|Photo By Brandon Morgan|
Years ago, I volunteered as a Big Sister. A very rewarding experience. The application process is very thorough. Part of the training is doing a workshop on how to better interact with your pairing. In the workshop they stressed promoting healthy self esteem. When we compliment our little sisters we can never base it off of their appearance. Instead of telling them they look pretty today, or that we like their hairband, we should compliment them on their behavior or their skills. If they share well with their classmates or if they are able to complete a very difficult math problem. I had never thought about the implication of this, but after leaving training it totally made sense. Little girls shouldn’t base their self worth solely on their appearance. Yes, it feels nice to feel good about the way you look, but it is also very rewarding to complete a complicated task or excel in a certain field.
Yesterday, I had an eye opening experience. I am generally a happy person, I find that strangers talk to me on public transit on a daily basis and I have trouble being rude and completely ignoring them. Yesterday on my way home from work, a drunk man decided to talk to my coworker and I. I tried to be friendly but after a while I realized he was barley coherent and I had been beyond kind to him, as he went on and on about marriage and how he is single and ready to settle down. He had asked us if we are married and we both said no. I politely told him that we both are in relationships though. He went on to tell me that I was unattractive and overweight, unlike my coworker who is nice and slim. He then got up and gave me the finger.
I laughed it off, I told him thank you because I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of getting under my skin. It did hurt though. I had been feeling insecure, because I hadn’t been hitting the gym as frequently as I usually did and I guess it was starting to show. I then started trying to plan time that I could allocate to getting back on track.
I text my girlfriends, still in shock over the occurrence, to tell them the story. One of my girlfriends, who definitely has a feminist perspective really made me feel better about it. Her argument was very valid. I did not owe this man anything. I did not ask for him to speak with me, I was not forcing myself on him. He felt that he was entitled to talk to me. Once I showed disinterest, he immediately became aggressive and tried to belittle me solely based upon my appearance. He felt that to be an acceptable response.
I strongly dislike the word feminist. You shouldn’t have to classify yourself as a feminist in order to be respectful of women. Feminism, to me, is such an outdated term. Women are not objects. It is not my responsibility to focus on my appearance to please society. It is an unfair double standard that men are meant to provide and women are meant to be beautiful, slim and most importantly submissive. I shouldn’t feel that in order for me to be of value I have to be physically desirable. It is not enough for me to be a well educated motivated person.
I used to focus so much of my time on being in shape. I was very conscious about what I ate and I would try to exercise every day. It was exhausting. Some days I would skip dinner just because I didn’t want to gain weight. The only thing that really made it worth it, was the compliments I got. People would tell me how good I looked and ask me about diet and exercise tips. They would want to know all my workouts.
I still exercise regularly, but recently I have been working a lot of overtime and just started a new job. I decided to stop beating myself up about every missed workout. I do care about my health, but I am happier now that I don’t put pressure on myself to look a certain way. When I was slimmer, it did feel good to have acceptance and not have people question what I am eating when I decide to have a sugary treat. For some reason, it is only okay to indulge if it doesn’t show. This is another injustice in society, no matter what size you are,you should be able to indulge when you want to without scrutiny. It is one thing if this drunk hooligan was worried about my health, but he just wanted to let me know that he didn’t find me to be a desirable person, strictly based off of my looks.
Women need to stop seeking validation based on their looks, and making it okay for them to be objectified. The selfie generation needs to stop constructing their self-worth based upon the number of likes they get on each photo. We, as people, are intelligent human beings. We have much more to offer to the world. I would rather pride myself on being a nice person, or being well read or witty. The compliments that mean the most to me are not the ones about the way I look, but the ones that reach a deeper level. When someone you respect tells you they feel that you are a genuine person, or when you boss appreciates what a wonderful job you did on your last project, these are the compliments that we should strive for.
I can control what type of person I want to be. Lets start judging people for the things that they bring to the table, not the way they look, or better yet, lets stop judging people all together. This is my feminist rant for the day.