A few years ago, a woman really, really annoyed me in a professional setting. I vented to a friend, citing everything from how she conducted herself online to her lack of writing skill to the way she brown-nosed my higher ups. (For all my worried ex-co-workers, this is not about you.) My friend indulged my rant, as friends do. Additionally, my friend knew the woman in question and had experienced the same things. I felt safe as my friend validated my frustrations.
Then I mentioned the offending woman’s appearance in a photo she uploaded to Facebook.
“Stop it right now. Tear apart her writing. Feel frustrated with the way she speaks to you. But her looks are off limits.”
I argued the point for approximately two-point-five seconds. Then I stopped. I realized I was wrong. Way wrong. I didn’t mention her looks again. Eventually I didn’t have to deal with her at all as I continued on down my winding career path. The interaction with that old friend, however, stuck with me.
And it’s bothering the hell out of me lately.
It started during the election. Anti-Hillary camps attacked her appearance, bringing up eye bags or wrinkles or how exhausted she looked or the weight she put on since she was in college. (You’re kidding me with the weight thing, right?) Pro-Hillary people argued that others shouldn’t attack her appearance; they should gauge her Presidential ability on the way she answered questions in debates and talked about policy.
These people then turned around and called Trump a Cheeto.
I engaged in the Trump appearance-shaming until that conversation with my friend popped back up in my head. And I sighed. I hate that nagging conscience of mine. I also hate being wrong, especially on moral and ethical grounds. I then tried to only retweet those who chose to address the issues at hand rather than poke fun at how the 45th President looks. I didn’t maneuver that endeavor perfectly, but I tried.
Three times in the past week I’ve watched smart women whom I admire go after the Trump women or KellyAnne for their appearance. Twice in the past week I’ve called them on it, because I’m straight up tired of it.
Listen: Unkind people, mostly women, have said unkind things about my appearance for my whole life. A fellow student in high school used to make fun of my size, of my clothing choices, of my eye shape. She made my senior year a veritable hell. Of note: it also happened in Christian settings. Thanks, Jesus people! It happened again in college, to a lesser extent due to a larger amount of people. Still, people commented on my appearance, both things I could control (things I liked to wear; things I didn’t know about like tweezing your eyebrows) and things I couldn’t control (yes, I know my eyes are shaped differently than yours; yes, I have knobby knees; yes, my teeth are crooked despite having worn braces; yes, my ears stick out a bit).
When I moved to Ohio, it didn’t happen for awhile—because I didn’t interact with other human beings other than my husband and his family for a long time. As we began to grow our family, I met more people thanks to things like story time at the library and weight checks at the hospital and, as they got older, sports and school. People were slow to adopt me in this small community because I come from away. I was slow to adopt people because, well, I have trust issues and I’m an introvert (INFJ). Eventually I made some trusted, smart, lovely friends who loved me for me, all my quirks included.
I also made some not-so-friendly-acquaintances along the way who chose to make negative comments about my appearance either to their friends who didn’t realize little birdies exist or via social media. I’m nearly thiry-six-damn-years-old and this shit is still happening.
Guess what? You don’t have to like my hair. You don’t have to like what I wear. You don’t have to like my eyes or my legs or my thighs or my belly or my stretch marks or my makeup or my ears or my weight or my breasts or my arms or my cheeks or my butt or my feet or my fingers that swell too easily due to a kidney issue or even my fucking kidney. You don’t have to! But you do have to treat me with respect if you expect to remain in my life in any shape or form. You do owe me the simplicity of being a decent human being. You don’t have to be my best friend. You don’t have to like me. You can tell people I’m bossy or rude or stubborn or depressed; all those things are true. I own them. I apologize for them frequently. (Sorry again for any recent bossy/rude/stubborn issues. I won’t apologize for Treatment Resistant Depression, but I will continue to work on it with my doctors and therapists.)
But leave my looks out of it.
Leave the Trump women alone for their looks. KellyAnne is evil enough without commenting on how she looks. If you didn’t want people talking about Michelle Obama’s looks, whether the comments were racial or just about her arms, then stop making these kind of comments about women across the aisle—however wide that aisle might be. Like all the way to Russia.
Stop it right now.
Attack policy. Rant about the lies. Question everything. But for Pete’s sake, and Pete was my Papau, act like a grown ass adult and leave the way people look out of it.
My chin hair and I will thank you for it.