I thought you might enjoy this little fiction that’s been bouncing around in my head. I’m enjoying my seven tasks a week commitment, but sometimes I’ve been counting writing and editing as two separate tasks (naughty me!) I might have to revise my list to something more achievable (and also share it with you, maybe…) Last week was a big marathon design week, so I thought I’d do a short story this week. I hope you like!!
Kim Kardashian’s Eyebrows
On Wednesday I dyed my hair aggressive, neon pink.
The luminous shade left stains on the skin between my hair follicles, and matched perfectly with my nail polish, my shoes and the pink jelly case of my mobile phone.
I coloured my eyebrows in pink, too. It makes people wonder if the carpet matches the drapes, which of course it does.
I woke up the next morning and I looked at myself in the mirror, and I felt a smug satisfaction at seeing the pink fluff lying like rabbit’s down on my mons.
I felt invincible.
Six months ago, my boss had looked at a picture of Kim Kardashian and wrinkled her nose.
“Look at this,” she’d said. “I hate it when women feel the need to plaster themselves in makeup like this. She should stick to the natural look.”
“My pet peeve is when they draw on their eyebrows,” Sally, the girl who sat at the desk next to me, had confided. “Like we can’t tell that they’re fake. Ugh.”
The thick, perfect straight lines of those drawn on eyebrows lingered in my mind for days. Part of their words were true, in a way- it was obvious that Kim Kardashian’s eyebrows were somewhat enhanced. But I couldn’t shake my feeling of unease.
I shared their words with my girlfriend later that week, fumbling for why I felt so unsettled.
“I hate that look, too,” Taz said, seriously. “Kim Kardashian posts a selfie every day, and in every one her eyebrows look exactly the same. It’s uncanny.”
“I think…” I scrunched my own eyebrows together, staring at the photo of Kim on my phone, unsure about how my next statement would be received. “I think they’re beautiful.”
Now, I know enough about the beauty myth that I can see why my girlfriend hates Kim Kardashian’s eyebrows. I understand why my best friend cultivates her chin hairs, and why an ex had once declared that, if she’d ever starting fucking a girl and found her bare down there, she’d have to bail.
I got it, but these declarations shook me.
At its very centre, I felt that feminism, my feminism, was about choice. An individual woman should be afforded the opportunity to choose for herself how she wants to live. Choose to have her baby, or choose to have an abortion. Choose to wear the traditional dress of her religion, or choose to wear whatever she wants instead, including nothing at all. Choose to shave her underarms, or let her hair flow free.
Choose to take selfies, or choose to draw on her eyebrows.
I felt alone in my disagreement with them- these were smart, strong women! They were self-declared feminists, outspoken and fierce. Was I wrong? Or worse, did they think these things about me too?
I started patting my thick Betty Page fringe down over my own drawn on eyebrows, afraid that I was somehow letting down the team. I became awkwardly sensitive about the many dresses I owned, with matching thick, fluffy petticoats. I tried to avoid painting my nails or wearing stilettos, like the choice to wear flat shoes or my chewed, broken nails were some kind of feminist hall pass that made my clothes irrelevant. “Look,” they declared, “I’m still a feminist; I don’t have to buy into patriarchal beauty standards. I’m just like you!”
I didn’t feel like I was making a choice, though. Sometimes, I wanted to wear stilettos, I wanted to paint my nails, I wanted to wear makeup- but the thought of them holding up pictures of me in disgust stopped me. I felt trapped, like I was floating in limbo. I felt that I was not quite a feminist, no, but not quite not-a-feminist either.
When I’m bored, alone or feeling down, I stop worrying about all this.
I go home, into my own little sanctuary, and retreat to the bathroom for hours. I bring my laptop with me, playing live acoustic music in the background, or a movie with no particular theme. I run a bath, submerge naked into the hot water, and use every bath bomb and oil that I’ve collected over the past several months to scent the water and make it mine. I carefully, slowly, shave my legs, and my pits, and my arms. I rub my body in moisturiser, and pat myself dry.
Then, using a collection of hoarded images on my computer, I carefully replicate the thick, blended makeup look repeated in a hundred YouTube videos, a thousand Pinterest pins. Lastly, with supreme concentration and care, I draw on Kim Kardashian’s perfect eyebrows.
There was a sensuality about this ritual that conjured something primal in me. I have never felt so absolutely fucking beautiful, so sexy, as I do after one of these sessions. I’ve never felt more me.
I took a selfie at my parents’ house last week, to capture the makeup that I’d perfected for my brother’s birthday dinner. My dad had caught me, and laughed.
