Friday, 11 October 2013

Friday Feminism: your body is your body (part 2)

in part 1 of this impromptu series-within-a-series, i talked about the point in a girl's life when she's made to realise she's a girl, one way or another. more than that, she's plopped into a feminine body she never realised she was always going to have, and now she's got to deal with it.

bah! gaaahhhh! blerg! more cartoon sound-effect words! onomatopoeia!

it's a lot more than simply learning the ways of acting feminine, of eschewing the masculine. it's about learning that your body is not quite right because of the way it looks. it's about being shown over and over again the air-brushed bodies and faces of people who are paid to work out for hours at a time, to have people cook steamed chicken and grated radishes for them, and being told you have to look like those bodies.

it's to sell you things, and it's also to keep you in your place. from a purely practical standpoint: how much time do you have to rule the world, change the things, fight the power, if you have to spend all this time in front of the mirror every day looking at yourself and understanding just how miserably you've failed to have skinny enough arms, or symmetrical enough eyebrows? these things we're meant to do, they are a strategic plot!

... they're probably not all out to get us, but really, i do believe there's a little truth to this, and a little history. i recently finished an essay on the representation of women in advertising where i didn't really get to say what i thought, so i thought i'd say it here: our sense of ourselves is manipulated so we never feel quite ok, or complete, but behold! if we buy these things, whether they be a body lotion or a perfume or a pair of particularly jaunty underwear, we will be Better.

the crime of this particular sneaky thing is that it targets teenage girls, who are new to the femininity thing and particularly susceptible to the criticism, implied or otherwise. mean, nasty, sneaking stuff, advertising.

i mentioned rites of passage into femininity last week; another desperately coveted weapon of femininity was Dolly magazine, or Girlfriend. these magazines held the secrets to things, or so i believed. it seemed a bible, or at least a manual of fact and instruction. now, i've never been destined for the type of body idealised by these magazines. imagine though, being so disappointed in yourself for something genetically out of your control. grasping body parts and internally griping at the failure of your thighs to comply with the Rules.

despite being quite a stubborn individual who didn't believe she had to follow the crowd to be happy, i partook in that particular belief, the 'your-body-isn't-good-enough' one, for years, on and off.

there needs to be different messaging. there needs to be some way to get in early with girls and young women to explain to them what 'healthy' actually means, and it's not what magazines tell you it looks like.

'healthy' looks like however it is that you look like when you're happy with yourself. the peace with yourself and the acceptance of who you are, with all those human bits that make you who you are. when you like yourself and appreciate your body, you want to take care of it and keep it happy and shiny. you don't want to starve yourself, or deny yourself different types of food, only to binge-eat way more than you really need because of the power this food group now holds on you because it was forbidden.

you want to do things to keep it running smoothly and powerfully; to keep it strong, to get your blood pumping. when you truly care about yourself, there's no part of you that needs punishing.

that's what we need to teach girls before they learn that other language. before they get the chance to feel that insidious self-hate. this campaign happening in the states is pretty damn cool, and aimed at pre-teens. imagine the revolution that could be started.

i have a stepsister who is 12. she is this clever, artistic and talented 12 year old with whom i had a great chat on our drive home last week, a chat about just being yourself and not feeling like you have to be the same as other girls at your school. i feel for her though, on the cusp of the adult world. i wouldn't change places with her for anything. it's a rocky time anyway, with all your hormones going nuts, to have to deal with negative messaging coming from everywhere.

i hope my future might lay somewhere in this area; in teaching girls self esteem, in teaching them how to decode advertisements so they can see what the media is trying to pull over them. i encourage anyone who has a young woman in the family to have that chat, to talk about women in advertisements and airbrushing and editing, and to get them to look at each and every image and think 'what are they trying to make me feel or think or buy with this picture?'.

my thing at the moment is really, let's just talk about it and see what we say.

that's what Ryan says.

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