Summer is moving right along! I first want to thank all the amazing and brave women who’ve been submitting their swimsuit pictures – our gallery is beginning to take shape now! Last week we did an article on how to get a beach body. This week, we’re acknowledging that stripping down for the summer isn’t just about size. For women especially, there is just no end to the way we criticize ourselves, and the way others are willing to place judgment as well. When it comes to showing more skin, our weight is just one thing we become more self-conscious about. What about body hair, acne, stretch marks, scars and birthmarks? I believe a lot of the unrealistic expectations we have about our bodies and other people’s bodies has to do with advertising. From the time we’re young (continuing for the rest of our lives), we’re shown “how” we should look. We’re sent messages that communicate that body hair should be nonexistent (especially if you’re female), your skin should be clear and smooth, and pretty much anything that marks you as a human that has come in contact with life and planet earth (scars and bruises along the way) is not considered attractive. These are impossible standards and honestly, they are insulting to our individuality. Patricia Alvarado, a Chicago-based photographer, did a photo series called “I Thought You Said You Liked Long Hair” about the sexist societal contructs surrounding the way we view female body hair. It’s rather fascinating – here’s what Patricia said about the series on her website:
Women in our society grow up believing that body hair is unnatural, and that the removal of hair is a ritualistic practice to be done as often as possible. We see ads for shaving creams featuring long, lean, hairless legs being caressed by a man. We see hairy women being automatically labeled as man-hating feminists or as being unkempt, dirty, and lazy if they make the decision to keep their body hair. We want women to look like girls; hairless, fresh, clean, and new. We’re scared of aging, of growth, of change, and so we shave, and we wax, and we pluck. Body hair makes society cringe, and so we put in the work. In “I thought you said you liked long hair…”, I attempt to address the problematic ways in which society views hair. Long hair is the ideal, but only if it’s in the right place. So to the countless men who have told me that they prefer women with long hair, you’re getting what you’ve asked for.
Another thing that comes to mind is a scene from Sex and The City 2, where Miranda is criticized by Samantha for not grooming her bikini line before going on vacation (you know the scene!): To have or not have body hair is a choice, although most women feel obligated to, because they want to avoid similar criticism. Body hair is NATURAL, although nearly every porn, film and ad will have you believing otherwise. If you like it, do it! But if you don’t like grooming and are just doing it because you’re “supposed to”, it’s time to put the razor/clippers/wax down! Then we have insecurities about our skin. Facial acne and body acne are common yet looked down upon. Stretch marks, scars and birthmarks are also things we get self-conscious about. No one has perfect skin. Cosmetics companies, dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons made loads of money off of this fact, and they create ads and products to keep monetizing. Having acne or another kind of skin rash like eczema or psoriasis is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, one of America’s Next Top Model’s winners (CariDee, Cycle 7) had psoriasis! Stretch marks and scars are also a big stressor, especially for mothers – many have stretch marks from weight gain/loss or scars from a cesarean operation. How many lotions, oils and creams are dedicated to fading stretch marks and scars or claim to prevent them in the first place?! There’s a very beautiful quote about scars from “Little Bee” (Chris Cleave), which I want to share with you:
On the girl’s brown legs there were many small white scars. I was thinking, Do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and the moons on your dress? I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.
Birthmarks – yet another thing we have no control over. Patience Hodgson, lead singer of the Australian band The Grates, grew up with a large, rare port wine stain birthmark, otherwise known as Klippel Trenaway Sydrome, covering half of her upper body…she calls it her protective barrier!
I love my birthmark’s spectrum of colour. When I’m warm it’s a kind of red-purple, like the colour of some plums and when I’m cold it’s a vivid, almost neon blue. I also like how it’s a kind of protective barrier protecting me against non-accepting and unthoughtful people.
I think that as a society, we need to grow up! I mean, is it REALLY bothering you if a girl is at the beach and she hasn’t shaved her legs or armpits? How does someone else’s stretch marks affect YOU? Are we really building ourselves or anyone else up when we’re so judgmental? Let us know! What are you concerned about when you put on a bathing suit? Join us next week for our next body image-building post: “How to deal with body-snarking.” And don’t forget to follow our campaign on Twitter using the #suiturself tag, check out our submission gallery, or send us your own submission to firstname.lastname@example.org! Related posts from the Suit Urself series: The Beach Body Tutorial If you like it, wear it! Work what you’ve got! Body acceptance tips Why are body image challenges important? Suit Urself! Choose your attitude this summer with our body-positive swimsuit challenge!