Young + Beautiful

Rosie. Fierce Feminist and Business Owner. 20.

How confident would you say you were?   

My self-confidence changes minute-by-minute depending on a multitude of factors. When I’m alone in my room, fresh face of perfectly applied make-up, pouting at my mirror, perfect lighting illuminating all the right points of my face, I feel fucking hot. Standing in front of a full length mirror wearing nothing but a matching set of undies, I’m a literal supermodel. Out shopping, catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror, oh my God – what’s wrong with my face? Fresh out of a bath hot enough to boil lobster, my stretch mark glowing from the heat, are they always this bright and ugly? I can’t complain though really. On the whole, my body confidence is pretty good and I’m aware of how lucky I am to own a body which doesn’t stray too far from conventional beauty standards, and to never have experienced fat-shaming. My social confidence however, is permanently rock-bottom thanks to anxiety. I can go out thinking I look smokin’, but be too scared to enter a party by myself because my social confidence won’t match my body confidence.

                              

What is your favourite part of your body and why?

My mouth. Can’t eat without a mouth! And my favourite thing to do is eat. My lips are quite a decent thickness and they look pretty good slathered in my favourite liquid lipsticks too.


What is your least favourite part of your body? Can you say anything nice about it?

It’s a tie between my right eyebrow and my thighs, I think. Both are hang-ups probably made worse by comments I received when I was younger. I have a scar across my right eyebrow, I got it in an accident I had when I was a little girl and my eyebrow never grows right over it. My eyebrow idol is Cara Delevingne and it’s hard to achieve natural eyebrows like hers when you have a huge gap through one. When I fill them in I can achieve a pretty fleeky look though, so sometimes I’m quite proud of them, I guess. My thighs are quite jiggly and strangely out of proportion with the rest of my body, but they do work in harmony with my waist and boobs to give me that hourglass shape, so that’s kinda cool.


How has your body changed as you’ve entered your twenties?

I grew up being able to eat an entire buffet and never gain a pound. I made the mistake of not paying much attention to my comprehensive school PE teacher when she said our metabolisms will slow down and that old trick won’t work forever. My thighs are a bit bigger and my stomach sort of comes out a bit more than it used to but I can’t complain. It’s all fine really. I have an unnatural amount of stretch marks too.


When you’re getting ready to go out, what is your goal?

To be able to look in the mirror before I leave the house and know that I would defo fancy myself if I caught my own eye across the club. That doesn’t sound weird at all. Honestly, to feel confident, to look good, maybe turn the heads of a few guys and gals and to have fun! Dressing up and doing my make-up is so fun to me, I might actually prefer the preparation for going out more than the going out itself.


Would you change anything about yourself?

I feel like I’m supposed to be a good body confidence feminist and say no, I’m beautiful how I am. But that would be dishonest. Perhaps I’d leave my body how it is and change the desire to change something about myself? Silly answers aside: physically, I’d probably just want to make my body fitter and more toned, get myself one of those taut tummies and less jiggly thighs and get rid of that damn eyebrow scar. There’s more aspects of my personality I’d rather change but that’s off-topic.


Do you think how we look is important?

I think it is, but I don’t think it should be. It’s clearly important to society, or else people wouldn’t be rewarded for being beautiful and others wouldn’t suffer such horrific body shaming. It’s important to ourselves because of how important it is to society. But for the meantime, before all that changes (if it does), I think it’s important to just do whatever we can to be happy with ourselves so that we are mentally healthy as well as physically.


What is it like being a twenty something woman in 2017? 

Better than it was in the past but not great. I’m sure they’ll say the same things we say about the past in a hundred years or less after much more progress has been made. “Gosh, I can’t believe in 2017 America had a president who openly bragged about sexual assault! I can’t believe 1 in 4 women were likely to be sexually assaulted in their lifetime either, and that FGM was still a thing and trans folks were stigmatised so badly that 4 in 10 would attempt suicide!”

           

But looking more specifically at being a twenty-something, the good: young people are at the forefronts of progressive political movements like that which brought Jeremy Corbyn to become leader of the opposition and Bernie Sanders to almost become a presidential candidate, so we have hope and the drive to create change. We’re becoming quite aware of the sexism in our society and we’re making moves to eradicate it once and for all. The bad? That we still have to fucking do this anyway.

