An Open Letter to Teenage Girls

As a woman of almost 40 who has no daughters, I have been insulated from the world of teenage girls for quite some time. But recently, through the experiences of friends and family members who do have teenage daughters, I have got a glimpse of just how hostile the world is for girls, how it turns you against yourselves and against each other.

When you get to a certain age, and you are probably already there, the marketing that bombards women will start to feel like it is directed at you. There is a whole world of man-made products out there that corporations want to convince you that you need and that you will need for the rest of your life. Things you will need to do in order to be acceptable and to feel normal.

All that advertising that tells women that we are too fat, too hairy, too ugly, too lazy, too smelly, unless we buy the stuff and do the things that we have been led to believe make us women. You begin to realise that you are almost a woman and that as you become an adult those things will become your burden. That if you want to be accepted, and the need to be accepted is very strong in teenagers, you will need to look a certain way and adopt a certain attitude.

This is the time where you learn not only to police your own appearance, but to police that of other girls as well. This is an important thing to learn, because men don’t want the bother of constantly reminding you that you that you are not good enough and you should be trying harder. It is much easier for them if other women do that.

What leads a 12yo girl to feel that she must wear full make-up every day, even on a family trip to the beach? What causes another to be filled with anxiety at the thought of her schoolmates seeing her with unstraightened hair? What leads a girl to believe that her life would be better if only she were thinner?

All of these insecurities are created by a society where women are seen first and foremost as objects, decorations, for the amusement and pleasure of men, and rarely as the actual human beings that you are. Where all the girls in all the movies and magazines and TV shows are young and thin and have perfect skin and perfect hair. Where the women chosen as ‘representative’ in the media only represent an unattainable standard that we are unreasonably pressured to attempt to replicate no matter the cost.

Women are taught from an early age to hate our bodies, to hate the way we look. As a teenager I believed myself too small, too flat-chested, too ugly. As an adult I hated my hair, my pale skin, my muscular calves, my flabby tummy, my work-worn hands, my face in general but especially my nose.

Then one day, not too long ago, I realised that I do not exist for other people to look at. That everything about me is absolutely fine as it is. That as long as my body does what is practically required to get me through a day, there is no need to polish the exterior for the benefit of people who do not have to live in it.

I’m not going to tell you that you are beautiful no matter what, because there is no requirement to be beautiful. Boys are not required to be beautiful. They are not required to cover their perfectly good faces in expensive chemicals. They are not required to remove their perfectly normal body hair. They are not expected to have long locks of just the right colour and just the right length that are not allowed to be lank or frizzy. They are allowed to get around the in the face and body they woke up in and get on with their lives without the constant anxiety that this makes them somehow not good enough.

Beauty is a con. It is a lie we are sold, that looking good will make us feel good and feeling good will make us look good. But you can never, ever look just right, there will always be an article, a product, an advertisement there to remind you that the body part you never even considered can still be improved. We are not meant to attain the beauty standard, it is not a destination that we are ever going achieve. It always remains dangled out of reach, requiring more and more effort, until we get to a certain age and come to realise that we are never going to get there.

The only way to win is to stop striving for it. Stop pouring your heart and soul into becoming the perfect object with the perfect appearance. And start being you.

You can never be what you have been led to believe is ‘perfect’ and the truth they will never tell you is that you are perfect just as you are. That your body does not need to be altered or decorated in order for you to be ‘good enough’. You were born good enough.

It is hard to believe this when every image the world thrusts in your face every day works to convince you that you must look a certain way in order to have value. But if you are to survive in this world you have to believe that your value is not related to how pleasant or arousing other people find your appearance and how many ways you have made an effort to look like a ‘proper woman’.

You do not exist for other people to look at. What you look like is nobody else’s business. You have within you a whole world of possibility. The more time you spend obsessing about your looks, the less energy you will have to make a wonderful life for yourself. Don’t let anyone convince you that there is anything wrong with your body, except maybe a doctor, and if he is concerned about your looks more than your health don’t listen to him either.

I was in my late 30s before I learned enough to unshackle myself from the shame of not looking like the women in the magazines. Don’t live your whole lives believing that you are not good enough just because some men want to sell you products you don’t need. Chasing that illusion of perfection will not make you happy or confident. It will make you hate yourself. It will make an enemy of your body, when your body should be the most precious thing you possess. And it will suck the life out of you, making you depressed and anxious. You may even feel this way already.

Hold your head high. Tell yourself every day ‘I am enough’. Choose friends who build each other up, rather than tearing each other down. Let people see your real face, your real hair, your real skin. Dress for comfort rather than for putting yourself on display. I wish I could tell you how much happier you will be once you free yourself from all the rituals that we are told we must perform as women. But there is only one way you can find out and that is to try it. Become your perfect, natural self and you will find a strength you did not know was possible.

Radical Feminism is Pro-Women

Today a prominent feminist called me ‘trash’ and told me I was unwelcome on her public account because I stated that women who don’t believe males can be women deserve to be treated with respect.

Pretty much any time a woman says that males are not females or that being a woman is a physical reality and not a thought in a man’s head, there will be dozens of people lining up to attack, threaten, bully and abuse her, while accusing her of being violent and contributing to the death of trans people. I have seen it over and over and over.

It is absurd how so many feminists have been convinced that Radical Feminists are the enemy and believe that we hate trans people and ‘want to erase trans people from existence’.

The word TERF is a cure-all for silencing and discrediting any woman who understands that gender is not grounded in any physical reality, but is artificially applied to people based on their biological sex.

Pro-trans groups estimate the prevalence of transgender people to be around 0.04%. That’s 1 in 2500. That’s not many, even though it is a lot more than official estimates. Based on that figure, there are 35 times more gay, lesbian and bisexual people than there are trans people. I personally know ONE trans person. In my lifetime I have met one other, when I was a very young child. I’d hazard a guess that a vast majority of people don’t know any.

There are 1300 times more women than there are trans people. Pretty much everyone knows a whole bunch of women. Roughly half of all women will be subjected to male violence over the course of their lifetime. And yet, a whole subset of feminists are willing to go into bat for a tiny number of trans people they don’t even know, at the expense of women who they actually do know.

It’s not even about who is right and who is wrong. It is co-opting feminism on behalf of a tiny sector of the population and using it to denigrate women who actually care about the liberation of women. It is about the demonisation of the women who see the Patriarchy, and male pattern violence, and male sexual entitlement for what they are and who are willing to expose it. It is men who hate women setting other women up to do their dirty work.

How do you distract well-meaning masses who are hell bent on achieving ‘equality’? You say ‘look over there, there are some bad women who aren’t letting the poor marginalised trans people into their club. Those women want the trans people to die, and you proper feminists have to stop them!’.

So they call us ‘cis’ like they are hissing a curse at us. Us radical women who are not allowed to tell other people how they can and can’t ‘identify’ are labelled against our will with a descriptor that even trans activists can’t agree on the meaning of. I have on several occasions, out of curiosity, asked trans activists whether they consider someone like me, a female woman who does not perform femininity, to be ‘cis’ or not. Not one of them has given me an answer so far. Yet in ‘discussions’ they are very quick to dismiss me as a ‘cis woman’ and a TERF, as though those things invalidate anything I might have to say.

I had a guy today announce that TERFs are ‘radical feminists who think that cis women have more right to gender identity than trans women do’. I don’t know where he came up with that, but it is beyond absurd. Radical feminists don’t believe in the term ‘cis’, let alone labeling themselves or others with it. We don’t consider some people to be more worthy of a gender identity than others. We seek to liberate all people from the constraints of gender, so that all people, no matter what their sex, are free to dress and otherwise express themselves in whichever way they choose, participate in whichever activity they choose, and not be criticised or ostracised for it. Saying that gender abolitionists, as many radical feminists are, want to erase trans people from existence is a gross misrepresentation.

Even if gender as a concept, as the social construct we are so tightly constrained by, was erased, transgender people would still exist. Except they would just be people. If all people were people, treated equally regardless of what they look like or what they wear, then women and transgender people and people of colour would all just be people. Surely trans activists can see that as an improvement on the current situation?

Radical feminists don’t hate trans people. We are opposed to those who seek to erase the biological reality that enslaves and oppresses women by reducing womanhood to a ‘feeling’ that anyone can have. We are sick of being demonised and insulted and misrepresented.

All we want is for women to be people. Not sex objects, not slaves, not background noise, not accessories or possessions. We want the same level of respect, consideration and representation for all people, regardless of appearance or sex.

Radical feminism is not anti-trans. It is pro-women. We don’t want to fight against the trans movement. It has nothing to do with us. We want to dismantle the patriarchy. The same straight, white patriarchy that marginalises people who don’t perform gender in the way it wants them to. That threatens those who don’t adhere to the rules of heterosexuality. That punishes those who dare to blur the lines between ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’.

Transwomen are a marginalised, ostracised group under the patriarchy. But they are not women. The kind of trans activism that pits women against women under the guise of ‘inclusivity’ is not feminism. The kind of trans activism that pours vitriol on women who understand that it is our physical female bodies that put women in the oppressed class under patriarchy is not feminism. It is women being co-opted to do the work of the patriarchy. Women being taught to speak its language of hate and dismissal. They shout and swear and threaten. They do not seek to elevate women.

It is a smoke-and-mirrors distraction from the horrors that straight white men continue to inflict upon those who fall under the category of ‘other’. While us ‘other’ are fighting amongst ourselves, while radical women are being forced to defend ourselves from ‘feminists’, those straight, wealthy, white men continue to make decisions that further enhance their own power and reduce the rights and options of those of us categorised ‘other’.

I’m not asking anyone to change what they believe, only to respect the beliefs of others who share the goal of liberation. We are on the same side.

The Truth About Sex

This isn’t going to be a popular opinion, but it is an important one.

The truth about sex is that it often really isn’t as great as everyone would like us to believe. And not having it or not wanting it are completely normal.

I don’t remember a time when sex was ever not a source of anxiety for me. Whether it was anxiety about whether to do it, when to do it, how to do it, not wanting to do it but not having a choice, wanting to do it but afraid of being rejected, being judged for doing it. It has also been a great source of guilt and shame.

Popular opinion is that couples should have sex all the time, that sex is vital for healthy relationships, that if one partner won’t oblige the other and provide them with sex, the other has a right to leave or cheat or generally act like a selfish jerk.

‘Sexperts’ agree that the only bad sex is no sex, that women should be open to trying things their partners suggest even if it makes them uncomfortable, that sex involving pain and violence is more normal and healthy than not having sex at all. They recommend that if you aren’t enjoying sex you should try doing it more often. They advocate ‘taking one for the team’, which is a polite way of saying that women should allow their male partners to have sex with them even if they don’t want it. They support men coercing women into unwanted sex by reminding women how much men ‘need’ sex and that doing it when you don’t want to is just another part of caring for a man, which is a woman’s job, after all.

To ‘spice things up’ in the bedroom we are encouraged to use toys, food, restraints, fantasies, porn. Experimentation and adventurousness are encouraged ahead of kindness and respect. The default position is that men are always up for it and women should always be available and provide an outlet when called upon. That sex begins when the man initiates and ends when he ejaculates, and everything in between focuses on his pleasure. That women are probably not into it, but do it anyway.

It is easy to believe the experts when the party line suits your agenda. It is easy to listen to the few people who get to talk openly about sex in our society and just go along with what they say without really thinking about it. What is takes courage is asking yourself why you feel like you do, and who this promotion of sex really serves.

Have a poke around the internet and see how many women post exasperated accounts of how their husband expects sex even when she is exhausted or not interested or in actual physical pain. All the men who are quite happy to have sex with an unwilling spouse. Then read responses from all the men, and a lot of women, who pop in to explain that all men are biologically hardwired to need sex and she is being cruel to him by denying him this need and she shouldn’t expect him to support her and her (his?) children if she won’t put out. There is an epidemic of it. Women are expected to be available, no matter the circumstances, and men are expected to be willing, all the time.

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the reasons most people in relationships have sex have nothing to do with ‘because we enjoy it’ and ‘because I love my partner’. I suspect that a lot of the unspoken, unadmitted reasons are more like ‘because that is what women are for’, ‘because it validates my masculinity and dominance’, ‘because I am entitled to it’, ‘because if I say no he might not like me any more’, ‘because it proves that I look good enough for someone to have sex with’, ‘because he earns more money and this is how I earn my keep’, ‘because we are married and it is my duty’, ‘because it makes me feel like I am valuable’, ‘because sex is an important part of a healthy relationship and by having sex I can lie to myself that this relationship is in any way ‘healthy”.

Admitting these things to yourself can be downright impossible. Suggesting them to someone else is a recipe for disaster.

If you really want to know why you have sex, ask yourself how it feels when a) you want to have sex and your partner doesn’t, or b) your partner wants to have sex, but you don’t. Ask yourself why you respond like you do.

Do you get mad? Depressed? Resentful? Do you feel ugly or unsexy or pathetic?

If you get angry or resentful when your partner turns you down, then you probably have sex because you feel entitled to it or because it reinforces your position of power. If you feel bad about yourself when your partner turns you down, then perhaps you have sex because it validates your value in society as a sex object and makes you feel like you are suitably attractive. If you feel lost or confused or ashamed then it might be that you are simply motivated by adhering to your conditioned gender role and the prescribed sexual behaviour that goes with being ‘man’ or ‘woman’. If you feel depressed then possibly the perceived rejection is messing with your perception of your self.

Here’s the thing. Not having sex is not a problem. If someone not having sex with you feels like a problem, then that is your problem, not theirs. Nobody should ever have sex for any reason than because they want to. And nobody should be made to feel bad for not wanting to.

I had a woman tell me once that by saying women should not ever have sex unless they genuinely want to, I was denying women the right to have children, the protection and economic benefits of relationships with men, and status within society. It made me very sad to realise that there are people – women even – who believe that women should pay for ‘status’ and ‘protection’ with our unwilling bodies.

You can have a healthy relationship without sex, all you need is love and care and respect. Don’t let anyone tell you that there is anything wrong with you for not wanting sex. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are abnormal or damaged or inhibited. And if you are a fan of sex with other people, don’t go around expressing an opinion that only weirdos don’t want sex. That is you impressing your beliefs of what you think other adults should or shouldn’t do with their bodies, which is never your place.

It is hard to undo the training that society bombards us with from such a young age, that is perpetuated by pop culture, ‘sexperts’ and the expectations of others. You absolutely have every right to not have sex if you don’t want to, to say no at any time, to anybody, and not suffer any consequences as a result.

For many women, however, saying ‘no’ is not a safe option, and leaving a man who won’t take ‘no’ for an answer is not always a safe option. For those of us who do have the freedom to decide what we do with our own bodies, we need to perpetuate and promote the idea that nobody is owed sex and real consent comes from being free, safe and able to say ‘no’ or ‘stop’ at any time without fear of negative consequences. That nobody needs, deserves or is entitled to sex with another person. That nobody should ever have sex for any reason than because they want to, and not wanting to is just as normal and healthy as wanting to.

Women Who ‘Really Love’ Sex

I’ve been watching the promotion of ‘choice feminism’ and reading all the women who talk about how much they love sex and love sucking dick and swallowing cum and how liberating and empowering that is for them. I read comments from women who are all ‘yeah, I love sex, why shouldn’t a woman be allowed to fuck whoever she wants, whenever she wants and not get shamed for it?’ One even said ‘I love being eye candy for men to masturbate to’. And they claim to do all this sexual servicing of men ‘for themselves’ and ‘because I love it’ and they even believe that what they are doing is actually feminist.

The thing with ‘choice feminism’ and sex-positivity, is that they are all about choosing to be sexually available and choosing to present yourself and circulate your image for the facilitation of male sexual gratification. But when it comes to women who choose not to do these things – you know, for themselves – suddenly it becomes apparent that not all  choice is seen by libfems as ‘feminist’ or ’empowering’.

The idea that feminism can encompass two opposite viewpoints puzzles me. Feminism has one end goal, one focal point, and that is the liberation of women from male oppression, a concept that is often abbreviated to ‘equality’ and can lose a little in the translation. Somewhere along the line this concept became bastardised, and now there is a whole movement that calls itself feminism and whose one policy is that ‘women can choose to do whatever they want’, and in the act of ‘choosing’ their actions become ‘feminist’.

So this policy of ‘choice’ has led to patriarchal society devoting itself to encouraging women to ‘choose’ actions that further subjugate women and empower men. Women telling other women that being sexually available for men or presenting yourself in the sexualised manner that men enjoy is ’empowering’ is one of the neat tricks that patriarchy employs.

Suggesting to women who have found a way to feel important and valued by the patriarchy that their ‘freely chosen’ choice to have lots of sex with men is not an act of feminism gets a similar reaction to when you suggest to men that their video games or porn might not be just harmless fun. They get very angry, very quickly.

They will assure you that you are just repressed, uptight, need to get laid, haven’t met the right man, call you a prude, a pearl-clutcher, anti-sex, and so on. They won’t ever look at exactly who gains from them offering themselves up to facilitate male sexual pleasure.

Many of you will think well, if that is what they are into, sex can be fun, women can enjoy no-strings sex, why should we be limited to sex within the confines of a relationship, or with a limited number of partners? Some of you may even think ‘but I love sex, and I don’t want the hassle of a relationship, so what is wrong with having as much sex as I want with whoever I want?’.

My answer is always that there is nothing wrong with expressing your sexuality in a way that suits you. But I have read so many stories from women who decided to become ‘sexually liberated’ and ended up feeling used. Who started to feel regret after every hook-up. Who felt that they were losing a part of themselves by being sexually available.

I was once, and not so long ago, of the opinion that there was no such thing as too much sex. I would have happily done it every day. The more I had the more I wanted. So when I found myself in a relationship with someone with an ‘I can take it or leave it’ attitude towards sex, things got… well… difficult…

I won’t go into detail, but suffice to say I did not always behave well in response to being given the cold shoulder. And as someone who has been on the other end of the situation, I had a lot of conflict to deal with. But when, after… well… a couple of years… I came to realise that I did not NEED sex (just like I have been saying that men do not NEED sex), and I had no right to try to manipulate a person into having sex with me, which was essentially what I was doing, I was finally able to be critical of what I had previously assumed.

I had completely absorbed the idea that my value was linked to whether or not  men saw me as a sexual object. The accepted ‘norm’ within a heterosexual relationship is that the man ‘requires’ sex and he desires it from his partner, who is thus made desirable and useful. She has something of value, something he wants, and he seeks to obtain it from her. Women are ruthlessly programmed to want to be desirable and useful, to feel valuable when men want to have sex with us. It makes us feel ‘good enough’.

After being in relationships or being lusted after by various boys my entire life, I remember being greatly disturbed by the realisation that I was not aware of a single man who wanted to have sex with me. That was when I turned to online dating for the first time. I was proud of my ‘sexyness’ but being sexy means nothing if there isn’t a man there to tell you you’re doing it right.

At that stage of my life I was careful. I always chose who got to access to me. I had ‘standards’. I felt powerful. But I was not. I was an interchangeable body in a situation where any willing female of a certain body type will do.

Unshackling my identity and my self worth from my vision of myself as ‘fuckable’ was sometimes akin to an exorcism. And if I had not been so aware of the dynamics I was involved in, an awareness made possible by my understanding of patriarchal culture and radical feminism, I am sure that I would have become increasingly resentful of my partner and left him to find a man who would be more appreciative of a woman who ‘really loves sex’. There are many men out there who would love to get their hands on a woman who thinks there is power in being sexually available. And knowing what I know now, I would not want to be in the hands of any of them.

After many years with my ex, who thought that having sex with me whenever he wanted was a right that I had to oblige, the level of enthusiasm that I required in order to act like I was consenting was somewhere between ‘disgust’ and ‘ambivalence’.  Yet any time that I sensed that he was losing his desire for me would also lead to anxiety, fear that there must be something wrong with me or that he was getting it somewhere else. I wonder how many women out there have sex with their partners simply because getting it over with is better than putting up with his whining. Who say ‘yes’, or at least, who don’t say ‘no’, because they know that the only way he will let them get on with their lives is to let him do what he wants right now. But who, at the same time, would be suspicious or anxious if their partner suddenly stopped showing interest.

So going from that to meeting men I was actually attracted to, with whom sex was actually enjoyable, was a shock to the system. Now anything above ambivalence was my equivalent of ‘desire’, and actual desire was overwhelming. I was ill-equipped for the surge of adrenaline that came with it. My judgement was clouded. I found that I could do this thing and enjoy it and be praised for it and have my body admired and it was intoxicating. I became willing to compromise myself for it. I did things I didn’t really want to do, and told myself I should want to do them, in order to obtain more of that gratification, to validate myself, to feel important. In the quest for empowerment through sex, I began to give up my power.

Because when you are seen as an unlimited source of something that men feel entitled to, they are probably not going to be very forgiving if one day you say ‘no’. And deep down you know that they will only keep respecting your lack of boundaries as long as you keep saying ‘yes’.

I know now that I am worth more than the pleasure I can provide to men. That my sexuality is not an asset I can trade with. That my body is not a commodity. That the freedom to have sex or not have sex and be treated EXACTLY THE SAME either way  is a rare and precious gift. And increasingly, I am leaning to the side of not having sex.

That’s right. When given a choice, when I have the same power, the same agency, whether I have sex or not, it really is easier and simpler not to.

So I am skeptical of women who claim to ‘love sex’ simply because that is ‘who they are’. Who are resistant to the idea that maybe they have convinced themselves that ambivalence is enthusiasm because men make it worth their while to do so. Who are resistant to the idea that if there was no social benefit to being sexually available, if they weren’t praised and elevated as some sort of ‘better woman’ for claiming to love the D, they might admit to themselves that the D really isn’t that great.

I’m not saying don’t have sex. I’m not saying don’t show skin. I really am not ‘telling women what to do’. I’m saying that internalised misogyny is called that because you don’t realise you have it. I’m saying that claiming to love sex and love servicing men sexually is not the pinnacle of being a woman. I’m saying that trashing women who are critical of your claim that you innately love sex and that sex empowers you is not good for women in general. I’m saying that even if you suck all the dicks in the world, men will still be in charge, and they’ll still see you as a hole to stick their dick in.

Bragging about your sexual availability doesn’t help women. Telling other women how great it is to be sexually available doesn’t help women. These things benefit men. All women should be able to have sex for no other reason than because they want to. Not because there are social benefits. Not because there might be consequences if they don’t. And not because they believe they are worth more if men want to have sex with them.

 

 

SWERF? Really?

SWERF = sex worker exclusive radical feminist. Often found alongside ‘whorephobic’.

I think the gist is that if you are anti-prostitution, as radical feminists tend to be, then you hate prostituted women.

That is a bit like saying that vegetarians hate animals.

As a radical feminist, heck, as a person, I find prostitution to be abhorrent. The fact that so many men think they have a right to sex whenever they want it, and use their economic privilege to access it. That the patriarchal society we live in has created a divide between ‘real women’ who are meant to be treated with some degree of care, and ‘sluts and whores’ who men can abuse and degrade with impunity. That society makes it so difficult for women to earn a living that many are forced to sell access to their bodies in order to pay their rent or feed their children. That when not enough women sell their bodies ‘voluntarily’, men simply purchase or steal women and force them into sexual servitude to satisfy the demand.

The level of abuse and harm and even death that is inflicted upon women so that men never have to go without an orgasm is completely unacceptable. That so many men consider women’s bodies to be something that they should have unfettered access to makes my blood boil. That men care so little about women’s right to not be bought, sold, objectified and violated makes me fear for the future of the human race.

What I feel for victims of prostitution is empathy. I want the world to treat them like they matter, to respect them, to care for them. For the abuse and torment that led them to decide that if they were already getting fucked they might as well get paid for it to never have had an opportunity to occur. For them to be able to make a decent living doing a regular job like men can. For them to feel safe. For them to be able to decide who does and who doesn’t have access to their bodies and for their lives to not depend on the actions of men who don’t even see them as real people.

It’s pretty much what I want for all women.

But as for the pimps and the johns… I want them to understand that what they are doing is exploitation. That they are not entitled to the bodies of women. That women are not theirs to buy, sell, rent out or dispose of. That women are people. That purchasing women for the purpose of treating them like sex toys is not acceptable. That the girl you pay to play out your violent fantasies is just as human as the wife or girlfriend who won’t do those things for you.

For those women who think that women should be able to choose to sell sex, let me ask you something. Why don’t you do it? How fun do you think it would be to have sex several times a night with men who think you are nothing? Would any amount of money make it worth it, let alone the relative pittance you would get for putting yourself at a such a high risk of violence?

So no, I have nothing against prostituted women. I would love for them all to have a safe path to freedom and to live without the constant threat of harm. Call me a SWERF, I don’t care. It is a word you made up to judge me an opinion I don’t even have. It means nothing to me. But by using it you show me that you care more about the right of men to purchase women than you do about the right of women and girls to be safe from harm and sexual exploitation.

