Last night, I took a loooot of selfies. I got home, undressed, freed myself of my bra and my jeans and threw on a tank top. I walked up to the bathroom mirror, examining myself as I usually do, making faces and posing and all that good stuff.
I think because of how closely I follow plus-sized fatshionistas who seem to perform femininity perfectly I often feel like I’m not feminine enough because I don’t dress impeccably or wear makeup very often. And to be really honest, that has left me feeling not at all attractive or sexy.
I really like the idea of being sexy. I want to be irresistible and in a sense I want to be perfect. I know the latter is impossible, but when you compare yourself to other people, you often convince yourself that they somehow maintain this elusive perfection that you can never touch.
Anyway, as I was examining my face and my body, I decided that I wanted to do a sexy pose. My door is right across from the bathroom mirror so I put my right hand up on the door frame and my left hand on my hip, and leaned into the sexiest pose I could muster. I looked damn good. So good, in fact, that I decided to take some selfies. I propped up my phone on the sink and set the timer, capturing this sexy pose in the doorway. Looking at this picture was transformative. It was important that I see my arms exposed–the chub around my armpits and under my arms curve in an important way, and my hips are angled to accentuate my curves. My pose demonstrated confidence and sexiness; this picture started a wave of selfies in which I wanted to just bask in myself–in my aura and in my body.
Once you start taking selfies, at least for me, it’s hard to stop. I took selfie after selfie, trying to dig deeper into my confidence and sexiness. Another selfie that came out of this is one in which I expose my stomach and grab it playfully. This put my fat stomach on full display as a full part of my sexiness and looking back at the photo–I can see my stomach as an asset to my body, not a hindrance that causes self-consciousness.
Mid-way through this selfie-fest, I looked back at some of the photos I had already taken, and I started to weep. I saw my body positioned and posed in a way–a powerful, assertive, sexy, way–that I never allowed for myself before because my body wasn’t what I wanted it to be (or so I thought). I was sexy. I was irresistible. And it’s important to feel that way.
I’ve come across arguments that fixating on the idea that women deserve to feel beautiful in fact reinforces the idea that physical attractiveness should be important women, and encourages the false idea that there is a certain morality that goes along with beauty.
In her blog post, You Don’t Have to be Pretty – on YA Fiction and Beauty as a Priority, WordPress user thebellejar writes:
“The problem is that a woman’s value in this world is still very much attached to her appearance, and telling her that she should or deserves to feel beautiful does more to promote that than negate it. Telling women that they “deserve” to feel pretty plays right in to the idea that prettiness should be important to them. And having books and movies aimed at young women where every female protagonist turns out to be beautiful (whereas many of the antagonists are described in much less flattering terms) reinforces the message that beauty has some kind of morality attached to it, and that all heroines are somehow pretty. Instead of saying that all women deserve to feel beautiful, can we instead say that all women deserve to feel smart? How about all women deserve to feel respected? Or all women deserve to feel capable? Let’s tell women that they are something, anything, other than pretty. Because seriously, we deserve to be so much more than just pretty.”
I agree with this argument. We need alternatives to “you should feel pretty.” What if people just don’t feel attractive? There shouldn’t be added pressure to find yourself attractive on top of everything else. As an alternative, we need to popularize the idea that self-love is never perfect. Loving yourself isn’t just finding yourself attractive alone. And it’s not finding yourself attractive all of the time. It’s being kind to yourself, being gentle with yourself. It’s recognizing and trying to stop negative thoughts in their tracks. It’s trying to be as kind to your adult self as you would the 9-year-old version of you. Self-love is never perfect, and it is full of bad days.
It’s important to distinguish between feeling attractive and feeling at home. I know that in my everyday reality, I don’t feel at home in my own skin, my own body. I walk around in public dissociating from my own body just to push away the self-consciousness and the paranoia that everyone is staring at me. I still struggle with my body. Not feeling at home with your body can affect every aspect of your life, including the likelihood of you going after what you want—whether it be a job, internship, or just getting out of the bed in the morning. I know that I personally, have put off living my life because I felt that my real life wouldn’t start until I lost weight (as if losing weight will make me magically perfect-looking, anyway). thebellejar is right: we should tell women that they deserve to feel respected and smart rather than pretty. But we also need to change this wording. We need to tell people of genders that you don’t have to feel attractive. We need to tell people that all bodies are good bodies. That by virtue of having a body, you are worthy of love and respect. We need to talk about how feeling at home in your body is of utmost importance as it effects our decisions, relationships, and our positive or negative experience in the world. Feeling at home isn’t just for one gender or another, it’s a universal human experience that everyone needs and deserves.