One of my closest friends is a fashion stylist. She chooses outfits, hair, makeup, and general looks or moods for photoshoots for natural makeup companies and independent designers. I have modelled for her in the past even though I am not a model and don’t look like a magazine model. I also model for my own Etsy store, selling vintage clothing. My friend has had eating disorders since puberty and I have not. I feel that her eating disorders are a sign of privilege and she feels that my “poverty genes” and post thyroid cancer synthetic metabolism are a sign of privilege. The arguments are frequent and comical.
I feel that it would be insulting to her profession and life’s path to say that her involvement with fashion feeds her disorder, so I often try to tell her eating disorders are a result of a sexist, competitive capitalism, a first world problem, and that if she stops aestheticizng the super young and super thin, wheat colored waify girls with vacant expressions, she won’t hold herself up for comparison to them. I tell her to keep her job but change her aesthetic, make it weirder, and I tell her she’s a misogynist. Then I go on like a hypocrite and smooth out my hair, put makeup on, and have my boyfriend shoot photos of me for Etsy, to make money. And I do make money. But recently, editing and cropping photos of myself, I feel like I look OOLLDD. So I call my friend and ask her for a disorder that will make me less old, less short, less frizzy, less dark, less tired. And there isn’t one. I’m really not sure what I’m aestheticising, but even though I’m perfectly happy with my weight I still feel the need to critically tear apart whatever I can about my own image, down to my assymetrical smile or uneven hair texture or slightly more almond shaped right eye than left one. Little little minute stupid details. All while knowing that I’m making this image public by my own free will, by my need to pay the bills and put gas in my car to get to school. Because those waify wheat colored girls are out there, and my tiny little capitalist enterprise is knowingly in competition with them, and growing up in the 80s and 90s, between Debbie Gibson and Kate Moss, I never felt that my features were pure or innocent, only exotic and “olive olive olive”, and now getting older.
Can a woman be this self-critical and also be a feminist?