I can’t help but laugh when someone uses the term Resting Bitch Face.
Its a hilarious idea because we all know exactly what it means, but until now have probably never known what to call it. We have all gotten an ice-cold stare from another woman. Maybe it was in high school and she thought you were talking shit. Or maybe it was at the grocery store and she thought you budged in line. But when it is most amusing is when we use the term to describe a woman who is simply not wearing an expression at all. This notion of expressionlessness got me thinking about the use of Resting Bitch Face a little more seriously. Why is it that we have a shared understanding of this ‘look’ and equate it to one of our least favorite qualities – ‘bitchiness’? Why is it that the lack of emotion or expression on the face of a woman strikes us as bitchy? Why does that absence of a smile on the face of a woman make us so uncomfortable as to call her a bitch?
It has long irked me the incessant need we have for smiling women. As girls we are taught to smile, we are reminded when we aren’t smiling, and scolded if we do otherwise. To me a smile or a laugh is an act of self-expression. In its truest form it is an honest reaction to personal experience. However, for women this is often not the case. Where I think men have the freedom to emote on their own terms, women all too often are told that their emotions, their face, their bodies, are here to serve others. We are taught to smile to make others comfortable. We are taught to disassociate our own emotions from our expressions in order to please others.
I have worked in restaurants, as a receptionist, as an ice-cream scooper, so I understand the necessity for faking-it in a service job setting. I often appreciate this faking-it when I go out to eat. But that’s precisely the kind of ‘faking’ we teach girls to do at a young age, which continues throughout their life. It has been ingrained in how we relate to our own emotions. I catch myself all the time being too polite to tell the creepy drunk guy at the bar to leave me alone. I smile and apologize when someone else bumps into me. I have been taught this docility and I act accordingly. In some circumstances this can be harmless, simply a way of lessening the rough interactions of daily life – but on a deeper level, I’m concerned that this smile obsession diminishes women’s’ sense of self-importance. To take oneself seriously as a woman is regarded with distaste. To maintain eye contact and express honestly is perceived as brash – even bitchy.
It seems peculiar to me the need for the term Resting Bitch Face – an idea seemingly unnecessary for use with men. Why do we equate the serious, contemplative, and pensive emotions of women with bitchiness – and what effect does this have on our ability to trust our emotions, express ourselves, and share ideas? It would seem to me in everyone’s best interest to allow women freedom of expression in a world so in need of honesty.
I have been called crazy many times in my life— by friends, boyfriends, family, strangers. I have referred to myself as crazy. I have called other women crazy. Sometimes I even meant it. But something about it always felt off. To call women crazy all at once seems so effortless and natural, but then I am struck with an uneasy feeling, something doesn’t fit. The ease with which we use crazy to define women and react to women is the most troubling aspect of this phenomenon. Why does it come so naturally, the instinct to brush off the thoughts, beliefs, and emotions of women?
To answer this I have to consider the history of pulling the “crazy card”..
For thousands of years, women have been labeled “crazy” – dating back to ancient Egypt, women were being diagnosed with Hysteria – a female-specific disease made up of a shockingly vague list of symptoms and behaviors. The diagnosis of female hysteria effectively allowed medical professionals to avoid addressing serious mental health issues well into the 1950s. The disease also drew on anxiety over witches and other demonology that further abstracted symptoms from their true cause. In retrospect, we can see how damaging the “crazy card” was for women with serious mental health issues, but maybe just as damaging is the pervasive use of these diagnoses as a way to silence women who speak out against oppression, corruption, abuse, and wrong-doings. All too often the blurred lines of this diagnosis was used to illegitimate real mental or emotional realities, and I see today that a simple utterance of “she’s crazy” is used to the same effect.
“Crazy” has become this catch-all word to define a reaction, an expression, a response to real situations. This “crazy card” is dealt overwhelmingly to women who are reacting in an honest way to their emotions, thoughts, and ideas. This is not to say that we are always correct in our opinions, or that our reasoning is always without flaws. I certainly have been called crazy in situations that I wish I had reacted better to, but the issue with pulling the “crazy card” is the complete dismissal of the recipient. It allows us to discount women as irrational, hysteric, and inconsequential. Their thoughts, disposable.
