Things that really rile me up; fat phobia, body shaming, pro life thinkers who believe in limiting access to contraception and abortions, companies that create clothes for ‘plus size’ women but rely on the terms ‘flattering,’ ‘slimming’ and ‘contouring’ thus implying that being fat is a terrible thing that needs to be covered up immediately, and slut shaming.
I have a postcard on my wall that says ‘you are capable of so much more than looking hot’ and every day I look at it and smile. I do think I am hot; I love every bit of my body now – – but this revelation came via years of destroying it with eating disorders, long hospital stays and finally, the epiphany that being ‘attractive’ IS A BULLSHIT CONCEPT. It is subjective and dependent and constructed by a society that succeeds and survives by telling us we aren’t good enough so that we spend billions on beauty products/plastic surgery/clothes that promise to ‘flatter,’ and magazines that are little more than masochistic bibles dedicated to tearing women apart whilst pretending to promote body confidence on every page.
My body is personal; it isn’t public property or there to be politicised or objectified. There is so much to be said on this issue that my brain hurts just thinking about how to articulate it. There are constant debates about access to contraception and abortion, daily tweets and Facebook posts making jokes about female bodies, (just today I have seen fat phobic pictures about women in leggings and a ‘hilarious’ meme about big boobs being the reward for men putting up with us nagging) music videos where men are fully dressed yet the women are inexplicably, pointlessly naked (Yes, Robin Dicke, I am looking at you) and it seems that nothing can be sold without a half naked woman posing seductively or reinforcement of heteronormative gender roles.
What this all adds up to is the idea that our bodies are somehow up for debate. Public property. That everything we do is fair game to pass comment and judgement on. Terms I hear used to describe women on a daily basis include; fat, thin, bossy, boring, slutty, frigid, bitch, angry, hairy.. you name it, it’s there on someone’s timeline or dripping from their mouths like poison with the sole aim of hitting where it hurts the most; our appearance. That’s the crux of it really – we are discussed so often in terms of our looks that it seems that our self worth/societal value is intrinsically linked to our bodies and how ‘successful’ we are at conforming to those narrow, constructed beauty ideals.
The easiest insult to sling at women is to call them ugly because it plays into the notion that being attractive and fuckable is our primary purpose; men can be successful, smart, strong etc but women? We must be beautiful above all else. When a women articulates a view that deviates from the norm; i.e. anything that challenges or questions the patriarchal state that keeps us earning less, patronised, undervalued and objectified, many people are quick to jump in with the appearance insults. ‘Feminists are ugly’ ‘You should shave your legs.’ ‘You are fat.’ etc Why? Because it’s basic as fuck and appeals to the internalised view we hold that being found attractive is important.
Body hair, abortion, sexual partners, clothes, diet, make up choices, hair style – all topics that people feel justified in wading in and criticising. None of those things have any significance for, or impact on, anyone other than the body involved and yet countless debates, discussions and even policies have been created with those topics up for consideration. Body shaming is rife; hell, The Daily Mail makes a bloody living out of it. It just isn’t the ‘done thing’ to love yourself if you are a women. Everything from our lipstick to our tights, our lunchtime food choices to our Saturday night outfits are designed to make us feel awful under the guise of making us ‘better.’ When your lipstick promises to plump, your tights offer up a flat stomach with their clever contouring panel and your lunchtime snack is ‘all the taste with half the fat!’ it is almost impossible to view yourself positively. Hidden in those happy exclamation marks !! and ‘flawless’ ‘infallible’ ‘younger’ and ‘sexier’ labels is the message that you are not good enough as you are.
The issue is that these claims imply that an ideal body type exists and that we should be striving for it. Bombarded with the conflicting messages that we a) need to be beautiful to be valued yet it’s made clear that b) beauty is an unattainable goal, open to interpretation and subject to change at any given point. Looking at it this way, it’s easy to conclude that as women, we are trapped.
The trick is to subvert it all; love yourself. Stop reading magazines that make you feel less than the goddess you are. Stop batting away compliments or responding with a self deprecating put down. Tell yourself everyday that you are worth a thousand times more than the trashboys who tell you they wouldn’t ‘bang you’ on twitter because you are ‘ugly.’ (aka; you disagreed with something they said and they aren’t clever enough to form a comeback that doesn’t involve putting down your appearance) Remember that you are incredible, integral and that your identity is valid.