I wanted to attend the body image and women's issues panel because Brendan and I are interested in these things and I hoped the panel would offer some interesting new insights. I was overall disappointed with the panel. I felt like the panelists were too easily sidetracked by irrelevant points, case in point when panelist Adrianne Curry went off on a weird tirade about gay fashion designers. However, it did raise some good questions and when I further researched some of the panelists, I came to the conclusion that they are interesting and insightful women who are doing something really admirable simply by having a panel like this. The important thing that they're doing, and what I want to do, is raise a dialogue.
One of the panelists, Helenna Santos-Levy, talked about a debate she got into with her mother that was sparked by high heels. Her mom compared high heels to foot binding, but the panelist argued that she liked them. They made her feel sexy.
So my question whenever I hear that high heels or makeup or A, B, or C other thing that women wear or do to alter their bodies in some way, is why? Why does something that hurts, or that is annoyingly time-consuming to apply, make us feel sexy? It turned out Helenna Santos-Levy had already written a whole blog post of her own about this on her website (which I recommend checking out) Ms. In The Biz, titled Sex Pots, Strippers, and Lady Parts...Oh My!
In this blog, she asks, "Why do 3 inch heels that are hell to walk in or even stand in for that matter, make me feel sexy and powerful?" Her answer is simple: "Well, we still live in a male dominated culture."
Yes. And I would add that we live in an advertising dominated culture.These things combined wreak havoc not just on women's body image, but on our collective society's body image.
I spent my teenage years wanting little more than to be beautiful and have a boyfriend. I bought teen fashion and beauty magazines and read books about how to apply makeup. By the time I was in my twenties, I habitually wore makeup. Nothing too crazy. Just a little foundation, pressed powder, a touch of eyeliner, and some mascara. But eventually I realized something: "It was dictating my self-worth." I'm quoting another great Ms. In The Biz blog by Holly Elissa, titled My Social Experiment: Cosmetics and Women's Worth. She came to that conclusion about the makeup she wore, and the blog is about how she went to a Hollywood event with no makeup on.
When I came to that conclusion, it was in large part because a smart man who eventually became my husband asked me why. Why did I wear makeup? Why did I shave? The surface answer was that it made me feel attractive. But why did it make me feel attractive? Why didn't I feel attractive just as I was?
There's a quote I love, love, love from Crimethinc. Ex-Workers' Collective. "Beauty must be defined as what we are, or else the concept itself is our enemy."
I stopped wearing makeup and shaving when I realized I didn't have a good answer for why shaving and wearing makeup made me feel more attractive. I didn't like the answer I realized was true, which was that I'd bought into the lies advertisers and society were feeding me. That I needed to "enhance" my face. That hairless skin is normal and hair is gross. That society's idea of beauty is some sort of attainable ideal that I should be striving towards.
I often have to remind myself of that quote. I am still affected by advertising. I don't wear tank tops as often as I probably would if I shaved my pits. But then I go to the hairy pits club on Tumblr and read cool blogs like this one and I'm reminded that I'm not the only one trying to rebel against societal pressures.
I feel like this is where I often see disclaimers on other blogs that the authors are not judging other people who choose to do A, B, or C that the author is talking about. And I get that. I don't want to judge, either. We're all figuring this shit out as we go along. But I do want to question, and I want you to question. You shave? Ok. But why do shave? Why did you start shaving in the first place? I started because of my older sister, which I wrote about here. Do you think you would still want to shave if you weren't inundated by advertisements featuring beautiful hairless people? What about makeup? Hell, let's talk bras. Why do you wear one? You may come to different conclusions than I did. That's cool. Let's talk about it. I'd love to know why.
It's been a process, training myself not to see my armpit hair as gross and to not feel unattractive without makeup. But I think it's totally worth it. I want to live as if society were the way I want it to be. I want to contribute to changing the norm.
*It has just been pointed out to me that it's hard to see links in my blog. I've changed the color scheme a bit so hopefully that won't be a problem anymore, but just in case you missed them, here's a list of all the links provided in this blog post:
- Helenna Santos-Levy's personal website: http://www.helennasantoslevy.com/
- Ms. In The Biz: http://msinthebiz.com/
- Helenna Santos Levy's blog post Sex Pots, Strippers, and Lady Part...Oh My!: http://msinthebiz.com/2013/05/30/sex-pots-strippers-lady-parts/
- Holly Elissa's blog post My Social Experiment: Cosmetics and Women's Worth: http://msinthebiz.com/2013/07/19/my-social-experiment-cosmetics-and-womens-worth/
- Brendan Weinhold's IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4590148/
- Crimethinc. Ex-Workers' Collective: http://www.crimethinc.com/
- hairy pits club on Tumblr: http://hairypitsclub.tumblr.com/
- An awesome blog post about a woman's decision to stop shaving: http://deconstructioncrafts.com/2012/05/10/why-i-stopped-shaving/?blogsub=confirming#blog_subscription-2
- My article about why I stopped shaving: http://stina-ann.hubpages.com/hub/Im-Done-Shaving-For-GoodI-think