“Oh, a selfie,” he’d scoffed, “I don’t know why you bother. You look the same in every photo anyway.”
I felt a sense of déjà vu, hearing my boss denouncing Kim Kardashian layered over my dad’s voice. The judging tone, and the disdain for this little ritual, struck me.
What was it that people disliked about women who did this? That you could tell they use makeup? Because they love the way they look, love themselves, and everyone knows it? I was instantly annoyed with my dad, and stormed off. He didn’t get it, of course.
But I wanted to yell at them all- what’s wrong with a girl that wears makeup? What’s wrong with a girl taking a photo of herself and showing it off? What’s wrong with a girl loving herself?
I wasn’t going to pretend that Kim Kardashian was some paragon of feminism, but there was something to be said for how completely she embodied her choices. I admired that, her love for herself, for her fat ass and her body shape along with all the other parts of her that she plastered on her Instagram feed. I couldn’t help but see how, in the right light, Kim Kardashian was a powerful, self-possessed woman. Makeup didn’t stop that.
I asked Taz if she liked it better when I wore makeup, or when I took it all off. I was looking to challenge her, I guess, looking for a fight. I had something to say.
“I like it when you’re you, sexy,” she’d responded, typically hallmark in a way that felt corny to everyone else not in love right that second. I glared at her, trying to convey how absolutely important it was that she thinks about her answer, that she participates in a real, deep conversation with me about this. She eyed the defensive set of my hips, though, and smiled disarmingly. “Whatever you prefer, I prefer.” She wasn’t going to be any help, I thought.
I stalked out of the room, angry at her anyway.
Unsatisfied, I spent hours scrolling through the comments sections on women’s websites, reading through the thousand ways that Kim Kardashian was doing this woman thing wrong. In fact, it seemed that nearly every female celebrity was doing women wrong. Many were forgetting about their privileges, saying stupid shit, or forgetting how to be allies, and I won’t excuse that. But others were declaring their stance contrary to popular opinion, were promoting issues they believed in, we’re proudly naked or proudly garish in their bodies and opinions and selves. The comments section was screaming, reminding them that this behaviour brought us all down like tumbling dominos cascading out of the space between the naked breasts of the latest teen pop sensation. ‘Women will suffer for this’, the comments section cried. ‘You mark my words.’
On the click bait and trashy news websites, the comments section ran like a broken record. ‘Think of the children’, hysterical ranters cried, and ‘these women are terrible role models’. ‘I just find it sad, that they think their only worth is in how they look,’ the other women lamented, carefully aligning themselves in the tenuous place between feminist and still fuckable. I was curious at how many comments were repeated across all of these sites- under photos of Suicide Girls with piercings, hipsters with tattoos, Jennifer Lawrence posed naked for her boyfriend, now furious and violated, under everyone the same words that all amounted to the same thing.
Whatever a woman does, she’s ruining her reputation, and everyone let her know it.
Somehow, in the miasma of all this, the fact that Kim Kardashian draws on her eyebrows, that she takes selfies, that any woman might take a selfie and wear makeup, that any woman might get naked, or fuck up once in a while, or be human, somehow that meant that she was wrong, dangerous, acting without shame. And she should have shame, of course.
I spent some time looking at other feminists, then. At the many, varied appearances of women, men, genderqueer, trans* and intersex feminists that I’d ever followed on Facebook, or stalked across Tumblr, or read about in my gender studies text books. I looked at the thousand ways that they did their looks, at the ways they performed their genders or their feminism, or their Self, and felt something familiar in it.
They had made a choice.
I considered all this, and considered the very transgressive nature of my choosing to flaunt make up, of choosing to wear extremely feminine artefacts, of dresses and petticoats, pantyhose, make up, jewellery and carefully primped hair, and I considered how many times I had chosen to avoid them, to appear normal, to fit in. I considered that my strength as a woman, as a person, was not despite my appearance, or because of my appearance, but was in harmony with my appearance.
No one was forcing this upon me. I heard the judgement, but I also knew how important it was to me, to know who I am and to love who I am, and to look how I want anyway, even in the face of all these people telling me it’s wrong.
I am proud to be me, and I know deep in my heart that femme is who I am. Repressing it is repressing my Self, my sexuality, my womanhood- it may not be true for everyone, but it’s true for me. I am gender performance gone mad, and I’m okay with that.
To me, in-your-face, unashamed femininity is feminist. It is.
I had to do something about this, I had to make a statement, and the natural look just wouldn’t cut it anymore.
So, on Wednesday I dyed my hair pink, and I drew on bright pink Kim Kardashian eyebrows. I was fucking with this system, after all, so I had to match.
Danielle K. Day