July 1, 2011

when i was just a little girl, i asked my mother, what will i be?

I hate to be someone who apologizes for not updating their blog, but I do regret not updating as much lately because I have lots to say! Lots of ~inspiration and ideas! All this energy is going into my room, which for about three years has looked like this. And that is probably the one and only trait I do not want to share with Leslie Knope.
"


Tee, gift from Sophomore. Soft cardigan with girl scout patch from Troop Moore on ebay. Miu Miu skirt. Random headband and tights. Backpack I've used since I was 4.

I took this picture a couple months ago, going for some Heathers/Twin Peaks vibes, but started thinking too much about how I look in it and avoided posting it for a while. I wasn't insecure, quite the opposite -- I didn't want to post this photo because I look good in it. And, as someone whose "thing" for so long has been "Challenge beauty standards! Screw convention! Look like a grandmother on ecstasy at Fashion Week!", that somehow felt hypocritical.

First, let's talk about beauty privilege real quick, just so we're all clear and so I don't sound like a jerk:

When I say good or pretty or attractive, I mean by the standards that dictate our society, which usually start with being thin and white. I'm not saying I always like how I look, and you may look at the picture above and be like "what are you talking about you resemble an opossum," but through the very narrow lens of mainstream media, pop culture, etc., I possess some beauty privilege.

People who are conventionally attractive have the privilege of going through life knowing their appearance will usually not act as a barrier in accomplishing what they want to accomplish. Of course, this is a general statement, but typically, Pretty Woman does not have to worry about missing out on opportunities because of her appearance. (Pretty Woman also gets Richard Gere.) So when some people have to live with being judged based on appearance as well as or instead of merit, it would be really annoying for someone who doesn't have to worry about that as much to try to say she deals with the same thing. It's not bragging to acknowledge your own privilege, and pointing out that you meet certain society-dictated standards does not have to mean you agree with them. I strongly recommend this article for a better understanding of beauty privilege.

(Educational tone over.)

The general voice of my blog has been very much against the idea of those (or, in a way, any) standards for a long time, maybe not in so many words, but definitely in sprit. I once relished in an email I got saying I was an ugly boy because it felt like proof that I hadn't given in to societal pressure to be pretty that girls usually feel affected by. I got all self reflecty on Tumblr about creating my own ideas of beauty. I wrote simply during September's No Makeup Week that I never felt the urge to wear any. I used to dress much more frumpily and goofily, on here and in public real life. Which was great, and I loved it. But, as is the point of this blog, my style has changed a bit.

I would be lying to say it ends at simply wanting to try a different aesthetic of dressing, though. With one's freshman year of high school comes a new batch of insecurities and a new kind of self-awareness. Except...I would be lying to say it ends there, too, because I know I'm smarter than that, and I know I have a good bullshit filter when it comes to conformity pressure in high school and women's magazines and men's magazines and industries that thrive on their female demographics' insecurities.

Before I got contacts in March, I just never really counted myself in the general pool of people who might be considered attractive. I wasn't insecure about how I looked, I just made peace with the fact that I wasn't, to me, an attractive person, and decided to milk my charming personality instead. The glasses were an easy way to isolate myself from even having to consider keeping up some kind of face. Then I slowly came to feel that, well, maybe I did want my face to be visible. Maybe I liked my face. Is that not okay?
"To force some forever identity on other people is stupid. Point out inconsistencies in their behavior, explain how they are not 'truly what they say' because you saw them 'do this' one time...why? Because it's easier to deal with cardboard cutouts than real people." -Kathleen Hanna
She has a point! And while confining people into caricatures is extremely convenient, it can just be a way to simplify issues that are fairly complicated into something black and white. In an ideal world, I could be a 15 year old girl with a certain amount of public attention and crushes at school who wouldn't want all these things. Right now, I could pretend to be an archetype of a feminist superhero and say I never want to be a conventionally attractive person. But, while I have so much respect for the people who can say that truthfully, I'm not there yet. I think it would be, in my case, much more effective to be honest and willing to have this conversation instead of signing myself to a stereotype I can't fit. I admit to the basic human desire to be attractive. That's certainly not all I want to be, and I'm not bending over backwards every morning for it, but it's there.

I don't know if I'm trying to justify this to readers of this blog or to myself. I do know I'm uncomfortable pretending, on a blog that is, on a certain level, about appearance, and my personal ~journey~ with it, that I can keep up with a set of principles developed when I was younger and different and 12 years old. But I mentioned earlier my bullshit filter, and I think it's that awareness that makes it easy for me to know that my new almost-daily makeup routine and glassesslessness and etc. are for myself and no one else.

