You Don’t Have to Give It All Away

Colbie Caillat

Colbie Caillat

Some guys think girls flaunt skin to gain power and superiority over men.

But most do it because “hotness” so often measures a woman’s worth. And a girl likes to feel good about herself.

So plenty of young women feel pressed to put on the act, even if it feels awkward and overexposed.

I’ve created a string of thoughts that come from my women students, Colbie Caillat’s “Try” and Ashley Judd’s response to chiding over her “puffy” face:

* * *

An old boyfriend told me that I wasn’t as attractive as other girls. I asked him why he didn’t think so. He said,

I don’t know. You’re always all covered up. Maybe you’d look more attractive in a cocktail dress. You don’t open your clothes and let men in.

I wondered how he’d look if he opened his clothes and let women in?

Be open, be exposed, be vulnerable, bare yourself… And be all about sex.

Get your sexy on

Don’t be shy, girl

Take it off

This is what you want, to belong

So they like you.

Do you like you?

It can feel inauthentic, feeling pressured from friends or society to look sexy.

It can be uncomfortable being gawked at. You can feel like you’re only a sex object – and that’s all, like you’re not worth a lot.

You can feel disrespected. Guys just want one thing. You get used.

Your personality disappears.

You disappear when you starve yourself

Run the extra mile

Keep it slim

So they like you. 

Do they like you?

 

You feel like you’re constantly being judged, and not coming out well.

* * *

We are described and detailed

Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd

our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart

our worth ascertained and ascribed based on

the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification

I do not want to give my power, my self-esteem

or my autonomy

to any person, place, or thing outside myself

The only thing that matters is how I feel about myself

my personal integrity

and my relationship with my Creator

 

* * *

You don’t have to try so hard

You don’t have to give it all away

You don’t have to try so hard

You don’t have to bend until you break

You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up

You don’t have to change a single thing

Take your make up off

Let your hair down

Take a breath

Look into the mirror, at yourself

Don’t you like you?

Cause I like you

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on April 8, 2015, in body image, feminism, objectification, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 52 Comments.

  1. Really like this post ~ introduced me to this great song by Colbie Caillat, much-much truth in those lyrics. I think women would be surprised t the percentage of guys that like a down to earth, zero-makeup look (marketers too…).

    • Cool! Thanks for commenting. It’s good for women to be more aware that there are a lot of guys like you out there.

      • The first time I went on a semi-date with the lady I eventually married (by “semi-date” I mean we had lunch with a mutual friend), some girls came by with enough makeup on to open a clown college. I burst out laughing, then had to explain the source of my amusement. My wife later told me that she liked the fact that I didn’t find the barbie doll look attractive.

        Of course, to my DIScredit, I was indeed judging those girls on their appearance, albeit in reverse of the usual standard. So in retrospect I don’t know that I was any less shallow than the men who were gawking at them. To some extent I still do that: I find the nerd girl look extremely attractive (pale complexion with no makeup, glasses, low-maintenance hair, casual clothes) and tend to assume at first sight that women who look like that are more interesting, intelligent, and creative than women who put a lot of effort into their appearance.

      • Yeah, women can find themselves in a double-blind: damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Thanks for sharing your experience and rethinking it.

  2. Really do like this song…want to play it over & over for my nieces when they get older 🙂
    Again, a great post!

  3. It is not gender attention, georgia, if you like you, others are not far behind…

  4. Fine song, good advice and thoughts!

  5. It’s unfortunate that we have to still call it/be “brave” if one decides to turn away from such expectations- especially if you are a public figure. But that’s what it feels like it requires when someone does go out there and allows themselves to be seen not “in shape” or “aging naturally.” I love that more people are speaking out. I look forward to the day when such acts are no longer brave but the norm.

