Thoughts on Thank You

Dear Dad,

I’ve been thinking a lot about self-esteem lately. As a young woman, and a feminism, it’s something that I’ve worked to grow and bolster in myself, as well as worked to help others grow. I’ve blogged in the past about my body, and written a lot about body positivity. It’s one way I work through my own complicated feelings about my body, as well as, hopefully, show other women that it’s okay to love your body exactly as it is. I even had a friend message me recently to say she quit shaving her armpits and loves it, and to thank me for being vocal on the issue and giving her the courage.

A photo of a white woman with pink hair sitting on a rock on a beach looking out toward the sea.

Learning to love every curve, crook, and fuzzy patch of my body is a continuing process.

As part of being positive about my self and the corporeal form I inhabit, Dad, I also strive to speak positively about my body. When someone compliments an outfit, or my hair, or some physical aspect, I try to thank them, instead of shrugging it off with, “Ugh, my boobs look so dumpy in this though,” or some other negative, self-deprecating comment. This reinforces for me that it’s okay to be happy with my body just the way it is, and it’s also gracious. (Though I’m not perfect and don’t always stick to this goal…)

My goals in not tearing myself down weren’t always noble, though, Dad. I think it started first as a misogynistic rebellion against the stereotype that girls are always complaining about their appearance. I saw it in the locker room in middle school: One girl would sigh, “Ugh, I’m so fat,” and her friends would rush to reassure her that she was totally not. And to be honest, I was jealous. It seemed like the prettiest girls were always complaining about their looks and getting accolades, and so, in rebellion, I didn’t complain about my flaws or insecurities. Because I wasn’t a “shallow girl like the rest of them.” Internalized misogyny can be complicated.

Since then, I’ve worked to improve my relationship with my body, and with other women. Instead of feeling myself superior to others of my gender, I focus on learning to love every curve, crook, and fuzzy patch of my body, and speak out about it publicly to encourage others to fearlessly do the same. It’s a little bit making amends for my old opinions, and a lot bit dedicating time and energy to being happy with me as I am.

I still get jealous, though, Dad. This week, I saw a friend on Twitter praising someone else as cute. The person’s response was essentially, “No! I’m not cute! I’m gross!” Which was met with, “Of course you’re cute! You’re so so cute! The cutest! Everyone, tell her how cute she is!” And part of me was hella jealous. Part of me wondered if instead of meeting the occasional compliment with a “thank you,” I responded with, “No, I’m really not!” I would be given even more praise and adoration. Part of me wanted to sigh and bemoan how very fat I am so that someone somewhere would reassure me that I’m totally not. I still get insecure and I still get jealous of other women and I still get petty, sometimes, try as I might to uphold values of sisterhood and self-love.

I think for now, I’ll keep saying thank you, if/when I get compliments. And I’ll fight the urge to get jealous of other women. And remember that I still have a long ways to go.

Love,
Victoria

Lovin’ my new curves

Dear Dad,

I am the fattest I have ever been, and I totally love it.

What’s happened? Well, in addition to reaching that age where my teenage girl body has fully morphed into my grown woman body (which means becoming generally squishier in the thighs, butt, breasts, etc.), I am also in a fulfilling and healthy relationship, and have learned to (mostly) ignore media messages about being Barbie thin.

It hasn’t been easy. Our society idolizes thinness. Look at Rosario Dawson reflecting on how many compliments she received when she starved herself to play a drug addict. Or the teen and preteen models getting fired for gaining two pounds in the documentary “Girl Model.” And then there’s the quintessential icon of feminine beauty, Barbie.

I got a little junk in my trunk, and I’m not ashamed to flaunt it.

I didn’t have many Barbies growing up, and I didn’t consider myself weight-obsessed, but when I started to gain weight after high school, when my stomach stopped being naturally flat, I started to worry. I felt self-conscious and like everyone was staring at me. My self-esteem took a hit.

But since I began my journey down Feminist Lane, I’ve encountered much discussion of body positivity and fat positivity. What does this mean? It means taking a healthy approach toward our bodies. Not everyone is going to be a rail thin model. Some people are naturally very skinny (an extremely small portion of the population). Other people weigh more, have chubby tummies, and can still be healthy. Look at Prince Fielder’s great naked shoot for ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue! Guy’s got a gut, but he’s also a professional athlete!

I am not a professional athlete. But I am also no longer embarrassed to say I’ve gone up a pant size. I like my new curves and I’m comfortable with my body, which I think is the most healthy thing of all.

Love,
Victoria

On loving your body

Dear Dad,

This post is for Mom. Please make sure that she sees it!

Hey Mom, remember when you decided not to shave your armpits for like two months and I was totally repulsed? I’m sorry.

What can I say except that I was buying into what the media and our culture was telling me about female beauty, instead of just appreciating women’s bodies for what they are? Since that fateful hairy pits trial run in high school, I’ve read a lot of feminist critique on the media, advertising, magazines, movies, etc. Again and again we’re told that women are beautiful if they are free from unsightly body hair. The only permissible hair for women is long and flowing on their head. We’re sold razors and trimmers, wax and Nair, epilators that literally rip the body hair out at the root. This commercial compares ungroomed pubic hair to untrimmed ornamental shrubbery. But who says a plant growing as it would in the wild is ugly?

And body hair is just the tip of the iceberg. We’re also shamed for our weight, the size of our breasts, butt and thighs, the blemishes that occur naturally on our skin, our height, skin color, etc. As women we’re told to live up to a very narrow beauty standard that is unattainable for most women.

Fortunately, feminists have done more than simply critiquing this beauty culture; they’ve provided a solution: body positivity. The idea is simple: love your body, no matter what shape and size it comes in. Blogs like Stop Hating Your Body (heads up, there’s some people in underwear) facilitate discussions of how to love your own body, and encourage everyone to send in pictures celebrating their unique bodies “no matter what you look like, what color, what gender, what size or however many “flaws”, healthy, not healthy, working on it.”  Bloggers like P.S. It’s Fashion and GABIFRESH use fashion as a way to express themselves and embrace their bodies despite not looking like ladies on the catwalk. And then there’s the awesome woman who entered American Apparel’s patronizing plus-size model search contest as a joke, and won.

And me? Well, Mom, I haven’t shaved my armpits in 14 months. And I think I look awesome.

A young white woman in a stripey t-shirt and black lipstick smiles as she holds one arm over her head. Her armpits are unshaved.

Check my pretty pits! (With bonus black lipstick)

Love you!

Victoria