Hi everyone. I haven’t written in ages. I’m sorry I didn’t reply to your lovely comments in my last post. I was so tangled up with crazy deadlines and the wedding… But they’ve meant so much to me!
You can see that the blog has changed a little. That’s because I have changed.
One of the first posts I wrote was called When I look in the mirror and it was inspired by Portia de Rossi’s memoir, Unbearable Lightness. That book stayed with me and made me start to question many things about the world around me. What stayed with me the most was the fact that as a child, I watched Ally McBeal and used to dream, wish, pray, hope that I looked like Portia. As a child, and later as a teenager (and as recently as 5 minutes ago) I had issues with how I looked. I thought I was ugly, I thought I was weird, and no one would love me or want me. If only I was taller, had a symmetrical face (my facial features developed independently of each other. I have pictures to prove it), had curves, had different hair, eyes, in a nutshell, if I was a different person, maybe I would be beautiful.
Portia’s book details this exact thought process. And it really shook me to the core that this woman who I thought was absolutely stunning, thought she was absolutely hideous. This fact, that we women are always unhappy with how we look and suffer from deep image disorder, has stayed with me. I started paying more attention to the world around me and tried my best to change my own image disorder.
I grew tired of feeling inadequate. I started to educate myself on women’s issues. On an impulse, I bought Natasha Walter’s Living Dolls. I read it in one day. Then I went back to the first page, and read it again. I went back online and bought Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs. I’ve now also read it twice.
This is what I’ve learned:
I am beautiful.
I am me.
I am a feminist.
Everything I thought about feminism and a woman’s position in society, was wrong. Everything. I used to think feminism meant angry, dowdy, shouty women, complaining about femininity and romance. I was wrong. I was a child. I was a fool.
We live in a world, where everywhere you look, women are naked. Not just naked, but sexualised and objectified. There is nothing wrong with the female naked body. I don’t believe these women that pose for playboy, Page 3 and Nuts and Zoo magazines are sluts. That is NOT my issue. But I do not think their nakedness is inspiring. My problem is that the women in Playboy, Nuts, Page 3 etc are falling for and promoting a stereotype of female sexuality that is both WRONG and damaging.
Please, look around.
Women are naked (or half-naked) everywhere. So far, so good. There is nothing wrong with nakedness. The female body and female sexuality should be celebrated. .But, the naked images surrounding us are not about female sexuality. These images of the female body are not about celebrating beauty. They are not empowering. If they were empowering, these photos would be hung up on walls, not kept hidden under mattresses or in the toilet. These images are primarily to incite lust in men. In them, the women all pose in the same suggestive poses. They all have big breasts, big hair, tanned skin, and a come hither look. They all seem to promote one particular aspect of womanhood.
As Ariel Levy argues, we seem to have developed a taste for slutty stereotypes. And this stereotype is all over the place. It is so widespread that
“women are socialized to objectify themselves in order to be desirable.”
And this is not empowerment or liberation. It is objectification. It is degrading. It is demeaning. And it is damaging.
And I fell for it.
When I was a teenager, I hated how I looked. I was always weird looking, not popular, I didn’t have any breasts until after my 18th birthday. I wore glasses. I was unhappy. Ever since I was a small child I cried when I looked in the mirror (yes, I have always been dramatic).
Oh, how I wish I had read these books growing up. I tried SO hard as a teenager. I was convinced I would only get attention for my looks. I wore extremely sexy clothes, I tried flirting, I danced provocatively. But I didn’t do this because I enjoyed it. I did it because I wanted to feel wanted, I wanted attention. And since I could not get attention by being me, I tried my best to be someone else. I tried to be the stereotype.
I was so unhappy. I want to go back in time, hug my teenage self and tell her it will all be ok. She will be loved. She is beautiful. She is smart, and better than that. I would ask her about all the books she read, but didn’t talk about in school. I would tell her to listen to the music she loves, not the one everyone else is talking about. I would ask her about aliens, and science fiction. I would tell her she would be married to a wonderful man, who her best friend and loves her even when she doesn’t love herself. I would take her shopping, and we would buy some fantastic clothes. We would go dancing together, for fun! I would bring her these books and tell her not to fall for it. I would hug her. And we’d cry together.
Hindsight is a powerful thing, but it is amazing how pervasive this feeling of inadequacy still is. Not just with me, but with many women I know. I have two beautiful younger sisters who should never, ever have to feel this way. We are not happy with who we are.
For me, this is when feminism really struck a chord.The negative thoughts I had and still have about myself and the way I look are individuals acts of violence. At the very root of those thoughts, is the belief that there is something wrong with me, with the way I am, with the way I look. Is the belief that I’m not good enough.
And this belief comes from the world around us, who STILL believes there is only one way to be a woman. A world that STILL thinks there is only one way to be sexual. A world where women have to have plastic surgery and starve themselves to feel beautiful. This is a world where woman with sex lives are seen as sluts and women who are virgins are prudes. This is a world where women STILL cannot win. A world where women STILL do not receive equal pay. A world where women are STILL not properly represented in government. A world where women are STILL victims of horrible violence and STILL made to feel guilty about that violence. Don’t believe me?
Please visit Project Unbreakable.
Please search for the #ididnotreport on twitter.
Please read this article.
Please, please watch this video:
“the first step is to educate ourselves. to become aware”
I am not in any way suggesting that my self-esteem issues are violence of the same magnitude as physical and sexual abuse. I am saying that the root of the problem is the same belief that there is something wrong with women.
Please don’t tell me I’m overreacting. Please don’t tell me there truly is equality. Please don’t tell me we are fully liberated. I will believe that we have equality, power and liberation when this is not represented by Playboy.
I’ve had it. I’ve just had it.
The woman in my head is desperate to come out. A woman who is beautiful, strong, smart and who tries her hardest to be happy with who she is. This woman is the ballerina in my head, who dances to her own music and who stands up to stereotypes, inequality and violence. She will not be objectified. The ballerina in my head is a feminist.
And I think I am finally ready to be her. To be me.