I’m really sick of articles, features, blogs and stories about body image. Before I go on, I do acknowledge that looking and feeling good is a really important part of one’s self esteem and self-worth, and that society in general is very superficial when it comes to judging people according to their beauty. These aspects of body image have been covered extensively, to the point where every new feature on it is flogging a dead horse.
Haven’t we got more important things to focus on? I feel like writer’s talents are wasted on whining about how mean society is, how they feel pressured to feel thin, etc. If I hear another story about how ‘plus sized normal women need to be represented in magazines and on the runway’ again, I’m going to stab someone in the eye with rusty scissors. Do you know what I do if something minor annoys me? I IGNORE IT. Is anyone making you buy those magazines or watch those fashion shows? I know the argument of victim blaming pops up a lot and that ‘I shouldn’t have to change MY behaviour, they’re the ones in the wrong’. I would appreciate and support you in this argument if the issue wasn’t so frivolous and unimportant.
If you identify as a feminist or a humanist or any ‘ist’ you want, aren’t we supposed to be fighting the big battles? I’m pretty sure when women were fighting tooth and nail to be allowed to vote and control their own finances they weren’t worried about how well their petticoats fittted them or had even heard the term ‘body image’. I personally feel embarrassed and prone to facepalming when I see an article about how a woman has ‘ignored society and embraced her body!’. Have we gotten to such a point where we need to high five each other for figuring out that women come in all shapes and sizes?
Before I get any cries of ‘You don’t know what it’s like to be fat/ugly/-insert other body image problem here-!’. You’re right, I’ve never been overweight, I don’t know what it’s like to be judged on my looks.
Oh wait, yes I do.
For most of my early teenage years I was obsessively aware of my body, but unlike most teens, this was because I had just started using a wheelchair due to an advance in the breakdown of my muscles after being diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. I’d worry that people were staring at my legs, their shape, their state, etc. I’d cry myself to sleep about my legs, my bony shoulders and my hairy arms (a combination of my dad’s hairy genes and extra growth due to my skinniness). So don’t think I’m discounting anyone’s body image feelings, I’ve been through it myself, but then something changed. In my late teens I received psychological and medical treatment for my depression and anxiety and started focusing on improving things I could control. My body had failed me, but my mind was still sharp and amazing (this isn’t opinion, it is a fact, brains are amazing). I feel like I had an epiphany where I realised that people were going to stare and judge me anyway, so I had to have a spoonful of concrete and accept it.
Of course, like everyone, I have bad days where I want to throw a tantrum because I don’t look as good as I’d like to. But do I let it take over my life? No. Because there is so much more to life. I’ve found amazing role models in my life who exemplify exactly who I want to be when I grow up.
Someone who has made me appreciate life and not care about eating that extra Tim Tam is my mum. She recently recovered from breast cancer after having her breast removed. To her, the removal seemed to be a no brainer. She was so brave. So brave that this cancer tragedy turned into a bit of comedy between her and I. When we’d go shopping together, she’d push me in my wheelchair and people would look at her (she was wearing a scarf after her hair fell out during chemo) and give a sympathetic smile, then look down, see me in the wheelchair, do a double take, and try to look even more sympathetic and caring! We were ‘Cancer and the Cripple’.
My university lecturer is another one of my heroes. We have so much in common that I suspect she’s me in twenty years through some kind of space time continuum warp. I’ve never seen her wear a speck of makeup and her attire usually consists of a t-shirt and pants. She’s one of the most intelligent, funny, classy, and amazing people I’ve ever met. Whenever I’m agonising over a hair out of place, or an unsightly pimple, she pops into my mind and I think ‘Ahh fuck it’ and ignore it.
I really do believe that a lot of body image problems can be solved with a ‘Ahh fuck it’ attitude and a change in priorities. Do we really want our lives to be controlled by a mixture of fat, skin, muscles and bones? It should be filled with experiences, learning, laughter, friends, family, music, writing and love. Put down the fashion magazine and eat a spoonful of concrete.
I’d heard a lot about HBO’s ‘Girls’, so I decided to give it a crack. From what people had been raving about, I expected it to be a funny, warm yet realistic representation of life for early 20-something women trying to make their way in the world. I thought ‘Hey, I’m a 21 year old woman I should be able to relate to these women and their stories’. I was bitterly disappointed and a bit frustrated that I’d been promised this great show and was instead stuck with a series I kept watching just in case it got any better.