 


How do you think young people feel about their bodies? Do you believe that the media has fucked us up and distorted our vision?

I think the vast majority have some kind of body issue. Children are growing up hating their bodies and that hatred just keeps growing as their body changes and strays further from the Photoshopped images that are marketed to us as an impossible ideal. They are looking at models, actresses, musicians, whose magazine cover shoots are picked apart and put back together as the editor sees fit. When I was probably about 12, I developed a bit of an unusual obsession with the freckles in my face and dark circles under my eyes, after flicking through the pages of magazines and seeing perfectly airbrushed faces. Young, naïve me actually thought that it was actually possible to have no freckles, no dark circles, completely flawless and perfect skin, because the women in the photos did. I don’t know why it took me so long to realise those photos had been airbrushed, but I finally did after years of desperately coating my face in foundation to even out the tone. Trying homemade remedies to lighten my under eyes. Even now I apply copious amounts of light concealer to brighten that area, old habits die hard. So yes, the media has fucked up our vision so badly I didn’t even realise that I was aspiring to be a computer-generated image.


What is your dream for the future of yourself or the world in general?

For me to love myself 100%, all the time. For beauty ideals to cease existence and for the media to stop force-feeding us with fake interpretations of those ideals. This will only end when we are presented with media featuring authentic images. Images of plus-size women, women of colour, masculine women, trans women, disabled women, women with eyebrow scars and lots and lots of freckles!

 

 

Young + Beautiful

Kiran. Cake-Maker and Brainy Lady. 24.

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Describe your relationship with your body.

I have a very difficult and often confusing relationship with my body. There are days when I love the figure I see in the mirror and then there are times when I avoid looking in the mirror altogether. There are days when I feel beautiful in everything I wear and days where I feel like nothing in this world fits me right. There are days when I feel confident and comfortable in my own skin and days where I want to bury myself in the ground because of how I look. There are days when I wouldn’t change a thing about myself and times when I wish I could chop and change bits of my body until I was someone else. Like I said, it is confusing. However I am wholly aware that learning to love oneself is one of the world’s hardest tasks, especially when you are living in a world which makes money from individual’s insecurities and often works hard to make sure that people do not love themselves. I am slowly and painfully learning to love myself, every curve, spot and stretch mark and also working hard to remind myself that it is okay to look as I do.

How is your body different to what conventional beauty standards expect from you?

I feel as though my body is the complete opposite of conventional beauty standards. For one I am neither tall nor slim. Nor do I have long silky blonde hair and big blue eyes. I am average-short in height, on the overweight side and have medium length frizzy dark brown hair. My eyes are brown and of different shapes and sizes (making it even harder to get even winged eyeliner). I have scars on my face where I used to pop whatever pimples I used to get, I also have an uneven skin tone. All of this is far from the flawless complexion the world expects of me. I don’t have long skinny legs and neither are they perfectly shaved at all times, in fact they are stumpy, hardly ever shaved and also have ingrown hair. I don’t have a flat tummy (I have three rolls of fat actually) or perfectly long manicured nails (the last time I got a manicure was for my wedding over a year ago).

How do you feel about these differences?

I get frustrated and angry at these differences at times, especially if I am having one of those days where I hate myself. Having said that I also have the clarity to realise that I will never be able to fit into the conventional beauty standards because it is physically impossible for me and that is okay. I am a real working woman. My height is dependent on my genes along with the rest of my physique, therefore my hair, my length, the colour of my eyes even my weight to some degree is dependent on something which cannot be altered. I used to work in a locked rehabilitation centre which required that I had short nails and no polish. I am now a mother, therefore I do not have the time or the luxury to do my nails as I am constantly having to wash bottles and change nappies. My lifestyle along with my genes makes it virtually impossible to rise to the conventional beauty standards. I feel this is true for most, if not all, women, therefore it seems ridiculous to me that we even have a standard of beauty let alone one which seems so impossible to attain to most.

Do you feel the media has distorted our vision?

I feel the media has definitely distorted our vision. It has screwed up the way we view ourselves and others as well as distorting what our goals and priorities in life should be. I have seen young impressionable teenage girls more concerned about their looks and how many likes their selfies get on Facebook and Instagram instead of having goals and ambitions of what they want to achieve with their lives. This is such a tragedy to me.

