Monday, July 6, 2015

4/28/86, Monday

4/28/86, Monday

I'm so mad at Carrie right now. We managed to keep a safe distance from each other while we were in Esteli but here in Managua, we see a lot more of each other and she gets on my nerves. A group of us were riding in the back of a truck when I saw Carrie staring at me.

"What's up?" I asked her.

"You managed to keep your lipstick on and your legs shaved the whole time you were here," she said.

"And you managed to keep your legs hairy and your lips chapped," I said.

What followed was a little lecture about how makeup and shaving were tools to keep women oppressed. She sees herself as much more serious about the causes she embraces because she isn't concerned with her appearance. The thing is, she seems very concerned with what people think of her and other people's appearances. She had the audacity to make a crack about Francie wearing earrings with her olive drab uniform and I almost lost it. I moved within inches of her face and told her to shut up. People asked us to calm down and moved between us.

I remember having a conversation with Francie where she mentioned that I was much more like Nicaraguan women than like American women. I asked her why and she answered that it was not only because of my command of the language but because many of the American women at the school didn't shave their legs or groom themselves. I hadn't even noticed. All of Francie's daughters had pierced ears and they all wore earrings like I do. The older girls wear lipstick and shave their legs. 

I think I understand where Carrie is coming from, I really do. I can see how people can become slaves to society's expectations, I think that happens in many ways. But I don't feel particularly oppressed by my appearance, in fact, I think that my appearance has often been a source of creative expression for me. Even as a kid I enjoyed dressing up, pretending to be a hula girl, or a mod in my plastic raincoat and matching boots. It's not the main focus of my existence but it is an undeniable part of me. I don't feel like I have to dress conservatively to satisfy convention but I also don't want to feel like I have to dress a certain way to defy convention. There are many ways to thwart oppression and succumbing to new oppressors is not the best way!

I remember the conversation I had with my little sister Paca about society's imposed standards of beauty. I can see why Francie wanted her to put up the working woman's photo along with the magazine model photos. We can't ignore the outside world, we have to look at the information and figure out what it means to us. Francie didn't want to force the girls to take down their pictures, instead she wanted them to have an example of a different kind of beauty for comparison. She doesn't want to indoctrinate, she wants the girls to think for themselves.

I don't care whether Carrie shaves her legs, I just want her to stop acting so superior and let the rest of us choose our own appearance.

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