We have all heard of the nature vs nurture debate, in regards to raising a child and conditioning them to behave in a way society deems acceptable. This is particularly beneficial in terms of encouraging respect, kindness and confidence in children.
Imagine waking every morning, turning on the TV and seeing powerful people who look just like you and your family, who were rewarded for their hard work with money and respect. Imagine being told every day that you can achieve anything you set your mind to, and believing it. Imagine being praised for being independent. Imagine having a bad day, but that’s okay because you are a busy, white, cis-gender, heterosexual man.
Don’t get me wrong, being white and cis-gender myself, I am very aware of my privilege and try my best to learn and educate myself about the ongoing struggles of minority groups. From this, I know that my privilege allows me to go about my day without much difficulty, and if I were a man, my privilege would have peaked.
I’m not in a minority, but I am a woman. A lesser gender, or so patriarchy wants us to believe. Throughout history, our DNA has distinguished us as incapable and weak and based our value solely on our appearance. We have been disrespected, sexualised and conditioned to believe that our worth is determined by our clothes size, our waist measurements, our skin texture or the symmetry of our face.
Women have been held to unattainable beauty standards for years.
Unfortunately, it’s 2020 and this is still the case.
Throughout my childhood, my parents raised me to respect others whilst also respecting myself. They encouraged me to be kind and helpful, but never pour from an empty cup. My parents conditioned me to believe that I am important too.
As we grow up and venture in to the big wide world, our loving parents can’t save us from this crippling everyday sexism that lingers.
In secondary school I had lots to be grateful for. I was healthy, but I felt I wasn’t skinny enough. I had lots of friends, but I wanted boys to “fancy” me. I had good grades, but I didn’t feel pretty.
Looking back, I also placed my value on my appearance. Society had conditioned me to believe I was worthless if I wasn’t beautiful; and it took me until I was 24 to realise this.
In my attempt to take back control over my body and how I view myself, I discovered the ever-empowering, body positivity movement.
This movement started back in the 1960’s by fat black women who were tired of ignorant stereotypes placed on them purely due to their body size, and wanted to take back ownership of their entire being.
Fat doesn’t mean lazy. Fat doesn’t mean unhealthy. Fat doesn’t mean unworthy. You are not fat, you have fat. You also have hair. You are not hair.
I have learned a lot from this movement and, thanks to being involved in an amazing social media community filled with empowering women who own the skin they’re in, I feel we can all work toward body acceptance; seeing our body only as a vessel to live our lives, not the entire purpose of our existence.
It’s hard to do this because it’s drilled in to us day-in day-out that ‘beauty is power. Even women themselves are unknowingly buying into this belief.
I vow to never talk negatively about my body in front of my future children. I will try my best not to call foods “good” or “bad,” and I won’t ever draw attention to someone’s weight. It’s shocking how many people think “you’ve lost weight” is a compliment. This might seem like trivial gossip, but by allowing this talk in to our daily lives we are conditioning the next generation to have body image issues.
We need this cycle to end.
So ladies, in a world full of consumerism and patriarchy, the only opinion that matters is YOURS; and even then, challenge it.
Why are you thinking this way?
Is it because you truly want to, or is it because you feel you should?
If you were alone on a desert island, would you still do it?
You might be fully aware of everything in this article, nodding along & smiling (as I do when I read other women’s feminist revelations), but some of you might be questioning some of your own actions.
This is absolutely okay. It’s not often this stuff gets talked about, as society doesn’t want us to take back control. It means we take back our power.
If you were alone on a desert island, would you:
- Shave your body hair?
- Wear makeup?
- Dye your hair?
- Wear uncomfortable underwear?
- Enjoy wearing the clothes you own?
- Paint your nails?
- Wear fake-tan?
- Get lip-fillers or other cosmetic surgery?
If the answer is no, you aren’t doing this for yourself. You’re doing this for societies acceptance
and probably, in part, due to the male gaze.
If the answer is yes, awesome. You keep doing you.
This sexism, particularly in regard to the expectations of a woman’s physical appearance, cannot be stopped by a single few people. We need to work together to change this, to create a happier future for the next generations.
Let’s follow in the footsteps of the empowering women who began the body positivity movement, and spread the word of their great work. Let’s all do our part to empower other women in our lives to take back control and see themselves as more than beauty.
Lots of small steps eventually cover many miles. Recondition yourself to believe in unapologetic self-love.