October 03, 2015

When women’s bodies aren’t up for public debate, feminism will have won

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I am bored of it. I’m upset, too. (I can’t go on blaming Mercury Retrograde). I’m sick of the “news stories” surrounding the smallest imperfections of a woman’s body. A wrinkle of cellulite here, the slightest indication of a double chin there, or a strand of hair out of place. I just feel like screaming: LEAVE US THE F!%K ALONE. That’s what I feel like screaming. I feel embarrassed that in 2015 we still live in a culture where people feel entitled enough to wade in on a debate around a person’s body, a body that belongs to no-one else but the owner. I feel embarrassed that we still live in a world where products are still sold off the back of women’s insecurities. If all women weren’t made too feel insecure about something, many businesses would crumble. If we ALL loved ourselves all the time, then the companies that sell £80 anti-ageing cream would go under. It upsets me to watch women I admire get taken down in the media day after day after day, all because of the way they look. Luckily I’m surrounded by people who celebrate women in my personal and professional environments, but this doesn’t mean I don’t see it every five minutes on the Internet. We all do.

Yesterday I skipped into work listening to Abba, then some Madonna and other 80s throwbacks and felt pretty good: I was wearing a new outfit (new Topshop denim button up dress with a black polo neck and gold earrings). I’ve recently realised (because I keep a paper diary and always write random thoughts) that I noticed a pattern:  I wake up in a good mood most days. I’m a “fresh day, fresh start” kind of person. Most days start off well and then of course something throughout the day will niggle at me, because: life. Today the niggle was the fact that I read two news stories that concerned women’s bodies and it circulated Twitter all day long. When women are up for debate and taken down so publicly, guess what? It effects all women. When one woman is attacked, we all end up feeling insecure, even if its subconsciously. When I see a woman getting blasted, I take it personally too. From the influx of stories I’d read citing women’s imperfections, I felt instantly less confident than I’d woken up feeling. That’s messed up: what I’d read about women would change my default setting.

I log onto Twitter: “Amal Clooney has bunions!” said one website. “Amal Clooney’s podiatry problems put in the spotlight” said a tweet. “Amal’s trouble with gnarly bunions” said another.

This wasn’t just NEWS, this was also an opportunity for frantic PRs to try and sell bunion pads. I received a press release right after I’d tweeted how angry I was about the story. The press release read: even Glamorous Amal Clooney suffers from the burden of bunions! With a few marketers rubbing their hands with glee. Would you like to buy bunion pads? Take care of your bumpy bones. Just click here for high res images! This is offensive because Amal is a successful human-rights LAWYER and yet we hear more about her bunions and other passive aggressive flaws more often than articles celebrating how great she is.

It would never be global news if Donald Trump, or Daniel Craig had bad feet. Maybe balding hair, but even then they’d probably get a bald model in to sell product on the adverts, they don’t tend to degrade the men by circling their bad bits in order to cash in. Mainly because men have never been judged in the same way on the way they look. No one cares if they look like shit. Men are judged in other ways, sure: if they’ve lost money or betrayed their family. For women it’s having their “bad bits” circled with red pen. Women’s bodies are ripped apart so casually, for people to prod and gawk at, to compare and contrast, to sell products from. News outlets clearly don’t like how perfect Amal seems to be. It was like when Kate Middleton had a grey hair and it was the front page of the Metro. It’s pathetic how hard they have to look to find something to comment on. This just sums up how society still glamourises youth. One grey hair and imperfect feet is global news. Gasp. Women are not robots.

Social media offers everyone a platform to speak, which is good on some accounts and bad on others. Everyone can voice their opinion about other people, but what if it’s your personal account and someone is commenting on your body? People talking about you isn’t nice but commenting on your Instagram picture telling you look hideous is next level. I felt sad when I read that Lena Dunham’s Instagram feed was recently “the hub for misogynists for the afternoon”. On the Recode podcast the other day Lena explained how she’s struggling with having a presence on social media at moment because her body is constantly up for debate. In my opinion, Lena’s Instagram feed is a joy to follow, it’s honest, it’s raw, it’s funny, it’s educating – you can tell it’s a place where she can be herself. I would have felt bad about it anyway, but having met Lena and built a friendship with her I felt more personally upset about it. Lena confidently sharing pictures of her body often makes other people feel better about themselves – which Lena explains has always been her aim. It’s a positive thing. And for people to hate the fact that she’s celebrating her body makes me so sad. She’s had a massive impact on me personally, whether it’s her ideas, her confidence, or when she’s raising issues via Hannah Horvath, she’s paved the way for girls to realise you don’t have to look a certain way to be successful. But the price she pays is that misogynists find her pictures and fill up her comments section meaning her followers, her community of young girls will see the comments and feel like they too can’t share pictures of their bodies. It’s just really upsetting and backwards.

This is the part where I should offer up a suggested solution, but I don’t know. Maybe it’s too obvious for me to just say: can it just stop? Can’t people just find other stuff to talk about? Can’t we just celebrate women for the amazing stuff they DO or SAY or ACHIEVE and not just how they look in a photograph? We are all going to get old. We will all (probably) get a saggy chin and veiny legs one day. I’m OK with that. I’m going to make the most of what I’ve got, because I’m just lucky that my body works. Striving for perfection bores me to tears, and I won’t buy into it.

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