Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Body Language

I'm reading a great book and I can't put it down: Body Outlaws: Young Women Write About Body Image and Identity. It's all about confronting the bullshit female beauty paradigm. It's a collection of writings by different authors, and some of the titles include: "My Brown Face," "Klaus Barbie, and Other Dolls I'd Like To See" (which deems Barbie the most successful piece of Aryan propaganda since the Nazi regime), "Memoirs of a (Sorta) Ex-Shaver," "Breaking the Model," and "Sizing Myself Up: Tales of a Plus-Size Model." Can't you just see why I love it?

The things that pisses me off most about reading works of this nature is because the message of it never sinks in. I have gone through this cycle before. After reading Jennifer Weiner's Good in Bed, I walked around ready to say "Fuck you!" to anyone who didn't appreciate the beauty of a large woman. But it didn't last. Momentary flashes of confidence were never a match for other, more potent encounters, such as the time my mother's mother came to visit.

This is a grandmother that I rarely see. We have been in the same room 5-6 times that I can remember. She came over a year or two ago, and as slender Sister and I were standing next to each other, Grandmother said to her, "You are certainly catching up to your sister in height," then smiled at me and said, "but not in weight." Sister shot me a look of horror. I just took it in stride, and refrained from attacking the woman who was, ironically enough, larger than me. She went on to note that Sister has a beautiful figure and takes after her side of the family, while I am "stocky like Daddy."

Yes, it was some time ago and no, I do not cry over it at night, but I think that moments like that create small, invisible scars that you never really get rid of. Stephanie Klein, the blogger who has been called the real-life Carrie from Sex and the City, mentions this in some of her posts. She used to be overweight, and even now, when she looks like a real-life Botticelli's Venus de Milo (if not thinner), she still has baggage from her era of chunkiness. (Check out this particular post, and you'll see what I mean.)

And what does it say about me that whenever I read her blog I think to myself, I would kill for hair like that! But, I digress.

I think this is an appropriate book for me to read at this time, when I am stressing over Boyfriend's impending arrival and the very good possibility that I have gained back the 4.5 pounds I lost since I last saw him. Cerebrally, I know how stupid that is, but who can be cerebral about these matters? I'm also planning to get these eyebrow rebels ripped out, not just for him but so that I can show my face in daylight.

And sometimes I stop and think, what am I doing?

I know that the Traveler is going to comment on this post, because she is the independent, successful woman of the 00's who is also a serious advocate for eyebrow waxing and other beautifying strategies. We have had discussions over this before. But I can't seem to reconcile my feminism with an extreme dissatisfaction with my looks. The two are like oil and water; they cannot peacefully coexist. They have been doing battle for years. (I'm not accusing her of having extreme dissatisfaction with her looks; I know that she does not, and rightly so.)

I think all of those magazines that uphold societal standards of beauty should be burned. We are not airbrushed, and we shouldn't be made to feel that we should appear that way. It's mean and hurtful, and undermines all that we strive for, in my humble opinion. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

I will be back to my timid, go-ahead-and-shit-on-me self as soon as I'm done being inspired by this book :)

12 comments:

WOLVERINE said...

Women are nuts. Surprised? Ya look fer th' constant validation an' even when ya get it ya don't believe it. ESPECIALLY if it comes from th' ones that SHOULD matter most.

sojourness said...

Point taken. But is it solely our fault? I think not. We don't exist in a vacuum. Nobody wants to look at social factors, everything is individual responsibility. You want to feel beautiful, then just accept your body and feel beautiful! Yeah, okay, it's that easy.

shhhh said...

I totally agree with your post. It kills me to see so many wonderfully beautiful women in the world who think that they are no good to look at because they don't match up to the girls on the Cosmo covers.

Even very skinny girls walk around thinking that they are too fat. Thanks for sharing your thoughts so eloquently. I'll be picking up that book at the library soon.

WOLVERINE said...

No duh. Which's why you need th' presence of mind to IGNORE them. Don't give in to sheep syndrome.

sojourness said...

Sure, but that's not the entire solution. That's like saying to someone who is the victim of a racist comment to ignore it. I agree that they should not let it get to them because the person who made it is not worth it, but that does not mean that we shouldn't address racism on a larger scale and do everything we can to get rid of it. The same with standards of beauty. Yes, women should ignore offensive media, but leaving everything up to women to "ignore" is not addressing the root of the problem, and is letting everyone else off the hook.

A. Estella Sassypants said...

Just finished writing a paper about the American media and its effect on chick lit. Good in Bed was my main source! Yay for Jennifer Weiner and subversiveness!

WOLVERINE said...

Didn't say it was, but you Feminazis think too damn small so all yer battles don't mean jack squat.

phil said...

When you read those women's image books but revert to the same old feelings, it reminds me of the diamond industry. Although everyone knows people have been murdered, maimed, forced into slavery for diamonds. Although it is proven we can create manmade diamonds for pennies that are indiscernable from authentic ones even by experts, the marketing of "a diamond is forever" and the "engagement ring" size and price=how much you are loved is still dominant. programming...

sojourness said...

Think small... how?

WOLVERINE said...

Meanin' it's like a hydra, doll. Feminists've only struck th' heads an' surprise, didn't get ya nowhere. Gotta find th' heart an' strike at it. Mind over matter an' all that jazz.

sojourness said...

Tell me you didn't just call me doll, lol.

Anonymous said...

now i feel pressured to respond, cuz u mentioned i would. At first i wasn't gonna say anything, i realized u were getting ur feelings out there and i didn't wanna be the "skinny friend who says its okay to be fat" or "skinny friends who says that you look great as you are".
I will glady accept the title as Friend Who Encourages Eye Brow Waxing. I'm confused as to what u meant by other 'beautifying techniques'. I sure hope this doesn't mean "i wear nonblack clothing items' =) [u know i love u, i can get away with that, right?]

btw, im really flattered u described me as that successful independent woman of the 00's. That made my day, i think so highly of u, and u used those words to describe lil' ol' me?

Also, the night before reading your blog, i had a moment of self esteem weakness (this is creepy, 2nd time your blog matches something i'm feeling). So lil' skinny me decided to take my measurements and see if i had one of those 34's- 24's thing going on. I don't and for a second i thought that if i go to the gym more maybe i could trim and inch off my waist and be 'ideal'. yuk! tell me about it. I got over it later, i promise you that from now on i will only take my own measurements to figure out what size to get when shopping online.