I’m aware that this is probably the least beachy setting possible, save for, y’know, a hole in the ground. But as I won’t be going to the beach anytime soon (a miserable confluence of fresh tattoo and 60-degree weather) and I wanted to take advantage of this design while it was fresh in my mind, you’ll just have to ignore the sadly lacking backdrop.
To make up for it, I’m bringing you a little pedagogy with your morning coffee.
I don’t care if you don’t want to see my body, or if my attitude toward it offends you somehow. My body doesn’t exist for you, and I’m actually side-eyeing you pretty hard for even considering that it might. I’m not going to present these photos with some subservient caveat like “it takes a lot for me to post these – hope you enjoy them!” Many women do struggle with body image to the point where exposure becomes taxing. I don’t mean to belittle them and their perspectives, but I abhor the extent to which such long-suffering narratives have become expected. Like you’re not allowed to think you’re hot without couching it in a billion layers of timidity: “it’s okay, I didn’t always think I was hot! and I’m not even sure I think I’m so hot now (please tell me I’m hot)!”
Girls who post bikini photos have to prove they’re “real women”. They have to be Just Like Us. They have to lay bare all their private insecurities and squishy moments of self-doubt lest they be mistaken for arrogant, a “bad role model”, or, Cernunnos forbid, a Slut. Revel in your own flesh a little too much, and suddenly you’re a brazen whore who needs to be taken down a peg. You’d better prove that you don’t really think you’re all that. I’ve always hated the cult of the Real Woman (you know how to be a real woman? Identify as female. There, you’re done.), and I hate it particularly for the way it invites hostility toward anyone who isn’t sufficiently humble, who doesn’t bashfully divert attention from her flaws, as though confidence were finite and one woman’s self-esteem another’s crippling depression.
I understand the root of this, I really do. But I think the process of nudging shy girls out of their shells has created a narrative of its own. The “before and after”. The Everywoman. “Stars: They’re Just Like Us!” I begrudgingly admit that I page through the tabloids in line at Price Chopper. I want to punch something every time I see an interview question like “what’s your biggest body insecurity?” We can’t leave beauty well enough alone: we have to dissect it until we’ve been satisfied that it’s all smoke and mirrors, that any given woman has earned her confidence with enough worship at the altar of self-hate. Would we, as a society, know what to do with a woman who answered “I have none. I’m fucking hot.” It would be goddamn open season: “who does she think she is? She thinks she’s better than the rest of us? How does she expect us to relate to her?”
In the societal quest for “relatability”, we’ve forgotten that women have a right to be related to on their own terms, or maybe not to be related to at all. I don’t want to prove that I am One Of You for my appreciation of my body to be validated. As narratives of women’s bodies go, “gawky caterpillar earns her wings” is not a bad one. But mandating it, imposing any strict vision of how women are supposed to feel about themselves, or about anything, helps exactly no one. All it does is reinforce the notion of female bodies as public property, which I refuse to stand for. “Unapproachable”, “unrelatable”, and “bad role model” are all too often code for “woman who runs her own goddamn life”. Fuck approachability. Did I authorize you to approach me?
Maybe you think you’re a feminist. But if you think a woman, by virtue of her sex, owes the world any public obligation than to be exactly who she chooses to be, then you sure as hell aren’t one in my book.
So I woke up feeling political. Sue me. Except please don’t, because our tort system is frivolous enough already.
*or man. I acknowledge that men are also shamed, often for different and equally complex reasons, and I don’t consider this issue “men vs. women”. It’s more “individuals vs. societal expectations”.
Okay. I’m done complaining. Time to bask in my glitz and glamour.