The series opens with the main character Hannah (played by Lena Dunham) having dinner with her parents. Her parents then have the AUDACITY to tell her that they’re going to stop funding Hannah’s life, which is what they’ve been doing since she graduated college 2 years ago. Hannah promptly throws a hissy fit (remember, she’s in her early 20’s) and tries to explain to her parents that she’s going to be a fabulous writer and the ‘voice of a generation’. I vomited a little bit in my mouth when she said this. She then goes home to bitch and moan to her equally vapid friends about how she needs a job, yet when it’s suggested she work for McDonald’s, she vehemently declines. She is of the mistaken and arrogant mindspace that beggars can be choosers and that she’s ‘too good’ to work at McDonald’s because she has a writing degree. So even from the start, because I’m not a spoilt brat, I had nothing in common with the main character. Sure, I receive some financial support from my parents, but I also pay rent, actively apply for jobs, am completing an Honours degree, and volunteer in my spare time (I know, I’m fantastic).
We’re then introduced to Hannah’s roommate Marnie who is whinging about her boyfriend loving her too much. Then ‘worldly’ Jessa who looks like she googled ‘How to dress bohemian hipster’. Finally, Shoshanna who is Jessa’s cousin, and a neurotic ditzy Sex & the City fan. Don’t you want to totes be BFFs with these girls?!
I watched the first episode, was put off by all the characters, and couldn’t relate to any of their first world, petty, spoilt problems, but I persevered. Maybe it was just finding its feet and the characters would soon blossom to become normal and likeable? By no means do I expect television characters to be gorgeous, witty, charming and all round fabulous, but I do like to feel some sort of connection, I want to root for them.
I finished season 1 last night. It was a relief to say the least. Why did I keep watching? Ironically, because my favourite characters in Girls, were the men.
We’re introduced to Adam in episode 1 as Hannah’s semi boyfriend/friend with benefits. She antagonises over how many times he’s texted her (something I unfortunately can relate to), whilst he is completely unaware of how much distress he’s causing her. He walks around topless, makes useless things in his workshop and is very sexually expressive. He’s your everyday young man. He displays slight autistic qualities such as saying strange things at inappropriate times, but this just makes him more endearing. He doesn’t try hard to be anyone, he doesn’t care. He’s the complete opposite of Hannah. Throughout the series, Hannah explains to him that he’s not treating her well and blah blah blah, so he changes. They turn into a real couple. He cares for her deeply and eventually tells her he is in love with her. Apparently this is too much for Hannah, who if I remember correctly, WANTED EXACTLY THIS. She spills a boring monologue about how insecure she is and how hard her life is. Yeah, it must be really hard having lovely parents who support you all the way through college then for two years after while you live in a nice apartment in New York working on your ‘writing’. Where do I donate to your charity? Adam calls her out on her spoilt white girl shit and then breaks up with her. I wanted to high five him.
Next likeable guy is Marnie’s boyfriend (then ex) Charlie. His problem was that he loved Marnie too much. Now, where did I put my tiny violin?… After 3 years together, she breaks up with him. Fair enough, some relationships can fizzle out. I can understand that. He is heartbroken and finds solace in another girl’s arms a fortnight after their break up. Marnie finds out and gets all mopey and looks through Facebook photos of him and his new girlfriend. An appropriate response in today’s modern age. If anything, this situation is the one in which most women can relate to. But what annoys me is that Marnie is just boring. There’s no spark to her. She has no ambition. Charlie isn’t the most developed character, but I feel sorry for him. I decided I liked him because unlike the other female characters, I don’t cringe when I watch him.
Finally, my favourite character in Girls; Thomas-John. He is played by the adorable and hilarious Chris O’Dowd and only appears in 2 episodes. However, he gave me the first and only genuine laugh in this supposed comedy series. He is introduced as a dapper businessman sitting at a bar, who hits on Marnie and Jessa and asks them to come back to his place for a bottle of wine. Now for anyone with a third of a brain, this can be decoded as ‘I would like to attempt to sleep with you two’. I assumed the girls knew this, and were okay with it. So they went up to his apartment, he turned out to be a wannabe DJ and while the girls lied on his carpet (what?) he tried to initiate a threesome. Marnie and Jessa act offended and indignant. How dare this man who obviously wanted sex suggest we have sex?! Then, because Marnie wants to be more crazy and loose, she starts to passionately kiss Jessa. Yawn. Thomas-John starts to become annoyed as they are ignoring his advances and goes on a hilarious tirade which includes my favourite line of the series ‘WHO WEARS A BOWLER HAT?!’. He rips them to shreds for being try hard rich daddy’s girls and angrily asks them if they’ve ever worked hard in their lives (Enjoy the rant http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWsovTuub8g).
Many might say that Thomas-John is a pig, but I don’t see it that way. It was blaringly obvious that he was interested in sex with Jessa and Marnie. They could have easily said no. But to have led him on, make him believe they liked him, then to laugh in his face, I’d say that’s cruel on their part.
To sum up, don’t watch Girls unless you’re an entitled, arrogant, naïve, spoiled white 20 something year old living in New York. Or watch it if you want to feel better about yourself because you actually strive to achieve in life instead of moping around feeling sorry for yourself.