This is a follow-up post to my post on the phrase ‘real bodies.’
I’ve noticed a big trend lately for loving your body = revealing your body.
You see it in shows like “How to Look Good Naked”, where women who hide their body under baggie clothes learn to celebrate it by doing a ‘boudoir’ photoshoot that is displayed on large screens in public places. It’s a big part of the burlesque community, where you celebrate yourself by taking your clothes off.
And these are fine, and there is something great to be said for anything that helps women to feel comfortable with who they are, but I’m not entirely comfortable with their message, both for personal reasons, and in a wider societal context.
Personally, I’m quite a private person. I don’t really tell people what’s going on with my life. I hold new people at a distance until I really assess my character. I hide my privacy in real life, and on the blog, with ‘public’ stories. It’s amazing how people think they know you if you mention that you just had a dreadful cold, hate fringe and tell them what a merkin is. 😉
Along with being private, I’m private about my body. I feel funny showing you fitting photos where I reveal my stomach. I almost always wear surf shorts over a swimsuit. I wear tunics over pants, not leggings, and avoid tight jersey clothes. This isn’t about not liking my body (well, mostly), this is about feeling that my body is mine. It’s private. It’s like my private thoughts and feelings: I only want to share them with people I really know, and like (and of course I like you guys, but who knows who else is on the internet 😉 ).
So that’s my personal reason for preferring to dress a bit more modestly.
In a wider societal context, I see the trend to promote loving your body through showing it off as part of a bigger emphasis on sexualising women: on our worth being based on how alluring, and available, we make our bodies. Once again, it bases our perception of worth around our bodies on how other people view them.
I can see this movement having real value when it helps a woman who has never seen herself as alluring and desirable to feel that way, and to experience that about herself. At the same time, I think its very important not to focus on ‘sexy’, on ‘alluring and desirable’ as the most important attributes of a woman. We’re so much more than that, and any movement that can’t get that across, and can’t celebrate all those other things, is selling us short. Because I want all women to feel that they can love themselves, even without being sexy.
I’m not advocating dressing like a Quaker from 1840: sometimes focusing on dressing non-sexually and modestly can put just as much emphasis on it as taking everything off. Both are about how the outside world sees you: not how you feel about yourself. I’m advocating taking control of your own body, and celebrating what it is, in any way that makes you feel comfortable.
So I’m going to wear things that make me happy. Skirts that end below the knees (though I got quite brave in Oz and bought two dresses that end above the knees). Necklines that dip quite low, because I don’t have enough bosom to feel sexualized and ‘revealing’ in decollete. Surf shorts over my one-piece swimsuits. And I’m wearing them for me. Because they make me love my body.
And those are my thoughts on dress and revealing your body.
I have a hard time writing posts like this, because they are very revealing about me. They break my privacy barrier. But while I don’t think that the only way for women to celebrate themselves is through sexualising their image, I do think that it is important to learn to celebrate yourself by trusting the world and showing them who you really are. So this is me taking off my metaphorical privacy sarong. Please ignore the mental cellulite.