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.

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

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Quit the tabloids. Halt the glossies. Here’s another look into the really real realities of being a woman with a body and all of the issues that come with it. Told from the point of view of today’s twenty-somethings.

KATHERINE. VINTAGE VENDOR AND WORD QUEEN. 23.

How confident would you say you were?

It can totally change from day to day, if not minute to minute. It also depends on the situation. When I am with the right combination of people, I am happy in my own skin. I don’t like to be in a large group of people, especially if I don’t know anyone, or they all know each other better – that makes me very anxious and awkward.

 

When you look in the mirror what do you see?

I see someone who is changing every day.

                   

What do you say to yourself?

When I’m struggling, I have to give myself a pep talk and say, ‘Come on, Katherine, you’ve got this’. When I’m feeling confident, I generally sing or do a little dance.

 

What is your favourite part of your body and why?

I have great cheekbones that I inherited from my paternal grandma. It’s all pretty exceptional though.

 

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

My legs – they are very scarred from eczema and playing hockey. They are pretty shapely though.

 

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

I probably have more belly than the mythical perfect woman. I definitely don’t have the perfect smooth skin either and I never will have.

 

How do you feel about these differences? Is there a story behind them?

There’s a lot of work that goes into maintaining this figure – constant dedication to cinnamon swirls, pick and mix and chocolate. My belly’s story is simply that I love to eat. My skin is dry and sensitive. I can’t use most products because they make my skin worse, but it’s already scarred and a bit destroyed from years of abuse!

 

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

To turn a few heads. To spend time with my friends and dance until I am a sweaty mess.

 

When do you feel good about yourself?

I feel at my sexiest when I’ve just washed my hair, or in matching underwear and a slick of red lipstick. But I also feel good when I make other people feel good. I like to be connected to people and to put lots of effort into my relationships.

 

Do you feel happy with yourself?

I am happy that I am not complacent in myself – I think if you don’t find yourself really annoying sometimes, you’re a bit weird.

 

Describe your relationship with your body…

I’m quite attached to it. Most of the time, I love my body and I like to see the scars and bits I’ve added. When I have felt suicidal, I hate the thought of losing my body and being disconnected from it. I think it’s important to look after your body in little ways; enjoy the feeling of brushing your hair, stretch when you wake up. It helps me feel more alive.

 

Would you change anything about yourself?

The only thing I would change about my body is my skin because I was born with eczema and it is really draining. My skin is very high-maintenance. It can be painful – sometimes I scratch so hard I bruise myself. I like my body shape, but I’d love skin that wanted to stay attached to me! Personality-wise, I’d be kinder to myself and more spontaneous. I can be quite fearful and rigid.

 

Do you think how we look is important?

For better or for worse, first impressions often stick and I think appearance is a big part of that. I think you can tell quite a lot about people from what they wear, for example. I like to use clothes to make a statement about who I am, projecting how I feel comfortable.

 

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

It’s scary how young people and even children look at their own bodies. I’ve worked with kids that have been dieting since they were 10, that self-harm because they think they are fat and ugly, that get bullied for being small. It’s awful to see the hurt and hatred that the media has bred into our culture. It’s disgusting that it affects adults, but it infiltrates early on and is ingrained so deeply that our attitude to bodies, especially female bodies, is totally warped. Everything is focussed on the negative, never on positive attributes of the person, or the beauty in difference.

 

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

Tolerance and people being driven by love rather than by fear.

 

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

Your Body Matters

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We’re faced with images and ideologies twenty-four seven and more often than not they tell us that the only thing that matters is how we look. As an entire gender we spend our lives plucking and preening, pinching and purging. We’re pulled from one side of the spectrum to the other. When we’re slim we’re accused of not being ‘real women’ and when we’re curvy we’re accused of being fat. We aim for a healthy glow and suddenly heroin chic stumbles around the corner, unsteady on its feet but still sharp enough to stab us in the back.

Like a hell of a lot of teenage girls I was facing these images in the pages of Heat and HELLO before I had the strength of character to realise I didn’t have to accept them.  As a result I went through my fair share of self-loathing. I perused pro-ana sites and devoted an entire notebook to my desire to be thin. In it I glued cut outs of my size zero idols who all had hip bones sharper than my elbows. I was at the peak of my teens in the late noughties so there were plenty of Nicole Richie and Rachel Zoe pictures for me to get my fifteen year old hands on.

Looking back, it scares me to think that even though I never actually had an eating disorder, I would have sold my soul to have developed one. I felt like if I found some way of measuring up to society’s idea of a perfect woman, my life would have been be so much easier. At such a young age it was startlingly clear to me that for some reason thin people were valued far more than those who were larger.

And then I became an adult, and a feminist and I got my shit together. Really together. Every time someone comments on how smiley or level-headed I am, I’m like –shit, I am! How the hell did that happen? I don’t know at what point something changed. I don’t know how it happened, or how to encourage this change in other people. Maybe it was when I upgraded Grazia to The Guardian, or when I stopped spending five days a week with more than a thousand other messed up teens at secondary school. But whatever, I started being happy about how I look. I’m short and I’ve got way more meat on my bones than fifteen year old me would have wanted but I really don’t care.

These days, when I see pictures of bone thin girls, read articles about young women starving themselves or hear fully-fledged adults calling themselves fat it still bothers me, but it’s not because they make me feel inadequate any more. It’s because I’m so desperately sad that these women can’t see that they’re good enough already.

I’ve seen through the shallowness, the unhealthiness, the unattainableness that the media shoves down our throats. I’ve accepted my body. It might not be perfect. I don’t have washboard abs or perfect pins but those are just buzzwords magazines churn out over and over because they’re too lazy to come up with anything new.  It’s these shadows and the little quirks that make my body mine and stop it being a copy and pasted dream-girl body. And usually I feel like a whole woman. The few bits that did get chipped off are pretty much fully healed over.

Who cares if I have scars, my thighs wobble, and my hips aren’t a seamless curve? I don’t look at you and think, well she’s nice enough but she doesn’t have a thigh gap. If your friend tells you he or she feels ugly you don’t pick them to pieces like you would yourself. You find the beauty, the way her eyes light up, or his perfect skin. Their intelligence, kindness and conscientiousness. Their sense of humour.

Unless it’s someone we seriously hate, we always, always find the best in other people. So why do we think we deserve less ourselves?

The simple answer is, we don’t.

Next time you look in a mirror look don’t go ready to tear yourself down. Heat magazine is far too willing to do that for us. Don’t let society continue to shrink us. We don’t have to be small, silent woman (or men) standing in corners and fainting when our corset straits are pulled too tight.

We can stride and shout. Laugh with such abandon it hurts, and cry at the joy of it. We can spread wide. Fuck and flirt and flounce. The world is whatever we want it to be so don’t hold back! Rebel. Go and find the goodness in yourself and get into the habit of doing it. Because we’re all far too fucking fabulous for this shit.

I took this image a few years ago for a 6th Form art project about stereotypes surrounding body image and the way they constrain us. I thought I’d unearth it for this.