I've been thinking about writing this card for ages. The idea has floated around in my strange little mind for at least 5 years. I've never been pegged as an extremely girly girl but I've always been painfully feminine, sensitive, addicted to makeup and fashion. I'm obsessed with my hair. I dye it, cut it, change it and fuck it up. I drool over designer jackets and dresses. I have fake Chanel hanging from my neck. I have at least 100 shades of lipstick and I never miss an issue of Vogue.
I value my mother, grandmothers and sister as beacons of inspiration and hope.
With statements like these, you'd expect me to have a lot of female idols. People I look up to in order to gain inspiration, style tips and to model my lifestyle after.
The only problem is...I don't.
Yes there are a few fashion icons I subscribe to: Kate Moss, Marilyn Monroe, Edie Sedgwick. They're all blonde, a little bit insane and very much rock and roll.
But I've always had an affinity (looks or not) to male visionaries. Writers, rock stars, artists. Guys who were balls to the wall, unapologetic, completely individual.
Now for the "feminists" who are going "oh man...here we go again, another woman preaching the value of sis-gendered, male, hedonistic pigs", please hear me out. Don't click off and run away. Don't judge me, and don't you dare call me a "cheauvinist" or tell me I'm "brainwashed by the patriarchy."
As far as my own experience is concerned, I don't subscribe to that shit. I believe if your interests align with your spirit, than who gives a fuck right?
But let's take a look, really at what these dudes taught me about my own womanhood and my life. I am a product of the male-gaze, but I'm not ashamed...I'm empowered.
It started when I was a young girl coming of age in Ohio. A sheltered little town with very little diversity, coveted by many as the totally safe place to raise your kids. I was always an odd-ball and although I was a bit ostracized I took solace in one thing:
Most of the people I look up to as far as music goes are men. That's right. No surprise. I fell in love with rock stars as an overreaching group of people. The first was Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day. The short, brash punk who took to the airwaves with his merry band of misfits to fight the Bush administration. It was inspiring. That music could do that much, that one PERSON could do that much.
You see...I said person. Not man. He's a person.
This is what sparked my search for role-models in media, art and music. I wanted the rebels, the danger chasers, the people who would stand up above all else for what they believed in.
Little by little I discovered that rock and roll was my home. I became obsessed with lead-singers, their style, their swagger. They had something I wanted. It was confidence. And despite male and female attitudes toward the subject, for me, I just identified with the guys more.
I became a lead singer myself, singing in several rock bands. I currently create solo music.
After Billie discovered Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, who is a complete nut in his own right, and got acquainted with wearing sunglasses inside, walking with a purpose and letting my hair get shaggy and unkempt, but never out of style.
Leather jackets, studs, prints, band T-shirts with tight jeans, converse Chuck Taylor tennies carelessly tied, dark eye-liner and a smirk. That was what I wanted to be. So I became it. The models and actresses that graced Cosmopolitan magazine didn't have a fifth of that spirit, that charm. That captivation.
He was followed by Peter Doherty, my messiah. A kindred spirit in every single way. He taught me about the value of art and how the escape could end up being the entire reason we try. His aesthetic of stylish outerwear, hats, accessories and a devil-may-care attitude catapulted me from post-graduate loser to an empowered artist. His music comforted me a at time I wasn't too sure I'd survive. And I sort of owe him my life. That's an empowering feeling, to feel so connected that it helps you resolve your issues and move forward. To be that inspired.
Gender had nothing to do with it.
Yeah, I'm a bit in love with these guys...but that's not the point.
Those rock stars enabled me to find my own style, and gravitate toward an attitude I could defend. I didn't see any difference between them and me.
All my life I was encouraged to do my own thing...and when the time came during a college project to pick a few people that inspired me...they all ended up being dudes.
Hunter S Thompson (famously hedonistic, male journalist), Peter Doherty (famous musician, poet and artist known for his drug use and sensitive soul), Billie Joe Armstrong (politically charged and totally brutal lead singer of Green Day), and...my dad, a person who embodies a lot of these qualities and never let anyone tell him what to do. My mom was on the list too.
I always got shit for that.
I got a lot of shit for not "sticking up for my gender" and all that. I've had lots of boyfriends and friends who lambasted me for being too girly and high-maintenance but at the same time being too harsh and jaded. It seemed that the last two qualities went more with the male idea of things. And that's bullshit.
Isn't that idea sexist in its own right? This is my argument. That despite our interests or souls, there are certain things that are seen as strictly male and strictly female. But I just see it as people. If I want to wear outfits inspired by my idols, I should be able to right? If I want to write in the ballsy-no holds barred way of Thompson...I should be able to right? If I want to sing for a band and be that snarling maniac on the stage...I should be able to right?
That doesn't mean I'm abandoning my gender or the way I communicate with the world. I'm a straight, sis-gendered, white woman. I own that.
The problem isn't regarding womanhood and gender. It's regarding free will and choice. It's the ability to be utterly ourselves, without restraints or expectations.
If we want to rise in the ranks as far as equality we have to let girls and women pick their interests, their idols and their way of life without pressure from both sides.
My idols taught me to think freely and to be myself. They taught me to learn and read and raise hell. It has nothing to do with gender, or the expected behaviors of a young, blonde twenty-something. All it is is choice. Personality. Interest.
People have compared me to Kerouac or Thompson...Pete Doherty and Billie Joe. I've only gotten compared to Debby Harry once...and Marilyn Monroe a handful of times but those are more based on looks than anything. What people mean by the first comparisons...is an aligning of souls. Creeds. Things that you can't define by sex or gender. Isn't that what we all aspire to rise to? To date? To hang out with? People who get us on a deeper level. People that share ideas?
Though my interests may largely align with "male" ideas, those who criticize and lambaste me for that are committing acts of extreme sexism themselves.
Yes. I love music. I love sports. I want to be a rock star. I've always loved being one of the boys. Most of my favorite bands are made up of all guys. But I also love fashion. I paint my face every day with a thousand different make-up tools. I get a new crush every other week. I obsess over what dudes think of me and it takes me an hour to get dressed for dates.
These things end up defining me, and that's cool. Whether they're "male" or "female" doesn't fucking matter.
Anyone can be into anything. Gender shouldn't define our interests right?
Cat Marnell, a controversial writer I've taken a liking to, because she shares a lot of the same interests as me, said this, that perfectly encapsulates this entire fucked up argument:
"I hate the "lady blogger" thing. I am a person in a woman’s body. I am a person before I am a girl. For example, I have never been one to just defend women because they are women. Remember that Patti Smith thing? People flipped. Maureen O'Connor, a writer I enjoy a lot at Gawker, called me a lady blogger, and I was like, "No! Not Maureen!" Because I would never call her a lady blogger! She’s a writer! I am a feminist as much as anybody, but my interests are in the world of human beings, not just... lady interests."
What matters is that...I like these things. I am not a "female" anything. I am a musician. An artist. A writer. And I will not be defined by anything more than that.
There is a double standard that females in rock and roll are merely groupies, whores, addicts or are just second rate versions of their male counterparts. I will not subject myself to that notion. I am an artist, a person who loves making music, and I will not be marginalized by my gender.
While I am proud to be a woman, proud to defend my body, my issues and my rights, I don't find it necessary to have to defend myself because I'm a woman. I defend myself because of my character. And that's what should matter. An idealist thought yes...but a far fetched one? Hardly.