Tag Archives: self-esteem

No, My Body is Not for Your Viewing Pleasure, Thank You Much.

20 Aug

The dreaded miniskirt - a gaurantor of catcalls.

A recent conversation among friends (in addition to this Jezebel post) prompted me to comment on what I feel is one of the most tragic, perpetual obstacles facing girls and women everywhere. The constant objectification of the female body is a challenge presented to all women, regardless of whether they want such attention. The matter of clothing, and the question of whether women can attract “negative” attention by wearing certain things, is becoming a hot-button issue in the media. I remember Bill O’Reilly had made some comments regarding a young woman, Jennifer Moore, who was raped and murdered in New York City. For some reason, the fact that she had worn a miniskirt out that night made it into the reporting of her brutal murder. O’Reilly, ever the scumbag, made this gem of a comment on his show:

She was 5-foot-2, 105 pounds, wearing a miniskirt and a halter top with a bare midriff. Now, again, there you go. So every predator in the world is gonna pick that up at 2 in the morning.

The idea that the victim of such a horrific crime could be somehow culpable for her fate is truly nauseating.

Every day, women are subjected to unwanted evaluations of her appearance. This is not due simply to what she could be wearing – this is because women are institutionally perceived as sexual objects free to be rated and criticized by men. How do I know this? It happens to me every day, no matter what I’m wearing.

Women, whether we like it or not, are subject to a constant stream of assessments of our face, body, and overall physical appearance. Men constantly decide whether we are “desirable” or “fuckable”. We are the entertainment for our male counterparts. Many men (I’m not trying to make a blanket statement here, but trust me, it’s a lot of men) believe they have a right to rate and judge the appearance of every woman who crosses their path. Cat calls, whistling, nasty comments (“Spread those legs, mami,”) are often the norm in the lives of most women. I believe I first noticed men looking at me when I was little more than ten years old. Of course I was tall (perhaps around 5’4″ at that time) for my age and probably had begun developing in my chest, but I was nowhere near mentally or emotionally capable of understanding what was happening when I saw men leering at me. Adolescence can be a frightening thing for either sex, but with the growing emphasis on the sexual worth of young women, the difficulty of growing up as a girl in a society that seems to value the appearance of a woman above any other attribute can be devastating and confusing.

This constant objectification has spread into the educational realm, as well. At my high school, girls whose outfits were deemed “inappropriate” were forced to wear an over-sized yellow t-shirt for the rest of the day. I remember my sister being subjected to this barbaric display of control when she was a sophomore. I also noticed that the girls who were often forced to wear the big yellow t-shirt were the girls more often known as “troublemakers”. I would often wear tank tops or shirts that gave hints of cleavage, things very similar to what the other girls were wearing, but I never had to wear the t-shirt. This has led me to believe that certain girls were targets for breaking these dress code rules, while others (the A students, the Homecoming court, etc.) were the exception to this rule.

So what can be done to reduce the horror that comes with having breasts and hips? Nothing, really. Parents can take the extra steps to help educate their children on the sensitive nature of a developing body, which could perhaps change the attitudes of people over time. I know that if I have a son in this lifetime, I will surely teach him to keep any sexual thoughts he has to himself while in the company of young women. That’s probably the least I can do. Respect for women begins within the family, and it’s a parent’s responsibility to portray this ideal. Sexual thoughts, however, are natural, and it should not be a goal to suppress such a thing. Exercising discretion is likely the best anyone can do.

Unless something magical happens to change how society views women and their bodies, I will likely continue to endure catcalls and leering eyes for however long men will think I’m “hot”. Because being hot is the only thing a woman should have going for her – ignore her mind, humor, and values. She is tits, ass, and legs – nothing more. This is reality, and it’s sad for us all, but at least I look pretty living in it.

I’m Better Than You: The Longterm Effects of Bullying

29 Apr

Typical high school bullies.

I remember being teased from a very young age. I think my earliest memories of being bullied are from kindergarten. The image of a slightly older girl, with long, light brown hair is surfacing in my mind. I don’t remember her name. What I do remember is that she made fun of my laugh. My laugh is my most mocked trait, closely followed by my above-average height. I’ve heard it all. I’ve heard that I sound like a donkey, that I cackle like a little old witch, that I rival Xena Warrior Princess, and I’ve been asked how the weather is “up there”. If we’ve met in person, I suppose you know what I’m talking about. I don’t get it, however, because I don’t notice. My laugh and my height are simply a part of me, things I never even think twice about.