Even for myself, while pregnant and even after I gave birth I have been concerned about my weight gain and how I will lose the baby weight, now three months postpartum it is still a concern to me. I often have to be reminded by those close to me that I should not worry about my weight as I am a nursing mother and to focus on my baby and that there is no rush to try to be slim. That I need to focus on being healthy. I feel as though the media has put so much pressure on us women that even after having given birth we cannot relax and give ourselves time to heal, we have to get back to trying to look good for the approval of others. This is especially true for women in the spotlight where every single thing they do, every single thing they wear and the way they look is scrutinised by the world. Such a shame.

 

What is your dream for the future

My dream for the future is that people will stop being judgemental of others, especially on the basis of their appearance. I want people to be able to live their lives loving themselves and not comparing themselves to others and other people’s opinions on what beauty should look like. I want the world to embrace everyone’s individuality and to focus on being healthy and kind and loving each other. God knows that is what the world needs the most right now. Frankly it shocks me that it is 2017 and that this is still considered a dream and is not already the way the world is.

Shrinking Violets

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‘The idea of shrinking is hereditary’ – Rupi Kaur.

For me it’s exactly that. Shrinking myself is a behaviour I learned from my mother. From growing up watching her front room workouts, and I’ll-start-on-Monday diets. It’s a behaviour I learned from the magazines left lying around the house, that I’d cut up to collage and instead admire the stick thin limbs of catwalk models. It’s a language I learned from the soaps I was brought up on. The adults I was brought up by. The books I read too young. Somehow, calorie counting was a rite of passage. It meant I was a grown up.

So Kaur’s poem hit me hard. Hit me because I, like countless other young women, wasted so many of my teenage years trying to shrink myself. Trying to avoid taking up space because I didn’t think I had a right to it. Trying to, ultimately, disappear. I tried to become invisible by starving myself, by standing up on a bus even when there were seats left to take. By staying silent in lessons, and truanting from school.

Asking whether the patriarchy was at the root of my teenage anxieties, or whether my anxiety simply manifested itself in a gendered way is like asking what came first, the chicken or the egg. It was an ecosystem of self-hatred and I was the feast; utterly consumed.

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There are a thousand articles that start with the same story. It’s curious that even now we know just how damaging the desire to be thinner is, the message still pervades. We are still told day after day, advert after advert that we need to shrink ourselves. That we need to be less.

To keep all the money and all the power in one male-dominated place, the patriarchy needs us small and silent. So it sells us images of bone thin girls and it sells us the idea that if we try this one thing, buy this one product, we’ll be that much closer to good enough. And we fall for it. Of course we do. They throw millions at this shit. It’s even leaked into the medical profession. Not-thin has become tantamount to being sick. Doctors tell us we’re overweight, even though we exercise our arses off and are toned to high heaven. A nurse sneers at my size 8 sister and tells her to cut back. How can we argue with this? How many women would have gone home from either of these appointments and cried? I know I would have. My confidence knocked with one fell swoop.

Let’s face it, it’s genius. What a way to keep the status quo. What a way to weaken the opposition. Because, how can we fight back if we’re running on empty? How can we function in the workplace if we’re seeing stars from lack of food. How can we speak out about what’s right and wrong, if secretly we hate every last ounce of flesh we’re standing in? How can we unite and fight if we’re racked with jealousy and secretly we’re tearing ourselves apart?

My weakness lately is when I hear other people talking about their diets. It’s all very well throwing out the scales, and ordering in the pizza but when I hear other people saying how much they’ve lost this week, I miss that thrill. I feel guilty for being bone idle and even more, I feel out of the loop. That world used to be mine. But of course, I’m mentally healthier on the outside looking in.

It’s a hard one, and I’m no more enlightened than the rest of us. I’ve relearned a language. Forged a new lens to look at my body through. I don’t weigh myself anymore because it becomes an obsession. I don’t diet any more because it becomes a competition. But I still look at my body from time to time and wish it was better. It’s hard to break the habit of a lifetime. One thing is different though, even if I do slip, I know now I have a right to unapologetically take up space. I know I have a right to put my opinions out in the world, and not feel guilty about it. And I know I need to do more of it; we all do.