It is damaging, the use of crazy in this way. It has quietly become a natural part of how we dismiss women. No matter the situation, frustration, or cause, “crazy” lets us off the hook. We no longer have to address the root of the problem, which is usually caused by some negligence or harm done by the user of the “crazy card”; instead we are able to let ourselves off easy. It may seem harmless – calling someone crazy when she gets upset – but what does this allow us to do?
It allows us to use the “crazy card” to hide real issues. I had one of these real issues once. I reacted to a situation of misdirected aggression. I should have never have had to be a part of, and I did so to the best of my ability and showed maturity. However, I also showed emotion and confusion because it was a painful situation full of betrayal and deceit. I do believe these emotions were justified. Unfortunately, I was called crazy instead. My emotions, thoughts, and very sanity were rejected after one short word. I can’t imagine how many women have been pinned in this corner. How many women have wanted to scream at this wrongdoing, yet could not.
Like all good traps, to fight it only meant you would be further entwined.
I would urge you to notice the next time you call someone crazy. I would urge you to reject others calling you crazy. Let’s try to create some reverence for the thoughts, ideas, and lives of women. “But women can be sooo emotional” some might say. To that I would say, “Yes.” We can be emotional, and rather than belittle the incredible emotional intelligence of women, and our almost magical instincts, let’s celebrate them. Let’s join all our skills to solve problems and create a more beautiful place. There is no shame in admitting your wrongdoing, but what a shame it would be to dismiss the incredible witches of our world.
It’s always a telling moment when the word ‘feminist’ gets dropped around a new friend, male or female. I have found myself wincing, one eye squinting, waiting for the reaction. When it’s positive, I relax almost immediately, if it’s not, I fear I hold my stink-eye just a little too long and probably make everyone uncomfortable.
This isn’t necessarily fair.
Not everyone was raised by two people who used the word without a hint of negativity, but rather pride. Yet the f-word is something that has taken on an unfortunate stigma. It must mean you are militant, angry, man-hating, and unapproachable. Even I have gone through times of believing this. I have thought of disowning it completely (who needs labels my wannabe rebellious 17 year old self would say), but since then I have found that to disown it would be a disservice to its astounding legacy. I have chosen to embrace it and I have seen more and more people embracing it too. Maybe this is thanks to Emma Watson or Aziz Ansari – which is fine by me – and maybe feminism is finally getting a certain ‘hipness’ it so rightly deserves. Whatever the case, I think the stigma of the angry man-hater is still engrained in our reactions to the f-word, but maybe even more detrimental, at least in my experience, has been the exclusivity of the word to different classes, races, backgrounds, and education levels.
My hesitance to identify as a feminist in the past was never rooted in a fear of intimidating men or coming off as angry (I know I have intimidated men and I sometimes have a quick temper) these things are part of who I am ‘feminist’ or not, but what made me hesitant to join, was my inability (or unwillingness) to commit completely, irrevocably to the label. I knew I would fail to be the perfect feminist. I already had, and I showed no signs of changing my ways.
I tried giving up make-up for a week my junior year of high school and that didn’t feel right. I love makeup (a trait I get from my lipstick hoarding mother), and even more I love getting ready for a night out with my girls, those are usually the best parts of the night (that’s kind of feminist, isn’t it?). But I was never going to keep up with the gender and women’s studies scholars on my college campus, I am never going to read all the great feminist literature, I am never going to stop trying to shake my ass like Beyoncé. Then I realized the problem was me. I was limiting feminism in a way it has been limited (and limited itself) for so many years.
This is a movement about gender equality, absolutely. But people are often troubled with the word itself – they want to know why it’s called feminism if it’s about both genders having equality. I guess my best understanding of that issue is history.
What the term feminism can offer us is a reminder of the reality of gender equality as well as a reminder of the long history of inequality that has thoroughly disadvantaged women. This is NOT to say that men aren’t invited, in fact, men are not only affected negatively by gender inequality, but they are necessary to achieving the goal of equality.
