I asked my ex, now good friend, if she would ever have an open relationship and she said, “No, I don’t think I could do that” then after a pause and a smile, “but what about love affair friendships?” She went on to describe an impenetrable fortress of female friendship, her own group of best mates who’d known each other since school and had supported and loved each other through almost all of their lifetimes. They sounded far more bonded to, and in love with one another, than their respective husbands. It struck me that we don’t have the language to reflect the diversity and breadth of connections we experience. Why is sex the thing we tend to define a relationship by, when in fact it can be simple casual fun without a deep emotional transaction? Why do we say “just friends” when, for some of us, a friendship goes deeper? Can we define a new currency of commitment that celebrates and values this? Instead of having multiple confusing interpretations of the same word, could we have different words? What if we viewed our relationships as a pyramid structure with our primary partner at the top and a host of lovers, friends, spiritual soul mates, colleagues, and acquaintances beneath that?
I asked myself what style we women could have adopted that would have been unmarked, like the men’s. The answer was none. There is no unmarked woman.
There is no woman’s hair style that can be called standard, that says nothing about her. The range of women’s hair styles is staggering, but a woman whose hair has no particular style is perceived as not caring about how she looks, which can disqualify her for many positions, and will subtly diminish her as a person in the eyes of some.
Women must choose between attractive shoes and comfortable shoes. When our group made an unexpected trek, the woman who wore flat, laced shoes arrived first. Last to arrive was the woman in spike heels, shoes in hand and a handful of men around her.
If a woman’s clothing is tight or revealing (in other words, sexy), it sends a message — an intended one of wanting to be attractive, but also a possibly unintended one of availability. If her clothes are not sexy, that too sends a message, lent meaning by the knowledge that they could have been. There are thousands of cosmetic products from which women can choose and myriad ways of applying them. Yet no makeup at all is anything but unmarked. Some men see it as a hostile refusal to please them.
Women can’t even fill out a form without telling stories about themselves. Most forms give four titles to choose from. “Mr.” carries no meaning other than that the respondent is male. But a woman who checks “Mrs.” or “Miss” communicates not only whether she has been married but also whether she has conservative tastes in forms of address — and probably other conservative values as well. Checking “Ms.” declines to let on about marriage (checking “Mr.” declines nothing since nothing was asked), but it also marks her as either liberated or rebellious, depending on the observer’s attitudes and assumptions.
I sometimes try to duck these variously marked choices by giving my title as “Dr.” — and in so doing risk marking myself as either uppity (hence sarcastic responses like “Excuse me!”) or an overachiever (hence reactions of congratulatory surprise like “Good for you!”).
All married women’s surnames are marked. If a woman takes her husband’s name, she announces to the world that she is married and has traditional values. To some it will indicate that she is less herself, more identified by her husband’s identity. If she does not take her husband’s name, this too is marked, seen as worthy of comment: she has done something; she has “kept her own name.” A man is never said to have “kept his own name” because it never occurs to anyone that he might have given it up. For him using his own name is unmarked.
A married woman who wants to have her cake and eat it too may use her surname plus his, with or without a hyphen. But this too announces her marital status and often results in a tongue-tying string. In a list (Harvey O’Donovan, Jonathan Feldman, Stephanie Woodbury McGillicutty), the woman’s multiple name stands out. It is marked.
We Read Too is a book resource app created by Kaya Thomas (@kthomas901) that includes over 300 Children’s and YA books written by authors of color featuring characters of color. You can browse, search, view the details of every book as well as suggest any books that should be added in the app. This resource is for all people of color who have felt misrepresented or forgotten when finding books to read.
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kaya is incredible, y’all! black girls rock :)
favorite moment in television history.
“I keep rearranging the letters of my sisters The Beatles sign on her bedroom door.
She is not happy.”
I’ve given up trying to make them normal.
ok and now there’s another one
i didnt know the beatles could become so many words
Every ideal an ordeal, features forgotten
otherwise: an emperor’s Bithynian favorite
the statues never did justice. Never just
a young provincial who wanted to become someone
and see the world Rome made. I’ve come to see
what has become of you. (There is no present tense
for the classic dead, but here: I give you mine, and this
lamp of burnt words.) This afternoon I am in love
with Egypt, the Nile another sullen god to sink into
and be reborn. The river loves you. He takes you
to his heart, where yours no longer beats: then
he gives you up. September he comes searching for you,
smoothing the parched and fissured floodplain
to your fine skin, silt and a foam of flowers left
in place of you. Boy who became a statue, state
of grace (a stationary paradise not unlike
death); temple and chipped limestone of a desert
city which bears your name (bearing you deeper
into history, the Nile’s by right): a star
to wish upon two thousand years from you,
when the colonnades are deserted quarries, hearsay
and heresy that says a boy became a god.
Here’s what I know of you, a coin that bore your face
into a past years after your perfected fact, then let it
go, worn down to an idea of you and tarnished
night, the difference beauty makes to any narrative or death
sentence the star I can’t make out just now believes.
When I am dead, will you kiss me, call me by name?