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.