This is the confession of a woman who has tried to fight this statement for a long time. It is something I feel confronted by every time I look in the mirror. In our culture we are trained from an early age that being pretty is something that should be important to us. So it’s not surprising that 90% of us women have body image anxiety. As a society we’re feeling a hell of a lot less flawless than our body image hero Beyonce.
When I turn on my computer my profile picture stares back at me. I know the picture doesn’t really look like me. It’s a better lit, more conventional version of me. It’s the image of me that I’d like you to see when you think of me.
I am 28 years old and a bit too heavy (or so my doctor tell’s me). Being a former thin person I find this a little hard to digest. As a younger woman I struggled with my eating habits and at the same time I battled with objectification and began to rebel against the boundaries I had set for myself. I swore off convention to become a happier person. I stopped wearing make-up and high heels in a bid to become a stronger person. I wanted to take off the disguise and find the person underneath.
Deep down I always knew this stuff wasn’t what was really important but I was worried about being judged only by my looks. Looking back I’ve come to realise that the person that was judging me the most harshly was myself.
I’ve always been a proud feminist but it is only in recent years that I have found the words to articulate how I feel. When you declare yourself a feminist you can’t help but be stereotyped as a certain type of woman. I think this harks back to the days of bra burning when society saw feminists as man haters with hairy armpits. Ok I do actually have hairy armpits, but I like men very much! It is ridiculous to claim a feminist would dislike 50% of the population in a bid to further their cause. Feminism is about fighting for gender equality not for female supremacy. But sometimes I struggle, if I’m a feminist then surely wanting to be seen as physically attractive to people shouldn’t be one of my priorities?
The media suggests that to be a successful woman we need to have the full package. Part of this is physical beauty. When I use word’s like ‘pretty’ and ‘beautiful’ I’ve come to realise that I’m using them in line with the ideology pushed upon me in the age of celebrity. This is not the example of beauty I see around me on a daily basis in the real world. It seem’s that to be truly successful as a modern woman you need to be intelligent, funny, business savvy AND gorgeous. It is that last attribute that will win us admirers and longevity in the modern world. Research proves that the way you look does have an impact in the work place.
The people we see on our televisions and in movie theatres who ‘have it all’ are always immaculate. This is what we consume in our leisure time so it’s understandable that sometimes we struggle to realise that it’s not realistic and I can’t believe I’ve brought into this idea. In the past I was rebelling against these impossible standards but have been drawn back in. I find myself looking to these celebrities and punishing myself for not meeting their standards. I would never hold my friends up to these ideals of perfection so why do I do it to myself? I asked my friends if they thought people had an unfair advantage in life if they were more ‘attractive’ and it was a question people felt very uncomfortable answering. I think that tells us a lot.
So from this day forth I’m letting myself off. I accept that clothes and make-up do make me feel better about myself sometimes. As a women it’s often hard to shake off expectations. When I was younger my brother was described as funny or clever and I was told I was pretty. It’s something I’ve craved ever since, I might always crave it. I am hoping that by accepting that I will be a step closer to letting it go.