5 tweets that PERFECTLY sum up why women still struggle with self-esteem
I’ve long felt fairly ambiguous about the rampant use of the listicle, but I’m more than happy to use the medium (with added commentary and click-baity titles) to my advantage now. Thanks, Buzzfeed!
Anyway, I came across the following series of tweets today (RT’d into my Twitter TL by a lovely feminist friend who uses the handle @feminace, whom you should follow NOW if you don’t already). These tweets struck a sensitive nerve. Not because they address things I haven’t seen articulated before — I have, in several places and in several ways — but because I’ve been struggling with my self-esteem lately in ways I didn’t realize until I read them.
This will come as a small surprise to some of the people who know me best, because a lot of them have told me in the not-too-distant past that I’ve changed. “You seem so much more confident,” they say. By and large, that’s true. Were you to introduce 24-year-old me to 27-year-old me, we’d both probably shit ourselves (and not just because of the obvious time-travel paradox).
A lot has changed for the better, but in the never-ending battle of realizing my self-worth the struggle is very, very real. This isn’t meant to be an all-encompassing snapshot of the things that still get under my skin, but these tweets are all telling of a deeply internalized narrative about women, our bodies, our beauty and our inherent worth.
Hold on to your panties — it’s about to get ranty.
Tweet one :
Let’s pause for a second. If you care to count, you’ll notice that’s FOURTEEN things about women and our normal, natural bodies/bodily functions that men like to hate on, including completely unavoidable things like HAVING A PERIOD (oh, the horror!).
It’s not necessarily all their fault — it’s largely perpetuated by a multibillion dollar beauty industry that instead of trying to work WITH our bodies would rather have us change them —as an example, see this mini article from HuffPo. Tampons have to be, above all, “discreet”. Sweat has to be flower-scented or nonexistent. The entirety of your being is completely MEANINGLESS without coconut oil. Stretch marks must be banished by bathing twice daily in both cocoa butter and the blood from the ritual sacrifice of a lamb that took place during the fourth full moon of the year.
It’s difficult to keep up. It all reminds me of this oft-quoted blurb from Tina Fey’s book Bossypants :
Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits.
Sounds totally reasonable. We’ll get right on that.
Dudes be like “Oh, I just love YOUR boobs! Because see, the thing is, I don’t even LIKE (large/small) boobs because they seem so (unweildy/unfeminine) and women who have them tend to be (unathletic/tomboyish) anyway!”
That very same behavior gets repeated publicly, as though men think the only way to make one group of women feel sexy is by putting another group down. In fact, one of our favorite presidential candidates has been known to VERY PUBLICLY sling dirt in the direction of women he calls “flat-chested” (see video below) :
Oh and — about the oft-repeated perjorative “pizza nipples” , I’d like to be perfectly clear : The only time anyone should ever refer to pizza and nipples in the same sentence is if they and/or their lover(s) are having an epic naked pizza party. End of story.
Tweet four :
There was a time when a large derriere was considered to be a wholly unattractive and freakish attribute — a perception that for YEARS was driven by the fact that the group of women best known for that attribute are women of color (Saartjie Baartman, anyone?). WoC are fetishized and maligned for having junk in the trunk while white beauty is considered the mainstream, so the beauty industry (alongside the mainstream media) has appropriated the very thing it once hated/fetishized and decided that BIG BUTTS ARE SUDDENLY “IN”.
This means we’re now inundated with millions of articles featuring slim, mostly white bodies telling us how many squats, burpees, squats, leg-ups, squats, weights, squats, lunges (and did I mention squats?) we need to do to get that booty poppin’. Because no matter what, the most important thing for all women to remember is that whatever we’re working with, it isn’t good enough.
This one is incredibly sad, partially because it’s so intimate. I’ve spoken with several women who have expressed shame at the shape, size, color, and arrangement of their genitals — all because some dingus of a guy made a shit comment about it in a very intimate, bare, vulnerable moment. The amount of misinformation that persists about women and the structure + function of our ladybits is astounding. There are people who genuinely think that a woman’s labia minora get darker and longer the more people she sleeps with.
News flash : labia are not a magical color-changing mood ring. They also don’t suddenly change color and size to warn off predators (or to warn approaching men that you’ve slept with someone else, as it were). If that were the case, it would only make sense for men to have a similar warning, as Reddit user calineko so kindly pointed out :
Sure, and smaller penises are also sign of a multitude of sex partners. All men start with long ones but they consume them over usage. This is known in the scientific community as the pencil sharpener effect.
See how ridiculous this all sounds?
I’ve seen several anonymous posts on the Internet written by distressed women detailing horrible things they’ve seen, overheard, or been told about themselves/other women with dark or large labia. Some women even refer to their OWN labia as “Roast beef curtains”. (Seriously, WTF is the fascination with comparing women’s bodies to food?!). The point is that it’s not difficult to feel completely disgusted by your own body when you’re constantly inundated with snippets that tell you the most intimate parts of it are disgusting. Women are even going to the extremes of getting labiaplasty for purely aesthetic purposes to make their vaginas fit this imagined, male-imposed ideal.
For educational purposes, you can actually check out the Labia Library (NSFW!) and see for yourself that your vagina is almost certainly normal — and so is everyone else’s.
The moral of the story is this:
Men, grow up. Be supportive without negging. Be aware of the power of the words you say.
And women — you’re awesome. Be awesome. Realize how freaking awesomely awesome you are.
Before anyone comes roaring in with some #NotAllMen-type nonsense — yes, I get that not all men do these things. However, enough of them do that these types of messages pervade into the collective psyche even as we try to avoid them. Self esteem and self worth are ever-shifting, and these are the kinds of things that allow them to diminish.