Welcome back for round two of The Bitchin’ Table, where two of your favorite Shout Out authors bring it to the Bitchin’ Table for some always interesting discussion. On this week’s edition beauty standards have us Bitchin’, and you won’t like us when we’re Bitchin’. (Or hopefully you will.) We’re going to throw down on beauty standards and what it means to be a real (beautiful) woman.
KillerTofu: Well if it isn’t Katie O., I see someone finally decided to shave her legs.
Katie O.: Yes, well, I realized that my hariness was diminishing my worth as a person, so I figured I might as well shave myself back into submission. You know, no one finds unshaven legs sexy.
KillerTofu: True story, they’re about as appealing as a uni-brow. LOL. What’s with all of this unfeminine body hair… didn’t nature get the memo?
Katie O.: well, I think Mother Nature is part of the problem. I bet she doesn’t pluck, shave, or wax either. if only she were a man…
KillerTofu: Totally. She’s probably a hairy legged women’s lib kind of gal… ick.
KillerTofu: Check this out; I got one for my sister. For you know… her gross legs.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epilator It’s called an epilator.
Katie O.: Wow! Not only is that effective, apparently it also luxuriously massages. so, you know, while you’re conforming to societal norms, you also get a nice tingle. Unless you go for the E med Laser service, which is way more up-to-date really.
KillerTofu: I think the massage is more to ease the searing pain of having strands of your leg and arm hair pulled out, but that’s just a guess. LOL. I love social norms. Anyway I can contort my body to fit an increasingly narrow standard of beauty is okay by me.
KillerTofu: Seriously though, thinking about how male gaze affects the way women treat their bodies is baffling.
Katie O.: Agreed… and we really do end up internalizing it. Like, if I feel like I haven’t been leered at in a completely violating way, I feel like I have done something wrong.
KillerTofu: Same, you were there for the talk we had at Sister Speak about street harassment. It’s like we’re set up to fail. If you don’t fit a beauty standard you’re called a lesbian or a man, but if you do you get this constant harrassment from men.
Katie O.: And there is no way for us to win. I hate being street harassed, but if someone doesn’t honk at me, I worry that I’m just not hot enough right now, and then what am I worth? We’re seriously trapped within these norms, and how we appeal to men.
KillerTofu: Agreed. It’s like choosing the lesser of two evils. Beauty norms are so pervasive though it took me a long time to figure out that all of that doesn’t really make a person more attractive. Plucking, waxing, dieting, etc. etc.
Katie O.: Totally. Not to mention, a feminist once said “the easiest way to control someone is by controlling their body,” referring to abortion. But the same thing can be said about the male gaze — their desires and standards are what drive me to spend a bajillion dollars on makeup and skin care and shit.
KillerTofu: It’s true, and ultimately, not to be a sap or anything, but we’re trained to think so few people are beautiful. It took me a while to figure out how to widen that lens. Margaret Atwood made an interesting point about all of this. She wrote a book detailing the end of the world called Oryx and Crake, and in the book a sort of mad scientist creates this race of perfect humans.
KillerTofu: They’re noncompetitive, but most strikingly they’re physically flawless. The main character is supposed to be the last human on earth, and he notes that they’re actually unattractive. One of the realizations he has is that flaws are what make humans attractive, that the idea of having sex with this flawless being was repulsive. It’s really interesting. The idea that if we were confronted with perfect people we wouldn’t know what to do.
Katie O.: part of it is the way we build people up– I may think that Emily Blunt is stunning, but she is stunning because of her unique features, and ultimately, she is a human being which is what makes her alluring to begin with. And she’s not totally perfect or flawless, because, like you said, that would be kind of scary and weird
KillerTofu: Exactly, I think that’s a very feminist/humanist statement about beauty. Though it’s an active process you can change the way you think about beauty, broaden that scope if you will.
Katie O.: On another note, you know what really really really bugs me in discussions of beauty standards?
Katie O.: When people try and analyze the negative aspects of beauty standards and talk about “real women” and what constitutes a “real woman” which is often something like “real women have curves” and so on… it’s like, THIS IS NOT HELPING, you are just narrowing the scope of what is beautiful in a different way
Katie O.: Like, if a woman is thin, or flat chested, she is not a real woman?
KillerTofu: EXACTLY. I HAVE THAT SAME PROBLEM.
Katie O.: IT DRIVES ME INSANE, KILLERTOFU. INSANE.
Plus, physical discussion of what constitutes a real woman is REALLY heterosexist and transphobic
KillerTofu: Precisely, it generally also focuses on a very narrow standard of beauty that ultimately excludes people. People of different sizes or gender expressions.
Katie O.: and it’s (sometimes) feminists saying it, which just makes me want to bang my head against a wall
KillerTofu: Absolutely, so we end up marginalizing the people we were supposed to be trying to liberate.
Katie O.: Exactly! You can’t fit someone in the concrete category of real woman or fake woman or whatever.
Katie O: Why don’t we say, if a woman considers herself/zirself to be a woman, then they’re a real woman. Plain and simple. Shape and size and physical sex DOES NOT dictate who is real and who is not.