Because of, Not in Spite of

Someone on Twitter today linked to this page – a collection of worded photos of women listing their flaws and then declaring themselves nevertheless awesome. The introductory text reads, “Your ‘flaws’ do not define you,” and its purpose seems to be to make women feel better about themselves.

To me, a bunch of perfectly lovely-looking women listing all their flaws doesn’t make me feel better. It makes me feel sad. And that it is hosted on a page where the header is a series of images showing the transformation of the blog owner from fat to thin on a site which pushes a weight-loss book… This very much does not make me feel better.

I suppose I could tell you I’m fat, I’m short, I’m ageing. I could tell you that I have stretch marks and scars, that my legs are too chunky to wear knee-high boots, that I have the flabby biceps possessed by all the women of my family, that I have child-bearing hips that’ll never bear children and frown lines and crow’s feet and funny-shaped fingernails and grey streaks and split ends and a jiggly belly and a big nose and crooked teeth.  And then I could insist that I’m awesome in spite of all this.

Or I could say that I fucking love my body, even the disobedient bits, even the bits that society deems negative, even the bits which make it difficult for me to find clothing. That, in fact, I love it because of those things. That I cherish my lines and wrinkles as a physical memory; that those wrinkles and my grey streaks were fucking hard-won from a billion stresses and trials that I’d never erase from my life because they make me who I am. That the configuration of breasts and hips I have been blessed with make me feel like a goddess. That I love the line of my big nose. That my hair is gorgeous and lush. That my calves are strong and shapely. That my crooked teeth and funny-shaped fingernails are so uniquely me.

And then I could say that despite THIS, some days I have trouble feeling awesome. It is hard when there are multiple billion-dollar industries to tell you otherwise, and when these industries are so successful that they convince other women to police our bodies for us. The competitive diets I’ve been invited to partake in. The friend who tried to convince me to dye my grey away when I was job-hunting, genuinly believing it would be a hindrance. The friendly suggestions of Botox.

But I make a conscious effort to feel awesome anyway, because that is my right, and it is everyone’s right. Because feeling utterly good in my body is the most powerful weapon I have against the weight-loss, anti-ageing, flaw-hiding, plastic surgery industries.  And because, damn it, I am awesome. As are you – not in spite of your supposed flaws, but because of them. Because they are part of the fabric that makes you you.

My awesome body.

My awesome body. My face is just too radiant to be captured in an image!

In Which I Reach the End of My Tether

Just when you think capitalism has exhausted ways to make women feel shit about their bodies, there’s arm shapers.  Yes, we are too wrinkly, too saggy, our tits are too small, our hips are to big, our thighs are too cellulite-y, our skin is not tanned enough (if we are white) or not light enough (if we are brown or Asian), our hair is too grey and too frizzy or too lifeless (always one or the other), our scalp has ugly dandruff (even if we can’t see it), our armpits are too hairy and then when we shave them they’re too ugly, our skin is too oily/dry/zitty, our necks are too wattled, our pussies are WAY too bushy, our knees are too rough, we don’t wear enough make-up or we wear too much make-up and look like whores (and NO ONE wants to be mistaken for a whore!), our teeth are too yellow, our bellies are too stretch-marked, our eyebrows are completely the wrong shape, our eyelashes are too short, our crow’s feet are too deep, we are unnatural and overworked when we have surgery to try to “correct” our disobedient bodies, and we are DEFINITELY too fat.  Unless we are too skinny.

And now we are supposed to worry about “arm excess”???

Fuck it.  I’m done. I’m not devoting a single further nanosecond to worrying about the ways in which my body doesn’t conform to the ideal.  No one’s does and no one’s ever will.

The Beautiful People

I have a conundrum, which is that I want to write about something that a lot of people have already passed comment on, but I don’t really know how to begin or even exactly what I want to say.  There has certainly been a lot of vitriol poured out in the direction of Samantha Brick, and I have no interest in adding to that.  I don’t want to pass judgement in any way shape or form on someone else’s appearance.  Here is what I think:  Samantha Brick is paid to write provocative articles which will get talked about.  In this instance, at least, she was wildly successful.

The first reaction the article provoked in me was an observation that “tall, slim, blonde and blue-eyed” is considered pretty much perfectly synonymous with “attractive” (“white” obviously goes without saying here).  If you are in possession of those four attributes, you are placed into the “attractive” category, while I think oftentimes someone with the same features but with darker hair and skin and brown eyes or with a bit more weight on them would not be considered attractive.

My second reaction was that attractiveness is a privileged position in society.  It’s borderline delusional to think it’s not.  I tend to lump all the “oh, it’s so hard being this gorgeous” whinges (because Brick’s premise is far from original) in the same category as “we poor men have it so tough” and “It’s so unfair that ethnic people get all those scholarships and special grants!” – true only on the atoms-deep surface.

The third reaction was a little more complex, because a lot of the examples Brick gives of how she knows she is attractive – men buying her drinks, meals, taxi fares, flowers, etc – also happen to me.  Now, I don’t consider myself “societally attractive”, because I am not*.  I’m 5’2, size 16, greying brunette, brown-eyed, tattooed and olive-skinned.  There is no one like me on the pages of Vogue, on America’s Next Top Model, dancing in a strip club or presenting the news on the telly.  What I am (or at least what I have been in the past – I am monogamous now) is cheerfully hedonistic and promiscuous.  So I have always assumed that I get attention from men because I have that aura of “up-for-it”ness.   Which made me ponder (moments after dismissing the article as privileged nonsense) if perhaps I am perhaps more privileged in this way than I think I am.  Then I remembered the blog entry immediately prior to this one and a bunch of other similar and worse instances, and quickly disabused myself of that notion.  (On the flipside, it made me wonder if perhaps Brick has an aura of “eau de up-for-it” which she mistakes for people thinking she’s beautiful.)

And the fourth reaction got just a wee bit deep – pondering the nature of beauty.  Attractiveness and prettiness are not unusual, but beauty is, I think, a much rarer thing.  In fact, I can name all of the instances in my life where my breath has caught in my throat and I have thought, “Oh my goodness, that person is beautiful.”  My then-girlfriend, naked and laughing with abandon as I took photographs of her.  My love, in a dress I had chosen, wig perfectly combed, make-up neatly applied, looking in a mirror, eyes wide, and saying, “Wow… I can almost see me as a woman.”  Not that it’s a sexual thing – my sister walking out of the changing room in a wedding dress shop wearing the dress she would end up buying, absolutely radiating with joy is also on the list.  Nor even someone I know – for instance, a woman laughing with her friends and breaking into a dance in the middle of a city’s main street.

In the end, I guess what I wanted to say is that beauty has bugger all to do with skin tone, eye colour, size or race.  And even less to do with strange men buying you drinks.

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* I am, of course, often hawt, gorgeous, stunning, luscious and pretty.  Perhaps I’ve even managed to be beautiful once or twice.  But attractive by society’s standards?  Nope.