I think the problem lies in the fact that we created this box, like us humans love to do, and put feminism in it and if you did anything outside the regulations of the box or disagreed with anyone in the box then you were banished, or banished yourself. This metaphor can be (and has been) applied to so many things but I think it is especially useful for understanding feminism. If we want to get down to it, feminism is just about gender equality, socially, economically, and politically and it’s about giving women autonomy over their own bodies and decisions.
That’s the f-word. How can you not get down with that?
Written by Madison Snider
Women have all at once been the most fearsome and most comforting figures in my life. They have been the nemesis that plagued my middle school years and are the many loves of my life. There are these women in my life, some I see everyday, some I may never see again, but they have created a nurturing space for me in which I can learn and grow. This is not to say that some manfriends haven’t also done this for me, but there is something about being in the companionship of trusted women that gives me a distinct sense of power I have not found elsewhere.
It’s in moments of hysteria when I am certain my cheek muscles have cramped and frozen from explosive laughter. It’s in moments of secrecy, which taught me more about my body and sex than I could have ever gathered in Health 101. It’s in darker moments of heartbreak and deceit when no one else can understand.
These will be the moments I will hold on to dearly. Or should I say grasp for dear life, because more often than not I see these memories and these relationships get tested, second-guessed, and tainted. Not by my womanfriends, not even by the middle-school nemesis, but when I turn on the TV, when I peruse the teen-lit section of Barnes and Noble, when I check out for groceries.
At first it never occurred to me to consider the relationships between the girls of Mean Girls, friends, or the women of the Real Housewives of Wherever, pals. There is nothing of any similarity to my experience of friendship between those women, yet somehow these are the only female relationships I can find on the screen. So.. they have to be each other’s friends, right? But the hissing, slapping, “Bitch” dropping and deceit doesn’t remind me of my womanfriendships. This isn’t the definition of womanfriends as I know it.
And even in its final moments of seeming ‘peace in the kingdom’ the girls of Mean Girls couldn’t be friends, not really. They had to keep a safe distance – so as not to pounce on each other. And the House Wives, even in their reconciling group therapy reunions, are unable to help themselves.
So why is it all I can find? Why is every popular take on female friendship tainted by bickering, fighting, name-calling, and treachery? Women in the media are often being separated by various distractions that keep them from coming together to support each other the way the women in my life have supported me. Mothers and daughters are plagued by this phenomenon as well. I can’t help but wonder what effect this must have on our friendships. When these are the only examples found in the media saturated world we live in how can it not?
Roxane Gay says it best in her (incredible) book, Bad Feminist, when she gives us some guidelines on how to be friends with other women. My personal favorite is #1: “Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic, or competitive. This myth is like heels and purses – pretty but designed to SLOW women down.”
I firmly believe women need other women, to be confidants, allies, friends. Yet more and more I hear women boasting about their lack of female friends (particularly when talking to men) as if this is some feat they are so very proud of. They say things like “girls are just too hard to get along with”, well maybe they would be if you were dealing with the caricature of women you saw in Regina George. But I assure you we are not all like that. I feel genuine sorrow for anyone who has been unable or unwilling to find womenfriends because despite popular myth, they are a source of light, joy, and tranquility in a world that seems to try so hard to dim us down.
Written by Madison Snider
Artwork by Kelly Parks Snider, as part of Hidden in Plain Site exhibition (http://www.hidden-in-plain-sight.org/)
The artistic study, entitled “Rural Women: Voice and Spirit,” showcases the various and integral roles rural women have played in agricultural production.
Although historically undervalued, unrecognized and underserved, the perspective and history of rural women is essential to understanding the changing landscape of farming family life.
A collection of paintings, corresponding literary selections will provide exhibition goers with a comprehensive and integrated view of various, and at times conflicting cultures of farming, agricultural ecology and land stewardship issues, and evolving farming family roles and relationships, all from the unique and rarely heard perspective of rural women.
