Does This Make Me A (Bad) Feminist?

19 Jan

If you have a few minutes, this is what got me thinking about this post:

It’s a trailer for a documentary called “Miss Representation,” which is about the way that the media portrays women and what that does to girls.

I’ve never felt like there was anything I couldn’t do because I was a girl. I played sports as a kid. I absolutely detested shopping for clothes until I was in high school. I could follow whatever dream I wanted to, and it was always a possibility for me, as long as I worked hard. Growing up in the post-post-feminist era, being a girl has never made my life more difficult in any way. I’ve never had a male peer make me feel intellectually inferior because of my sex. I’ve been passed over for jobs in favor of a male candidate, but I never once had to worry that was because I was female.

Honestly, feminism has just never been a concern of mine.

But the way we portray women in media is real, and it’s a problem. Even our “ugly” women (Liz Lemon, anyone?) are gorgeous. If you’re making a list of male celebrities that aren’t stereotypically sexy, that list would be pretty long (Zach Galifianakis, Rainn Wilson, or, for another 30 Rock reference, Judah Friedlander). For women, I can’t think of any. We even focus on the physical appearance of women when there are so many other important issues to consider, like Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin.

Every single day, while I’m getting dressed in the morning, I look in the mirror and can’t help but think about all the things I want to change about my body. My thighs are too big. My upper arms are too droopy. My hair is too poofy. I’m a size four, not exactly obese, but I want to be a two. I’ve got this idea that my life would be so much better if only my pants were a size smaller.

My life is pretty good. I’ve got great friends, I like my classes, I’ve got as close to my dream job as a college junior could possibly hope for (unless, I suppose, you’re Taylor Swift). Yet I walk around constantly worried about my appearance, certain that if I could only lose 15 pounds my life would be so much better.

The thing is, I want people to think I’m attractive. When I’ve been told “You’re gonna look good in that [flags] skirt” or “You’re this awesome combination of adorable/hot,” (the fact that I have both of those memorized from high school should serve as proof of how rarely it occurs) it feels good, in a way that “You did a great job on that paper” doesn’t. I don’t just want to be “smart” or “nice” – I want to be hot. So from one side I’m bombarded with the message that i’m not, because I will never be 5’10” and 100 lbs. From the other side – like this video – there’s the message that I shouldn’t want to be. That I shouldn’t want people (namely males in their early twenties) to see me as a sexual being. That I should people to look at me and not see the outer shell, but see my brain and my accomplishments.

I’m confident in my brain and my abilities and my personality. Is it so bad that there’s a part of me that wants to turn heads for completely superficial reasons?

I don’t think I’m the only one out there who feels this way. I don’t think I’m the only one constantly worried about her weight or her appearance even when I know, objectively, that I’m totally fine. And I don’t think I’m the only one who then feels guilty for having this worry, because I should be an enlightened woman and realize it’s not important.

I don’t know how to fix this. I don’t know how much of this stems from my inadequacy issues based on my bad luck with guys (to be detailed in a future post, I’m sure) and how much of it is just something that the 99% of women who aren’t models deal with everyday. Maybe models deal with it too – how sad would that be?

Girls, tell me I’m not on my own. Have you found yourself dealing with this problem too? Where do you stand on the whole issue?

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4 Responses to “Does This Make Me A (Bad) Feminist?”

  1. Amy January 28, 2012 at 12:11 am #

    Speaking as someone who actually is 5’10 and has had some really skinny moments in her life (never a size four though!) I can say that I have felt exactly the same way. And still do. This year was really weird for me because three different guys asked me out. I have never been asked out in my life before this year! And then to be bombarded with all those ‘proposals’ was the shock of my life. I had pretty much contented myself toward the role of the ‘funny smart girl’ in high school…while all my friends broke hearts and got numbers from waiters when we went out to eat. Since I’m still really that chubby awkward girl inside, it was thrilling to get all that attention from decent looking, socially functional guys. But since some time has gone by since my initial amazement, I’m not all that stoked on the attention anymore. I don’t want male members of the workforce to see me as attractive. It makes me wonder whether they actually value my opinion as a coworker, or just like the way I look in something. I want to know if they’d like me if I was still the girl I was at 16…and in guessing that they wouldn’t, my appeal to them isn’t something I’m really proud of. It might seem like something you want, but I promise that you will get it, and when you do, it will lose its mystery and value. You’re really gonna end up wanting someone who likes YOU, not how you look. I think I purposely look shlubby these days just to see if my boyfriend will STILL like me. Hahahaha…and he does. When I shave my legs. (So I don’t) DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT!

    • laurenkcampbell January 29, 2012 at 12:38 am #

      Good points, and that’s another thing I struggle with – I know that objectification isn’t what I actually want! I would never want to be with someone who only liked me for the way I looked, because I know there’s so much more to me than that. I guess it’s just a matter of always wanting what we don’t have.

      For the most part I try not to worry about it too much and just let things happen when they happen, but sometimes I get caught up worried about these arbitrary timelines and “ahhh I’m never going to find love and I will die alone with 15 cats.” Then I realize I could never deal with that many animals.

      But seriously. Sometimes it sucks, but honestly I’ve got everything I want in my life except for that one minor aspect, which is a pretty sweet life when I step back and look at it.

  2. Erin January 19, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    If you’re interested in finding more documentaries like Misrepresentation, I’d recommend Dreamworlds (you can find the 3 parts of youtube). My women’s studies professor last semester showed it to our class and while it’s more graphic, it goes really in-depth about how far these issues permeate our culture

    • Nina Thomas July 27, 2012 at 1:29 am #

      I think I’m going to check that out! I loved this documentary and was itching for more.

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