Archive for the objectifying women Category

To Those Who Let Me Go: A Post of Gratitude

Posted in Dating, intuition, love, objectifying women, Parenting, parenting after divorce, Relationships, self-esteem, self-improvement, single moms with tags , , , on May 29, 2014 by sexandthesinglesoccermom

Last night, as I was putting my youngest child to bed, she looked at me and said: “Mommy, I know why you haven’t found the right person yet. It’s because every man who has met you so far knows down deep he isn’t worthy of you, so he has to let you go. When you meet someone whose mind is open, who’s worthy of you, then it will be the right person and he won’t let you go. All those other guys were just saving you pain because they knew they weren’t worthy of your love.”

Sometimes my children humble me and I feel like the child listening to their wisdom.

After my last dating run-in, these were words I badly needed to hear and imprint upon my mind and heart. My former boss, with whom I am still good friends, recently said that he planned to give a memo to my new boss letting them know their highest priority needed to be building up my confidence…in all areas of my life. My first tendency, in almost everything, is to doubt myself. What did I do wrong? What could I have done to change things?

My last date did several things that were unacceptable. Despite having let him know I didn’t plan to sleep with him that night, he was super aggressive and at one point said, “Are you going to make me beg to fuck you?” When he stood from the couch and pulled me up with him, I gently and playfully said, “Sit back down.” To which he responded with barely concealed irritation: “Don’t tell me to sit. I’m not a dog.” Finally, trying to defuse what was becoming a tense situation while he attempted to move our physical relationship to the next level (despite my having said “No” several times), I informed him I was on my period and that it definitely wouldn’t be happening that night. He very seriously asked, “Well, haven’t you ever had sex on your period?”

As I documented in my last blog, I agreed to a third date (more on that later), which he then canceled within days, abruptly ,and with what would have been no explanation if I hadn’t asked outright. The man who had gone on and on about how intelligent, interesting, deep, funny, beautiful and sexy I was, abruptly lost interest after I wouldn’t sleep with him. Especially when he implied he’d found someone else who would by stating “I’ve gone on a date with someone else and I think I want to pursue that before you and I go further.” Complete and total 180, within 2 days.

First of all: I’m sad that I agreed to a third date. I’m sad that I’ve grown in so many ways, but have not yet grown into a woman who feels powerful enough to recognize when disrespect, rather than desire and devotion, is what’s being offered. I feel sad that the thought of being wanted, even by someone I’m not certain I want, still makes me feel like I am “more” than being alone. I once again have to look into my own personal mirror and realize that passiveness and desire to avoid confrontation is a problem that’s led to some heartbreaking situations; it’s still present, despite my efforts to rise up, speak my truths and stand my ground. I’ll fight for what I believe is right. I’ll fight for the sake of others. Apparently, fighting for myself is something I still need to master. I know that eventually my intuition and courage would have risen and I’d have listened to them enough to have not tolerated the situation indefinitely, but my first response is still one that honors the other person more than me. That absolutely has to change. It breaks my heart that my first internal question, after the boorish behavior of my date, was to wonder why he didn’t want me. My go-to feeling is one of shame and lack of worth, which creates a cycle in which I’m always grasping at someone else who can make me feel worthy, which means I’m then willing to accept things that SHOULD be unacceptable.

Second, my beautiful, precious child who loves me so much, has helped to inspire me toward a deeper awareness of all these thought patterns. This man didn’t cancel our date because I’m not enough; he canceled because he’s not. He’s not enough to inspire my trust or love and he’s not man enough to build my admiration. Instead of feeling like I’m unworthy, I need to feel grateful that he released me at a time when I didn’t see myself (or him) with enough clarity to make a decision that was in my best interest. I need to feel empowered to fight for myself, to love myself and to hold out for someone who really sees me. Not just someone who wants to “fuck” me, whether I am ready for that step or not, and who’ll leave for the first woman who doesn’t tell him no. I need to stay strong and realize that I am complete and worthy on my own.

So today, I’m trying to feel a sense of gratitude for all those men who released me from their lives, even when I didn’t understand why. Perhaps it is that on some level, they realized they couldn’t be the man I needed them to be, rather than it being an expression of my lack of worth. I’m going to try to have gratitude that in those moments when I felt lonely and weak and couldn’t reach clarity, something moved them to let me go. Because one day there will be a man who really sees me. He’ll see I’m often serious and introspective, but that I’m easily pulled into silly fun and I’m quick to laugh. He’ll recognize that my tranquility and ability to intellectualize situations masks strong and powerful emotions and he’ll think my passion is sexy. He’ll know that one of my greatest gifts and weaknesses is my ability give completely and deeply, but he won’t take advantage of it by always putting his own needs above mine. He’ll appreciate my sensuality, without feeling entitled to my sexuality unless I’m ready to share it. He won’t be perfect, because I’m certainly not. But he’ll be perfect for me.