We need to stop shrinking, unfurl our wings and broaden our horizons. Outspread the manspreaders. Get on your soap box. Be like my sister who only calorie counts to see what new levels of greed she can achieve in one day. Be loud, be big, be bold, and don’t be afraid to inhabit your space. It belongs to you. Your presence isn’t an inconvenience, it’s a blessing. Own it.

The poem in the photograph is from Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey. 

Young + Beautiful

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Gold teeth, grey goose, trippin’ in the bathroom? Bloodstains, ballgowns, trashin’ the hotel room? It’s the life Skins sold to us as teens and the life Lorde shot down. What’s it really like being fresh-faced and fancy free? Here’s another look at the life of a 21st Century 20-something navigating all the obstacles that come with having a female body.

Becca. Peace Policer and Student. 21.

How confident would you say you were?


I suppose it depends in what way, I don’t have body confidence in the sense that I’m happy with how my body looks or comfortable with it. However, I am proud of my body for what it has been through and how it’s coped with it and I’m confident it’ll carry on coping and handling whatever is thrown its way.

When you look in the mirror what do you see?


An awful lot of fat and wobbly bits that I wish weren’t there, along with some not so nice stretch marks. Although I also see a rather nice pair of boobs too.

What do you say to yourself?


If I’m feeling pretty for some reason (sometimes I’m wearing makeup, sometimes my skin’s just having a great day) I think damn why can’t I look like this more often and then will be vain and admire myself and probably take some selfies. If I don’t feel pretty, I usually just pull at all the awful bits that I don’t like and feel sorry for myself.

What is your favourite part of your body and why?


Probably my boobs. I think they’re a good size and just look pretty nice for a pair of boobs.

What is your least favourite part of your body? Can you say anything nice about it?


Probably my belly. This is the hardest question so far, the only thing I can think of that’s good about it is the fact the fat keeps me warm and protects what’s inside my body.

How is your body different to what conventional beauty standards expect from you?
Well I’m not tall or slim, I’m the opposite. I am short and fat. My skin is textured, red and spotty.

How do you feel about these differences? Is there a story behind them?
In terms of my height I really don’t mind, I couldn’t care how tall or small I am compared to others. Sometimes it’s a good excuse to not help get things down from high spaces or clean somewhere up high. My weight I’m not so happy about but I suppose it tells a story about how I’ve felt over the years. If you look back on pictures usually when I am a bigger weight I’m not happy with my life and so I comfort eat.

How has your body changed as you’ve entered your twenties?
Dark circles under my eyes! Which makes no sense since I sleep faaaar too much and I thought you got them from not sleeping enough. However, that might be complete bullshit and I just didn’t know.

When you’re getting ready to go out, what is your goal?


To feel comfortable and happy with how I look. It depends on my mood, sometimes I love getting dressed up and playing around with makeup and other times I’m not in the mood for all that and will throw on a pair of jeans and a comfy top and I’m ready to go.

When do you feel good about yourself?


If I eat something healthy! It makes me feel so much better, so I don’t know why I don’t do it more. Also if I accomplish something, so when I got a first in an assessment that made me feel pretty darn good

Would you change anything about yourself?


The way I treat my body. I might indulge my skin in pamper sessions but I really need to learn to look after and love my body better.

Do you feel happy with yourself?
In some ways, I’m happy with how hard I’ve worked and where it’s hopefully going to lead me in life. But I’m not happy with my body, some aspects of my personality and my fight with mental illness.


Do you think how we look is important?


Unfortunately, it impacts someone’s first opinion of you and can decide whether someone wants to talk to you or not. It’s absolutely ridiculous but our society is bloody ridiculous at times.

What is it like being a twenty something woman in 2017? 


Stressful. So much about our society is still stuck in the old ways, the pay gap for example which I still can’t believe is a thing! Being judged on what you wear and other people thinking it’s okay to stare or even try to touch you. Although I am fully aware that I am also very privileged and lucky. I am able to access an education, work, vote, wear what I want and choose not to have children or get married without people looking down on me. Even though we’ve still got a long way to go as a society, we have also come a long way too.

How do you think young people feel about their bodies? Do you believe that the media has fucked us up and distorted our vision?


