After receiving an overwhelming response to my blog on the no make-up selfie trend, I was thrilled to see that so many people shared the same sentiments towards positive body-image and self-esteem issues. I did, however, also receive a backlash. It wasn’t big, but it was apparent. Besides the fact that a few people challenged me on the origin on the trend (Yes, the trend was originated in the UK by a cosmetic company in attempt to raise funds for women with Cancer. To which I respond, okay, yes, fine, that’s how it originated. But why can’t we CHANGE that? Is everything so set in stone? No! I stand firm by my original post in that I think we can reclaim this trend and completely make it about confidence and body-image. So there!) some people attacked me, personally, based on my own looks.
I received messages and comments on my post that claimed, “it’s easy for you to post yourself with no make-up on because you’re thin and beautiful”. Some messages told me that I could never understand the pressures women actually feel because, to their standards, I’m pretty. It didn’t matter that my opinion and perspective was the same as theirs and it didn’t matter that I was fighting the same fight against the same people with them, because I was “too pretty”. It struck a chord with me – one that has existed for a long time. People see me and they judge me based on my cover (as with everyone). But right then and there, I’m labelled. It doesn’t matter what I think, how I feel, what my passions or talents are. I’m “attractive” so nothing else really has any value. I remember being called shallow once because I wanted people to like me for who I am not how I looked. Apparently acknowledging any pride in the way I looked was also wrong. I’m sure even some readers are reading this now and sarcastically saying to yourself, “aww, poor girl, are you sad because you’re pretty? Get f*cked!” Well, no, you should go get f*cked, yourself. My looks, whether they are good or bad, should not dictate what I am allowed or not allowed to say. I like to believe that people are friends with me, want to talk to me, and are interested in getting to know me because they genuinely care about the person inside the body. I know that isn’t the case though. The saddest part is that almost all of this backlash, came from other women. Had they completely missed the point? Had they even read what I had typed at all?
Why do we do this to each other ladies? Why are we always putting each other down? Why are we always treating life like a competition? I was listening to Beyoncé the other day – love her – and fell in love with one part of a song. It’s a reading by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and says:
We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller
We say to girls: “You can have ambition, but not too much
You should aim to be successful, but not too successful
Otherwise, you will threaten the man”
Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage
I am expected to make my life choices
Always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important
Now, marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support
But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage
And we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to see each other as competitors
Not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing
But for the attention of men
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are
Feminist: a person who believes in the social
Political, and economic equality of the sexes
She couldn’t be more right and this couldn’t be more true. What we are doing to each other is allowing an environment to exist where men can treat us poorly. As long as we continue to treat each other poorly. This has been a learned skill for me. I once fell victim to this poor frame of mind and shitty thinking. I would judge every girl around me and compare myself to them. I would purchase anything and everything in an attempt to be or feel what I was supposed to or what I thought I wanted. It took me a while but I finally figured it out. It took some soul searching. It took some upheaval and removing negative people from my life, but eventually I got there. Now, when I see a group of girls, I laugh. I love seeing groups together, having fun and laughing like I do with my girlfriends. I don’t always agree with others behaviour, dress, language, or lifestyle choices. But I can’t like everyone. What I am clear about is that I’m not hating another female for the sheer sake that she is just that – female. We all must realize that by judging one another, we are all following a world that was created for us. A world of competition that, as Adichie states, is taught to us at a young age. So band together ladies, stop allowing for this hate to continue. Be proud of yourself and those around you. As women, we are the only ones that truly understand what it’s like to be a woman; the painful cramps, the nuisance of bras and that freeing feeling after taking it off, the feeling of horror when you realize you’ve missed your pill 2 days in a row, the questionable and sometimes terrifying climate that is the vagina, having to shave our bodies, having to wax our bodies, having to spend money on tampons/pads/softcups for a bodily function we have to live with, the itchiness of pantyhose, jumping up and down until your pants finally stretch over your butt, heels, peeing down your leg, shooting babies out of our vaginas, or choosing not to have babies and being questioned.
Everything around us creates these unrealistic expectations for us that we end up living by. I myself have body image issues. I struggle to be content with how I look. I feel guilt when I indulge on an entire bowl of chips, I find myself fighting off cravings through self-loathing. I spend hours in front of the mirror inspecting my body and judging myself. Then today, while in the lunch room at work, I noticed the magazines splayed out for us to read on our breaks – coincidently enough, while we’re eating. Here are the covers:
As you can see, the ones directed towards women almost all centre on losing weight, cooking, and looking good. I especially like the one caption on Woman’s World that states, “Feel More Loved”, when talking about bath tub soaps. Then, the SASKBUSINESS magazine, in all of its’ glory, featuring a man on the front, in business attire. This is what my lunch room at work looks like. This is what I’m barraged with on my lunch break. So I can continue to self-loathe while I eat all the foods I likely shouldn’t be according to their standards.
This only reinforced my existing sadness when it comes to the struggling state of feminism. So many women are afraid to identify themselves as feminists because of the negative connotations that have been attached to the word. I wonder where that came from? Just today I saw a post on Facebook from another fellow (brilliant) Sociologist. She was sharing an article regarding 3 public figures and role-models who rejected feminism even stating that they think it’s a negative word. It was such a huge disappointment. My true hope is that one day women will realize the profound strength and power we have in numbers.