Ugh, you know what? F*ck pretty!!!
November 29, 2018 5:26 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for resources on stereotypical beauty norms / body image

I've read the Beuaty Myth, I know anorexic people or those who have body dymorphia, and I know our culture's obsession with 'beauty' is messed up. But I'm not good at articulating this to other people, nor am I good at 'walking the talk' and feeling confident unless I feel 'pretty' or 'attractive'.

Help me grow!!

Specifically, please refer me to any books / videos / articles / groups / anecdotes about:
- How to explain to others that stereotypical beauty norms are harmful
- How to emotionally liberate myself from this awful shallow vortex of anxiety and insecurity

Thank you!!
posted by Crookshanks_Meow to Human Relations (15 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
I'm presently reading Fabulous by Madison Moore, which is an astonishing book published earlier this year about taking personal ownership of your appearance. It is 0% about fashion (what everyone else thinks you should look like), and 100% about style (what you think you should look like).

It's also academically rigorous, information dense, and I have had to renew it at the library once already because I can only read so much at once. 21 pages of footnotes!

It's not an instruction guide of what to wear, or even an instruction guide about how to pick what you wear, it's an instruction guide of how to think about how you present yourself to the world.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:33 AM on November 29, 2018 [20 favorites]

I really like the work of Caleb Luna and Virgie Tovar, both of whom have substantial academic chops but write in a way that’s down-to-earth and which comes from the perspective of navigating the world as fat people of color. (Links go to their published articles but Virgie also just published a book - “You Have the Right to Remain Fat” - which in some ways overlaps with her online articles, and also got a lot more interesting a few chapters in.) Jes Baker’s book Landwhale was also a good read. IMO good solid quasi-autobiographical writing can sometimes work as an applied version of self-help books or theory.

These all happen to be works by people who are fat activists but they’re all pretty intersectional in their perspective/analysis.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:53 AM on November 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

The fabulous Jameela Jamil is on a one-woman crusade to highlight just this issue. Currently she's got her crosshairs locked on to the celebrities who promote the detox diet culture. Hopefully the way she goes about it can give you some inspiration.
posted by london explorer girl at 6:35 AM on November 29, 2018 [8 favorites]

You might want to check out the social media of Harnaam Kaur

As a woman who decided that my desired level of beauty regimen is approximately zilch (I do not remove body hair, or wear make-up, and I don't do anything to hide either of these facts), I guess my anecdotal advice is Just Do It? At first, it's hard. You think everyone is staring at you (mostly they aren't really, but yeah some people raised by wolves will stare). Some particularly shitty people might make a comment. You can't control anyone's reactions, all you can control is how you react. It takes time. There's no magical incantation or inspiration that will allow you to wake up one morning and just go, "You know what? Fuck it." without feeling any doubt or self-consciousness. But that goes away over time.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:12 AM on November 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

Grace Woodward uses her Instagram to explore this a bit. She’s a fashion stylist who is recovering from generational eating disorders, examining body positivity and highlighting other people in various disciplines working in the same space. So her instagram account could direct you to other people doing work that could interest you.
posted by padraigin at 8:08 AM on November 29, 2018

I follow The Body Is Not an Apology on Facebook, and they post some great stuff on their blog.
posted by lazuli at 8:17 AM on November 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

In terms of liberating yourself, I strongly recommend finding fat-positive blogs/sites/accounts to follow on whatever social media platform you use. Having that constant stream of little reminders be the norm on my feed means that I notice, in a bad way, when someone starts getting all diet-culture in my feed, because it feels out of step. It's work to cultivate a social-media community where stereotypical beauty standards are not enforced, but it's possible and worthwhile. I think that I just picked a couple of accounts to follow, then added in accounts as I learned about them. Starting to educate yourself about disability rights might be helpful, too; I find that I've started thinking about bodies differently after realizing how much feminism, fat-positivity, and disability rights really intersect. Alice Wong's Disability Visibility Project is wonderful. Facebook link here, and it looks like she's on Twitter too.
posted by lazuli at 8:25 AM on November 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've been delving into this a bit myself lately. I really think the media has drummed this whole "Everyone Is Beautiful!!!!" thing into us as women so much that some of us really think it's true. I'm sorry, not everyone is beautiful, and I'm sick to death of hearing it, as if it's the be all and end all. Some people are beautiful. Some people are plain. Some people are conventionally unattractive, and you know what? IT'S OKAY. This constant affirmation of beauty makes it seem like being beautiful is the most important thing in the world, and reinforces that as women, that's what we should be striving for. We need to stop buying into it. Stop saying that and start saying, "You're great, just the way you are". Or "fine". Or "good". Or whatever.

The whole "Boobs are in this year! Thin brows are now out!" sell we keep hearing is just...exhausting. Patronizing. Manipulating. Conniving. Soul-crushing. Psyche-damaging. We are not trends. We are bodies and faces and it's ok to have whatever you have without it being "a look" or a trend that is either currently in or not in. It's fucking exhausting and really sad.