  6. Really liked the song…much profoundness in the lyrics. A great, thought-provoking post, Georgia..as always… 🙂

  7. Thanks for sharing the good music and thanks for bringing that up since the summer is coming and I see specially girls are going crazy to get the “perfect” body. I mean, nothing against summer, but why put so much pressure to impress people who wont even notice? and if they did, it wont last for so long. I personally used to think that I dont get into these kinds of competitions because I have low self esteem, and then figured out that I am actually better off lol 🙂

  8. Nice post. One must be “what they are” and not to be pretending to please someone else.

  9. Great post! You are so right about keeping some features private, not only physically but emotionally. I suppose it takes longer for some women to realise this secret; as they need to improve their self-esteem, and that sure doesn’t happen overnight.

    • I think the key is how comfortable a woman feels. And a lot of women feel like they are expected to give it all way, whether it is staying super slim or whether it is revealing “everything” when they would rather not. Other women may be totally into “flaunting it” as they say.

  10. This is a meaningful song, which reflects on how the media has caused a change in women’s definition of “slim”. Most of my girl friends including my sister would always complain about how they are not slim enough even though their friends have repeatedly told them that they look far from fat. Also, how putting on make up will make them look more beautiful. Which is not true, because some girls would actually look better without them. Therefore I am glad that more and more people are trying to help fix this problem.

  11. Stephanie Arevalo

    I really enjoyed this post. Now a days I feel that it is so common for girls and guys to have some sort of an eating disorder because they are trying to fit in to what they think people and society think is beautiful. At that moment they are just so caught up with having people like them, and have them think that they are handsome, good looking, pretty, and or sexy even if it means hurting yourself in the process. I also really like the song by Colbie Caillat because not only is it a catchy song, but I really like the meaning behind it, and I personally think that it is true. Why try so hard to have others like you when in the end you are the one who is not happy. That is what I personally think really matters because the other people are only going to be with you for a certain amount of time but you have to be around yourself all that time, and if you are not happy with who you are or how you look and just have that confidence in yourself then it is not worth it and you are just hurting yourself.

  12. Vedant Agrawal

    I do not think that it is necessary for a woman to show her body to be attractive. This seems be a social construct. Women have been sexualized by the male-centric media and I find this to be a great tragedy. The women I find myself most attracted to are usually simply dressed and do not use makeup. I actually think that a woman must be allowed to be comfortable in her skin. Whether she chooses to dress in more or less revealing clothes, what is important is that she makes the choice and is comfortable with it. Not only men should be allowed this choice.

    Although I must say that both partners in a relationship should be at least open to consider what the other likes and once in a while look to please their partner. There are several times that my ex girlfriend asked me to dress a certain way because it “showed off” something she liked about me. It’s ok to do it every once in a while as long as it applies to both partners in a relationship and does not look to change who they are.

  13. I found this post really interesting, because I was already aware of Colbie Callait’s song but I wasn’t aware of Ashley Judd’s statement. I find it really interesting how women are automatically perceived as sex objects when they wear something that shows a little skin. I think this is because society is constantly exploiting women’s sexuality. Women are always sexualized in the media and I think society learns from that. A woman’s self worth isn’t dependent upon her looks or how sexy she is. However, as a society we have put that at the top of the list. Nowadays, the biggest insult you can call a woman is probably “ugly” or “fat” because as a society we put so much emphasis on beauty.

  14. I find this song by Colbie Caillait to be quite powerful. It conveys the pressures placed on women to focus on their physical appearance above everything else. I found myself relating this song to my own high school experience where superficial things were so important to fitting in and being noticed. I know that in high school I often had the prevailing thought that more makeup or a “hotter bod” would make me more interesting to people, but also that it would make me like myself better. However, at the end of the day when I took “my makeup off and “let my hair down,” I was forced to ask myself why I was making the effort in the first place. I think oftentimes the source of insecurity for many young women is found in the fact that societal messages are so conflicting in their implications. On one hand, women must “get their sexy on” and “not be shy,” but on the other hand they are bombarded with messages to not be “sluts” and to refrain from speaking their minds. Hopefully, as a society, we can progress to a place where young people don’t feel their self worth rests solely on physical appearances.