The questions usually goes like this: “Why do you make that sound?” I don’t know. Why are you fat? See what I did there? We could all be mean and say the first things that come to mind when we meet someone new. However, when you are taught to be a kind person who does not judge others solely on traits that jump out first, you just may learn to judge people on their character. I have an extremely good judge of character, and I feel that this ability can be attributed to the constant teasing I endured as a young girl. I can quickly determine who has an ulterior motive to truly harm me, or who is simply poking fun because they love me.*

Anyway, kids first starting picking on me in kindergarten. I was always smarter than most kids my age. I’m not trying to sound self-important, but my point is that being smart is not considered cool. Especially by elementary school kids. If you’re a really smart kid, you’re bound to be bored by your peers and you’ll likely possess an imagination that rivals that of any Dungeons and Dragons master. I remember a spelling bee that took place in 3rd grade. A few kids had decided to sit out after making the point that “Heather will win.” I did win, on the word “apartment”. A great achievement, I know. My status as a nerd was forever ingrained at this moment. My nerdiness was a source of comfort for me – I would often spend my free time reading any book I could find and compiling lists of words of my choice for my weekly spelling tests. But did being smart get people to like me? Not at all. In fact, it probably did the opposite. The sneers I would get when I walked past certain kids led me to believe that my mind was somewhat of a curse.

8th grade was the worst year for me. A group of pubescent boys decided it would be fun to make my life hell by calling me the name of a particular animal that I will not mention. Their attacks were highly orchestrated, and somewhat creative. However, I would return home crying nearly every day, and my self-esteem, once strengthened by winning spelling bees and essay contests, plummeted. A 14-year-old girl has enough to worry about, and adding abusive peers to the equation did not bode well for me. I really don’t want to go into the dark details of the pain I struggled with, but what I will say is that at this point in my life, all I desired was to be accepted by my peers, and the difficulty I faced in overcoming the teasing I faced on a daily basis would continue to affect me at random periods in my life.

I skipped out on my confirmation classes in 9th grade because several of the kids in the class had bullied me before. This experience began my intellectual meanderings on the validity of organized religion. If these kids – who were studying the Bible and expected to follow its example – could act as horribly as they did toward me, then perhaps there was a bit of hypocrisy at work in organized religion. The memory of this has lent to my shaping my spiritual philosophy. I believe in the power of intention – whatever you put out will come back to you.

I know when I started thinking differently about myself. During my freshman year of high school, I got involved with theater. At first I was extremely shy with the older kids and often embarrassed when I would have to run lines in front of them. But it got better. I chose to join drama club, and I became involved with theater on a full-time basis. By my senior year of high school, I was a second year president of drama club and my high school’s thespian troupe. Theater gave me a chance to explore the feelings I had repressed – all the anger, resentment, and sadness I had held in for so long became useful when I was playing a character. I also developed a friendship with my high school theater teacher that has lasted well into my early twenties. Miss P became my confidant, my free personal therapist. I think I ate lunch in her office 90% of the time, and this was for a couple of reasons. First, I just enjoyed talking to Miss P and learning more about all the exciting adult things she knew, and second, my fear of school cafeterias was very much ingrained within me. (I remember those times when I couldn’t decide where to sit, and having to eat lunch alone.)

If you’ve been bullied in the past, the feelings of sadness that follow you will sometimes resurface at inopportune moments. I remember a period a few years ago during which a very close friend had decided she no longer wanted to be friends, and I had the comfort of a boyfriend to help me with the pain I was going through. I was receding to thoughts of 8th grade, of utter and complete rejection. However, my ex-boyfriend completely failed to understand why I dwelled on such events. He didn’t get it because he was voted homecoming king and was on the football team. You know, he was one of the types that does the bullying. I tried to explain how it really felt, but he often would tell me “to get over it”. If it were that simple, I would certainly do that, but it’s not. You must understand that when someone is bullied for an extended period, a few assumptions form in their head. You end up expecting everyone will hate you, that you are unworthy of respect or kindness. When you are the victim of a bully, you expect rejection from nearly everyone you meet. Today I am a very social person, but that did not come without years of struggling to overcome the feelings of worthlessness I once felt when I met someone new.

