A dear friend of mine recently wrote a column on a love/advice blog. His general theme was how women blame men for placing unrealistic expectations on them so that they are struggling the rest of their lives to appear young and perfect whilst men are allowed to become paunchy, grey and bald as part of the normal aging process. His consensus was that we give men too much credit. That men aren’t intelligent enough to mastermind such a skillful plan and although they are happy to encourage such “ongoing maintenance”, are not the perpetrators of pristine. He goes on to name women as the ones who place unrealistic expectations on themselves; through a competitiveness of spirit. So ladies, what do you think? Are we fighting a losing battle against ourselves?
I of course disagree with some of Kev’s article. I think men do place a lot of importance on looks. Almost all the women with serious body issues I know were told by a male figure in their young lives that there was something wrong with their physicality. My biological father told me when I was young that I was “fat” and would never get a boyfriend until I lost weight. Another friend of mine had a male family member tell her that she had “fat legs”. We’ve carried these emotional weights with us throughout the entirety of our lives and believe me, they weigh in a lot heavier than what it tells me on the scale. While it’s not the fault of the whole of the male race…I’m sorry boys but I don’t think we can totally exonerate you.
I do agree with Kev that women are competitive. REALLLY competitive at times. No one has ever been harder on me than I’ve been on myself, and I’ve rarely seen a man be CRUEL in the same way I see women be to one another on a daily basis, myself included. Why do we feel the need to do this? Why must we constantly critique the style and body type of other women? I can only speak for myself here and say that I do it because I feel inadequate. I feel some weird sense of guilt that I’m not doing more to make myself look perfect. When I see someone truly lovey, I feel the need to pick at something. It’s a type of feminine psychosis really.
In another way, I feel that we’re just continuing a trend that been going on since the beginning of civilised society. Women as the so-called weaker sex, have been expected to conform throughout history to be the embodiment of whatever trend was meant to personify femininity at that particular time. It’s all very political. What about bound feet? This was considered extremely erotic in the Qing dynasty…but beyond eroticism it limited a woman’s mobility and cause her to be dependent on her family for the rest of her life. In the 1800’s it was whalebone corsets, causing some women to actually have ribs removed in order to cinch their waists a bit tighter. All this in order to compete for a more desirable husband. Today it’s liposuction, breast implants and plastic surgery. We no longer need someone else to take care of us, so why do we still allow ourselves to compete for an ideal that is unattainable?
Because beneath the surface of our society, the perception of physical attractiveness still has a hand in dictating our place in it. I think sometimes people forget that women had to fight for that place (relatively recently I might add), that we’re still fighting. We’ve allowed society to sell us a fantasy that says if we look a certain way that our lives will be fulfilled; while we totally ignore the problems that exist beneath our skin. We’re depicted in the media as sex-objects; yet expected to be chaste according to our religion. We’ve got a lot of issues, and rightly so. Perhaps we could all take a lesson from the following anonymous declaration of self-esteem….
I am me.
In all the world, there is no one else exactly like me. There are persons who have some parts like me, but no one adds up exactly like me. Therefore, everything that comes out of me is authentically mine because I alone chose it.
I own everything about me – my body, including everything it does; my mind, including all its thoughts and ideas; my eyes, including the images of all they behold; my feelings, whatever they may be – anger, joy, frustration, love, disappointment, excitement; my mouth, and all the words that come out of it, polite, sweet or rough, correct or incorrect; my voice, loud or soft; and all my actions, whether they be to others or to myself.
I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears.
I own all my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes.
Because I own all of me, I can become intimately acquainted with me. By so doing I can love me and be friendly with me in all my parts. I can then make it possible for all of me to work in my best interests.
I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me, and other aspects that I do not know. But as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously and hopefully look for the solutions to the puzzles and for ways to find out more about me.
However I look and sound, whatever I say and do, and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is me. This is authentic and represents where I am at that moment in time.
When I review later how I looked and sounded, what I said and did, and how I thought and felt, some parts may turn out to be unfitting. I can discard that which is unfitting, and keep that which proved fitting, and invent something new for that which discarded.
I can see, hear, feel, think, say, and do. I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive, and to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me.
I own me, and therefore I can engineer me.
I am me and I am okay.