But even if I have my own reasons for doing so, I still can't help but feel a little uneasy about playing their game.

239 comments:

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Piglet said...

tavi, you look gorgeous. there's no shame in that! it took me a long time to come to terms with the idea that i'm a 3.5th-wave feminist AND a woman who's hopelessly fascinated with all things fashion and cosmetics. Makeup and hair and clothes are all interesting and fun mediums for self-expression. Hope you're enjoying exploring them and thinking about how important (or unimportant) they are to you.

lost in the ether said...

tavi.your blog is one of the most inspiring ones i follow.you express exactly how i feel about being pretty and having your own identity.plus, you really are pretty in a unique way which i really like a lot!

The Eye Behind the Detail said...

I just have to say that this is one of the most insightful things I have read in a long time, that includes the material in my Master classes. I don't believe that most people have such a clear awareness of themselves and where they stand in their belief systems. Brilliant quote, by the way and even more, brilliant outfit. So cute.

Kristen said...

It would be one thing to blindly take part in convention but you self-reflect. Plus, I think it would be easy to argue that make up can function as an accessory to complement whatever you may be wearing.

Rackk and Ruin said...

All I can say is that it seems you have a good head on your shoulders. If in the next few years you end up skyrocketing to 5'10 and with "supermodel" good looks, i have a good feeling you won't end up deciding to slide through life because of them. It seems you are starting to experience a little bit of "beauty guilt," which often goes hand in hand with "beauty privilege." Great post Tavi.

Rich Hippie said...

I'd been petrified to actually leave a comment on your blog because your simply amazing and anything I wrote would simply be beneath you.

I'm 21 and I'm still insecure about myself.
I love the way I am, the way I talk how I know exactly who I want to be.
But my insecurity comes from stepping out into the real world and being judged.
I will admit I spend to much time inside my own head and my mouth shut. Why? Well it's the only place I'm comfortable in so when I step out no matter how much my friends go "oh lady your so funny" or oh lady your so weird but I still love you..." I just wished the funny and weird could be left out and that they could take me being me serious.....and not just a faze.

It kind of pisses me of because it's gotten to the point where being me means excluding myself from the majority of people out there and avoiding being me...in order to be out there. Somedays I feel like I just want to step out without someone acting weird around me.
As I put on my mask and thread into the realm of the so-called-real....I dismiss everything that's me, knowing that every smile, every hello, every hug.....and every "I love you" was never directed at me.

I don't want to be beautiful and taken for granted but I don't want to be ugly and taken advantage of
My only chance of ever finding through connection with that other is to hopefully find someone that can see through my mask, and still love what they see.

I'm glad you blossomed Tavistock, but we all knew you you'd mature into a beautiful tulip(I don't like roses haha)

AimsterSkitz0rz said...

I was right about the Kathleen hannah quote you posted. I put it on my tumblr yesterday 23 hours ago now there is 300 notes under it. It's a great quote and sums up what many people are thinking but haven't found a way to articulate. :)

http://aimsterskitz0rz.tumblr.com/post/7428853914/to-force-some-forever-identity-on-other-people-is

26af639a-ab58-11e0-b759-000bcdca4d7a said...

Let me just start by saying that I admire your willingness to share what I’m sure are very personal thoughts with the thousands of people who read your blog. It must be great to have a place where you can verbalize your feelings and receive endless praise for your typical, angsty, teenage musings. I read this post and its comments several times over and afterward I cannot help but feel the irresistible urge to vomit at all this bullshit. YES, you are pretty. And YES, you are cool. AND SURE, you’re pretty famous. Yeah, we fucking get it.
Feminism should not about being ugly. It should be about being whomever you want to be regardless of your gender.
And beauty is not about being white. Who, besides most racists in the world, ever suggested that a black woman cannot be drop-dead gorgeous? Or a Latina? Or an Asian woman?
People do not necessarily have full control over their appearance. Chances are, if you have an intensely ugly face, you were probably born with it.
And most importantly, you are not some sort of wunderkind for having original thoughts. Everyone has them. Get over yourself.
Were I on any other person’s blog, I would probably feel badly for posting something so harsh, but luckily for me, I don’t have to worry about deflating your ego because every word you type on this blog is dripping with narcissism. Although, since I’m normally a nice person, I’ll just leave you with one last compliment: You are unconventionally pretty for such an ugly boy. Boy it feels good to have an honest discussion! Peace out, Tavi.