I’m lonely, but I will work on believing in and trusting myself and not settling. I will choose to believe my daughter who holds my face in her hands and says, “Mommy, I don’t know why you’re not married again. It seems like every man in the world would be in love with you. You’re the most beautiful, wonderful, loving person I know and I love you so much.”

With someone like that on my side, how can I possibly lose hope?

In memory of a victorious, beautiful spirit: “To those who have given up on love: I say, “Trust life a little bit.” ~ Maya Angelous

Advertisements

The Illusion of Beauty: Part 3

Posted in body image, objectifying women, raising daughters, self-esteem, women's bodies, women's liberation, women's rights with tags , , , , , on April 22, 2013 by sexandthesinglesoccermom

“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.” ~ Dr. Steve Maraboli

“Health makes good propaganda.”  ~Naomi Wolf “The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women”

In 2013, the cry amongst the media is for “healthy” bodies. Of course, what is healthy? Who decides what is healthy and what is their incentive/motivation when doing so? The doctor attempting to sell yet another diet book? The companies trying to convince you their product will make all your body image woes disappear? Once again the ideal body for a female is slender, but with rock hard abs, defined arms and large breasts:

Perfect body

Victoria's Secret

perfect-female-body

Of course, this look is completely impossible for most women to achieve. Others will come close with serious food deprivation, hard physical training and sometimes surgery. It’s not enough to just be “thin” anymore, unless you are on the runway.

In the fashion world, skeletal thinness is still used by runway models who have become the perfect human clothes hanger:

thin model 1

thin model 3

There’s another place and time this look was seen:

concentration camps

Concentration Camp Inmates

How is it that there are people who favor a look only attained by torture, starvation and near death? The rise of anorexia and bulemia (in girls as young as 8!), the increase of hospitalization and even death among young women has made some people sit up and take notice. The efforts of specific organizations who attempt to raise awareness about the havoc being wreaked on our young women is slowly shifting the consciousness. A rising tide of rebellion is beginning and although still not enough to completely infiltrate and break down the cult of beauty that has our culture in it’s grip, it is creating cracks in the foundation. Today, more people are recognizing that beauty comes in many shapes and sizes. Better yet, marketers are starting to realize (finally) that showing size 0 models to the average size 10-14 woman is not serving them well. Slowly, slowly, we are starting to see women that, although still almost impossibly beautiful, look more like women who don’t starve themselves into an unnatural state.

Plus sized model 2Ford Models Celebrates The Publication Of Crystal Renn's "Hungry"Plus sized model 3

It’s a start, a good one, to showing women that it’s okay to be human beings…healthy, happy human beings who don’t have to fit into a mold created by society. There are women who are naturally thin and women who are not. There’s nothing wrong with being thin, athletic and toned…just as there’s nothing wrong with having breasts and hips and thighs and a stomach. Finally, the designers and industries that cater to women are starting to realize WE are the consumer; we’re just not going to take the abuse anymore. It’s still a slow road: These mannequins, used by a Swedish store, have sparked much controversy. While many have reacted very positively and praised the use of  mannequin models that resemble the average woman, some have claimed it encourages obesity.

Swedish mannequin pic

Of course, the use of size zero mannequins and models, some with legs hardly larger than a person’s arm, has encouraged anorexia and bulemia for years. It’s encouraged depression and low self-esteem in women and, increasingly, in very young girls. Showing only women who look like prepubescent girls with large breasts has perpetuated an unrealistic fantasy for men, who begin to believe that is how all women SHOULD look, when very few women will be able to attain it. It has equated “thin” with “good” and “healthy” and anything over a size 8 (and sometimes that’s considered too big) with “bad” and “unhealthy”. Plus sized models start at a size 8, when the average  American woman is a size 12 or 14. And yes, there’s an argument to be made that the average American diet is unhealthy, thus leading to a problem with weight. Setting up unrealistic, unattainable and in some cases, unhealthy, standards for women to look to is NOT the answer. Even very thin women can be heard lamenting about the few ounces of extra weight they have on their bodies…despite a predisposition toward thinness, healthy eating and diligent exercise. How do women learn to feel comfortable in their bodies when they are being sent constant messages that say they are unacceptable?

