Lysistrata's Daughter

equality. that's all.

Month: April, 2013

Just Another Pretty Face

Today for me is a day of conflicting feelings regarding the perception of beauty. On the one hand, I saw this Dove campaign which sat a bunch of women in a room with a forensic sketch artist who drew two pictures of them, the first based on their own description of their facial features, and the second drawn from a description of another woman’s impression of her. Then they placed the two drawings next to each other to juxtapose the way a woman sees herself with the way she is seen by others.

It was a lovely, sweet video that encourages women to change their self-perception, and realize that other people do not judge them on their appearance as harshly as they judge themselves.

This is something I support. I believe we as human beings have a skewed perspective when it comes to ourselves, and everyone, regardless of their power, success, appearance, etc. has some form of self-doubt.

What I’m a little concerned about is:

1.       The only men featured in the video were the sketch artist, and two others who were shown describing other women. No men were shown participating in the study, which I find odd, as I’m pretty certain that there are men who have issues with self-perception. I don’t think the message that you should embrace your appearance should be limited to women.

2.       While the video does a lot of good as far as changing perspective goes, at the end, the phrase “you are more beautiful than you think” shines across the screen. I’m all for an increased sense of confidence and love for one’s body. I’m less supportive of the idea that these women feel like they have more self-worth now that they see others believe they are beautiful. Let me say again, for clarity’s sake, because I think Dove touched on something very important here: my issue is not with the video. My issue is the idea that a woman’s worth is in her beauty. A woman’s appearance should not measure her worth.

I’m going to say that again. A woman’s appearance should not measure her worth.

Which leads me to part two, my conflicting feelings regarding beauty:

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I love clothes. I feel like fashion is one of the ways I can express myself, and my style is one that makes me feel polished, confident, and comfortable to meet the day. But, and this is a huge but, I dress for myself, and not for anyone else.

So, no, I don’t mind when somebody compliments me on my clothes, or my style. I don’t even mind it when people compliment my overall appearance now and again (street calls/harassment/etc are a completely different story that I’m sure I will rant about soon). But what starts to make me feel funny is when I feel like my physical appearance trumps my mental prowess, or, at least, takes precedence.

Sometimes I feel like the thing others (well, honestly, mostly men) value the most about me is my appearance. I’ve had many a conversation with a past boyfriend who said that the reason they’d approached me back when we were strangers was because they’d seen how cute I was. If I hadn’t been cute?, I asked. They answered that they probably wouldn’t have come over to introduce themselves. When it comes down to it, I’m grateful for their honesty. And I know that it’s unfair to judge them for a slight superficiality, because I’ve had great relationships with some them afterwards that were based more on our compatibility than our looks.

Sure. Physical attractiveness is a very real part of sexual desire and attraction. I totally get that. I’m not arguing that it should play a role. I just wish it didn’t play so much of one.

I wish that a man who I once dated, and who I find to be intelligent and respectful didn’t say things like, “Wow, your ass looks great today,” when I’m in the middle of getting work done. If my intention was to draw attention to my behind, then perhaps I’d be flattered. Instead, I’m being interrupted while going about business in an everyday situation, where I made no indication that it was my intention to draw attention to the aforementioned area. In this situation, I gave the man in question a bemused look, and he replied with “What, isn’t that what girls want to hear? I know that’s what I’d love to hear.” He said it half jokingly, but that’s the problem. He doesn’t take my concerns seriously.

Another man once said to me “I think you’re really great. You’re so attractive.” I replied to him that I hoped he liked me for more reasons than just my appearance. He said “Well, yeah, but your appearance is still a really big part of who you are.”

Maybe I’m uncomfortable being judged by my appearance because I had a really awkward adolescent phase that I didn’t grow out of until late in life. The first time a boy told me I was beautiful was my senior year of high school. As I left high school and college, I feel I’ve come into my own and can appreciate my appearance, but I don’t spend every day obsessing over every minute detail, because I just don’t have the patience or the energy. So maybe it’s that? That I’m just uncomfortable?

But maybe it’s that I am afraid. Because sometimes I worry that even though I’m a talented writer, a good singer, a great baker, possess a sharp and strong sense of humor, have a work ethic that never quits, and am generally an intelligent human being who enjoys debating and analyzing religion, politics, sociology and psychology, some days, I feel like other people wouldn’t value those characteristics within me if they weren’t accompanied by my “pretty face.” 

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Our Breasts Are Deadlier Than Your Stones

Apparently.

Because while the threat of stoning is just that-a threat-breasts are on display throughout the world today in support of Amina Tyler, the nineteen year old Tunisian woman who posted pictures last month of her bare chest and the words “My body belongs to me, and is not the source of anyone’s honor” in Arabic. A second photo, declaring “Fuck your morals” in English, was also posted.

Almi Adel,  who heads the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, now known (ironically) as the Moderate Association for Awareness and Reform is quoted as saying: “The young lady should be punished according to sharia, with 80 to 100  lashes, but (because of) the severity of the act she has committed, she deserves to be stoned to death,” he said. “Her act could bring about an epidemic. It could be contagious and give ideas to other women. It is therefore necessary to isolate (the incident). I wish her to be healed.”

In case that didn’t hit you hard enough, let me give it to you again: “It could be contagious and give ideas to other women.”

Well we wouldn’t want that, now would we?

Amina Tyler is reportedly safe, although certain sources say she was briefly institutionalized for her actions. If loving her body makes a woman criminally insane, lock me up too.

Femen, a Ukrainian feminist protest group with many offshoot branches in other countries declared today, April 4, 2013, as Topless Jihad Day. Women all over are painting their naked chests and peacefully protested in support of Amina. Already, arrests have been made in Kiev. Posts to the group’s Facebook page have seen an influx of imitation pictures in support of Amina’s actions.

While the news coverage I’ve seen of this event has been minimal, in many of the sources, the photos of Amina and her supporters have been altered, either by blurring out the women’s nipples, or adding the boxy black line across their naked chests. And so I ask, why even bother reporting a story about the censorship of women and their bodies if you’re going to do the same?

Now maybe it’s because I have them, but I’m not entirely sure what is so scary about breasts. The difference between a man’s chest and a woman’s chest is minimal. Correct me if I’m wrong, but men have nipples too, don’t they? Oh yes, that’s right, they do. Which is why blurring out the nipples in a photo of breasts to make them “less offensive” seems absurd.

Another thing I find interesting: an overweight man has roughly the same size “breasts” as I do, but the difference is, he’s allowed to take his shirt off in public and I’m not. The difference between our breasts? It certainly isn’t size. But I’m a woman, so mine are required to be out of sight. Why? They certainly aren’t hurting anyone. And mine are able to produce milk that can feed a child. Which, I think is pretty cool, but that’s beside the point. Except it isn’t. Because a woman’s body is able to provide life. And I think that’s pretty special. And maybe we should be appreciating women for their bodies instead of punishing them for their breasts, and hips, and vaginas.

But I guess in the end, confidence can lead to setting an example. Especially an unwanted one in Islamic countries, like women claiming their own sexuality, their own bodies, and their own worth. And understanding their worth might lead to a crazy idea like a hunger for education and knowledge. And since knowledge is power, we’d better stop and stamp out all this momentum as soon as possible.

Look, I’m a 125 lb., 5’11″ girl. I’m not going to do any damage to a man in a fist fight.

My body isn’t anything to be afraid of. My mind, however, is.