  15. This is wonderful. I like the the lyrics of the song ‘Try’ and Ashley Judd’s choice of words too. I think when we respect our bodies then we demand respect from others.

  16. Well things are changing or slowly progressing I think. Plus size model, Ashley Graham, who is quite sexy by the way. I saw and interview from her, and I like that she has the personality and inner beauty to match outer beauty and has a sexiness with her vibe and personality with physical features that makes her sexy, Anyway, slowly but surely, more thicker and plus size women are slowly being shown in the media too along the thin models. I don’t think they should stop showing the small women and can keep doing that, because there are naturally skinny women too and you want skinny women to feel they are sexy too. The key is variety and showing women maybe without makeup, plus sized or thicker and variety of looks and sizes to show real women and how real women are sexy in their different shapes and sizes. Sure Victoria’s secret will always probably have the small supermodels, but that’s fine as long as variety begins to come with that with other media outlets and ads, etc.

    • What’s considered attractive/Sexy varies a lot from place to place. So there’s no reason that a variety of body types couldn’t be appreciated. Hopefully that will happen more.

  17. Christine Cortez

    The song reminds women and younger girls that you have to love who you are and accept yourself before anyone else can. This song reminds me of being 14 and trying so hard to be liked when I didn’t accept myself. I remember being in my freshman year of high school and wearing more makeup than the other girls. I use to wear more blush and colored lipstick because I was on the cheerleading team and I just wanted to fit in with all the other girls. Being a freshman in high school can be intimidating. I use to wear a lot of makeup to feel confident and to also feel as if I fit in and that I wasn’t just another freshman who didn’t know anything. My ex-boyfriend at the time was on the football team and was older, but he would laugh and ask why did I wear so much makeup. I remember one day he and his friend told me to go into the bathroom and to take off all my makeup and I wasn’t allowed out until I did. Once I came out of the bathroom he told me I was beautiful and I didn’t need to be made up for girls to like me. He was the one who taught me that I just needed to be myself and people will like me once I accepted who I was.

  18. Colby is right! You don’t have to try, right? Well, She is not saying ‘You can’t wear make-up!’ She’s saying simply be you. If you do wear make-up, wear it because you want to not because you feel like you have to. That being said, to all whom do wear make-up… Just know that you are just as gorgeous without it. There are many reasons people put in the extra effort in the morning. Weather its to please your partner, society or because it makes you feel better about yourself. If you’re in a healthy relationship, your partner will love you just the way god made you. It feels like a breath of fresh air when you realize that someone loves you just the way you are. Maybe we should be more comfortable in our own skin in the mean time and not try to suffer trying to fit into a smaller size jeans and spend hours in front of the mirror putting on make-up because you want to attract a mate. You may end up attracting the wrong person. Put your best foot forward but also put your most honest self forward as well so you are attracting someone who sees you at your best even before the make-up comes on. The song is touching and beautiful. Inspiring in every way! Personally, I love wearing makeup and dressing up! It makes me feel good and brings my confidence up 1000%

  19. My daughter is a local chef. She has a TV show where she cooks. She had a baby in 2013 and a lot of fans told her she’d gotten heavy. She quit filming for a period until she lost most of the baby weight. Things like that bother her. In today’s world women are expected to always look slim. They don’t understand her like I do though. As a child she was teased and overcame bulimia and anorexia. She was a twig at one point and had to be placed on an IV due to how sick she became. She dresses sexy and she is expected to for her show. She is always paranoid of any flaw from her eyebrows, her nose, any fat anyplace, etc… Women have too many expectations these days to look a certain way and have a certain breast size. As a young women I used to be a go-go dancer. I had a hard time keeping weight (we were weighed) and I was also a trophy girl at the race track. Even in the 1970’s and 80’s we had body expectations for women but plastic surgery and rail thin models in the 70’s especially, weren’t as common. I think American media has a lot of pressure on women. Take Emeril or Guy Ferrari. Heavy chefs, older, balding but still they have a TV show. Women who aren’t thin and beautiful have no place on TV like men do. It is a double standard.