Plus size vs straight size

A “plus” sized model compared to a “regular” model

How can we get to a place of acceptance that we are more than our bodies, when we are constantly being told that our bodies are all that matter? On top of that, the constant message is our bodies are NOT acceptable unless they are starved and exercised into a form that is often unnatural. Even our little girls learn from an early age that beauty has a specific size:

woman object 4

How do we teach our young women (and our young men), that the female body can be beautiful in many shapes, many sizes? When do we stop acting like we all need to resemble barbie dolls in order to be acceptable, beautiful…good?

I want a different world for my daughters (and myself), yet sometimes am unsure how to effect change in such a rampantly superficial world. What can a single individual do to promote a healthier, more diverse culture of body image? Here are the things I’ve come up with that I CAN change:

  • Avoid negative talk about weight or shape. No more talk about “fat” or “skinny” and no more judgement language about bodies. Bodies are bodies, neither good nor bad.
  • Don’t use food as reward or punishment and avoid negative statements about food. Provide healthy food, then let your child make their own choices about it.
  • Compliment my child on accomplishments, talent and effort. Children should feel they are valuable and valued for more than their appearance. Only complimenting girls (or boys) on the way they look (“You’re so pretty!” “What a cutie.”) links their self-esteem to their looks. Teach my children from an early age they are so much more than just their bodies or faces.
  • Restrict media images. From the Disney Channel to the Victoria’s Secret catalog that comes in the mail. Discuss the media images with my daughters.
  • Help them to understand what is normal and healthy, especially during changes that may naturally involve their bodies changing. Keep communication open.
  • Write to designers/clothing stores/magazines and inform them of what you like and what you don’t. Use my dollars to reinforce my values. If I really dislike the way “American Apparel” or “Guess” uses images and models and I don’t feel they support healthy body image, then I won’t buy their clothes. A single consumer won’t make a huge difference, but change starts with one person, right? If a company DOES promote positive body images, then let them know that too.
  • Finally…love and accept my own body. My children will follow my actions more than my words. Work hard on accepting that I am not defined by my body, then realize that my body is beautiful. Let my children see that it’s okay to not look like Barbie and still take joy and pride in my appearance. It’s fine for them to see me making healthy food choices and exercising…that’s just modeling good health. What’s not okay is for them to constantly hear “I can’t eat that–it’s got too many calories” or “I need to stop being lazy and workout”. What’s not okay is for them to constantly be hearing about the latest diet or technique for losing weight. They learn from me, so I need to make sure I’m teaching them the right things.

Finally…realize how ridiculous it all is. Women spend a large chunk of their lives as slaves to the beauty ideal…which can’t even stay constant! We are slaves to something that shifts with political culture and socio-economic changes. We’re letting people who run the fashion industry (and let’s be honest: Should gay men really get to decide what a woman’s body should look like??) tell us what we should look like. We are starving, running, body-building, tweezing, waxing and even cutting ourselves open in an attempt to be “beautiful” and “sexy”, when those words could be/should be defined in many different ways! Realize the ridiculousness of it all and refuse to participate.

Tiny Fey, who is quickly becoming my hero, sums it all up nicely.

funny-Tina-Fey-body-image-quote

The Illusion of Beauty: Part 2

Posted in body image, objectifying women, raising daughters, women's bodies, women's liberation with tags , , on April 17, 2013 by sexandthesinglesoccermom

“Beauty is in the eye of beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye”

The notion of female beauty is a fluid one, subject to rapid shifts depending on culture and who’s running the fashion industry. Beautiful, sexy, healthy: These words all shift with the decades. Yet they greatly influence how we perceive ourselves and how we feel we measure up with others in our society. The obsession with female beauty and the ideal body is not a new concept. Throughout the ages, artists have been attempting to capture the curves, grace and mystique of a woman. Men pursue beautiful woman; women want to be beautiful. But what is beautiful? How has our perception of beauty changed?

From artwork of the Middle Ages, which showed women with hips and breasts and a rounded stomach:

Birth_of_venusrubenesque

To artwork and images of the 1800’s:

Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_-_BaigneuseExotic-Dancers-In-1800s-8

In fact, being “thin” was not a lasting trend that was considered beautiful or fashionable until the 1920’s, when the flapper styles came into vogue. There were exceptions to this rule: Before the Civil War, tuberculosis ravaged the nation; called the ‘wasting disease”, one of the side effects was severe thinness. This look gained popularity for a brief time, until the antebellum era, when voluptuousness was again on the rise. Lillian Russell, a theatre actress who was around 200 lbs, was considered a great beauty. Curves ruled the scene until the Roaring 20’s, when women began to push for more independence. A boyish figure was the look of the decade…

flappers

Until the 30’s and 40’s, when Marilyn Monroe and other actresses brought curves back into the spotlight:

