Final notes on appearance (for now)

Finally wrapping up the series that’s been going since I started blogging! I’ve enjoyed writing about appearance from multiple different angles, but after ten posts on the subject (eleven if you count the linkspam), I’m ready to move on to other topics. First, though, here’s a quick recap of the series and a few more stories of my recent experiences with my appearance.

In the first post, I noted that I don’t prioritize my appearance very highly, and wondered why other people do. I explored this idea in several of the following posts in the series, discussing the relationships between my appearance and my gender and my appearance and my asexuality, and pondering the connection between people’s appearances and the level of worth we ascribe to them as human beings. I also wrote about how mirrors inform our interactions with others; discussed the policing of appearance based on gender; talked about what that looks like for women specifically, both in general and within Christianity; and critiqued the notion found within some strains of feminism that everyone should love their bodies.

Now a few random stories… Having short hair (at an awkward growing-out stage, before I buzzed it all off) got me misgendered once, and while I know that can be an upsetting experience, I actually enjoyed it. I was at a busy market wearing gender-neutral clothing, and as someone moved past me from behind, they said, “Excuse me, sir.” Having come to the realization that I don’t feel very feminine, I was excited to have that mistake made, even though I hadn’t been intentionally going for a male presentation. Messing with the gender binary a little, and not looking obviously feminine, just made me happy.

…But, apparently, even wearing jeans and a unisex hoodie and with a hat on my obviously-nearly-hairless head, I’m still feminine-looking enough to be referred to as a “cute girl” by a random old guy. *sigh*

Soon after buzzing off my hair I saw multiple branches of my extended family, and had to explain over and over again why I did it. While I got that same question after going from long hair to a stylish short haircut, it wasn’t to the same extent or in the same slightly baffled way. One reaction I got when I pulled off my hat was, “You did that willingly?” This article describes very well the reasons why women might not feel free to cut their hair (I didn’t really see it as an option for a long time), and the author’s experience of having her desire to go from long hair to a pixie cut be met with surprise and disapproval, as well as the reactions I received to my buzz cut, emphasize how women’s appearances are commodified, their capacity for being attractive valued above all else.

That article also articulates one reason why short hair is actually perfect for me: “[L]ong hair has always been perceived as the pinnacle of a woman’s femininity and sex appeal. A woman who cuts her hair is cutting herself off of her own femininity and from being seen as sexual.” Kind of exactly what I want.

That’s it! Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts and stories with me during this series, and comments on old posts are always welcome if anyone wants to discuss any of the specific topics further. :) There are also many areas I could have covered but didn’t, so I also welcome any further appearance-related thoughts or links on other topics.

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Appearance linkspam

Since starting my appearance series, I’ve come upon a lot of writing on the intersection of appearance with gender, (a)sexuality, and/or sexism (mostly, but not all, from the archives of various ace blogs), and I wanted to share in case anyone is interested. My previous posts also include many links to articles that I’ve found interesting and insightful. Continue reading

Appearance, part 7: a critique of body-positive feminism

I’m planning to wrap up my appearance series soon, but I keep coming up with ideas for new posts…

It’s hard to define “feminism” as one unified movement, because there are so many different branches, some holding views that are in total opposition to others. When it comes to feminists’ attitudes toward appearance, some think that to be a feminist you can’t care about your appearance at all or take any steps to beautify it. I definitely don’t agree with that, and I’ve discussed my reaction to one example of that kind of attitude in this post. On the other extreme, though, you have the “sexy equals empowered” feminists (an idea I may write a post on later), and a bit more toward the middle there’s the idea that loving your body, flaws and all, is an essential part of feminism. And that’s what I want to critique in this post (mostly using two Everyday Feminism articles about the body positivity movement that capture a lot of what I’d like to say). Continue reading

Appearance, part 2: comfort in public

This is a self-analytical post that may not be of interest to anyone but me; it mostly discusses how I feel/have felt about my hair at various lengths and what, appearance-wise, makes me feel more and less comfortable when out in public. The rest of the posts in my appearance series are of more general interest and can be read here.

The other day I was walking down the sidewalk by a fairly busy street, and it occurred to me that I felt more comfortable than I normally would with so many other people around. I usually experience at least some degree of anxiety when in public, and some of this is linked to my appearance—I feel that I don’t look good enough in some way, and that all the better-looking people around me must be looking down on me. So when I’m anywhere where there are a lot of people around, I usually feel very self-conscious. Continue reading

Me

I thought it’d be appropriate to start this blog with something I wrote back in 2011:

I’ve always been insecure/lacked self-confidence/had low self-esteem–however you want to say it. I remember, in junior high especially, worrying so much about what other people thought of me. And even when I went to college, it was still a big problem for me, and still is. But recently, within the past month, I’ve been thinking more about who I am and what I think about myself. And I’ve realized–I like me. I’m happy with who I am, and I wouldn’t want to change, even if I thought people would like me more or judge me less or think better of me if I did, or even if I thought I would be down on myself less if I did. So when I get upset, thinking that other people judge me/think badly of me/don’t like me, I don’t wish I was someone else, I wish I didn’t have to be around other people. Because I don’t have a problem with who I am, but thinking other people do makes me feel bad. Which brings up the question of perceptions and their accuracy, but that’s another topic.

Anyway, I obviously haven’t gotten over my insecurity, but I’m working on it. I’m working on being confident in myself, which doesn’t mean being someone I’m not, as I used to imagine it did, but which means accepting and embracing who I am, and not letting my fears about what other people think bother me. Which is hard. Like I said, I often wish I didn’t have to be around people, except for a few that I know and trust. Not because I dislike people, but because I feel like a lot of them are better (as in friendlier, more interesting, more fun) than me–comparing myself to other people is what makes me feel bad about myself, because I end up concluding that I don’t measure up in some way–and that they’re looking down on me because of that. So I have to keep reminding myself both that other people are likely not constantly looking down on me, and that even if they are, it doesn’t matter, because I’m okay with who I am.

So, who am I? I’m white, American, 24, female but not strongly identified with the feminine gender (trying to figure out what if any gender terms fit me), a feminist, sex-repulsed asexual, ex-Christian, introvert, animal-lover, vegetarian, reader, writer of short stories and novels (none published, but I just finished a draft of a novel featuring an ace protagonist for NaNoWriMo!), and now blogger. Let’s see how this goes. :)