  20. I love this post and this song! I never really noticed when I was little how much of an impact watching the girls in movies/T.V. shows that had caked on makeup and what our modern day society calls a “perfect body” could make on young children. I’m a nanny for three girls and the eldest one is trying to find out who she is. This is her first year in middle school and she told me she needed to wear makeup to feel pretty just like the other girls at her school. I explained to her that you shouldn’t have to try so hard to fit in and that she would make the right friends just by being herself. This made me really think, this little girl is gorgeous inside and out and it is because of our society that these young girls feel like they have to look a certain way to be perceived as pretty when it really matters about how you feel on the inside. Inner confidence is beautiful!

  21. Being a girl I feel like we are expected to look a certain way, which I really don’t like. I feel like we should be able to look the way we want too and be who they want to be. Not be someone that everyone expects them to be. The song Try by Colbie Caillat is the perfect song that will get you thinking if you are doing things for yourself or others. It is definitely a song I would play for younger girls to get them thinking about themselves and what they want to be or the way they want to look.

  22. I think body image is extremely important. I wish more artists wrote songs about straying from this social construct of what the perfect woman should be. I don’t think young girls actually understand this concept until someone in the media pushes back against the boundaries which I think Colbie Calliat definitely accomplishes with this song. I remember the first time I asked my mom to buy makeup for me. I was probably in the 3rd grade and I am so grateful that she stuck to her ground and waited until I was in 8th grade. I think more mothers should try to empower their daughters by standing against who the media believes their little girls should turn into in the future. Ultimately, it should be up to them. As an African American, hair is considered a huge part of our culture, whether it’s worn straight, curly, braided, (the list goes on). When I was in 5th grade, the media told me that straight hair was what was considered beautiful. Or not even straight hair, hair that could blow in the wind. I chemically altered my hair so that my hair could “flow” and “blow in the wind”. And due to the chemical stress on my hair, it eventually broke off. It wasn’t until I heard India Arie’s song, I Am Not My Hair that I understood that your hair doesn’t define who you are, and to go against the grain of what society believes you should look like.

  23. I personally think that Colbie Caillat’s “Try” can be seen as a act of feminist. In her MV she often sings: “you do not have to try so hard, you do not have to give it away, you just have to get up, get up, get up, you do not have to change single thing”. I don’t think it is not just on the surface meaning to cater to others, but also expressed the awakening of female consciousness.
    Although the lyrics sung to encourage women remove makeup, no longer pretend to be someone else like, rather than the real you. But men, please ask yourself, you will never worry about, when you landed in front of camouflage, not try hard, revealing the real yourself, do they like you?
    Hermione in the speech about women’s rights issues, let me special identity, finally realizes the feminist movement not only is the liberation of women, is also about men’s liberation; Gender discrimination, not only limits the women’s life, also deprived of many of the men’s life

  24. In today’s society, it seems that many people don’t live for themselves; most people care about others’ opinion and change themselves according to others’ views. However, people should stop and think whether why they do so for others and whether they feel really happy when doing so. The lyrics of the song that Colbie Caillat once sang is “Do you like you”. Especially some men have some excessive demands for women. Some men complain that girls are not thin enough and sexy. I wonder whether they have strong and robust abdominal muscle; if not, they have no right to require women. Try to recall the women in the past, for example, Coco Chanel was the first designer to do trousers for girls; she didn’t care about the conventional view at that time and she made the trousers since she wanted to wear them. Actually, now, girls also can do like this, do what they like and follow their own eyes. We are ourselves and do not belong to anyone else.

