roles, I should become more mechanically skilled, and I admit, I loved learning to tune up my car when you came to visit. That’s a memory I’ll treasure forever. But I am suspicious of anything that says “If women want to challenge sexism, they should do X,” especially when that prescription comes from a man (no offense, Dad).
Yes, I should know basic upkeep tasks for my car. That will save me money and keep me from getting caught in a bind on the side of the highway. But I don’t think women should be required to learn a certain skill or accomplish a certain set of tasks to break down stereotypes. Those stereotypes shouldn’t be there in the first place.
I’m not fighting for a world where women learn to change their oil to prove they’re just as good as men. I’m fighting for a world where she shouldn’t have to prove anything, where a woman can know how to change her own oil, or not.
The problem is that when we start telling women that if they want equality they have to do X or Y thing, we just place more demands and rigid gender rules on them. As Nicki Minaj explained in a now epic video, it’s not possible for women to live up to it:
“When you’re a girl, you have to be everything. You have to be dope at what you do but you have to be super sweet and you have to be sexy and you have to be this, you have to be that, and you have to be nice. It’s like, ‘I can’t be all those things at once. I’m a human being.’ ”
Put it this way: In my ideal world, I can shave. Or not. In my ideal world, I can cake my face in makeup. Or not. In my ideal world, I can learn to rebuild an engine from scratch. Or not. And if I do, it’s not because I’m trying to show up some misogynists; it’s because I want to rebuild an engine from scratch. For me.
Sadly, we’re not there yet. It’s hard to imagine a time when our actions aren’t viewed through a lens that interprets them based on our gender. But that is why examining those lenses is so important.