Marilyn

curvy vs skinny 1

Then came Twiggy: A British teenager who was part of London’s “Swinging 60’s”, Twiggy’s ultra-thin, androgynous look changed the fashion industry overnight:

twiggy

The 90’s brought a mixture of body styles, from the curvaciousness of Cindy Crawford, who was once dubbed “too busty” to be a runway model:

cindy crawford

Juxtaposed with the “waif” look of Kate Moss:

kate-moss-calvin-klein-obsession-4

In 2013, where are we with body image? What is it that we’ve determined is the ideal beauty?

To be continued…

The Illusion of Beauty: Part 1

Posted in body image, objectifying women, raising daughters, self-esteem, women's bodies, women's liberation, women's rights with tags , , , , , on April 15, 2013 by sexandthesinglesoccermom

“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.” ~ Helen Keller

My youngest child has cheeks that are rosy with color and she loves to don a swimsuit or shorts and bare her skin to the sun. She is a lovely, sensitive, smart, artistic, incredible little girl. She is also quite chubby.

Three and a half years ago, she looked like a little ghost: Pale, with dark circles under her eyes. She was constantly sick and would be doubled over with stomach pain nearly every time she ate. After taking her to doctor after doctor, she was finally diagnosed with an autoimmune disease: Ulcerative Colitis. Freqeunt bleeding and a 106 fever even landed her in the hospital; it was a scary event for her father and I. This resulted in a massive dose of steroids to try to manage the severe symptoms. It worked. It also left her with raging emotions and a wicked appetite. Her weight gain was so fast and so significant, that I commented to someone once that it looked like this child had eaten the child she used to be. After awhile, we were able to wean her off the high dose of steroids and begin a more long-term approach.

Today, she looks like a healthy kid. A kid that plays and colors and sings and makes it to school. A child that looks at me and sometimes my breath catches, because she is so amazing, inside and out. Yet…

As a woman who has struggled with body image, I am concerned. As an adult who knows the way this superficial world works, I feel trepidation. When she reaches for seconds at meals or wants to have a big slice of bread for a snack, I struggle with how to react. I don’t EVER want her to feel like she is less than the beautiful, amazing girl she is. So when her pants don’t fit anymore, I simply buy new ones. I never disparage or comment on her body and I only use positive language. I stopped calling myself words like “fat” in front of my children long ago. Still, I know the way the world is; as she moves into adolescense, if the weight issue hasn’t resolved itself, I fear she will suffer the consequences. So I feel a bit sick inside: How do I meet this situation? To treat her differently than her sibling (who looks like a wraith no matter what she eats) around the subject of food will bring an awareness of her own body that I really don’t want her to have. To not take any action feels like setting her up for failure. I have been struggling with this dilemma for months…

And I’m angry. I’m angry at a world that punishes us for how our bodies look. I’m furious at a culture that believes objectification is okay. And I’m not certain that the average person is aware of how insidious, how prevalent, it is. Let me help put it in perspective:

 

woman object 1woman object 7woman object 5woman object 6woman object 8woman object 11woman object 2woman object 10woman object 9

woman object 3

What do these images convey about women? They are nothing more than the sum of their parts: Breasts, thighs, ass and legs. Because of this they are interchangeable; we don’t even need to show their faces! They are vapid, empty vessels waiting to be filled by men. Merchandise, to be used and displayed as desired. If the female model’s face is even shown, it is often void of expression. Afterall, she is simply an object and objects don’t think or feel. She is a coat rack, a fantasy, an apex of thighs, a valley of breasts, a hole (while the guy fantasizes about his real passion, as exemplified in the ad for the car), a product…not a human being.

As if those ideas weren’t degrading enough to women, there is also the implied violence and oversexualization present in the majority of the photos. A man between a woman’s thighs as other men look on, a man possessively clutching a bare breast with one hand while grasping a woman’s head with the other, text reading “NOW OPEN” above a photo of a woman’s spread legs. The apathy and bared breasts of a model who looks to be barely out of her teens, selling riding pants.

Do we really need to wonder why we live in a culture of violence toward women? These images were a few culled from thousands just like them. The message that women are the sum of their sexual parts, they are objects, they are prized only for their beauty and sexuality…this is the daily message blared at us from magazines, billboards, television and the advertising industry.

Women: Is this what we want for ourselves? For our children? Men: Is this the norm you’d want for your mother/sister/daughter?

How did we get here?

To be continued