I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting in the last few weeks, taking my time to absorb what’s going on around me and really think about how women as a collective behave. We started off with the blogging drama that could’ve been straight off the pages of a Mean Girls script, quickly followed by a barrage of body shaming and abusive comments left on some of my favourite bloggers sites. Simultaneously, Dove have been partnering with Selfridges to bring to life their ‘Beauty Project’ – a celebration of women and an educated and articulate platform for debate. I was lucky enough to attend a session discussing the future of beauty, which inevitably digressed into photoshopping and realistic expectations within the industry. My conclusion from all of this? Why aren’t we all just a little bit nicer to each other, and ourselves…
From the age of twelve I attended an all girls school. Although there was little comparison and competitiveness when it came to boys, an all female environment only led to constant bitching and derogatory comments being thrown around as if they were free lollipops. It seems that from a young age we learn to put others down in order for ourselves to feel better. Six years later, when I flew from the nest and into University, it seemed that unless you were wearing Topshop’s latest t-shirt and had perfectly sleek hair, then you simply couldn’t sit with the popular kids. I was always the one equally as interested in celebrity gossip and clothes as I was in learning the art of business and statistics. Always happy to go shopping and play with makeup, I equally enjoyed doing my set work and attending 99.9% of my lectures. The way the popular kids dealt with this lack of categorisation was to tell me I had a fat arse.
Nearly ten years since I graduated, I don’t feel the world has really moved on. I love a Twitter debate, I’m extremely opinionated and I don’t back down easily; I’m a strong woman who knows who she is and won’t take sh*t from anybody. However, when in the midst of a debate (or simply having an opinion someone else doesn’t agree with,) it seems that insults are the easiest thing to throw – because intellect is so much harder to verbalise than telling me I have a fat head. (Ironically because that’s the only thing they can see in my profile picture.) In the four years I’ve been running this blog I can probably count the number of times I’ve willingly featured my own face – not because I’m ashamed of it, embarrassed or have a debilitating self-confidence issue, but because I always ALWAYS get comments telling me I’m fat.
I could do with losing a couple of stone, but you know what? I like cake more than I like fitting in skinny jeans. I’m a happy 31 year old woman with a job she loves, a boyfriend that I adore and a home I can call my own. So why do hurtful comments put me off sharing more of myself than I currently do? When the ‘Gossip Guru’ episode exploded a little while ago (if you’re not up to speed then ask on Twitter!) bloggers were distraught that people they thought were friends were actively discussing them and slagging them off online, picking apart their every flaw. No woman loves herself completely (unless you’re Kim Kardashian,) so what other people are picking out as a negative is probably what they already think about every time they look in the mirror. We’re all amazing, unique and beautiful creatures in our own right, so why don’t we start celebrating that rather than putting ourselves down?
As part of the Beauty Project debate I attended, we discussed the impact of the media on our expectations of beauty and how we all strive to reach an impossible goal. However, as the discussion progressed we all started to realise that women are their own worst enemy. Men will always pat each other on the back, celebrate their successes and congratulate themselves for a job well done/great bone structure/large genitals/insert relevant topic here. Women always seem to focus on the negatives: focusing on cellulite, wrinkles, saggy boobs, bad fake tan and roots that need doing appears to be much easier than celebrating intellect, achievements or strength of character.
Instead of picking women apart, why don’t we start celebrating their strengths and discussing their admirable qualities? I for one am in awe of fellow blogger Callie Thorpe, who has to put up with a torrent of online abuse because she just happens to be bigger than a size ten; she’s beautiful, stylish, sassy, fun, inspiring and articulate – but some people simply can’t see past her size. I would’ve killed for an ounce of her confidence in my twenties, knowing that it’s ok that my backside is twice the size of Kate Moss and that I’m never going to look good in a bandage dress. She inspires me every day and I wish I had someone to look up to like her when I was growing up, rather than a plethora of skinny twenty-somethings that carry designer bags and look flawless in all their pictures. (People know they spend three hours getting ready and take 2000 pictures just to get the perfect shot, right?!)
My current niggle is how frequently women are celebrated for simply being beautiful. Watching television talk shows and interviews of celebrities, nine times out of ten they’re introduced as ‘the beautiful generic celebrity’. I’m pretty sure they’d be more appreciative if they were introduced as an ‘award winning actress’, novelist, charity campaigner or mother – something that MEANS something. While watching the British Soap Awards this week, it struck me how out of touch we are when it comes to celebrating individuals for more than just their face; how can it be in 2014 that we’re STILL awarding ‘sexiest female’ gongs? These may seem like minor issues that don’t really affect anyone or anything, but this is what women are being exposed to on a daily basis; this is the behaviour we’re learning and the qualities we’re being told are worth celebrating. If we all admire people for nothing more than the lucky genes they were handed down, how will we ever encourage young women to look past a pretty exterior and to stop insulting one another?
I know I can be as guilty as the best of them, talking about bad hair extensions during Made In Chelsea and picking out the horrendous outfits featured on the Daily Mail, but I also like to think I support and celebrate other women too. We need to stop putting ourselves under so much pressure to lead the perfect life, have amazing hair and toned legs to match Gwyneth Paltrow. I do believe bloggers perpetuate certain expectations, as well as social media helping us all to cultivate the perfect image of ourselves – but it’s important to realise these are just the edited bits. Nobody is perfect. Nobody has the perfect life. We’re all going to age, get wrinkles, discover cellulite, find grey hairs and lose our bouncy boobs… But that isn’t the end of the world. You can’t lose your intelligence, your passion, your talent or your compassion. Maybe we should just learn to love those bits we can hold on to and stop focusing on the bits we can’t.
I’ve made a decision in the last few days to stop giving a sh*t and to ‘put myself out there’ a little bit more, regardless of the consequences. I’m starting YouTube. I know I’ll be in for a load of abusive and unnecessary comments, but I also know I’ll enjoy helping others and sharing a little bit more of myself with my readers. I’m done with the haters, the trolls and the bitches that transfer their own self-hatred and lack of worth on to others. If enough of us say ‘we don’t care’ then we’ll all be in a better place to start loving ourselves and each other, celebrating our great qualities rather than pondering and worrying about our imperfections. I’m going to start sharing the love a little more and talking about women (and blogs) that inspire me, and I hope you’ll do the same….
Why not start by leaving a comment below and telling me what woman inspires you and why.
You may just make their day.