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.
Ashley Judd’s face looked puffy in the promo for her new TV series, Missing. Big deal. She’s aged since I last saw her, and maybe she’s gained a little weight.
And then the furor. Everyone talking about Ashley’s face.
So she responded in the Daily Beast. A few lines:
The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at us, and used to define and control us. The Conversation about women happens everywhere, publicly and privately. We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification. Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted. The assault on our body image, the hypersexualization of girls and women and subsequent degradation of our sexuality as we walk through the decades, and the general incessant objectification is what this conversation allegedly about my face is really about.
The lines linger, waiting to be soaked up.
We are described and detailed
our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart
our worth ascertained and ascribed based on
the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification
The body detailed and critiqued, diminished and demeaned. An emotional trashing. Cut up, dissected. It feels like a killing. No wonder we are body-obsessed, declare nourishment the enemy and become terrified of aging.
With our bodies spotlighted the rest of us vanishes.
Our voices, our personhood, our potential
and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted
The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us
We become nothing but our “defective” parts.
And we can say nothing as the conversation bubbles everywhere, outside ourselves, removing our power to name and control.
But Judd doesn’t leave us, or herself, hanging in hopelessness. What is deemed good and bad are equally fanciful interpretations, she says, and so she has chosen to abstain from all outside judgments about herself and her body.
We are social animals. Our identities are keenly influenced by how others see us, and more so when those visions act in concert. When many see us a certain way, the agreement brings objectivity, while our solitary thoughts seem merely subjective.
But the declarations are not absolute. Especially when we discern shallowness and falsity. We may choose otherwise:
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
“It is ultimately about conversations women will either choose to have or choose not to have,” says NPR’s Linda Holmes.
Let’s have some new conversations.
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