Too Nothing

Not my words
Not my words!

I don’t usually get involved in this sort of thing. I find comments about appearances mostly pretty tiresome. I also try not to get involved in fat/thin conversations because I have been both very skinny and overweight. I know how both feel. And I know how being skinny comes with the same pile of judgemental, hurtful comments – if not more – than being overweight.
I think women have always been interested in other women’s appearances. Heterosexual women probably see other women as competition – even if they don’t realise or admit it. If someone has physical attributes that we wish we had, if we’re honest we probably envy them. Let’s face it, when we strip back all the social pleasantries and constraints we’re all just a bunch of animals at the mercy of our hormones, instincts and insecurities.
You only have to look at the way teenage girls treat the girls they are jealous of at school to know that we are not that far away from our primordial ancestors after all. (Is primordial the right word? Must remember to check that)
But although I accept this insecurity and constantly comparing ourselves with others and with how we used to look, and with how we could look if only… has always been around, I think it’s got worse. Due to magazines, television and the Internet we now have more access to less of a socially accepted vision of beauty. It’s been narrowed down and narrowed down and narrowed down until most of us feel inadequate. And we’re rightly unhappy and insecure about that. It makes some of us angry. And who do we blame? Well as the lower class looks-wise we blame the upper class. They have it. It’s their fault. We must go into battle with them. It’s beauty capitalism and we don’t like it. Slay the bitches, we say.
Only … hang on … It’s not like capitalism. Because those who “fit”, those upper-classes in the looks world, didn’t actually take anything from us. They are not to blame. The media are to blame and we are to blame. We’ve let ourselves think we must must look a certain way, straighten and dye our hair. (Jeez – I LOVE curly hair. I’ve always wanted curly hair), flatten our looks with cosmetics and surgery, spend time and money on things that don’t last instead of on things that do. We are to blame. If we are jealous of the way someone else looks, that’s our problem, if we think someone else is too fat, too thin, too hairy, too curly, too tall, too short (that’s another one: how is it you can tease tall people and not short people?!), too pale, too dark, whatever, that’s our problem too. It’s not fair to judge. The only time a person’s looks are important is if they are an indicator of an underlying health problem.
Most people are beautiful in some way or another. When people are loved they are beautiful. They have a look in their eyes that supersedes any bland face I’ve ever seen staring out of a magazine at me. When people laugh and their eyes wrinkle at the corners their attractiveness draws you in. We’ve let ourselves get concerned about this, we’ve let ourselves think it is more important than it is. Telling people you love they are beautiful is important, conforming to a notion of beauty is not.
So what made me get on my soap box to join in with this particular bandwagon?

Well, it was seeing a comment written by my 17-year-old daughter on facebook this morning. The above photo has been doing the rounds and is similar to others I have seen. I was very proud of her comments and have pasted them below (swear words included) We are far too quick to judge people on their looks and not on what they do or have to say. Too many intelligent women are caught up in the looks debate and shouldn’t be. We must stop and listen to how unintelligent we sound sometimes. Our hair is not too curly, our boobs are not too small, our faces are not too long, and other women are not thin just to piss us off so we can bitch about them.

Here are Gemma’s comments:

“i have said this before but am so fucking sick of seeing this kind of thing all over my news feed. just because she’s skinny, does not automatically make her ugly. Can we please stop with all the ‘curvy is better’ stuff now because although i am not the slimmest of people i definitely wouldn’t say i was curvy, and you should not be made to feel unattractive or less of a woman just because you are a smaller size and have smaller boobs than lovely marilyn here – especially if you eat well and can’t help the way you look. everyone says ‘bigger’ girls get shit for their body type but to be honest this kind of thing is getting really nasty. its not just this either, its all over the web. since when did it become a fucking sin to be a size 8? my point is, how would you like it if i posted a picture the other way around? there would be uproar. nobody says shit all about this. rant over”

Yes. Stop it.

2 thoughts on “Too Nothing

  1. You have a very wise daughter, Rach.
    I do understand where this anti-thin backlash has come from though. The media are constantly portraying a photoshopped, flawless, skinny woman as the ideal. No wonder so many women are shouting back – but they are shouting at the wrong people. We should be campaigning for the media to portray women as beautiful regardless of their size/weight/height, not shaking our fists at the skinny girls.
    And nobody showed how idiotic this bias is better than Randy Newman’s Short People.
    Great post, Rach xxx

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  2. Interesting post Rachel. I’ve seen a few people debating this lately, with one discussing how the compliments associated with weight loss can indeed be offensive to many. (ie: commenting how good someone looks afterwards, as though they possessed a face like a rucksack full of dented bells beforehand.)

    There’s an interesting discussion taking place at the moment around Catherine Hakim’s recent popularization of “erotic capital” or “sexual capital” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_capital) as an asset or privilege to rival economic capital, social capital and others in each area of our lives. She argues that conforming to the artificially constructed and constantly evolving ideal of beauty (consciously or not) provides a multitude of benefits, a more active social life, higher wages, etc. Therefore creating a corresponding discrimination against those who do not.

    To be honest, I’m not sure how much I agree with Hakim on this (for example, is sexual capital not simply an extension of the advantages inherent to some within existing our class system?), but it’s certainly something worth debating. Perhaps capitalism isn’t entirely to blame, but smashing neoliberalism whilst shattering the beauty myth sounds like a pretty good idea to me regardless of how interconnected they are. The present system of divide and rule (where beauty is concerned, turning us against each other) does keep us spending our hard-earned cash, after all.

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