I just watched this TED video in which Caroline Heldman speak about images of women in media and how it effects the viewer’s perception of their bodies.
In the 5 minutes that I’ve been giving this talk, on average the women in this audience have engaged in habitual body monitoring 10 times. That is every 30 seconds…It simply takes up mental space that can be better used completing math tests, completing your homework. It just sucks our cognitive functioning.
I view my body as a tool to master my environment. I like to believe that I have my parents, and my all-girls highschool years to thank for this. I think I also have my birthmark, and glasses to thank for this. My birthmark ‘marked’ me from birth as a person who would never fully conform to a certain level of physical perfection presented by media. In middle school I toyed with the idea of covering it with make-up, and my parents offered to pay for me to have it removed if I wanted. But it’s so much a part of who I am and they did such a great job of raising me to enjoy the person I was born to be, that it wasn’t even fathomable to me to remove it.
I just didn’t care enough about what other people thought about me to surgically alter my appearance.
Sometimes, I’ll fleetingly get down on myself not being able to understand some of the unwritten rules of societal defined gendered female appearance. Usually it sounds like “is there something they know that I don’t?”. Like when I entered grad school in my early thirties, I briefly toyed with the idea of dyeing my grey hair.
But, why bother.
Even I I were to dye my hair and cover my birthmark, and wear more make-up to enhance and subdue, to sculpt and form my image… I’m still just me under all that. And I like me, a lot, and so why would I ever want to cover that person?
Recently I was at a wedding in Seattle. Sitting at a banquet table in a sleeveless dress, I unselfconsciously lifted my arms to begin winding my hair into a bun (I like to pin my long hair up when I eat, keeps hair and food from colliding). My sister, who was sitting across the table from me, glanced at me and then at the two little girls (6 or 7 years old) sitting to my right. “You’re giving them a cultural experience.” It took me a moment to realize that she was referring to the fact that the two girls were looking at my arm-pit hair.
I’m so thankful that somewhere in my travels I lost track of what it means to dress, act or disguise myself ‘as a girl’ and instead get to dress, act and exclaim myself as me.
Here’s another quote from Caroline Heldman’s blog that does a a great job of perfectly describing how I feel about my body and my fashion philosophy.
We should be climbing things, leaping over things, pushing and pulling things, shaking things, dancing frantically, even if people are looking.
Thanks for reading.