It's all in the magazines

Forgive the radio silence over the past few days (and thank you all the new commenters for dropping by and saying hello!)

I’ve been thinking for a while of doing a post about butch and femme, but it turns out I have more to say than I thought on the subject, so I’d like to ruminate on that for a while.  

Somewhat related, though, is a little sidebar about self-worth and appearance.  Of course we all hear a lot about how the media portrays women as stick thin and gorgeous, how detrimental the narrowing of “acceptable” fashion is to young girls, etc.  All completely true.  But I think it’s interesting as someone who’s an adult and not a fashion follower by any stretch of the imagination to notice how societal norms affect my own body image.

I no longer have a problem with my weight, which is a minor miracle.  Though I’ve always known intellectually that I was healthy and not overweight, I had a lot of trouble with it for a very long time.  These days I find myself relatively happy with my figure, especially when I’m clothed, and at least not freaking out and crying or going on a diet immediately when I’m not. But then the old self-confidence zapper popped up where I least expected it.

I got a haircut yesterday.  I actually am coming to terms with it, as I normally do after a day or so, and though I don’t love the style I’ll live with it until it grows out.  But yesterday, it got worse and worse.  Everytime I looked at the mirror, little doubts crept into my head, until I was imagining just how unattractive and undesireable I looked and had to push back tears.  This is so strange to me, because I don’t value myself on how I look at all.  It’s not that it’s androgynous – I like androgyny!  I think it’s just that I left the realm of conventional beauty and some little inner me was saying “good job, loser.  You’ll never get a date.”  

Of course, that’s how society trains women to view themselves.  Your self worth is measured by your ability to attract others.  I’ve always felt good and better about myself when I felt like others were attracted to me.  The silly thing, though, is that I’m not particularly wound up in love and sex right now.  I’m not on the market for a relationship.  If someone asked me out tomorrow, I might say yes, but if someone said “hey, let’s get serious right away!” I’d run in the other direction.  So why on earth should my self-worth be tied to how likely my current appearance is to get me a date?  Popular culture, really.  I am not amused.

About Avory

Avory Faucette is a queer feminist activist, writer, and public speaker. Zie graduated from the University of Iowa with a JD in 2009, focusing on international human rights and gender/sexuality issues in the law. Hir current work focuses on queer identity, policy, and marginalized identities under the queer umbrella. As a genderqueer person, zie comments frequently on non-binary identity, transgender and genderqueer issues, and media coverage of these populations. Zie also speaks at colleges, universities, and events on transgender and queer issues and conducts trainings on related topics.

Posted on June 11, 2008, in body & size, feminism, pop culture and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. randomtothecore

    yeah true.. i hate to accept such things to myself a lot of times as I identify myself as a feminist but i know how my life many a times is determined by the standard notions which are definitely “MALE”.each time i look in the mirror i wonder if i am looking nice and each time i look at myself from the point of view of a man. “the male gaze”… and where to draw line between looking good and looking attractive? its difficult.every small little thing becomes a battle inside. everytime i want to get my legs waxed, my eyebrows threaded..whats with body hair? why do i need to remove it?i i shut my mind and escape from one of the many existential problems of my life.

  2. spinning jenny

    Ha – “I am not amused.” That’s great. And so true. I get so down on myself about my looks, and THEN down on myself for getting down on myself. How totally ridiculous. I must quit reading “People” magazine IMMEDIATELY.

  3. I have to admit that I feel like I missed the train a bit on this one. You feel unattractive because your haircut “left the realm of conventional beauty” ? Is that the same thing as saying it’s too “butch”?

    I have to say that many people (myself included) would find this more attractive, not less.

    Hoping you are safe and your living situation stable given all the flood in Iowa City.

  4. alesbianandascholar

    randomtothecore- It’s funny, I find the whole study of “the male gaze” and how it permeates our culture fascinating in an academic sense – until it’s negatively affecting me! The body hair thing is a hard thing for me, too, especially because I have PCOS and therefore more than average body hair. I find that being around people who don’t shave and are hair-positive is great for me, though.

    spinningjenny – Haha, I definitely do that! “Why are you mad, self? Stop being mad! This is SO unproductive!” Yeah, I admit, I have a Vanity Fair subscription. I read a good article in it once. *shrugs*

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