The subject matter of this project reaches all members of our communities (rural and urban alike), as reflected in the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the landscape in which we live. The artistic content of the exhibit will provide the inspiration and opportunity for audiences to better understand and empathize with rural women and their families as they navigate the swiftly changing tides of global agricultural trends, perceptions of optimal and appropriate land use, and rural lifestyle expectations and standards. It is hoped that the voice and spirit of these rural women, as artistically depicted and displayed in the traveling exhibition, will provide a bridge of greater understanding between Wisconsin’s rural and urban communities, and increase general awareness statewide of some of the most dynamic and complex challenges facing today’s farmers and farming families.
“Family farmers live a committed life.
Committed, in their way of living in this world.
This way of living, seems quite contrary to what our world would consider
successful or important.
Family farmers understand that they have been given
a vocation in this world to do what is best for the land.
People who farm understand that they must have a sense of
patience and gentleness about the rhythms of the land.
Family farmers are committed to sustaining rural life.
The rigidity of the corporate world, mechanizing everything
is not right for the land. The rhythm, patience and gentleness
does not exist.
We are all in this together.
Together we can hold onto the land, keeping it graced.”
Miriam Brown, OP
Sustaining Heart in the Heartland: Exploring Rural Spirituality.
Vision must have severity
at its edge:
bushes grown over the pastures,
vines riding down
the fences, the cistern broken;
against the false vision
of the farm dismembered,
sold in pieces on the condition
of the buyer’s ignorance,
a disorderly town
of “ houses in the country”
inhabited by strangers;
Excerpts from The Clearing
I’ve Lost my Melody
Since childhood I have been aware of a kind of melody which was my own.
Not in the background of my life-but in my life. It seemed to be the form and texture if everything I did, everything I would become, everything I longed for, everything I loved. I sensed it constantly. The melody of me swirled through every day and even in my dreams. I do not sense the melody as strongly now.
The great cords are here but the melody is gone. Where is it? How can I get it to return? Where did I loose it? How did it happen? Does it matter when or how it left? I think not, only that it is not with me anymore.
Perhaps it was a prelude waiting to become a song, full and true, composed of all notes previously struck. Where can I find my new refrain?
Is there a new tempo-unexpected, wild and free, waiting to be heard?
Must I purposefully search or will it find me? I only know that I long for those sustaining notes to bare me up, to join me with the wider world.
Retired farmer activist poet
More artwork at www.kellyparkssnider.com see exhibitions
Historian and social activist Howard Zinn captures the significance of art in these words:
“Whenever I become discouraged, I lift my spirits by remembering: The artists are on our side! Artists speak to the world in a way that is impervious to assault because they wage the battle for justice in a sphere which is unreachable by the dullness of ordinary political discourse.”
A forced multi-sensory art experience…a new look at the same media taken out of daily context.
Art creates tension. The tension transforms, focusing us to look carefully.
Women we are here for a higher purpose.
Surrounded by the rectangular tangle of steel flowers are three video screens presenting a bombardment of poisonous images and vital lies. Multi-textured sounds, jittery voices, variously-pitched noises, and distorted media images offer the viewer a forced multi-sensory experience…a new look at the same media they see every day, taken out of daily context.
This assault of sounds and images is meant to make viewers uncomfortable.
In today’s media culture, the absurd has become the living reality for our young girls. Mainstream media uses “cutting–edge” techniques to cash-in on successful advertising campaigns that promote overly sexualized images of children and young girls, and demeaning stereotypes of young women. Many advertisements misrepresent what truly is beautiful. They glamorize violence against women, minimize women by depicting them as objects, and create unhealthy standards of thinness.
Because of the sheer volume of cultural space in our lives occupied by advertising, it is crucial to examine it, deconstruct it, and understand it.
Creative collaborators -Kelly Parks Snider, Jane Bartell, Mary Waitrovich and Inger Stole Check it out and please share! www.crabby-girl.com
Brand Brainwashing tells the story of a young girl’s search for her identity. She attempts to solve her problems by taking a trip to the mall As it does for many of us, this process leaves her feeling played. …not to mention her pockets empty.