  25. Torena Joseph

    I really enjoyed reading this blog. It puts a lot of things into perspective and is a good way to show young women and those going through these kinds of things that you should not have to flaunt your body for others in order to be excepted. I think this song was PERFECT. We need songs like this to encourage our young girls, and what better way to get a message across than through a song.

    I think T.V and the media have a huge impact on people these days on how women should look and what attracts men. What a lot of people today lack, is the understanding that your looks do not lead you on a clear path to success. Having/getting an education, having morals, respect, and being conscious and aware that you are beautiful inside and out is what is most important.

    I think in this world we need more positive role models that come in all sizes, ages, and a more average look, instead of looking at the television and seeing “the Kim Kardashian’s” and all these other “reality t.v shows” that produce such negative out looks on people and “whats in”. Maybe if a lot of these famous people set up a plan to be televised with no makeup for a week and expressed that its not about the clothes on your back and and what attracts men and promoted a more everyday look and showed their flaws then young women today wouldn’t feel the need to live up to a certain standard to receive attention. Just my thought. If t.v and these famous people are what our young women and men of today are looking up to, then lets use that power to promote good and not just something for entertainment. Maybe somethings more real. Take a challenge, real life challenge to do maybe something like that. I also believe we as parents need to express to our children that they are all beautiful and that its whats inside that matters. They need to understand that they don’t have to live up to anyone’s standards other than their own. This goes for young men in today’s world as well.

  26. I found this topic to be very interesting, and glad to share my opinion on it. I personally have always found women who cover themselves up more attractive than women who doesn’t. What I mean is that I am I guess kind of old fashioned, and prefer a women not to expose herself too much. I’m just fine with my woman having a beautiful face and a nice set of teeth. I also do not understand why the media tell woman, you have to do this to feel sexy or you have to be this size or do this just to look and be beautiful. Every individual is unique and I hope one day that all women understand that. I would take a woman with no makeup and has some minor flaws than women, who just drown themselves in makeup. I also feel that woman however should have the right to do and wear whatever they want, if it makes them feel good about themselves.

  27. I really hate how women think they have to be a certain way in order to be accepted. Looks are always going to be a big thing because everyone wants to be attractive, they want to be wanted by the opposite sex, but I feel that some women try to hard, to hard that they end up looking ugly. Media brings this image to peoples minds that this is what you have to look like and dress like in order to be perfect. Dozens of women flock to these lies and spend hundreds of dollars or more to change their looks and fit in with the crowd. It works for some people and other people not so much. The ones that were already insecure to begin with, you can tell they’re still not comfortable in their own skin after all these changes are made, they still lack confidence and it shows. There are those who succeed in getting the looks down yet still aren’t happy on the inside because they know deep down that its still not fulfilling them in a way they want to be. Media portrays that you can have this perfect life yet they don’t necessarily show you the struggles to get there. There are those people too, who post only the good stuff that goes on in their life, yet not the daily mess that they probably deal with. I don’t understand why people can’t just be real to themselves and to others. I think it would be more attractive to see the real side of people and how they conquer something to show the strong, independent side of them even at their weakest points in life.
    Women do this for men, and maybe for other reasons unknown, but what are they really doing for themselves? From the many men that I know, I found that men are more attractive to women who are true to themselves, and that means not following the latest fashion trend, or loading their face with tons of makeup. Cause in the end, when the day is over and when everything has to come off, they’ll eventually will have to show the real, raw, uncut side of themselves.
    Speaking of, I have this friend who has the worse dark circles under her eyes and she would cake on her makeup just to look presentable during the day. She started dating this guy and she was so insecure of her bags that for months she would sleep with her makeup on and would never show him what she looked like without makeup. It was crazy. In the end, she finally had to wash her face and reveal her true self, but honestly too much work and he ended up loving her with dark circles and all. Women need to realize that sometimes it’s really not that worth it to give it all away. They need to be taught that you don’t have to dress this way, or talk this way, or even act a certain way.

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