I think the majority probably don’t like their bodies. The era of photoshop and technology has royally fucked up young people. It’s all about thigh gaps and big pouty lips. When you see all the touched up photo’s of celebrities and models it makes you feel like crap and you start to wonder why your body doesn’t look like that. This is causing so many young people to have eating disorders, body dysmorphia and other mental illnesses, yet the majority of the media couldn’t care less along as they’re making money and headlines.

What is your dream for the future of yourself or the world in general?


I hope I’m better in terms of mental health. I’d rather be healthy mentally than be slim. I do also hope that I can look after my body better and become healthier and not for appearance reasons but for my own physical and mental health.

I hope the world learns to be equal and that we’re all just human beings no matter where we were born, our skin colour, or religion, our gender and our sexual preferences. We’re all just people.

 

Photo credit – Sophie Turner

 

Young + Beautiful

We all hate our bodies. We all want to be longer, thinner, bonier, better.The media ruined us and we’re all on a diet. That’s what we’re told anyhow.

I’ve decided to search out all the young women in my life and quiz them on how they really feel about their bodies. Here is the first interview in a series of what will, hopefully, be many. 

Hollie. Blogger, Baker, Art-maker. 20.

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

H: Normally my naked body before I go to bed pretending not to not be cold while I try to look sexy.

What do you think or say to yourself when you look in the mirror? Or do you say nothing?

H: I’m not really a deep person…

What is your favourite part of your body and why? 

H: My hands or eyes. Because I’d  be lost without them. Because I can’t make art without them. Because I can’t paint without my hands because I’m not skilled enough and I like to see things, I like to see the world. And you know [having no hands] would make wanking incredibly difficult.

How is your body different to what the media wants from you?

I feel a lot of the time like the media want me to hate my body, and I guess that’s what makes it different, because I don’t. I’m not saying I don’t wish I had a flatter stomach or a bigger bum sometimes, but I don’t hate how I look. I don’t have a strong desire to change. I love the little flaws, the wrinkles on my belly button, the scars from eczema and accidents.

When you’re getting ready to go out, what is your goal?

I want to look good, don’t we all? Maybe I’ll pick a skirt that’s a bit shorter and tighter than I’d normally wear, or a top with a bit more cleavage. Alcohol makes me feel braver, so I’ll wear something brave.

How would you rate your confidence out of 10?

Seven. I’m not unconfident with my body, but I don’t by any means see it as perfect. I don’t walk around flashing it off but I don’t feel I have to hide it, cover it.

Do you feel happy with yourself?

Some days.

Describe your relationship with your body…

When I first started using my body within my art, I began to get confident with my body. I became familiar with the shapes, the curve of my hip and the size of my boobs. I know and understand my body.

Do you think how we look is important?

I feel like as a feminist I should say it doesn’t matter. But here I am with beauty products coming out of my ears, doing sit ups every night before I shower. I don’t think it should matter to other people how we look, but if you care about your appearance, no one should undermine that.

How do you think young people feel about their bodies? Do you believe that the media has fucked us up and distorted our vision?

Of course the media has fucked us up. We all wish we were thinner or curvier or had bigger muscles or a smaller bum. We want our skin to be as flawless as they tell us everyone else’s is. We shouldn’t let the media tell us how they  we should feel about our bodies.

I feel like we should all be happy about our bodies, because they’re ours. It doesn’t matter whether you have wrinkly skin, scars, fat, hair you don’t like, whatever it is. Because you’re beautiful and you should be happy about that.

Reappropriating Reappropriation

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Reclaiming words is officially a thing. From queer, to slut and even n*gga marginalised groups are taking back the words so often used against them and wearing them with pride.

To an extent it seems like a radical move. Reappropriation allows people to own their identities and stick two fingers up at haters in the process. When I first discovered Queer Theory was a thing I enjoyed its stubborn and subversive nature. The first ever SlutWalk in 2011 felt so brilliantly revolutionary and brought women together in a way I’d personally never seen before. It felt like a beginning and got the ball rolling for the mainstream revival of feminism that we’ve enjoyed in recent years. In the same vein calling myself a slut feels liberating; I feel lucky that I live in a society that allows me my sexual freedom.

