The response to ‘How to look good naked… hmm’ has been phenomenal : so many reactions, positive and negative that have made for a richer debate and, in passing, have helped me to change too. Coming back to something I wrote 5 months ago has been a salutary experience : like discovering a snapshot of the woman I was at that point in time, then seeing how much I’ve moved on since then. In other words, if I were to write the article today, it wouldn’t be the same.
Responding to the commentaries, particularly on the French blog is taking up a lot of time, so here are some necessary clarifications : –
“Women are good and men are bad”
If you managed to interpret my post in this way, that’s your problem! I could have called my post ‘Beauty with no self-esteem and the Bonehead Beast.’ It started out from the encounter between two people who had no business being together, both of them suffering at some level. The woman walked away more than ever convinced of her inadequacy rather than questioning how another person came to have so much power over her self-worth; the man walked away satisfied with himself and his little judgements instead of finding himself suddenly thrown out of bed by a woman yelling ‘Get out of my body right now, you freakiing moron!’
I suggested at the end of the article that in the interest of strict equality, that we could also start judging men by the barometer of pornography also. Several people were quite shocked by this suggestion, coming from a ‘mental health professional’ and all. Dear readers, that way IRONY. (I’m English, we sometimes overdo irony). Obviously all judgements are harmful, both for the person judged and for the person judging. If I chose this example to press my point, it’s becasuse I thought it was so glaringly unmissable, kind of like an oversized porn penis…
I have no proof whatsover that the change in our standards for female genitalia is linked to porn. I’m not an expert on the subject and have no intention of becoming one. I’m simply pointing out that the internet generation sees far more vulvas than previous generations while at the same time, sex ed is just as inadequate ever. Who’s doing the educating here?
The Holy of Holies
This description of the cunt (nabbed directly from Jules Winfield/Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction) upset a fair number of people. One guy who thought I was trying to say that cunts were superior to cocks, a woman who stated firmly that ‘women aren’t sacred’. Let me be clear, I believe that all of our sexual organs are sacred. If we experienced ourselves as being sacred, we would make choices based upon respect and esteem for ourselves and for others. Women’s bodies have been and still are subject to so much desecration that we urgently need to fix the damage. Viewing your body as sacred is a step in that direction. i
I don’t want us to be standardized in any way whatsoever! Guys, you have the right to prefer, small/medium/large lips, whatever you like. But should what you find inside a woman’s panties not correspond to your personal tastes, then please, find the courtesy to keep your opinions to yourself!
Women as victims…
Several people (mostly men) unloaded a lot of vitriol concerning women as ‘the eternal victims.’ The young woman I wrote about in the article clearly had self-esteem issues and working on self-acceptance is the first step for her, before going under the knife. As I said in the post, women are responsible for their choices and they are often complicit in the programming so deftly wielded in women’s magazines : programming that consists of exhorting readers to accept themselves on one page and encouraging them to improve their appearance on the next. Who’s buying these mags? Women, naturally. The programme ‘How to look good naked’ falls perfectly into this trap : admirable when it’s pushing women to see their body insecurities objectively, questionable when it makes them over to fit in with our standards, and frankly appalling when the women strip off on a catwalk in the middle of a shopping centre to demonstrate how much they now love their bodies.
Not victims, but complicit, maybe.
But let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture : we live in a society where we learn very early on that we’re supposed to be pretty. We learn that how we appear is more valued than how we are. The message is passed onto girls by means of the dozens of ads, magazine covers and images of women they see every day, images that are often disconnected from reality ; it’s passed on when a woman minister is quizzed about her clothes, her hair and how she manages childcare rather than her political agenda; when a director is questioned repeatedly on the presence of strong female characters in his films (Joss Whedon, see below) rather than questioning any other director about the absence of strong female characters in their films; it’s passed on subtly in films where women only have 28% of speaking roles; it’s passed on with the shame that comes with becoming a menstruating woman; it’s passed on in a thousand ways, subtle and sledge-hammer obvious, which taken individually may appear insignificant. Taken as a whole, those messages twist and transform, and worse still, are taken to heart.
All of which leads me, despite myself, into the minefield that is any discussion of…
Rather than getting worked up about women ‘the eternal victims’, rather than normalizing sexism and minimizing its impact, would it be possible to question the society in which we live and which we are all responsible for? Could we question whether our society accords the same value to boys and girls? Could we listen to what women have to say rather than leaping off on the defensive? The word ‘feminist’ has been used as an insult by certain commentators, maybe people who are still bridling at feminism of the ‘All men are rapists’ variety, a confrontational feminism that was all about settling scores and reclaiming what had been taken from women. That’s not my feminism but that doesn’t mean that we’ve reached equal status…
Women are shortchanged by a society that reduces them to their appearance, a world in which they themselves define themselves by their packaging. Men are disserved by living with women who are missing out on being themselves in the endless pursuit of appearing to be someone else. Nobody is served by this culture of superficial appearance. We will all benefit when feminism no longer needs to exist, when men will defend women’s rights, when women will defend men’s rights. When we will just be human beings looking out for other human beings. Period.
I’ll leave the final word to Joss Whedon, director of ‘The Avengers’ : “Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this earth as men and women. And the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance, and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who is confronted with it.”²
© Jacqueline Riquez
² Joss Whedon – Discours donné à l’occasion de Equality Now http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYNLgsZH7