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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Assailing myself

Reading Coyote’s post “When Being Asexual Is What Makes You Assailable” gave me a revelation. I’ve gotten the implication from other people (never stated completely explicitly, so far) that my opinion on certain things isn’t valid because I’m ace, but I’ve mostly held that attitude toward myself.

When I started this blog, I felt the need to tag some of my posts “ace-influenced(?)” as a kind of disclaimer, a way to say, “Being asexual might be impacting my thinking on this, so my opinion may not be fully valid.”

I’ve wondered if I’m sex-negative just because of my personal aversion to sex, if that aversion is actually the only reason I think of and agree with criticisms of sex and its role in society and relationships.

And when I say things like “romantic relationships don’t have to include sex” or “a romantic/sexual relationship isn’t necessarily the best kind of relationship”, I have this inner inkling of doubt, this feeling that I don’t have a right to speak on these subjects—because I’ve never experienced sexual attraction, and so can never have a fully valid opinion on the importance of sex in other people’s lives.

I see now, though, that those questions and caveats come from internalized heteronormativity; that I’ve absorbed the idea that any perspective not coming from a heterosexual isn’t “normal” or is automatically biased in a way that means it shouldn’t be taken entirely seriously. I don’t want to feel that way, and I don’t think I should. Being ace is just as legitimate as being straight—or gay, or bi, or pan. If allo people don’t have to preface their thoughts with disclaimers noting that their orientations may be influencing them, then neither do I.

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. :)