For day five of the Blogging “Yes” project, I read the essay “How Do You Fuck a Fat Woman?” by writer and fat acceptance blogger Kate Harding. This is a fantastic essay that I can’t recommend enough about Harding’s own experiences and how narrow beauty standards lead to the appalling suggestion that “rape is a compliment” for fat women, as well as reducing fat women’s own self-worth. I have just a few thoughts to add, particular concerning beauty standards, self-worth, and confidence in a very heteronormative world.
I recently read Ariel Levy’s fabulous Female Chauvinist Pigs for the first time, and highly recommend it. One point that really stuck out for me is that women often subtly put down other women for not dressing in a sexy, revealing manner and in doing so cite lack of self-confidence. Some women who show a lot of skin for whatever reason feel that this not only makes them feel confident or is a product of their confidence, but that others who don’t dress the same way must not be confident, or must be disparaging of their looks. I have no problem with women feeling sexy when they put on a short skirt or a low-cut top, but I do think something’s going on when a woman’s assumption is that this is the only way to show self-confidence. Levy does a great job at pointing out how this kind of argument can be used to draw women towards everything from Girls Gone Wild cameos to unwanted sexual experiences.
Surely, women can hide behind baggy or “unattractive” clothing. I did that a lot as a kid and as a teenager, and in fact I was not self confident. One of the ways I showed my self-confidence and comfort with boys, in turn, was to start dressing “sexier,” to start showing off my breasts and legs. But I eventually found that for me, that clothing actually didn’t really make me feel sexy. It did in a way, but at the same time I was often self-conscious, because I kept having to tug at a strapless bra or make sure my skirt was covering my rear. Those clothes required a lot of effort, and they weren’t comfortable. Now the clothes that make me feel sexy vary – one of my “sexier” outfits is a pair of cargo pants and a very butch black muscle top, while another is a thin v-neck yellow and brown artsy tank with wide straps and a pair of stretchy black gaucho pants. I feel sexy when I’m put together, when my clothes fit well and feel good, and I’m smiling. Sure, other girls may feel the same in clothes that made me uncomfortable, but if anyone pities me and tells me that I need to get some self confidence and dress the part, I’ll laugh. I invite you to join me.