A note: Yes, I am totally a feminist and have the degree to prove it. Yes, I believe women should be good to each other and support each other. As fellow humans we should all generally be good to each other. But I also believe in operating in the world we actually live in vs the world we want to live in. Operating that way with magic is what gives you the edge.
There’s a part of glamour magic that I haven’t been talking about because I’ve been festering on it for several years now. Part of what makes glamour feminine guerrilla warfare is the fact that it resides firmly in GirlWorld. GirlWorld is a place that is simultaneously terrifying and awesome and unless you strongly identify as a woman, it’s always going to be foreign and scary. So much of what happens in GirlWorld happens on an incredibly primal ontological level. Your Fetch lives there, generally speaking.
If you really want to understand glamour, you need to understand Alison DiLaurentis from Pretty Little Liars through Jacob Clifton’s eyes. Even if you don’t watch/read PLL, stay with me. I’m going to give other examples as well. It’s less about Ali and more about what she represents.
Like, so much of Ali is about how her corruption gives her power, but she’s also been telling us since the beginning that most of that is bullshit propaganda. She’s always shown the cracks — CeCe Drake’s entire existence is basically to show us that Ali had an Ali of her own, showing her how to be the Mean Cool Older Sister — but these flashbacks are also about illustrating how out of her depth she always was. She shivers through every one of these confrontations, and sometimes barely keeps the face on long enough to turn away.
And so then the fact that the naïve — the Liars, their parents, the whole school, really: She drove Paige around the bend based on this act — all bought into her bullshit wholesale is one more illustration of the central themes of the show, which is that the lies we tell to protect people or bring them closer will always end up destroying them, or holding them apart from us. So far apart in fact that now, four years into a show about her, we barely even know her at all.
[. . .]
If you are operating from a boy perspective, there is a conspiracy you are terrified exists, between your father and the girl you love. They know a secret and they are not telling you this secret, and that’s because boys become men by understanding their anima, blah blah, you can’t get to the adult form of yourself without realizing that women are people and until you do this, you will always have a horrible feeling in the back of your head that they know a secret, about you and about the world, and they are laughing behind their hands while you fumble and try to figure it out.
Okay or do you like Adventure Time? It’s that thing. Marceline and Simon were always going to have a secret history, because Marceline is exactly that thing, the Devil’s Beautiful Daughter, and Ice King is exactly that thing too, the shadowed or sickly father, the Fisher King in his detriment. So much of that show is about that, about Princess Bubblegum and Marceline and even Flame Princess being further along, older, better than Finn. Flip it around, and you have Marshall Lee singing to Fiona about how all she wants is for him to fucking destroy her — that he knows this, and he’s not going to yet, because she’s not old enough.
Flip it around again, and you have Boardshorts: Ali has Marceline relationships with every single man on the show. She’s blackmailing Byron, she’s involved with Wilden and CeCe, and so on. Of course Ezra is Boardshorts, because for Aria Alison is a symbol first and foremost of the transcendent synthesis of innocence and experience. The show is about purity beset by corruption, of course, but only Alison always exists in both states: Predator and prey, hunter and hind, nighttime and daytime. Motionless and always moving. Mercutio to their Romeos — adult/child gay/straight male/female in/out death/life virgin/whore good/evil — and central to every nexus on which the show tilts. – Jacob Clifton
Let’s discuss a real life example. When I have a new beau, a particular friend of mine likes to engage me in casual GirlWorld warfare. She does this by flirting with the new beau right in front of me, while watching me from the side of her eye. There’s no actual intent to steal my beau.
If you saw this on its surface, you would think she and I were having a friendly ribbing. That is true on the surface. However, that encounter is much more complicated. She is exerting her power in our 20 year friendship by essentially getting into my personal space and making direct eye contact with me while straightening my tie. She does it because she knows when I first start seeing someone I am more prone to jealousy. She knows I feel that annoyed sisterly stop touching my shit (yes, the beau is a person, yes polyamory is supposed to be all pixie stix and compersion but dawdling in fact here is more important than shoulds), but if I say something that indicates jealousy, that means she won and has the potential to steal my beau if she wanted to. That means she wins. If I can manage to refrain from indicating jealousy and appear relaxed, that means I (appear) secure in my budding relationship and am unconcerned that she could steal my new beau. That means I win.
If I lose, she will continue slowly and casually rubbing my face in the carpet every chance she gets when the three of us are in a room together to remind me she has the power to do so. Our friendship is long standing enough that I know she doesn’t want to hurt me so much as she wants to assert herself here so even though it’s hella annoying, if she won, she won the privilege to do this. If I win, then she may feel envious that my relationship is going well and jealous that I have something (someone) that she now cannot have due to our close friendship.
If you are thinking, lordess, why would you be friends with her? You are missing the point. You are missing the complexity that this interaction doesn’t cancel out that we love each other and genuinely want the other to be happy and we have provided each other with endless support, compassion and kindness through the years while simultaneously engaging in casual GirlWorld warfare. If you can’t understand how these disparate things can happen at the same time and even in the same moment, you aren’t going to understand how to use glamour.
At her heart, glamour is all about the subtleties. I will accept this behavior from Friend because she has earned this dubious privilege of giving me a casual Jennifer Check hard shoulder nudge into a wall. She has proven her love and devotion, thus she has earned the right to yank my tail at will. However if the person in question is a frienemy and decides to jockey for position by flirting with a new beau to show that she can get all Jolene on my ass if she wanted to, she just threw down and I will treat this transgression accordingly. Will I flip a table? Probably not. Will it be something you would see happening if you didn’t know myself and Frienemy, either the jockeying or future retribution? Also, probably not. Does this make you feel like these nuances are thus unimportant and can be ignored?
Good. Then you won’t see it coming.