But there’s another part of me that feels uneasy about using these words. Should we not just put them to bed and banish them completely? It’s safer than leaving them out in the open where they can still be used against us. As someone who loves words, and the wonderful rolling wave-esque way that language continually evolves I’m not entirely keen on this idea of some words being of limits. Words (and a desire to shock) are my thing and some of my favourite words are those that a lot of people tend to avoid. At the end of the day though, it makes sense to call a ceasefire on a culture where there are rules over who can say what and when. It blurs the lines between what’s okay and what’s not and makes the divide between them and us even more intense. Makes us even more apart, separate and opposite. I can call my friend a whore, but if you say it you’ll be on the receiving end of hell. This is not my kind equality; this is a some people are more equal than others kind of equality and it’s bound to end in tears.

Having been on the receiving end of sexism, homophobia and classism myself I can tell you it’s not pretty. The kind of people who hate on minorities definitely don’t need any more fuel for their vitriolic fires. Let’s not give them a get out clause, or be accused of hypocrisy for preventing them from using words we ourselves bandy around like there’s no tomorrow.

On top of this, there’s the fact that the only words feminists have reclaimed are those that continue to define women by their sexualities. Surely this just perpetuates the patriarchal idea that women are purely here for enjoyment of men. That, as an entire gender, we are split up into virgins and whores. There’s a whole litany of other words used against women that have never been reclaimed; words that are part of an unequal his and her pair. Spinster for example, is not something I’ve ever heard anyone call themselves with pride.

 

For myself, and most of the other young feminists I know, calling yourself a slut is no hard feat. It’s a joke, a term of endearment and for some of us a home truth we revel in. The word slips off my tongue on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. And perhaps the reason why I find it so easy to use this word is because it’s not one hundred percent a compliment.

The words that don’t come as easily for me are those that praise myself. While I’ll never have the confidence to call myself intelligent or even kind, and I’ll physically squirm if anyone tells me I look okay I’m totally up for recounting how rubbish I am with directions. How I still struggle with left and right. How one time I couldn’t remember whether the past tense of split was ‘splat’ or ‘splitted’. Pulling yourself down is just easier, funnier and doesn’t run the risk of being perceived as arrogant. And this isn’t just a personal problem. In recent years girl’s self-esteem has been dramatically lower than boy’s. The Girl Guides’ 2015 Girls Attitudes Survey found that 37% of the girls and young women surveyed said that they had personally needed help with their mental health.

The media and the misogynists have long since been blamed for this pandemic of low self-esteem and the mental health problems that come with it. For the fact that women don’t respect themselves and their bodies. For making us feel unworthy, unattractive and immoral. In the same survey mentioned above, 52% of young girls and women had felt uncomfortable about images that sexualised women in newspapers and magazines in the past week alone. It was also the media who first coined the term ‘suffragette’ and used it as an insult against the women fighting for their right to vote. Should we take inspiration from the suffragettes and own ‘cankles’ and ‘cellulite’? Should we draw red circles around our own flaws and wear them as a fashion accessory? Does this take back power or does it just play right into their hands?

I grew up with girls who starved themselves, harmed themselves and tore themselves down in the blink of an eye. I don’t think we need any more words that the world can use against us when we’re already our own worst enemies. We need words that make us feel good about ourselves. Words that everyone can use without causing offence. In a world that continually divides and attacks and pits one group against another, only bringing people together is truly subversive.

I have some fabulous friends who are so brilliant at complimenting themselves and I love them for it. They can literally look themselves up and down in a shop window or a bedroom mirror and say out loud, ‘yeah I look hot.’ They can read an essay or a poem they wrote and celebrate how clever they are. They make me want every woman in the world to be able to do the same.

Maybe these words are the words that we should be reclaiming. The words that make us love ourselves. Those are the words that make us feel powerful.

Symposium

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Symposium

Séance in the moonlight

and your eyes strike green –

Snap. It’s just me and you.

They say if you stare in a moonlit mirror

you see the devil himself.

Boo! You’re my demon

and I’m yours.

We’ve the same baked bread skin;

our veins pool from the same ocean.

Identical twins. Only, your hair parts on the wrong side.

Four hands, four feet, two heads –

Plato’s symposium.

We should be in love.

I smile and your skin cracks.

You drag me closer with your corpse cold glare.

Someone’s breath cakes the glass in fog but

only one of us is alive.

 

Poem and collage by Sophie Turner