Philippa discusses criticising women’s bodies, and its implications.
One of the reasons I stopped reading women’s magazines was due to the way they helped to create a mindset within me of judging other women’s appearances. And in turn, my own.
All those pap shots, or red carpet shots, with captions such as “OMG, Celebrity A wore item X with item Y. The shame!” always made me start thinking “oh, I’m not supposed to wear X with Y? Since when? What else do I not know? Do I look stupid?”
And “OMG, Celebrity B’s appalling outfit just draws attention to her problem areas, not flattering at all!” made me start seeing women’s bodies in terms of ‘problem areas’ and how we must disguise them at all costs.
For what it’s worth, I don’t even consider the parts of my body that don’t work so well as problem areas, so I hated applying that destructive judgement to my bits that are simply more bulgy than others.
But reading those hateful comments made me see similar ‘sins’ in real life, and the language of body fascism started to invade my consciousness. I was making snap judgements about other women’s appearances. As soon as I clocked each thought, I’d immediately challenge it and reassure myself that I didn’t think that really, but I hated that the snap judgements were happening at all.
And the more I judged others, the more those judgements affected my own self-esteem. If I could judge Celebrity C, even momentarily, for an unflattering top, when she is frankly at most 1/3 of my size and is conventionally beautiful, then really, what did I look like? And if the women who wrote these magazines, and other women who read them, judged conventionally beautiful and improbably slim women so badly, what on earth would they think of me?
So I stopped reading those magazines. I stopped reading reactionary statements about the supposed fashion sins committed by other women, and I stopped making those judgements about other women, and I began to stop making them about myself. It was one of the best things for my self-esteem and for my self-respect that I have ever done.
With this in mind, I was interested to read this blog post from polimicks.
I have been making a concerted effort to remove appearance-related insults from my vocabulary. Because honestly, if I’m pissed off at someone, it has NOTHING to do with what they LOOK like, and everything to do with what they ARE like.
This rang very true with me. Happy as I always am to argue endlessly against the politics of, say, Ann Widdecombe, I would also endlessly defend her when people criticising her resort to making fun of her appearance and weight. And they invariably do.
Firstly, there is no need. It is cruel, it is nasty, and no contribution for the advancement of women is ever made when politicians are only critiqued on their size and perceived attractiveness. Secondly, it is entirely irrelevant, and unhelpful to the argument anyway. If you want to slate Ann’s position on abortion rights, go ahead. But you only devalue your own argument if you make any reference to her never needing one because ‘she’s so fat and ugly that noone would want to impregnate her’. And yes, I’ve heard that numerous times. This undermines any valid point within the rest of your argument, as well as being needlessly shallow and hateful.
Criticising other women’s bodies goes counter to everything that feminism should stand for. It is hurtful to other women, and it is hurtful to ourselves. And it is irrelevant to any other criticisms of a person, be it their politics, their acting skills, their singing ability, their ability to read the news, or, frankly, anything at all.