Monday, June 22, 2015

Deviant, Defiant, Non-Compliant

Just a heads up, this post is only nominally about cosmetics, so if you're here for shiny polishes you might disappointed.

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed I've put out a huge glut of new designs for my Etsy over the last week, but there are two that  I wanted to talk about, because they really mean quite a lot to me. They're the distillation of a lot of thoughts I've been having about feminism, and generally the experience of being a woman, These designs were specifically inspired by a dear friend who despite being much younger than me, inspires me every day.


This is the first design I want to talk about - a fairly simple one, just a cute little banner that says "Deviant" over my signature indie polish background. (If you're interested, the polish is a discontinued one from Darling Diva called Erotic City) But the meanings I think you can take from this simple word are rather complex.

Women's behavior, and in particular women's sexuality, has always been a minefield of do's and don't. So many unspoken, invisible walls around every action, and stepping over these lines, even if we didn't know they were there until we'd crossed them, defines us as "deviant".

George Romney - Lady Hamilton as Medea
This idea that women's sexual pleasure is something bad or wrong can be traced back all the way to the Greeks, where "good" noble Greek women were expected to be matronly and chaste. Kept cloistered until they were married as young virgins, they were expected to produce heirs but the idea of women actually enjoying the process was unheard of. Women in mythology who succumbed to passion were deemed "evil" (See Medea, among many other examples), and women in society who were caught committing adultery were entirely excommunicated from Greek society, unable to even attend sacrifices. At the same time male sexuality, while nominally expected to be enjoyed in moderation, was allowed rather more leeway for expression.

The Victorian Era was famously repressive of sexuality, but again rather more so of female sexuality than male. The only orgasm a Victorian woman could expect was at the hands of a doctor should she be diagnosed with "hysteria" - a practice which, on the upside, brought us the basis for the modern vibrator.

Even now, after the Sexual Revolution of the 60's, female sexuality is still widely expected to come second to male sexuality. Women's magazines are full of tips to enjoy sex more, but the number of tips devoted to his pleasure rather than hers underlines the idea that women's enjoyment should never come at the cost of male enjoyment. Women are now largely taught that being sexual is okay - thank goodness - but there still remains the idea that there is such a thing as being TOO sexual. Have sex, but not too much. Explore the dating landscape, but don't sleep with too many people. Get kinky every now and then, but only in a way that straight men find hot.

Graphic by Definatalie
But it's not just our sexuality that gets women labelled as "deviant" - if I've learned anything from the Fat Acceptance movement it's how horrifying some people find the idea of women simply being larger than is "acceptable". Don't even get me started on the endless struggle that is trying to enact the simple idea of "No Diet Talk" in the average office. Now THERE'S a deviant concept.
Speaking of talking, even though women talk almost the exact same amount as men in everyday settings, we're still labelled chatterboxes, gossips, and nags. Hell, even a woman daring to be taller than the average man can get some people clutching their pearls in horror that a dainty, delicate woman could dare to take up so much space.

All these unspoken, invisible walls, trying to hem women into a tiny little box of "acceptable." Acceptably sized, acceptably quiet, acceptably sexual, and acceptably small. Well balls to that.

And that's where this second design comes in. (For the polish nerds, the background I used for this is Exhilaration from Powder Perfect) As much as I would like to encourage every woman to trample the invisible maze that surrounds us with reckless abandon, I can't. There are consequences still to being deviant. In the awesome comic Bitch Planet, women deemed "non compliant" are disappeared to a prison planet for the rest of their lives - while we're not quite there yet, the fact that there are consequences for non-compliance is undeniable. In an example from my own life, politely asking my co-workers not to comment on what I was or was not having for lunch led to complaints to management about my "attitude". Bigger actions can lead to bigger consequences.

I really can't recommend Bitch Planet enough. Make sure to view this full size to see the wonderful fake ads!
But it's not hopeless! There are things you can do, things you can say, every day to try and push at those walls that surround us. It can be as simple as ignoring that socially implanted voice in your head that tells you to shush at parties, because you don't want to be seen as the loud, deviant woman.
Try not to be ashamed of your sexuality - there's no such thing as too sexual, and so long as all parties are consenting adults no kink is too weird. There are great groups out there like Twisted Sisters in Sydney who are more than happy to help you find your way!

There are things you can do that don't even require talking to other people! Read awesome female created comics like Bitch Planet, and  Lumberjanes, and Gotham Academy;go see awesome female directed movies like A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. Buy from indie jewelers doing cool subversive things like Fancy Lady Industries! Support female creators doing cool stuff with your money, and help them to say the things you feel you can't say!

So how about you, dear readers? Are you deviant and/or defiant? What are things you do to show your defiance, big or small?