Sunday, April 17, 2005

Don't worry your pretty little head.

Jennifer and I were talking last week about the amazing pressure that is put on women to be physically perfect. This is not a new conversation by any means, but it stirred up some stuff in me and has made me very cranky and pissed off. I hate how much time I have spent in my life being critical of my appearance and allowing my inner voice to talk negatively to myself. Not thin enough, not stylish enough, not cute enough, not sexy enough, not good enough. I wish I had spent all that time reading or studying or doing something positive instead of beating myself up.

We teach our girls from such a young age that if they want to be valued/loved/respected they have to fit into a certain physical mould. It gets reinforced everywhere they look; there is no escaping it. I was lucky enough to grow up in a household with highly educated parents who were always supportive of me and focussed on things like education and skills instead of popularity and looks. But it eats me up, because I see it all around me every day. It is amazing really, how successfully women have been oppressed by stereotyping and commercialism. Keep 'em thinking that they need to look like "this" and to look like "this" they need to buy "that". And by keeping us focussed on "this" and "that" it keeps us from looking outside of ourselves and seeing the world for what it is, and actually using our brains, and finding our voices and demanding, oh, I don't know, equal representation in government for starters.

Scott and I were at hoity-toity Sherway Gardens yesterday and I was really uncomfortable and pissy. From the moment we walked past the 700 series BMW parked at the valet stand outside of Holts to the sea of bleach blondes in their stiletto heals and perfect manicures, my skin was crawling. He didn’t understand why I was so moody, and I just said "this place makes me feel like I don't measure up, that I'm not perfect enough, rich enough, pretty enough…I never want to come back to this fucking place". I'll take Queen West over that place any day…at least there people look normal, and maybe even unique (gasp!). So, I'm not saying I'll be able to stop the voices, but I'm going to damn well try to rein them in. Wish me luck.

17 comments:

  1. Good luck with the voices. While it's true that women bear the brunt of the "appearance" meme, men aren't spared. We're told we should look perfect as well, and have folks like Brad Pitt held up as examples of (physical) superiority.

    The overweight, balding, short guy hears the voices as well. Usually they're Danny DeVito's voice.

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  2. It sounds like you are somewhat of a feminist (as I am), who doesn't believe in the patriarchal, male-gaze dominated society that wants to dictate how women "ought" to look and act. But why do you post pictures that only encourage that objecifying discourse? Seems contradictory to me.

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  3. I totally agree. I grew up in Dallas, a fashion capital and alot of wealthy families, and we weren't. From elementary school on I was always embarrassed and never felt like I belonged. I hated it. And it was ONLY because of clothes and material things.
    I still do it today, even though I have gotten a healthier attitude and not so obsessed with weight and fashion.
    I love going to fancy salons to get my hair cut because they are always so nice and they always do exactly what I ask for and my hair is always beautiful when they are done. But, the girls that work there, and most of the clients, are always high fashion, thin, pretty, nails, stiletto's you name it. I'm usually pretty uncomfortable. At least my hair looks good when I walk out!!

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  4. nullisland - I agree that to a certain degree men get pressured too...

    VW - Yes, I am a feminist. I usually select pictures that I think are funny or interesting or reinforce my point.

    Leesa - have you seen that new Dallas show on TLC? Is it really like that?

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  5. Kat,

    what you described i experienced a few summers ago when walking through the 4 seasons hotel. valet parking for the beemers and the benzes, women with furs and bling that you just knew were real, and even teenagers decked in head-to-toe juicy couture made me feel as though i was the hired help.

    futher to that, as a little black girl i felt even more out of place, as none of the guests looked a thing like me.

    not to diminish your feelings, but i think that as a white woman you still have it easier than i would/do, because there's a certain invisibility you have that's never possible for me in many situations. i'm (mostly)over it now, but there are still times when i still feel like a sore thumb.

    last nite i went to the brant house, and as i joined the line i couldn't help but notice the thin, gorgeous, designed-clad bombshells (blonde and brunette) waiting in line and bypassing the velvet ropes with just a toss of their manes and a smile at the bouncers.

    the bathrooms were just packed to the gills with girls preening and primping, expertly applying lipgloss and fluffing their hair. i stood next to them in the mirrors and felt... different.

    it's tough in "my own" circles as well, since the standard of black-is-beautiful too often heralds girls who look more like beyonce, alicia keys or halle berry as the ideal--girls shades lighter than i am, with hair that's curly, not kinky, cute button noses, and often a drop of anglo (if not a half-cup) in them.

    thank god for j-lo *snorts* and her booty, or else we'd never have a girl as meaty as beyonce gracing the covers of magazines. it's rare that black models make the covers of mainstream magazines 'cause the industry swears that melanin doesn't sell magazines.

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  6. No, I haven't seen that yet...is it that Sheer Dallas? I might have to check it out.

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  7. This just in from 680 News (snicker)... they ran a story yesterday that thanks to J-Lo and Bouncy ...err.. Beyonce, wimmins are getting ass implants.

    They didn't say if it were Black women or white women but I'm pretty sure we can guess which ones are getting fat injected into their derrieres.

