I don’t read women’s magazines very often. I certainly don’t buy them. Sometimes I flick through one when I’m standing in line for the checkout at the supermarket, but that rarely ever happens these days what with farmers markets and self serve checkouts calling my name. When I do I am always, always sucked into the women bashing that is so loosely disguised as female empowerment. On the cover of one of these magazines was the catchy line “why women hate men” on another “get bikini ready” on another “how to keep your man”… I mean seriously. SERIOUSLY. Is this really what women are interested in? Are bikini ready bodies and keeping our men the most important thing on our minds? Along side which starlet is having which famous baby right now, or who is shedding baby weight the fastest, or who has just checked out of rehab. I don’t swear (on the blog, I’m a bit of a trucker off the page) very often but… Fuuu-aar out. Seriously? I get articles on eating on a budget, and recipes and interviews with real women and men about real world struggles and lives lived both near and far from our own personal experience. Even product reviews and comparisons (though those should always be taken with a grain of salt…) but all of this judgement on body image and directly relating it to “keeping” your man interested… aren’t we over this dribble yet?
I could go on and on about the unbelievable abhorrent behaviour of the Australian media, but I wont. What I really want to talk about is our bodies. Women’s bodies. We could talk about men’s bodies, but it’s not the same now is it? A man is very unlikely to ever HEAR a woman judge his appearance in any kind of negative way. We do, of course, judge men’s bodies… don’t we? Of course sexual attraction is one thing and as women we do often chat about these kinds of things amongst friends. But we don’t judge the man’s worth as a person in direct relation to how “attractive” his body is. Men view women as sexual objects. It’s not a one way street. We women view men in the same way too, we are just as able (and as likely) as men to describe our “ideal” man in terms of his physique. Sure. I do it. You do it. We’ve all done it. Haven’t we?
But here is where the difference is. I know what I find attractive. I know what the ideal is… have I ever slept with the ideal? Sure. Have I dated and loved and LOVED and loved many a man who doesn’t fit into the ideal… absolutely, time and time again. Why? Because my “ideal” in terms of physique is shallow and superficial and all though I can describe it, it’s really not all that important to me… I would argue that most women make the choice to take men as whole people first.
Where am I going with this?
How we view men is not how the majority of men view women, but more importantly it is not how women view women and that’s where my biggest issue lays. We don’t view each other as people first, maybe we do as individuals but as a society of women? We don’t. We view each other just the same way as men do. We make mental notes in our heads about looks and we (as a society) make snap judgements about them. We have so little respect for each other and it’s so unbelievably sad because it is a direct reflection of how much respect we have (or don’t have, as the case may be) for ourselves. We are taught from a very young age to obsess about our bodies. We are taught the social construct of what is beautiful, what is hot, what is sexy and we are pushed to conform. You are either a “beautiful” girl in the eyes of the masses… or you are not. And if you are not, in many cases you disappear. People warm to you less quickly, people are less interested in what you have to say. People judge you by appearance. It’s a disgusting reality of the society we live in. Disgusting. One of the most powerful video’s I’ve seen in a long time popped up on my Facebook feed this week. Dustin Hoffman’s realisation of what it is to be a woman in western society is profound and the emotion that it brings out in him is really powerful. It’s something we should all be aware of, not just women but men too. It, like feminism and women’s rights, affects all of us. It is the world we all live in. It is the world and the social constructs we are all raising our children in. Because only when we are aware can we start to see each other and ourselves differently. I urge you, if you haven’t watched this video… do. It’s worth a few minutes of your time.
Only when we are truly aware of how we have been moulded by our society can we start to change the way we think. Only when we are aware WHY we look in the mirror and feel less than… can we understand that we are much more than we think we are.
It is so rare and so beautiful to see a woman who is just herself, completely unapologetic for how she looks. Embracing her imperfections. Standing up and saying, this is me… I’m not perfect but I am beautiful just the way I am. What of it? Is that not the most beautiful thing of all? Why can’t we push THIS message on our women, on our sisters and our friends and our daughters. Why can’t we teach THIS to our sons and our brothers and our boyfriends… that you do not have to BE anything other than what you already ARE to be beautiful. You do not have to fit into a mould to be WORTHY of love and respect and joy. You do not have to sell your body for self esteem…
It’s funny isn’t it. I know all of this already. I think most of us do, in theory. But still, I have my hang-ups… I have that little voice in the back of my head that criticises many of my physical attributes. They are hang-ups I’m working on letting go. Little by little. I don’t want my daughter to have this ingrained in her and leading by example is the only way.
Action is what’s needed. From each and every one of us. Action that must first start at home, in the privacy of your own bedroom or your bathroom. Action that starts with the most simple thing of all, love. To start by being gentle with yourself. To look in the mirror and let go of the hang-ups. To forget about the long legs that you wish you had. To forget about the gray hair or the big nose that has always bothered you. To not worry about the stretch marks or to curse yourself for being too fat or too thin or too old or too young. But instead to just see you. The person who you are. The lines on your face that tell the stories of the days you have lived. The eyes that tell the truth about what’s just under that skin.
When we stop criticising ourselves so harshly then I’m sure we can stop criticising each other. We can see each other for who we are, without judgement… now, wouldn’t that be a nicer world in which to live?