C said...

As someone who has been reading your blog for a long time now I admire how you've always stayed true to yourself. Writing this self-reflection is incredibly conscientious on your part, of both the perception others have of you but also an examination of your own reasoning. When I was younger, around your age, I felt the pressure to adhere to a certain set of beauty standards, and I hated it, but I complied because I didn't want to be ostracized. Learning and developing as a feminist over the past year has helped me to recognize the beauty privilege and ideals placed on us, as women. Wearing make-up and feeling good about yourself because you look conventionally "attractive" are not things to be ashamed of, as long as you're putting that wand to eyelash everyday for you and only you.

Most importantly, Tavi- Don't think looking "attractive" means you're playing by their rules. You've read the rulebook and now you're beating them at their own game. ~u rule~

on.n.off said...

I have to admit, I'm a bit envious of how "together" you seem to have it at your age. Your sense of style, that sort of effortlessly mature sensibility you have, and your ability to communicate it all so well. Jelly to the max. Your outlook on being a teenager is so romantic and so beautifully nostalgic. It sort of makes me feel like I wasted those years gawkily stumbling through it all.

I admire your confidence and what you stand for. I generally feel pretty weird writing fan letter type things, but I couldn't help but share my thoughts.

Respect,

Just Another Fan

Eva said...

LOVED this post. I love bedrooms that are cluttered, yet seem weirdly organized because everything in it is so sentimental and important. Also, LOVED your outfit. I think you look kinda evil, actually xD Like a possessed little school girl, but it looks AWESOME. You kind of remind me of a character that would be in Buffy or something... all vampire-esc or something.

--eevuh (2 posts, and more to come!)

TheLaceFiles.blogspot.com

Burcin said...

I abandoned glasses exactly before starting highschool, and I totally understand what you mean in this post.
This little changes are bringing inevitably more bigger changes, the important thing is being ready to face them, I used glasses as an armour (and to see, of course : D ) but I didn't used them to protect myself as to fight, and they were a great ally, when I started using contacts, at first I felt weak but then I discovered the little positive consequences of them, the comfort, the possibility to enjoy a light rain, the chance to wear sunglasses without special lenses, and last but not least, a bit more self-confidence, that doesn't harm anybody.

Hannah said...

OH my god it's like that one episode of Daria, Awesome.

Isabella Nardone said...

you need to start smiling more.....

I used to love your whole screw the world type vibes, but now your getting me depressed! come on!!! smile for one picture!! one!!


and I really felt inspired by your whole 'educational' speech on beauty and how media and the modern day society targets it..

Taya said...

I looked at the picture before I started reading the post and said to myself " wow she looks very pretty" and then started to read the post. It was really quite funny how that worked out, ya know.

VIRGINIA said...

Tavi, if you looked like Megan Fox we wouldn't worship you any less.

Samantha said...

i also wanted to add that a similar thing happened to me in highschool. After having thick glasses all my life - i finally got contacts at 15 and suddenly everyone was like - oh your so pretty now. its very weird experience.

LuLu said...

Just reading this now. Great entry Tavi. And I do agree w/ those who've posted that while there is a media created "beauty ideal" the idea of beauty is extremely subjective. While I'm not what the media in America has decided is attractive (skinny, blonde, blue-eyed, light-skinned) I can say, as an adult, that I do fit a standard of beauty. BUT, this standard is entirely my own. I feel beautiful. And I find almost all other women naturally beautiful. This isn't some silly feminist mucky muck. I really do think other women are beautiful. Their bodies. Their smiles. Their eyes. Maybe it's because I love art, colour and composition, but I really do find the female form something wonderful to look at. My mother, with all those wonderful wrinkly lines on her face? Beautiful. My 200 lbs best friend with those amazing lashes and that 100 watt smile? Gorgeous. My curvy neighbor who's 6 mos pregnant and has the thick gorgeous eyebrows? A knockout! And that's why I love your blog. Because, like a lot of your readers I suspect, you're not really buying into that media "beauty ideal" bullshit. Sure, sure, Hollywood starlets are beautiful. But you know who else is? All those crazy people we REALLY care about who we surround ourselves with everyday. So "beauty privilege" or not; beauty is what you make it. My $0.02. Thank you for your, always thoughtful, blog posts.

Amy Yates said...

As a long standing admirer of your blog and its musings (you were the inspiration behind my online mission to blog)I felt I had to comment because this post has come just at the right time for me :) thank you xx

Amy
http://amyesther-yates.blogspot.com/

Scarecrows and Creatures said...

