I came across a bunch of articles today that mention women and the picking of noses, which I think is awesome. I’m a girl that some would describe as having “Rabelaisian affinities” and “fixations with the body” – look no further than my About section for proof – or simply “gross,” so it’s no surprise that articles that deal openly with the disgustingness of females (not that I think picking one’s nose is disgusting; I use the term in a hetero-normative sense. That is, although most people do pick their noses, they just don’t talk about it, and therefore, consider it abnormal) peaked my interest.
Women are bawdy. Women are dirty. Sometimes, when women fart, they get skidmarks on their underwear too. And contrary to popular male opinion, we do poop. So the fact that we can talk about it, if even for a female audience, means one baby step in the promulgation of gender equality. I will never rest until I can talk about my body and my habits until it ceases to be considered gross.
Pitchfork talks to the English electro-pop enfant terrible Charli XCX about a few of her favourite things. She considers nose-picking her worst habit and what she says about poo is kind of a summary of my Master’s thesis:
Picking my nose. I do it all the time, I don’t even hide it. All my friends know that I do it. I actually have loads of really disgusting habits. I’m fascinated by poo, but not in a way where I poke at it and touch it– that’s weird. But I openly talk about poo. I find it really interesting that everyone gets so freaked out by it. To me it’s just like, whatever, you just did a poo, it’s fine. You don’t have to lie. Everyone knows you did a poo because you were gone for five minutes. That habit makes everyone feel a bit awkward, so I save it for specific situations.
I am in love with this girl. Even if she loves Coldplay.
This song/video she did with provocateur Brooke Candy called “Cloud Aura” is appropriate for this blog post. It’s a great mash-up of Charli XCX dressed like an 80s hooker, Brooke Candy doing her Brooke Candy thing, and clips from movies and TV shows of women crying and occasionally firing guns and giving crazy eyes.
(There’s the disturbing line: “You were my Chris Brown, I was your only girl” that kind of stands out amongst the other romantic pairings (Bonnie and Clyde, Beyonce and Jay-Z, Ivanka and Trump) but the rest of the song is pretty much a violent jeremiad against the guy and it’s pretty clear what she thinks of him).
Rookie contributor, Jessica Hopper, writes a personal essay on the poet and civil rights activist Nikki Giovanni. Hopper talks about how the poetry of Giovanni affected her twelve-year-old self and her conceptions of what it meant to be a woman:
I was in awe. Whoever this Nikki Giovanni was, she knew everything, and she wasn’t keeping it a secret. Is this what being a woman is about? I wondered. “Nothing an overdose / of sex won’t cure of course,” she writes in “Forced Retirement.” Was sex like that, like cocaine? In “Life Cycles,” she names private habits: masturbation, nose-picking, sitting in the dark feeling sad. Is that what being an adult and living on your own means?
This one is kind of a double whammy. Jessica Hopper, the music journalist from Chicago, writes about the liberating feeling of reading someone who publicly addresses private experiences like masturbation and nose-picking, but she’s quoting Nikki Giovanni, who is actually the one who wrote those things in a poem.
An excerpt from “Life Cycles:”
she had so many private habits
she would masturbate sometimes
she always picked her nose when upset
she liked to sit with silence
in the dark
Now, Giovanni is talking about a “black woman or a writer” (does she equate the plight of the two?) but I like to think that this stanza extends its power to women of all colour and occupations. Giovanni’s poetry about female experience is actually very universal and it’s that universality that makes it so humanizing. I mean, girls aren’t born dying to know how to apply lipstick and make strawberry shortcake.
Kate Zambreno in The New Inquiry reviews Ann Cvetkovich’s critical memoir, Depression: A Public Feeling and discusses the written colloquium on female depression. Now, this has absolutely nothing to do with nose-picking but she talks about the limitations of gendered identity:
In [Cvetkovich's] reading of [Sharon] O’Brien [a writer who wrote a memoir on depression called The Family Silver] she notes that the author is reading her own depression as resistance to the tyranny of niceness, but Cvetkovich does not say enough about depression as a means of resistance (albeit possibly futile) for daughters against their gender roles. Being gendered feminine often is a poisonous education in passivity, of being nice, good, of not exhibiting anger, of internalizing society’s violence or experiences of oppression in mundane or spectacular forms, — a compelling line of argument in Sara Ahmed’s idea of the “feminist killjoy,” which illustrates the potential political usefulness of anger or unhappiness.
So, the language and the issues in Zambreno’s review are much more polemical than what I’m talking about here but it all falls under the same umbra of female experience in the public versus private sphere. Depression is one of those things that women have had to internalize, because historically, the “spectacle” of emotion from a female has had a negative connotation, resulting in sobriquets like “madwoman,”"hysteric,” or even “witch,” that fundamentally delegitimizes female experience. Basically, if women are sad, they’re insane. Just like, if women pick their noses, they’re gross. But if men are sad or pick their noses, they’re just having a rough Tuesday night.
But Zambreno and Cvetkovich think that bringing something like depression out into the open is actually a pretty ballsy thing to do because this new narrative (let’s not even get into grand narratives, Foucault, and Judith Butler) of female experiences shatters all those pre-conceived notions with which we’re familiar. So the talk of gendering mental health is actually closely related to the female annunciation of picking one’s nose. I understand that challenging sexism and misogyny through dialectical transgression and confronting mental disease isn’t the same as admitting that you like to roll your boogers into little balls and flick them onto the floor of your car while you’re stuck in traffic (Top Gear proves that this happens a lot), it’s still something big in my eyes because it really bothers people, and not just males, but females equally, and that’s kind of what fighting for equality entails, upsetting those who don’t want to share.
It may seem low-brow to limit female emancipation to the liberation of the body (all the people who can’t stand Lena Dunham’s exhibitionism on Girls would probably agree with that) but it’s a carnivalesque type of subversion of which Rabelais would be proud.
The fact that people are still in disbelief when women do things like cry in public or wear an outfit that doesn’t compliment her skin-tone is just indicative of how un-seriously we take women. Honestly, I believe that the more that women admit they pick their noses or masturbate, the less resistance there will be when they actually do something worthwhile, like run for president or produce a television show on HBO.