Sunday, November 19, 2006

Body image... Women's Beauty (edited)

>-----Original Message-----
>From: Fred Blow []
>Sent: Saturday, November 18, 2006 1:30 PM
>Subject: RE: for your viewing pleasure....
>Hello C
>Are you about? Its 10.30 am saturday, I have the day to myself. no
>committments Im thinking of going for a ride, want to come for lunch?
>well maybe if you describe yourself first, since you dont have a pic?

This is an actual email I received yesterday. Of course, I've altered the name and email addresses.

This guy got my address from a Craigslist ad I'd posted, looking for other Thaiphiles. I got a note from "Fred", telling me that he was looking for an Asian woman. I wrote back, explaining that I am not Asian but I certainly wish him luck in finding what he wants. (And, yes, I meant it. :) He wrote back anyway and we continued shooting the breeze back and forth, chatting about Thailand and moving. We talked a lot about Asian values.

The reason I copied this email here is to make a point. Here is a man I was having a friendly discussion with ~ no romantic intent ~ just casual conversation. He lives in Sacramento and it seemed we had some interests in common and could possibly be friends. That would be nice and who turns away a friend? I like making new friends.

However, his email was very insulting. While I handled it with humor ~ the truth is that any possibility of friendship has gone out the window. I felt objectified and commoditized. How many times as women have we felt exactly that? The standards we are expected to meet are unrealistic. They are also juvenilizing. Isn't it interesting that we are supposed to look like little girls to be appealing? (Yes, I know that's an incendiary statement - but think about it before entirely dismissing it.) We are supposed to look defenseless, shapeless and weak.

The truth of the matter is that I am not bad-looking especially. Nor am I good-looking. Just ordinary, bohemian, no make-up ~ the proverbial old hippie. I'm on the short side, kind of stocky... artistic looking. I wear ethnic clothes and jewelry and have never met a pair of closed-toed shoes I can stand. There are no sets of panty hose in my dresser. It's been birkies and bare legs since the 70s! One thing is certain though. I don't look weak.. or childlike.. or defenseless. Appearance has just never been a priority to me. There are too many interesting things to do and think about.

I would like to talk about these unrealistic standards women are expected to live up to in this culture and ask why we continue to do it. It is a choice. While I'm the farthest thing you'll ever find from a radical feminist, some of their points are valid. It's hard to imagine the twenty years of consciousness raising that was done, women who spent time on the front lines winning some respect for us and yet we continue to do this to ourselves. We continue to accept it as "just how it is" and carry on. Status quo.

Just recently, a young woman died because she wanted to be "thin". Her aspiration was to be a model. She starved herself to death. She died at 87 pounds. There is something wrong with that. And I'm not going to blame the victim. She was doing exactly what she was taught to do. She was taught to disappear, get smaller and smaller until she simply no longer exists.

Body size is the new socially-sanctioned prejudice. When I started Weight Watchers to lose weight, I felt compelled to defend it. "I'm doing this because I care about my health, not because I give a flying fig about what others think of my body. I just don't want to have health problems in the future."

As the pounds came off, I was treated differently. Suddenly, I wasn't invisible any more. Men flirted with me. Since I at least marginally fit the preferred profile, I was once again allowed admittance into the ranks of acceptable humanity. I've seen both sides.

Women spend thousands of dollars on *junk* to paint their faces. Why? There's nothing wrong with women's faces. We are beautiful, just as we are! I love women's faces, ones that show character and experience, laugh lines around the eyes and mouth. Wrinkles that come on the brow from spending endless hours worrying about the people they love and tending the hearth. Their faces tell a story. It's one we need to hear.

Peace to all ~



Anonymous said...

It is extremely icky because even if one conforms to the standards our culture establishes as being enviable, it still isn't enough. You have to maintain this ideal and for the longest time possible. Lord forbid a woman in this day and age should even "look" her age! Don't you just love that, when someone says, " she really looks good, for her age " What does that mean? And really, I'm not one to talk. What with my blond streaks and wrinkle cream. Wrinkle cream. I'm 37 years old for god's sake...

meno said...

good questions chani.

And i'll bet he didn't even know that he was being insulting.
Keep that face and body real, as i am doing.

Girlplustwo said...

ahhh..chani..if i had the answer i'd be taking it on the road and perhaps considering infomercials.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Insecurity. We've been trained in the belief that we are not good enough in our natural state, and we see that women who conform to our society's unrealistic standards are treated better in both relationships and the work world (usually.)

We are a two-faced society that speaks of deeper values and inner beauty, yet favors the more physically attractive people.

Anorexia is a particularly cruel disease because it is born of deep feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. It distorts its victims' reasoning powers and is surely an addiction, although I haven't heard it described as one. It's a horribly sad thing to see a young person punish and destroy herself for not being as "perfect" as she thinks she needs to be.

Anvilcloud said...

>well maybe if you describe yourself first, since you dont have a pic?

That's ridiculous. You have every right to be ticked. I'm ticked!

Pam said...

I would have been ticked too. I am one of the women who was on that front line and am apalled by what I see and hear. "I am woman, hear me roar"!

Ginnie said...

I have to believe that all men are not created equal. My late husband was a photographer and he loved women's faces that showed expression (wrinkles, age and all.)
He couldn't stand the over-madeup face or the perfect model type. I think so many of our young men (and women) are missing out on life when they only accept the outer package...completely losing track of what's inside until it's too late.

KC said...

I HATE 'pic'. And more than the casual word but the meaning behind it. As in, I have imagined you to look like _____ (good), so you better not disappoint me.

In part, it's an evolutionary drive- propagating one's genes via the image of fertility and youth, and, in part, Pigness.

Andrea Frazer said...

I am lucky and cursed to have a beautiful daughter. While life will be easier for her because she'll meet society's standard for pretty women, it will also be rougher, because what if she loses it? I don't want her basing her life on her looks. She now has a black tooth from falling. In a way I'm grateful for it. Life isn't about the outer but the inner. I hate L.A. for not showing more images of that. Good post.

Bob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob said...

(I should really take advantage of preview before publishing)

I too hate the lessons young women are being taught. I've always been cognizant of it, but became much more so raising a daughter. She isn't what mainstream considers beautiful. (she is to me, but I'm her dad and I have to - JUST KIDDING - I think she is beautiful because I know the person she is.)

As a man, I am fighting the same things women are but from a different angle. I too am being taught what I should find desirable in a woman. I should look at young women with smooth skin and large breasts and narrow hips and long legs etc. etc. etc. So, young women turn my head - occasionally. But I am fighting my training by being an individual. I find women attractive, period. There are some physical attributes that get my attention, but that is only temporary - only as long as it takes to talk to someone and find out something about the person. Much more often I bypass the appearance and find the attraction after meeting someone and learn who they are
(disclaimer: I am married, have been for almost 22 years, and am not planning to change that status - ever. So I am not "in the market" and I think that that makes the man/woman thing easier as I am not looking for romance, but for friends and and the beauty within).

I think it is very much corporate america that teaches us to worship youth and their definition of beauty. Americans spend billions on cosmetics, weight loss, clothes, plastic surgery, etc. If we can be kept in a perpetual state of imperfection with a desire to conform to their standards we will keep giving them our money. Obviously there is no money in a people who are satisfied with themselves inside and out.

I am sorry you lost a potential friend. If it is possible that he didn't realize what he was doing maybe he still is a potential friend - with some growing to do.