I totally admire your idea of challenging beauty standards, and it is hard avoiding those questions and natural desires one has to be yourself and yet play into "the fashion world." However, what I instantly thought, right as you got into the beauty privilege convo, was the fact that most of the photos you post on your blog are of thin white girls. I mean, if you are trying to embrace and challenge, maybe it would be worthwhile to expand the images and people you embrace on your blog.

Kat P said...

you look beautiful in this picture, and i have always admired you, but i do not completely agree with you on this matter of beauty. I agree with most of your ideas, but as for the fact that basicly people who dress differently and are more unique are not considered differently or vice versa, that cannot always be applied. I am like you in transition beetween grade 9 and 10, and am considered quite pretty in school, although I do dress, and act quite differently and not conventionally as all others.

This concept can be taken to a newer level by applying an example such as lady gaga. She is not attractive, at all, and would be considered quite an ugly woman, but her elaborate costumes and make-up and hair, are all used to mask her lack of beaty. Why does beyonce or some other popular mainstream beauty not do so? because they want to reveal their natural beauty, while others who lack is like Lady Gaga need something to mask it, and therefore they refer to their clothes and material appearance for support.

Mu said...

I agree with your post. Of course you are entitled to feel and be pretty in a conventional manner.
Disagree with the 'skinny and white' stereotype.

I believe that my personnality and focus (coupled with my attractiveness) have helped me do well in life.
I don't think that not being white (I am a mixture of black and white) has in any way hindered my progression.
Nor do I or any people in my entourage think that 'being white' is particulary enviable.

A bit shocked by the statement and also, by the lack of reaction of your readers.

Persephone said...

Tavi, I'm 26 and I passed up a chance to get lasik surgery for a related reason -- I get really nervous about not having my glasses to hide behind. The whole mess of ideas about being "pretty" and "attractive" and what that even means is so daunting to engage with, and I think it's cool that you are choosing to engage and explore what you actually want, not just what you think you should want.

Peca said...

...and once again, here I am, amazed by how smart you are when it comes to analyzing yourself and describing your feelings/motivations for us to understand.
All I can say is: change is good, embrace it. It's not just that you're growing up; change should be part of our life in every step of the way and we should accept that people change. We alle know there will be tons of people harassing you because of how you changed from "the girl who doesn't give a sht" to "the girl who.. well.. cares as every other human being does", but I hope you'll be able to stand above that, just as you stood about so many things before.
A bunch of respect from Germany!
Lisa

Elaïse said...

As you said the comments are very intersting... I'm older than you, like really older than you^^ And when I was 15 years old, I was wearing glasses, and I was ugly for every boys I'm sure... And I doesn't care about that, I was like I was... If you are pretty like you are good for you no?? Liking you is the most important! Now glasses are "a la mode" and I'm wearing contacts...Well I can't say, when I was young, I was thinking I'm pretty, but I remember it wasn't my priority^^ Now I can say I'm pretty, I like myself, and I'm happy^^ Well you are pretty on the photo!! Keep writing and putting photos, you are so fabulous! Kisses from France^^

katerina said...

i couldn't agrre more..plus amazing pics..

xx
http://katerinascloset.blogspot.com/

Gabrielle Evelyn said...

Now you've grown up and do you become the one you wanna to be?

Celine Bags

leona said...

Tavi,

what insight for a 15-year-old girl! i (22) got all pensive reminiscing my daily concerns as full throttle teenager, and i felt suddenly felt so compelled to comment. i feel you, girl. it was right around your age that i became 'sensitive to the gaze'...so to speak. but you know, just because you take pride in your iconoclastic and lovely style doesn't mean you have to deny any part of you. you've reached the age where natural but intense psycho/physiological changes take place. sexuality is suddenly becoming relevant. self-consciousness is ubiquitous. the social foundation is changing. its a strange time.

but 'conventional beauty' is very context-specific, hence arbitrary and meaningless. true, there is 'beauty privilege' in our social hierarchy, but that kind of privilege is hardly real/sustainable...and since that kind of 'beauty' isn't defined by you, more often than not i result in more insecurity and eventual disempowerment. just be yourself, and that alone makes you attractive to kindred spirits. somewhat tangentially, studies have shown that "the more people (collectively) disagree about how attractive you are, the more they end up liking you". interesting, no? why this is, is because people whom people can't unanimously agree upon are more memorable (at least so i believe). thus you're beautifully transgressive style is actually powerful ammunition. are boys are school at all intimidated? heh who cares? i say (as did nietzsche) AMOR FATI, 'love your fate'.

