A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Monday, June 24, 2013

I Think I'll Try (Defying Gravity)

It should be pretty clear that I'm not a risk taker.  After all, I'm an accountant - kind of the definition of lame and "safe career choice."  But sometimes you have to try to defy even the laws of nature.  It's why I found Nick Wallenda's walk across the Grand Canyon foolhardy, yet oddly inspiring.  He's crazy, yet I admire him for taking chances. It takes bravery - you don't have guarantees of the outcome and he literally walked without a safety net.  I could not do that, but I need to start letting go of fear and taking chances - otherwise I feel like my life will be wasted.  Time to try defying gravity!

"Defying Gravity" from the musical Wicked

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

If a Girl Isn't Pretty

Have you ever heard of Fanny Brice?  She was a vaudeville star in the early 20th century.  Later, her life story was made into a musical and movie called "Funny Girl."  One of the songs in that musical, "If A Girl Isn't Pretty," reminded me recently of a feminist tic that I have.  I dislike double standards for men and women.  One that annoys me most is the standard set for men and women with regard to outward appearance.

Barbara Streisand, "If A Girl Isn't Pretty"

Often, women are expected to gussy themselves up in makeup, nice clothes, curled/styled hair, high uncomfortable shoes, and other expensive accessories.*  On the other hand, men can basically wash their hair and roll out of bed, put on anything, and it's totally fine.  Men aren't expected to wear makeup to cover up their real face or endure discomfort in the name of fashion, but somehow these things are perfectly acceptable to require of women, and the women who don't participate are viewed as ugly and unnatural.**

I was reminded of this double standard when listening to a version of another favorite Broadway song.  The relevant portion of original lyrics are reproduced below - this is a song composed by George Gershwin and is typically sung by a woman.  Keep your eye on the bolded lyrics describing the physical features of the woman's future love.

There's a somebody I'm longing to see
I hope that he turns out to be
Someone to watch over me

I'm a little lamb who's lost in a wood
I know I could always be good
To one who'll watch over me

Although he may not be the man some girls think of
As handsome
, to my heart
He carries the key

So, let's review the key elements here: a woman is looking for a man to complete her.  Even though he's not handsome, that's okay - he's a good guy who's going to take care of her (we can get into the other stereotypes of this song later - women needing men to complete them, I know, I know - we're focusing on one double standard at a time).  Now, let's look at the same lyrics when the song is sung by a MAN:

There's a somebody I'm longing to see
I hope that she turns out to be
Someone to watch over me

I'm a little lamb who's lost in a wood
I know I could always be good
To one who'll watch over me

Although I may not be the man some girls think of
As handsome,
to my heart
She carries the key

Recap: in this version, sung by a man, he's looking for a woman to complete him.  So far, we are simply reversing the lyrics sung by a woman.  BUT, notice he is *not* saying the reciprocal of the female version in that last stanza, which would be "Although she may not be the girl some men think of as handsome" - instead, the song leaves the guy as the unhandsome one, thus implying that it would be unacceptable for the woman not to be pretty.

Now, I'm probably reading wayyyyy too much into a simple song, but it's symptomatic of a culture that prizes only one type of beauty - the super skinny model kind.  As someone who admittedly doesn't fit that model of beauty, I find it disturbing that in small and big ways we reinforce the message that women must be beautiful (as the magazines define it) in order to be admired or worth pursuing.  How do we fix it?  Can we? Maybe we can fix it by admiring women for something other than physical beauty.  So, look for women who are courageous, honest, happy, or kind, and praise them for that inner strength and beauty.  It's time to look beyond our cultural blinders!  I hope we can still appreciate a great melody, right?  Especially when it's sung by a woman with a beautiful singing voice:

Ella Fitzgerald, "Someone to Watch Over Me"

*Note that I'm NOT saying that these things (makeup, high heels, nice clothes) are wrong - if you enjoy them, that's great!  I just object to having them be THE standard of beauty for women, and reinforcing the idea that if women choose other things, her natural look is somehow less beautiful.
**And yes, some of this is probably sour grapes, because I still have never figured out how to walk in heels or apply eye makeup successfully.