By definition I am a feminist.
Of course, the word “feminism” is usually clouded by unsavory attitudes. People throw out feminist as an insult.
Advocating for women’s rights is a problem, you see. As we’ve learned here in the blessed country of America, advocating for the equal rights for any minority population is a problem. God bless our country. Home of the free.
With that said, I’m not overly vocal on the subject. I mean, sure, I don’t want politicians in my vagina, nor do I think my vagina should prohibit me from earning more than my male counterparts, but I tend to keep my feminist outcries secured pretty tightly. I’m not easily offended by every “injustice” against womanhood.
Case in point: I've lost no sleep over the horrors of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and its gross depiction of domestic abuse and the degradation of womankind. You know what I did lose sleep over? The fact that someone is a millionaire for writing shitty novels.
However, a recent Twitter exchange erupted within me a feminist fire I didn't know I had. A simple, well-meaning tweet, of all things.
As I readied myself one evening for a run on the treadmill on a day I felt particularly sluggish and bloated, I took to Twitter to drown my sorrows. As I do.
The tweet was met with nods of understanding from girlfriends and the occasional “favorite” from other Twitter users. I am not alone in this struggle, I learned, as I climbed aboard the treadmill.
Then I received a reply from a person I’ve never heard of in my life. A man. One I don’t follow on Twitter, and who doesn’t follow me. Innocently enough, and with good intentions, I’m sure, he tweeted:
“FYI: we don’t notice.”
The “we” he undoubtedly referred to is men. Men don’t notice the unsightly bloat I feel as I’m squirming uncomfortably in my running shorts.
Initially, I had the instinct to smile.
How nice, I thought. How chivalrous of a man to not notice our fat days or our bad hair days or the days we feel ugly. I’M BEAUTIFUL TO MEN, NO MATTER WHAT.
But after a few seconds, I felt an uncomfortable tingle under my skin. Unfamiliar at first, but I soon recognized the sensation.
What does he mean, “we don’t notice”? As if I adorned the running shorts and tank top specifically to appease men. As if the worst part about feeling bloated and unsightly was that men would be appalled. As if everything that we do is to impress them. As if I need a man’s reassurance that feeling bloated is okay.
I couldn't get the tweet or its insinuation out of my mind for the entirety of my slog on the treadmill. This idea that women are inclined to feel unattractive in their gym clothes and it’s ingrained in a man’s mind to make her feel better, as if her sole purpose was to appeal to him, the wee stranger from the internet.
What if I what I worried about was how I felt about myself? What if I wanted to impress my own worst critic? What if when I leave the house, I’m not worried about what men think of me, but about how I feel? What if I don’t need a stranger on the internet to validate my worth?
OK, who am I kidding? I love to feel flattered. But come on.
“We don’t notice.”
Maybe I was trying to impress a woman, for all he knows. Or a cat. YOU DON’T KNOW ME.
Know what a better response would have been?
“Quit your bitching and start running.”
Because that's what I did.