Marketing claims are tricky and we need to learn what they sound like and understand the motives behind them so that they will have no control over us. It seems unthinkable that the destructive attacks on our youth are created by corporate boards composed largely of members who are themselves parents or grandparents of young children. Yet, this is a daily occurrence. Our violent imaginations, our passivity, society’s selfishness, our negative attitudes, as well as many of our public health and environmental problems are linked directly to endless roads of corporate greed.
The Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote but did it create the lasting
Advertisers created new images – a slender, sexual and more youthful beauty image different from the motherly image from the past decade. Many young women interpreted new freedom as an opportunity for expanding individuality. Many refused to accept old fashioned ideas about women and duties. In many ways Feminism perished as did the radical values of the progressive era that centered on women alleviating social injustices that accompanied the industrial revolution. So many new thingamajigs to buy …automobiles, radios, and vacuums. Women spurred this huge expansion in economy. New aspirations … consumption is hard work.
Beauty secrets – Hollywood, Coney island, glam and romantic love.
More man worshipping
If you ever doubted the effects of advertising …..Here’s one for you Edward Bernay, considered by many to be the founder of advertising partnered with Tobacco. While men smoked cigarettes, it was not acceptable for the gals. Tobacco and Bernay needed to convince us that smoking was attractive, interesting and fascinating. Still humming about the suffrage movement, Bernay caged that enthusiasm, and used it as the basis for his new campaign. Bernays staged a dramatic public display of women smoking during the Easter Day Parade in New York City. He then told the press to expect that women suffragists would light up “torches of freedom” during the parade to show they were equal to men. Advertisers have had a lasting impact smoking.
Confusing commercial noises are wrongfully calling us to listen to those in our world who dominate—the so-called-attractive, the rich and successful. The pursuit of what our consumer culture considers “happiness” can leave us feeling full of despair. We are in a constant material pursuit of conspicuous consumptions, always living for what is out of reach… fine clothes, the fountain of youth, beautiful things to buy. The unending pursuit often leaves us feeling anxious and obsessed… always wanting more and more… always reinforcing our differences.
Depart from this non-essential contest … don’t let the cup you choose define the greatness of your coffee.
…. ever notice that advertising works best when we feel the worst?
For centuries, women of all skin colors, sizes and ages have made a difference in the world. Our world depends on women BUT these women are rarely depicted in media.
This collage follows the evolution of how advertising and mass media has shaped the role of American women in the 20th Century. This narrative explores the relationship between the history of women and advertising’s far-reaching influences. The imagery reflects the political, economic and social realities of each decade and illustrates a range of tactics that often sent deceptive negative messages women swallowed and the rest of society accepted.
The Progressive Era- Maternalistic Politics
At the end of the 19th century, reform meant dealing with a variety of social problems related to industrialization. Waves of immigrants were arriving, urbanization and overcrowded slums, high rate of disease, and infant mortality.
Mass media has always presented women in limited and predictable roles -domestic caregivers, sexual object or as man worshippers.
Advertising sells products but the effects are far more reaching. Ads sell values, goals, attitudes and behaviors.
“Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.” First expressed by Thomas Jefferson, and later adopted by Susan B. Anthony, now inspired a new generation of revolutionaries in quest for liberty.
Women were the targets and how to reach them was the big question.
Seek and find puzzles where used to engage women to look more carefully at ads and find products. The concern was how to reach women and educate them about advertising.
After 1900 the sheer amount of flesh on display had decreased. Bulging bellies, breasts, and buttocks gave way to firmer, tighter, more youthful figures. Men became more boyish, girls more girlish. The imagery showed a definite movement away from mother figures to the giggling teenagers of the 1920’s.
New stuff to buy – Fashion focus, especially for young immigrant women, new hairstyles, cosmetics and soap. Readymade clothes and food, along with silent movies, and Coney Island. Exciting department’s stores, mail order catalogues, and barns painted with signs. Magazines-. Ads allowed magazine to be affordable publishers realized that they could sell magazines below cost and still make a profit. Eventually, ads began to influence the content of the editorials, features and layouts.
Given the influential role of media in our society, it is fair to assume that the role that women decided to undertake were in part , influenced by advertising agencies, corporations, and government representation. Although it is difficult to measure the impact, it is easy to see that these images had concrete social consequences.