Blaise Bayno-Krebs: on Changing After High School, Internalized Misogyny and Being Silenced
Blaise, a History of Consciousness PhD student, on changing after high school, internalized misogyny and being silenced.
On traditional femininity: Softness and weakness, submission, obedience, delicacy, following a certain etiquette. I definitely don’t ascribe to it. I am a feminine person but I probably operate outside of the standard of femininity. I am not really delicate or obedient. The way I look is outside the traditional girly thing, although sometimes I like to play with it. I guess I embody some masculine qualities, in that I am outspoken and I don’t give a shit - things that traditionally femininity wouldn’t allow. Femininity in my opinion is the most beautiful and most powerful thing. It is about vulnerability, openness, honesty, respect, care, all of these things that men don't do...generally. Femininity is so shot down upon from so many sides. I think that if everyone embraced the feminine side of themselves, men included, non-binary people included, you would just really open yourself up to a very happy self.
On sexism and misogyny: Sexism in my opinion is more biologically-based, whereas misogyny is more about femininity and the feminine character. In high school, women were put down and made fun of constantly within my social circle. I, as someone who had internalized misogyny, would also try to shy away from the feminine parts of myself and be more masculine in a way to shame the other girls who were super feminine. I remember in high school, there was a girl who was crying because someone was making fun of her, (which is a totally legitimate response), and the vulnerability expressed there is certainly a feminine thing, and she was made fun of even more for crying. And I, with my internalized misogyny, also joined in, and I thought she was so weak. In college, I learned about what was causing it, and really moved past that.
On her career: I just graduated Wesleyan as a sociology major, and going to grad school. My main aspiration in life is to become a professor of sociology studies or queer studies. I definitely will be in competition with men in my career, but hopefully it's just about the work you’re producing. I’m sure that there will be subtle biases anyway. Thankfully, in the field that I’m in, people are really aware of gender inequality and people are actively trying to work against it.
On diversity in the media: Women of color or trans women are not represented fairly in the media...we are working on it, but it still privileges the thin, white woman first and we think of that as progress, but I do not.
On competition: I would sometimes get jealous of girls that were thinner than me in high school probably still now to some extent, but not as much. I would feel competitive about getting the attention of guys. Its interesting, I never felt competitive about getting attention of queer girls with other queer girls.
On feminism: Feminism goes beyond the equality of gender. It is also the intersectional practice that must always include the experiences of women of color, trans women, disabled women, poor women, a well as women internationally and in all religions. In order to liberate one type of woman, you have to focus on how all these other types of women are being oppressed as well. We still live in a patriarchal society, and anything that challenges it, which feminism certainly does, is demonized.
On orgasms: Of course I faked, I thought it would make the person happy, I don’t really care that much if I am not having an orgasm, I’m just having a good time. But I would just do it all the time, and realized I shouldn’t because my partner isn’t learning how to actually do it. But it’s big news between my friends if it actually happens. I think people don’t realize how much more difficult it is for girls.
On the perfect woman: I think the perfect woman is any woman who does what she wants to do because she wants to do it without worrying about what other people think about their choices (as long as she’s not harming other people). In our society, the perfect woman has to be beautiful and perfect, that’s definitely number one, a woman who doesn’t speak up too much, but just enough to be laughed at and called cute. A woman who is maternal and occupies the role of a mother - I think after a certain age especially it’s less about beauty than about the maternal instinct.
Advice for future generations of women: Always do what you want, be caring and loving, try to see the other side, and don’t worry about what men think - but it will probably take a hundred years for it to get out of our system.
On turn-ons, and turn-offs: My personality turns me on, I’m kind and caring, I am proud of how intelligent I’ve become through school. I think I’m beautiful even though I hate parts of myself just like everybody. Sometimes I think I’m funny, but maybe not all the time. In a partner I generally care about the personality more than anything else - I like people who are funny, who I can talk to about intellectual subjects, people who listen, people who are goofy and silly and people who don’t take themselves too seriously and like to go out and have fun and be crazy. Also, non-normative presentation of gender is something I really find attractive. It shows an open mind, an ability to accept more of yourself. But if you’re not vulnerable, if you’re emotionally removed, that’s a turn off. Also, hyper-masculinity.
On catcalling and objectification: It’s really everywhere. In New York in the summer when you’re walking down the street you’re getting catcalled, and on dating apps people really come at you with the “sit on my face” things. In high school guys would slap your ass all the time without asking or talk about your body in a really demeaning way. Luckily a lot of that went away when I went to Wesleyan. In middle school, when I didn’t know anything and I was a little twelve year old, I wanted to be catcalled because I thought that would mean I was a woman and that’s how I knew I was attractive. I based my attractiveness off of the disrespect of men I didn’t know. In high school, I would base my value off of guys around me, and I was really upset because guys wouldn't talk about me when they would talk about “the hot girl” or who they want to hook up with. I didn’t change my behavior because of it, but it did make me feel bad, I thought why was it not me? It was because I wasn’t occupying that narrow girl stereotype. Catcalling is not a compliment, ever, because it’s not giving you a compliment, it's about power, it's about demeaning you. And that’s why when you don’t respond they yell at you. It's never about being nice. I was probably 13 when I was first cat-called. I didn’t feel bad, and even now I don’t feel bad because it has become so normal. It made me sexualilze myself early in a way that was really problematic. Still, sometimes I’ll be wearing an outfit that I really like and I’ll be going out, and I’ll think “well, I’ll put on a skirt because I’ll look sexier”. That’s probably never going to go away, or take a while.
On inspiration: This is really embarrassing because she’s problematic now (appropriation of black culture), but Brooke Candy, when she came out with her song Das Me, I was inspired by the sex positive feminism and being a slut and reclaiming the term. And I really identified with that at the time. And that really got me into owning your sexuality.
On makeup: I love makeup. Personally, I wear makeup every day. I started wearing makeup when I was 13 because I believed I had a lot of flaws, which were probably not true at all. Then I found that makeup could be a way to really express myself and the style that I wanted to. To me, makeup is more related to fashion than to beauty standards.
On being silenced: Friends of my uncle that are guys tend to shut me down or interrupt me whenever we are having a political debate. That also always happened in school with guys, who didn’t know shit, but wouldn’t let me speak. It all changed a lot in college, because everyone in my school was open-minded and liberal and let women speak. I wish I could think of a specific example of when I was told to “calm down” when it wasn’t appropriate, but I can’t, probably because it’s happened so many times.