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Jenny Peyton said...

Tavi you look gorgeous.
Don't doubt it!
x

edgeindustrialphotography said...

really great piece Tavi
love the photo, it's looks sinister and
kinda sad at the same time, the light poking through just *makes it*
an inspiring photo on so many levels
- George

London Street Style ...

A said...

I have never been traditionally beautiful, simply because of my bone structure. However, I have been on both sides of the attractive/not-attractive line. From the time I was time I was eight to the time I graduated college I had, in various combinations, one or more of the following: reading glasses, frizzy hair, 'moderate to severe' acne, allergy-swollen eyes and nose, buck teeth, braces, and two years of weight gain.

I do not anymore, for the most part; allergies can cause my eyes and nose to be puffy, but I can treat it, and my hair still frizzes, but only in humidity.

The main differences between being considered attractive vs. not attractive (by mainstream society) are that I have more confidence, and most of all, people are nicer to me. It's not just men, either - it's people of all ages, sexes, and racial types. When you smile at someone in the street, they are less likely to glance away and more likely to smile back. They hold doors more often. More people try to make small talk when you're waiting in line. Beautiful people must go through life with everyone being nice and friendly to them. Considering how much being considered more attractive has improved my life, I imagine beautiful people live in a world where everyone is nice to them, and it's mind-boggling.

ólöf said...

you are so pretty:) like your red outfit, and you obvious growing:)

dee p. said...

I'm sure you're tired of people twice your age giving advice but here I go. At 30 I still struggle with wanting to be traditionally attractive vs. cutting my hair all off and saying f-- that. At 21, I shaved my head completely bald. I was in a rebellious phase and I was tired of being told how I should or shouldn't look. It was very interesting and one of the most trying times of my life, in terms of self esteem. I got used to not being stared at in a sexual way. I'm not going to say it was all that great. I felt insecure most of the time, but also strong, defiant, and just myself. I couldn't use my hair to hide myself and I didn't. AT my age now, I don't think i'd go there again and like I said, I still struggle with pleasing others and myself but what i've learned is that life is all about flexibility, esp. with oneself. Allow yourself to change. You are beautiful no matter what.

Sundal Rox said...

wow, Tavi, you are blossoming into a beautiful young woman before our eyes...

JennaF said...

Yes, I'm coming to this late, but I read this yesterday and a response has been bumping around in my head long enough that I'm going to go ahead and post....

The thing about glasses is that they are limiting, fashion-wise. You have two choices basically. Choice one: Fashion! Bold! Statement! glasses. Choice two: boring.

"Boring" and "fashion" just don't really mix. So you go with the FBS glasses, as you have in the past. However, FBS glasses kinda dictate the rest of the look. One tends towards kooky and overloaded. Which can be cool! Iris Apfel ftw.

But it's hard to do a Twin Peaks/ Heathers inspired outfit while integrating FBS glasses, and boring glasses are boring.

Note, in the everyday, non-heights-of-fashion universe, there is a lot you can do with glasses. I'm happy with mine and wear 'em most of the time and they're not completely boring in an everyday way. You're kind of on a different sphere though (in? on? anyway) and I don't think you need to feel bad about treating contacts as a fashion decision, just as much as crowns or socks.

scarabsong said...

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves... -Mary Oliver

TL said...

Thank you. This is something few people with beauty privilege are willing to say, and I appreciate it. Also: it's totally okay for your identity to develop :). I used to be radically anti-hair dye, for example (mostly against hiding grays, because I thought it was giving in to ageism/standards of youth in beauty?) and now I henna my hair not irregularly -- but it's still taught me a lot. It's kind of like you need to see the BS behind societal rules before you choose which ones you like (rejecting them all outright is being just as manipulated, I feel -- smart choices, etc.)

Lambchop said...

Hi, Tavi. You may get some new commentary on this post, since Jezebel is linking to it as an antidote to some really lame commentary about body image on someone's very weird kickstarter. In celebration of thinness, which is much needed, to be sure.

Anyhoo, I found your piece very thought provoking in questioning the desire to be beautiful, and your open ended approach to the question. I am a painter, and my work is about the relativity of identity and imperfection being the most compelling source of beauty and attraction. I have tried to celebrate my idiosyncratic features as much as possible. Since I have spent the better part of the last 20 years considering these topics, it is delightful that you have presented to me a fresh perspective on them.

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