This is my very first blog post! (Yay!)
In celebration of this, I wanted to talk about something that I came across while doing research for my sociology course 2 nights ago.
A lovely quote, though I don't remember where it came from, said (in less-than-exact words),"Though women may be free to choose what they do and do not put on their bodies and in their minds...they are not free to choose what is seen as attractive."
I have been in my fair share of sociology, psychology, and communications courses where the standards of women are often brought into question. This quote sparked a fire in my mind unlike any class discussion has ever been able to.
Feminism often concentrates on overcoming standards, but fails to acknowledge the fact that these standards continue to live on in the minds of our friends, our families, and our significant others. They continue to pressure others' perceptions of right and wrong, even if you are able to rise above them.
The question, then, becomes "Which is more important? The way I see myself or the way society sees me?"
The obvious answer here is the former. However, what do you give up when you decide your own self concept is more important than the way society chooses to interpret your clothes, your hair, your status updates, and the like?
This, my friends, is where the trouble comes into play. By choosing to live our lives the way we want to live them (regardless of what is deemed "attractive"), we run the risk of giving up the very things we hold most dear. We may not get the jobs we want. We may not attract the kind of attention we want from the kinds of people we want it from. We may lose the respect from the people we valued most. We may miss opportunities for all the things we've dreamed of.
Now, please don't get me wrong as you're reading this. I whole-heartedly believe that a woman has the innate right (as does any man) to dress, look, and behave the way he or she deems ideal for themselves. I know how easy it is to quickly say back to each of these scenarios, "If they don't like you the way you are, they're not right for you anyway."
That's what we all want to say.
But is it their faults? That's what I'm getting at. Is it their faults to be turned off by pink hair or unshaven legs? Is it their fault that they were taught that women don't curse and always smell like lavender? I don't think it is.
I think the shift, now, needs to stray from the "do-what-you-want-and-screw-the-rest" mentality, to a more holistic approach. We need to make the shift into changing the paradigm of what is scene as acceptable. We need to move away from the shock value, and teach that it's okay to do whatever you want; even if that thing is already deemed acceptable.
You are not any less of a feminist if you shave your legs than if you don't. And you are not supporting a misogynistic society by wearing dresses. It's ok to buy Cosmopolitan. It's ok to read Sports Illustrated. It's ok to wear clothes that others believe are "unflattering" for your body type, and clothes that fit you a little loosely, just because you're more comfortable that way.
The goal we should all have is to educate one another. Let others see enough of you that they are able to look past the superficial reality that they believe you have placed yourself into. Teach them that there is no correlation between blue hair and religion. Show them how a woman can be a great business woman and be covered in tattoos. Demonstrate just how good in bed a woman can be, even if she hasn't shaved in months (if ever).
I'm going to apologize for talking myself in circles and give you the TL;DR version of this:
Attractive is subjective, yes. However, the definition of attractiveness is taught. It is learned. And our subjugation at the hands of society's version of "attractiveness" is tragic. Undoubtedly.
However, it is not benefiting us to rebel and yell and scream into people's faces in retaliation for years of body-shaming and misogyny. In fact, it is doing the opposite. We're proving their points. (Their idiotic, absurd points.)
We're creating an "us vs them" mentality. There's "us": the ones fighting this devastating trend; and there's "them": the girls who are buying into it. Because it's what they've been taught. And it's simply not their faults.
With that being said, we're creating a situation where it's too easy to dismiss "us", because it's so easy to find our exact opposites ("them").
If we join together and create a peaceful environment full of EVERY type of woman (not just the overweight, emotionally scarred women that people believe are the only feminists out there), we can show just how absurd these standards are. Once we create a paradigm shift and develop a world full of open dialogue and support for one another's differences, that's when change occurs.
So, ladies. Continue to shave or not shave. Continue to wear bras, or not. Go right on ahead rocking that buzzcut, or spend hours on your curls. Buy that $200 dress, or wear your dad's old flannels. Plan your wedding on Pinterest a million different ways (whether you're in a relationship or not), or go to the courthouse.
Do what puts a smile on your face, and maybe, just maybe along the way you can encourage someone to put a smile on theirs. Even if it's something you'd never dream of doing.
Creating a bond between these opposite ends of the spectrum and concentrating on our similarities rather than our differences, society has no choice but to follow suit.
Feminism isn't clothing choices. Feminism isn't hair styles. Feminism isn't even your actions or your words.
Feminism is recognizing the power we each have to make our lives worth living.
The world is yours, my friends! It's time we start living like it.