All of the awkwardness of Liz Lemon, with half the charm.

Monday, July 12, 2010

How Many Flavors of Ice Cream Can You Possibly Eat or, Ladies, What Do We Really Want?

Ladies, what are we really want? How do we decide who and what we want to be when we get out of bed in the morning? It appears that some think it might be that we want to opportunity to change our minds and ourselves, with the blow of a breeze. Liz Taylor[1], in an ad for one of her ubiquitous perfumes, informed the world that it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind, but why is being capricious and fickle such a desirable quality? Is the feminist movement really working toward getting us ladies the opportunity to tell the waiter that we wanted salmon and not fettuccine alfredo?

This issue arises a lot in my favorite genre of music: women with acoustic guitars. Ani DiFranco wrote in one of the best songs[2] that she was 32 flavors and then some. The song goes on to lament how both being pretty and being ugly is a punishment[3] and that she wants to opportunity to be a phoenix that rises out from the fires of anger and oppression, even though she knows everyone will resent her magical powers to do so.[4] Basically, Ani is telling people that her various incarnations (pretty, ugly, phoenix, saint, not saint) don’t stand between other people and their success. Simply stated, she can do what she wants to, bitches. Ain’t no one gonna stop her now.

Let’s turn now to that classic upbeat pop-ballad by Meredith Brooks: “Bitch.” It was already big hit when its got exploded by being featured in a key scene in Mel Gibson’s film ‘What Women Want.’ Ironically, Mel probably has the opposite kind of mind that he had in that film, because even men who are not able to read women’s minds know that we don’t appreciate being called a pig in heat. Meredith croons that she wants to be a bitch, lover, child, mother, and many other polar opposites, the implication here being that she wants to be adored for being all of these things. Instead of being pro-woman, I think Ms. Brooks likely has a case of confused identity. While I can appreciate wanting to be a lady on the street and a freak in the bed, I don’t actually think that being able to capriciously change your persona and along with it, your thoughts and needs, is a helpful thing. We don’t hear dudes chanting that they want to be players, sons, douche bags, and gentlemen.

Finally, I have to mention one of my other favorite songs by India Arie who desires to be able to come her hair some days and others to not. She also wants to be able to paint her toes if she feels like it. These things and her ability to choose them are crucial to her identity. While I sympathize with a woman who combs her hair infrequently (I only comb my hair sometimes, but in my defense, my hair is curly. You have my permission to judge.) I think that women are addicted to the idea of choice. Maybe it’s because we have too many shoes or maybe it’s because choice floats around as a positive concept in our political vocabulary. Not to belabor the point, but I don’t see dudes who feel the need to ask permission to wear jeans and chucks one day and a Brooks Brothers suit another day. Nor are they asking society for permission to have autonomy over their personal grooming habits. Basically, I think we are still seeing a fundamental divide between the ways men and women have opportunity to formulate their own identities. Women are wistful for choice and we sing songs about it. Men just assume they have it and move on to thinking about other topics—like Megan Fox’s boobs and Lebron’s fickleness.

I think the message of these has been garbled a little bit here. I think that we shouldn’t want to have the option of being 32 different flavors all in one day or somehow being a virgin and a mother[5] I think what we (and by we, I mean young hip liberal feminist women or maybe just ladies in general) want is to have society accept more than one flavor. At this moment, it kind of feels like the only acceptable way to be is thin, white, upper middle class, passive/submissive, and young. Add in the also desirable characteristics of blonde, blue-eyed, big-boobed, and chaste, and we’ve got ourselves a pretty narrow definition of what approved femininity looks and acts like. In a word, it’s probably ok if we are vanilla. Yes, there is French vanilla, creamy vanilla, and even vanilla caramel, but at its core, ITS STILL ALL VANILLA. So here is what I’m advocating: make it ok for women to be the flavor of their choosing rocky road or baseball nut[6] or even Jack Daniels, I don’t care. But seriously, let’s stop trying to be all those flavors at once because you know how bad Cookies and Cream tastes with orange sherbet? Really bad. Let’s not listen to Liz Taylor—she changed her mind into 8 marriages. Changing our mind makes us seem flaky and capricious. Pick a flavor and like it. Appreciate others’ flavors. Change flavors, if you want to. But stop this need to have the opportunity to be every flavor at once because its obnoxious.[7] And sticky. Yeah, I just mixed up some serious metaphors in this entire post.

[1] Liz Taylor was so fucking hot back in the day. Watch any of her Tennessee Williams movies. Hell, I would have married her.

[2] Check out the Alana Davis cover of 32 Flavors—it’s incredible and she is incredible.

[3]I can only speak about the experiences of one of these characteristics. Pretty or ugly? I won’t say.

[4] N.B. I’m paraphrasing and reinterpreting these lyrics—don’t bite my head off if you have a different understanding in comparison to my insightful interpretation. BTW, N.B means ‘nota bene’ or note well in Latin. I’m supposed to know Latin shit like that—it’s what they pay me for.

[5] Lay off me, I just finished a 400pp history of the Virgin Mary and it mindfucked me.

[6] Baseball Nut is a delicious flavor from Baskin Robbins that combines vanilla ice cream with cashews and black raspberries. It’s to die for. Why do they call it baseball nut? Unclear, but there’s probably some gender implications happening in there.

[7] N.B. I love all these songs. I am in no way mocking the clever and well-written music of the 1990s by feminist women. Nor am I suggesting that this music speaks for the entire feminist movement. It’s a fucking blog post with some casual observations. For reals.

1 comment:

  1. I used to think I was the kind of girl who could be multiple flavors. Then I discovered that both my favorite Ben & Jerry's flavors (Cherry Garcia and Peach Cobbler) were made in honor of famous stoners. So I suppose this means I'm relatively consistent - different kinds of stoner-vanilla...