Monthly Archives: December 2012

Body confidence, magazines and the patriarchy

It rained an awful lot today. Not entirely unusual for London but today my umbrella was broken and in an attempt to escape the elements I dashed in to the nearest shop to warm up. Whilst inside the shop I decided to have a look at the magazines – I was amazed and appalled. I don’t know if they’ve got worse, it has something to do with the time of year or whether my post-Christmas mind has been warped and waterlogged by the perpetual drizzle but it seemed to me that literally every single magazine I was faced with was shouting at me. Not in an overt, hysterical way; more a subtle, soul destroying way.

Every single magazine (in the “women’s interest” section anyway) included a feature designed to help you kick start your new year detox, shift those last few pounds, beat the Christmas bulge. Let me make this clear and plain: I am not overweight. I am within the healthy weight category of every Body Mass Index I’ve ever looked at. Standing tall at 5″5′ (and a half!) and weighing in at roughly 10 stone – admittedly sometimes more, particularly at this time of year – I am the correct weight for my height. Medically I am perfectly fine and normal. By the time I’d flicked threw a few of these magazines I had convinced myself I was morbidly obese and was walking along sucking my tummy in, just in case another human being looked to closely and spied the little food baby I was carrying. By the time I was home I’d resolved not to eat anything until at least tomorrow lunch time, I’d consumed far too much. I had some cake and felt so bad about it that I genuinely considered making myself throw up. This was when I realised – this is madness.

It has come to my attention over recent weeks and months that we women are living in a very unfair world. I don’t think I know a single one of us who’s happy with how she looks. We bleach and pluck and tan and exfoliate ourselves to within an inch of our lives but seemingly this is never enough. We are bombarded with images of a completely unattainable perfection. To exemplify this I will tell you about my eyebrows – bare with me, I have a point. My eyebrows are the one remnant of my natural hair colour. The hairs on my head have been bleached Loreal Recital Preference Oslo Natural Blonde once every 2 months since I was 14. I come from a long line of bushy haired women with a proud heritage of fuller eyebrows. They’re fine. I’m proud of them. They don’t look out of place on my face.

That was until I was told otherwise. I became aware that a lot of my colleagues and peers were having their eyebrows tinted and threaded. I colleague of mine got out a special eyebrow serum she uses to set hers in perfect place. I was perplexed and I was worried. Should I be doing these things to my eyebrows!? Mine are certainly bigger than hers and god, they ARE a very different colour to my hair! Jesus! I must look like some sort of idiot walking around with my eyebrows just blowing around in the wind, ungelled! “Look at that tramp, her eyebrows are brown and the rest of her hair blonde!” they must be thinking. Oh god oh god oh god! Laura, your eyebrows are perfectly fine and normal! The only reason you’re worried is because the world is telling you to be! Now snap out of it. The same is true of this obsession with weight loss. It seems to me that people are far more worried about looking thin than they are with being healthy. Fad diets and detoxes pollute our society and force us to feel inadequate. There are entire sections of bookshops dedicated to it. Here’s some home truths dieters:

1) Stop eating so much crap.
2) Start exercising more.
3) Make this a permanent change not a fad.

Now I am no dietician or expert in any way but I think it’s safe to say that those three steps are at least putting you on the right path. Do not do the carrot juice diet. Do not starve yourself. Unless you believe you are at risk of becoming overweight, don’t let it eat you up (pun not intended) because chances are you’re fine. The problem is with the world, not with your love handles. Society is leading us to believe that in order to be successful, happy and healthy we all need to look like Scarlett Johansson. The emphasis needs to be on being healthy. We should be pursuing the ability to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be, not angling after a truly unattainable image. We should be pursuing longevity and happiness and laughter, not crying in to our jam doughnuts because we don’t look like Kim Kardashian. Magazines and TV need to stop trying to sell us things that perpetuate this problem – I don’t want to wear Spanx, I don’t want to paint myself orange, I don’t care how fat and pale this will make me look. I am not fat. Yes, I am pale but I am pale because that is the colour that I am. If I look fat and pale it is because we are all being socialised to believe that being stick thin and “sunkissed” is the very epitome of beauty. Sorry to disappoint you world but I am not a six foot, six stone super model. I am a 5 foot 5 slightly chubby pale girl. Now deal with it.

If women are to be taken seriously, we need to take ourselves seriously and get our priorities straight. We’re being distracted from the real issues. We have bigger fish to fry than under eye circles. We need to kick some patriarchal arse. I intend to do so with my eyebrows still in tact.

For more from me, follow @nitramarual on Twitter. I tend to rant about feminism and women’s empowerment a lot.

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A celebration of the feminists of Twitter

Following a gigantic life shattering piece of news I’ve been feeling pretty vulnerable lately. Thankfully I’m surrounded by an amazing network of friends to keep me sane but all the same I’ve been pretty pissed off in general. Rather than take it out on myself or the people around me, I decided it would be far more worthwhile to take my rage out on some serious injustices in the world – things that wouldn’t normally have pissed me off anywhere near as much were now pissing me off a monumental amount. These things ranged from mundane things such as people eating smelly food on public transport or chewing gum so loudly I can hear them across the room to massive societal injustices the patriarchy and all associated inequities.

That’s when I realised that not everybody was annoyed?! Even other women seemed oblivious and/or apathetic, even when the sexism was so blatant it made me wretch. This sent me in to convulsions of rage that in hindsight I should probably have tried to avoid; if people don’t want to call themselves feminist that’s their call regardless of how ridiculous I think it is. I decided I must be going mad. I must be being over sensitive. Even those very close to me thought I was changing in a bad way. In my desperation I did what I always do: stress bake and blog about it.

The reaction to my first feminism blog was absolutely astonishing to me. Here was little old me ranting on the internet and amazingly there were men and women who agreed with me! Openly describing themselves as feminists, fembloggers, femlovers! I was not alone! As the days and weeks went on I came in to contact with a great many amazing people. Young, forward thinking, progressive femlovers like the #TwitterYouthFeministArmy, the people behind the @EverydaySexism project, the @TheWomensRoomUK team, @YouAreFeminist and many many more! I realised I was not mad or seeing things that were not there. Something very exciting is happening and it’s happening through tweets, blogs and scathing jokes at the expense of the patriarchy. There’s a new wave of feminists coming and I am proud and excited to be a part of it. The third wave of feminism is coming my friends! I for one am well and truly up for the fight

For more from me, follow me @nitramarual! (That’s lauramartin backwards, in case you were wondering)

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