I saw this article yesterday, you may like it. Blogger reveals what the perfect figure looks like for every decade. It's an eye-opener, and maddening. That we have to keep dieting and exercising to achieve whatever someone decided is that decade's "ideal". U G H
posted by the webmistress at 9:51 AM on November 29, 2018 [12 favorites]

I just read this tweet and thread, thought of your question again. It will make you feel good about womankind in general. A quick link to send someone when you don't have time to have a more in-depth discussion.
posted by the webmistress at 10:21 AM on November 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have been struggling with this exact same problem recently, and I found this book very helpful:
posted by a strong female character at 10:35 AM on November 29, 2018

I've shown the following videos in my intro to women's studies class, and the students found them accessible and engaging:

Renee Engeln's Beauty Sick (also a book)
Jean Kilbourne's Killing Us Softly
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:38 AM on November 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

What helps me is to mindfully stop worrying or concerning myself about how I look. I have big stretches of time when I'm not thinking of appearance. Weeks. Months. I get on with it. Shower, hygiene, slap on some lipstick and forget about it. Because as you age, you can't worry about physical beauty too much or you'll be a mess. Actually, not worrying can make you more attractive in my opinion.

If you usually take a lot of time on your hair or makeup, go without or do less and see what happens. If you always wear mascara or lipstick or concealer, don't wear it and notice that nothing changes and nobody cares. Then you realize that you are okay just the way you are and you don't have to obsess over what to wear or how your butt looks (I am projecting. You may not care about how your butt looks). Instead of thinking about how you look, think about how you treat others and what you're interested in. I think I'm more attractive because I'm a curious person and I enjoy people and I notice and appreciate, not because I have a perfect ass or whatever.

I have been thinking about hotness versus beauty. "Hotness" may not be your aim. I found that young people feel the pressure to look and dress "hot". Often the "hot" look is too try-hard and objectifying. As I age, the more the cliche rings true -- beauty comes from within. I used to hate and roll my eyes at this idea. I thought it was pure bullshit but it's true.

As far as attracting long-term partners goes -- yes, we are animals and we appreciate beauty, but we also want integrity and kindness and brains and fun and vulnerability. Instagram tells young people that they have to look hot in order to be attractive as partners. As it goes, young bodies are naturally hot. Youth fades. Cultivate your inner beauty and interests so when your "hotness" fades you won't care so much.

You don't have to holler from the mountaintops that the beauty culture is harmful. You know it is and you don't have to play the game if you don't want to. Or, play it but know that it means next to nothing.

I have read the book, Beauty Sick by Renee Engeln. I think this book is especially good for young people (people in their teens and twenties) to realize that you don't have to go to great lengths to beautify yourself in order to live in the world. This book ,in my opinion, is pretty repetitive and tells the stories of several women who feel the pressure to primp and look a certain way. I am older and don't feel that much pressure, but at times have been overly preoccupied with my appearance. This book illustrates how our preoccupation with physical appearance can be a waste of time, money and head space. Fashion and makeup are fun and taking care of your body and working out is great, but not if you think it makes or breaks you as a person.
posted by loveandhappiness at 9:27 PM on November 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

The thing that helped me rewrite my own brain was riding the Metro to work every day, and looking at people around me, and thinking about what made them all beautiful.

I was raised in the same media/diet/white supremacist culture as most people in the US, so my knee-jerk instinct would sometimes be “that sweater?” or “try chapstick” or something else snarky and awful, and I would reject that initial impulse and think about that person as a hero, and someone with a kind heart, and a generous neighbor (all made up, these were strangers, it was a thought exercise), and then I would work at finding them beautiful.

After about a year of this intentional exercise, I really and truly found so many more people beautiful and wonderful than I had before I started, and I hated myself less (still working on that one obviously), and the culturally mandated Regina George voice in my head was much less of a constant. Also, when I say beautiful, I don't even mean "pretty"-- but it was a way of meditating on the wonderful diversity of humanity and how looking different from one another is very special and cool.

(I don’t mean staring intensely or anything, just taking normal glimpses of the commute and turning them into a chance to do better.)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:55 AM on November 30, 2018 [4 favorites]

I don't wash my car; it's a waste of water and time and I don't really GAF about what it looks like as long as it gets me around. I take it to the mechanic all the time and make sure it's got oil and the tires are full of air but what it looks like? Whatevs.

I treat my body the same way, except moreso. I live inside it, so I don't really trouble myself with the outside of it, unless something calls attention to itself by, say, stinking or itching or hurting or feeling too cold or hot. None of the indicators that the body needs attention are visual, because I have to expend effort to look at it, and I don't like effort. My appearance is not my problem. It's not anyone's problem in a sane world, but in this world if it's a problem, it is someone else's. Does it feel good? Do my eyes and ears and limbs and organs work? No holes that don't belong? No lumps that weren't there yesterday? 'Kay, good. Time to watch Netflix and eat General Tso's.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:42 AM on November 30, 2018

This is only a small thing compared to the excellent suggestions above, but you might find this recent NTY article an interesting read – about a "campaign to cast off the country's rigid beauty standards" in South Korea. I thought it was fascinating, and that the woman involved are brave to so staunchly go against the grain like that.
posted by considerthelilies at 12:18 PM on December 2, 2018

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