And that's the problem. I have been judging this woman based on her clothing choices. And my judgments are based on what our culture currently considers attractive. I realize that our culture is not very tolerant of women. I see that, to some degree, I have been brainwashed by the popular culture. Otherwise, I doubt I would see someone's clothing choices as condemnable because they are not "age appropriate" and do not attempt to make the wearer appear svelter. I have been confused by her because she never seems to try to look better. How is that possible? Why would a woman not endeavor to look beautiful? And how could she not let her society define beauty for her?
I am so used to feeling that I need to look "beautiful" and seeing other women attempting to look "beautiful" that it doesn't occur to me that not everyone wants to be beautiful by a standard that was not personally created. It doesn't occur to me that perhaps I don't want to be beautiful if I am not the one defining beauty to suit myself. If I don't trust the musical opinions of my culture to represent my own, why would I trust that I would find beauty in the same places and people? I need to learn to judge for myself what is attractive without relying on what I've learned from other people. The first step, I think, is nipping judgment in the bud. When I first start thinking "she's wearing too much makeup" or "she's perfect because she's tall and thin and wearing clothing that would be in a magazine" maybe I could try to remember that the standards I'm basing my opinion on are manmade and specific to my era. If I had been born four hundred years ago, I would have thought the "now" beauty was bony and must be poor or have a disease.
What is the point of being seen by one's own culture as beautiful? Currently women have many more freedoms than they ever have in Western culture. Beauty has affected the struggle for freedom negatively; women have been dismissed as being ugly troublemakers who can't find husbands when they argued against the faults of their government and their society. On the other hand, beautiful women aren't always taken seriously. Their intellect is ignored. Point is, beauty has done nothing for women's rights. Women do much better when they rely on their determination and intelligence. Being beautiful only helps women support the status quo. It gives men an excuse to judge us, use us, attack us, control us. It gives women an excuse to judge other women. People we should be seeing as comrades, family, fellow soldiers. We are the only ones who can understand each other's problems. I want to recognize the problems other women face, and I want to support women, not the institution.
Again, what is the point? Beauty does not add significantly (or should not add) to credibility. And what I want is to be credible, to be seen as intelligent and respected for my intellectual capabilities. I don't need doors held open for me and I don't need heavy things lifted for me. I am not a flower. I am a person. I am a strong person. And I know that my fellow women are people too. I need to recognize that. Normally, I don't necessarily treat women as people; I continue to treat them as women. Men are not the best role models. My new role model might as well be the woman on Pacific. She, at least, practices self-creation; she expresses herself and her interests.
Women should feel comfortable and should enjoy their clothing. We must wear clothing to protect ourselves from the environment, from men, from our critiques of each other, and from our society. But we don't have to protect ourselves so much as to take the pleasure from our clothes. By not wearing the current fashions, but really considering our own desires and dressing accordingly, we are expressing ourselves. When I wear weird home-dyed jeans and a button-up dad hand-me-down, that is me. I am a DIY-er, sometimes with poor results (though the jeans are fine, I must note), and I am my dad's kid and I like to feel close to him. It is certainly not the height of fashion—it just doesn't stand out too much from the crowd. If I am happy wearing dad-clothes and another, older woman, is happy wearing miniskirts we should neither one be censured by anyone else. We must use our clothing instead of being used by it. Women do not need to be made into perfect little dolls, spat out by a factory. Women need to be individuals and they need to be seen by men as individuals. Our wardrobes are tools. If the way we dress varies from the norm enough and often enough, there may eventually not be a norm. And at that point, I will feel like marketing is no longer our master.
I have to admire my muse, the woman from downtown, in that she is not made to be afraid of her body. I am scared of my body. I don't want it to be seen, I have to mask it because it is not good enough. But who is to say it's not good enough? Why have I let other people tell me my body is not good enough? When I was a young child I never thought about my body as being in any way negative. It was a tool, it was what got me around, it helped me play in mud and manipulate Barbies. Not until school did I truly learn to hide and fear my body. But when you are around enough people who think a certain way, you adapt. You lose part of yourself without knowing it. And I lost a freedom. How could my body not be good enough and for whom is it not good enough? For the most part, it does what I desire it to. It is strong and capable of becoming stronger. It functions well sexually, allowing me pleasure. And if I didn't value it quite so much as I have come to, I'm sure it could make babies. My body does a fine job. I want to stop selling it short, short though it may be. And there is nothing wrong with any other woman's body. Every person's body tells a story. It reflects who she has come from, what she has done, how she has been treated and what she wants. When I think of that, people are inspiring and beautiful regardless of size or scars. I really appreciate women accepting and celebrating their own bodies. And, of course, if we don't celebrate ourselves, who is going to?
I am indebted to the "ugly" woman I always see when I'm downtown. There are things I might not have realized about myself if I hadn't been exposed to her. And she remains a symbol to me of what is truly beautiful about women—their individuality. I hope that I can grow up enough to be like her, a person, not just a woman.