    Anyway, to both Kat and MarloG, I know how you feel. Being the only Black girl in situations? Check. Seeing glamarous, hoity-toity folks and not feeling pretty enough? BIG ASS CHECK.

    -kisses teeth- Why does society throw this out to us? GRRR.

    p.s. I have never been to Sherway Gardens (where IS it, anyway?) but from that description, I never shall. Just like me and Pacific Mall -- I don't fit in. I guess I'm only supposed to shop at Scarborough Town Centre??

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  8. soli,

    from what i know, ass implants aren't fat injections, but actual silicone implants--like the ones used to augment breasts. apparently it's a health issue to, because that area is more prone to infection once it's been operated on.

    and, and, gross of all grossness, the implants are more prone to leaking and rupture. all that sitting leaves an implant more susceptible to damage.

    ick.


    and soli, NEVER say you're not going anywhere because you don't "fit in". you have every right to go wherever you want. i don't let the feelings stop me, and neither should you.

    you will be in plenty more situations (especially in our industry) where you are NOT the "ideal". in cases like that i say to myself, that not only am i the ideal... i'm exeptional!

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  9. Having just given birth two weeks ago, I have a whole new perspective on my body. Do I love my stretchmarks? Of course not. But I do have a whole new respect for my body and the power it holds. My body carried and birthed a beautiful miracle and that is awesome!! People kept telling me that I would never fit back into my size 6 jeans and that I would hate my body after pregnancy. Well, I'm not in my six sixes yet and I'll probably never wear a belly baring tank top again, but I feel totally empowered and sexy.

    Do I look like J.Lo? Nope. But I feel like I could kick her and any other skinny girls ass right now.

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  10. The variety of people that have replied to this blog is amazing... and disheartening.

    To know that even down the line, once women are out on their own, working and raising a family, this type of pressure and these types of feelings are still very much present in their lives speaks volumes about how much we have been 'influenced' while we were young.

    I definitely feel the same way, especially now that I've started university and, well, let's just say, there's a wide variety of people here. Often times, I feel inferior. I don't fit in. It's hard to shake those thoughts.

    But like marlo girl wrote: "NEVER say you're not going anywhere because you don't "fit in". you have every right to go wherever you want."

    I know I should heed that advice. I mean, it's just common sense. But funny how we let our brains/minds override logic with negative feelings.

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  11. Hey, our society is a visual one. It's not right, but that's how it is.

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  12. Stephanie - so glad to see you posting and to hear you so positive after giving birth :-)

    Angel - I think we would be hard pressed to find a woman who hasn't at some time felt this way.

    Big N - it is one thing to acknowledge it, but that doesn't mean we have to roll over and accept it.

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  13. I know... but what can you do? It's in our blood to be attracted to nice looking human beings. Fight it all you want, but it's going to take a while...

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  14. It's not that we're fighting against societal pressure to "look nice". What Kat and the others are saying is that our society's definition of beauty and success is waaaaaaay too narrow. Everyone wants to look nice, there's nothing wrong with that, but why do so many women feel that the only way to look nice is to be blond, white, and a size 0? I like to think that I look nice because I have clean hair, a healthy body, and clothes that fit. I don't think I should have to get rid of my glasses, dye my hair blond, and lose ten pounds so that I can meet the bare minimum of what is attractive.

    Historically, there's tonnes of proof that what we see as the physical "ideal" is not a biological decision, but a societal one. The best example of this is the fact that hundreds of years ago the fatter you were, the more attractive you were. This was because only the rich and successful could afford to eat lots of food and lounge around. Now our "you can never be too rich or too thin" culture has swung the other way.

    It's out of control.

    J.

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  15. You speak the truth... the media is way too specific in what they want... I'm tired of seeing beautiful women being called ugly cause they don't fit the stereotype of American beauty. Everyone is attractive in their own way.

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  16. Saharasara1:09 AM

    It used to be that being plump and fair-skinned was beautiful because it was usually an indicator that you were financially stable enough not to have to work in the fields, and could afford to eat well. Powerful people have typically faired better than lay people. Today, it's being financially stable enough to spend time playing/relaxing in the sun that's desireable; being thin, atheletic and toned is a sign of good health, which contributes to longevity. Despite mind tweaks by societal re-programming, it's still all about survival and pro-creation, and money and power will always be big factors in that equation. How else can you explain odd couples (the sweet girl married to the rich cheating asshole? The nice older, slightly balding, overweight guy married to the hard-bodied bitch... The loving to the indifferent... the old to the young... because one has something the other wants: money, fame, and beauty are all power currencies. Wow... that's the biggest line of bullshit I've ever come up with! =)

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  17. Fan-freakingtastic. GOOD! GREAT! SAY IT LOUDER! Well done woman and I second those thoughts- unfortunately I happen to ha half asian so most people don't care about what I have to say- BUT I WILL BE HEARD, DAMNIT!!!! I don't know how or why but your site popped up with a click as I was putting together a post about the thinness in advertising- as the 'Society condoned suicide'; on modelling and muffins- (or lack of)... if you want to have a gig- checkit out at http://ravenslittleuniverse.blogspot.com And by the way I think that you list of reasons you love your hubby is tres cool- now I'm thinkin of what I can do nice for mine! YOU GO GIRL! MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE!
    =Raves=

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