I Stopped Trying to be Beautiful – and Nobody Died

I have never really been into make-up.

In my whole life I have probably bought a couple of eyeliners and one lipstick. The rest of my meagre kit was either gifted or handed down to me.

To be fair, I started my working life in the Thoroughbred industry. But through administration and reception jobs, even front-line retail, I have never gone beyond foundation, eyeliner and lip gloss.

I used to take it up a notch for ‘going out’. Especially since my first boyfriend would shame me for wearing make-up. He would say ‘I don’t understand why you do that’. That was his way of telling me that he thought what I was doing was stupid or wrong. Wearing make-up was one of those things. Drinking alcohol was another. There were plenty of others. But you can see why, for a while at least, wearing make-up felt liberating to me.

Years later, my lack of everyday make-up use was passed off as laziness. Which is kind of funny, because anyone who knows me can tell you I am the opposite of lazy. But nobody questioned it. When I would talk about how I didn’t shave my legs because I was too lazy, people would laugh. And I thought that perhaps I was lazy.

It took a long time for me to take the leap to consciously deciding not to do the boring, painful, expensive and pointless beauty stuff. To say ‘I don’t shave my legs because why should I?’. To realise that deliberately not doing all the things was a legitimate choice, not a character flaw.

How do I benefit when I shave my legs or armpits? How do I benefit from wearing make-up? How do I benefit from having long hair that takes ages to dry and always gets in my way? The answer is that I don’t.

So why did I ever feel the need to do all those things?

We have it drummed into us, this requirement to be beautiful, or to at least make an effort. It is hammered into us so relentlessly that we find it impossible to separate ourselves from it. We make up reasons for justifying all the pointless tasks, all the expensive products, all the synthetic chemicals. We shame others for not complying. We never ask why we really do it.

I like to wear little shorts and singlets in summer. I like to go braless pretty much all the time when I am at home. I like to paint my nails with sparkly polish. I don’t give a shit what the rules say.

When I was compliant, I always felt guilty for neglecting my personal maintenance. I felt like I had achieved something when I spent a couple of hours waxing, plucking and spray-tanning. But the rest of the time, when I wasn’t perfectly presented, I felt slightly ashamed.

When I decided not to comply any more, that shame went away. I no longer have to worry about being ‘sexy enough’. I don’t have to worry about much, other than my health. I still colour my hair and like to try different styles, but I want quick-drying and easy-upkeep rather than extra body or super shiny. I don’t even fork out for shampoo and conditioner any more.

I don’t see the point of putting expensive chemicals on a perfectly good face. I don’t expect anyone to do it, but I can understand why many women do. But I want you to know that you don’t have to do those things. People will still like you. Shower, wash your hands, brush your teeth, clip your toenails. We all should keep doing those things for the sake of hygiene and sharing space. The rest of it is all window dressing. It doesn’t really add any value.

I can hear the murmurs of ‘but what will my boyfriend/husband think if I pull this caper? He expects me to look like a woman.’. He is presumably aware by now that you are a woman. I don’t think he will forget. If his attraction to you is conditional upon you looking a certain way, then you can either keep doing all the things to please him, you can gradually try different options and hope he gets used to it, or you can tell him that it is your body and you’ll do whatever the hell you like with it. It is trying to avoid disapproval and criticism from men that causes us to do all the things in the first place.

Honestly, it is your choice, now that you know all your options. Maybe you will be content to keep going with the flow. Maybe you can let your hair grow for a bit just to see what you think. Maybe you will find not doing the things to be as freeing as I ultimately have found it. But there is no harm in trying. You can always change your mind later.

It took making little choices, trying different options and sometimes going back to something a few times for me to get to the point where I don’t need to be beautiful. But having got here I can tell you that it is a blissful place. And the longer I am here, the more confident I get. This is a contrast to all the years I spent half-heartedly chasing the beauty standard and finding myself feeling ever more inadequate.

There is a freedom in allowing yourself to look like yourself. You may have noticed that men get around with their hair on and in the faces they wake up with and nobody cares. Nobody looks at them and thinks ‘did he even look in the mirror before he left the house?’. This is one freedom you can take back for yourself.

Imagine if we all did  it…