I think that for someone who has experienced bullying, the most important thing to realize is that you are the person who matters most. Spending time alone is not something you should avoid, but embrace. It is not until you know yourself, and love yourself, that you can live free from the pain that others can cause. I’m still unsure of why people bully others – is it insecurity? A lack of self-love? It doesn’t really matter, but what does matter is your happiness. I believe that if you form strong personal convictions and if you fight for what you believe in (love, women’s rights, etc.), happiness will automatically come from this strength.

If you are still struggling with the long-term effects of being bullied, you are definitely not alone. Hell, I still get comments about my laugh and my height. Every time I go out to a bar or club, I guarantee you that someone (most typically a man, because when they see a tall woman they feel that the glory of their penis is threatened) will comment on my height. The difference between now and then is that I’ve embraced my height, and I consider it one of the greatest things about me. I wouldn’t trade being tall for anything – I think it’s both extremely sexy and practical. As for my laugh, it’s a unique thing that adds to my character. I wouldn’t be Heather without it.

*I’m talking to you, Matt and Jake. I love you both, too.

Learn Something New Today: Diastema

30 Jan

Lara Stone and her sexy diastema

The term diastema refers to the gap that is often present between an individual’s two front teeth. What most people fail to recognize is that a diastema is not “fixable” with braces. In order to close the gap between two front teeth, one must undergo surgery to cut away a piece of muscle that causes the teeth to be pushed apart. This is just too much effort. It is much more productive to admire your diastema in the mirror for a while and then call it a day.

I have a diastema, and I feel that it is one of the sexiest things anyone can have. I know what you may be thinking: “Is she crazy?”, “She must be afraid of dentists,” “Hillbilly!” I am sure that there must be a time when I did not like the space between my two front teeth, but I remember reading an article around the age of 13 that discussed how a person with a diastema is often a highly sexual being. This must have made me feel very grown up – I have no comment on whether this is true about myself. It should also be noted that Geoffrey Chaucer may have started this theory in Canterbury Tales when he described the “gap-toothed wife of Bath” – who also happened to be a very lustful woman. My gap adds character to my face – I would likely look like a completely different person if I were to close it. I also have professional reasons for not wanting to close my gap. I cannot stand perfect teeth on actors. If an actor is playing the role of an indigent, or a single mother of six, or a blue-collar worker fighting for labor rights, why the hell should they have perfect teeth? I have heard more than one acting teacher tell their students to never fix their teeth. You can bleach them if you want, and if your mouth isn’t full of rotting stumps, you’re likely good to go.

My biggest pet peeve is when others criticize you for things that you either A) cannot change or B) are unwilling to change about your physical appearance. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked why I didn’t want to close the gaps in my teeth, I would have enough money for Invisalign. But I would take that money and go on vacation instead. Other people’s teeth are none of our damn business. I hate how people are always commenting on Jewel’s teeth, when really, she one has one abnormal tooth. I find it empowering that she hasn’t succumbed to the wave of tooth perfection fetishism that has swept the country.

A gap between your two front teeth is so unbelievably sexy – when I think of a proper diastema, I think of Lauren Hutton, America’s first supermodel (Janice Dickinson was really not the first supermodel). Hutton has a stunning, impalpable beauty, yet she has a gap between her teeth. Yesterday, Jezebel posted a piece that stated because of the popularity of Anna Paquin and Lara Stone, women are asking to have the gap in their teeth recreated. If someone had told these women how cute their gap was in the first place, they wouldn’t have to spend thousands to get something they were born with!

Other celebrities rocking the diastema: Jorja Fox, Kate Moss, Sandra Bernhard, Prince Harry, Jennifer Hudson, Vanessa Paradis, Laurence Fishburne, Condoleeza Rice, Elton John, David Letterman, Bill Paxton, Laura San Giacomo, Paul Scheer, Maya Angelou, and Madonna (whose gap seems to have closed up – say it isn’t so, your Madgesty!).

If you have a diastema, take a look in the mirror and tell yourself, “I’m sexy.” Because you are, damnit! And never let anyone try to tell you otherwise. If they do, they’re nothing but a jealous lemming.