(Content warning – discussion about sexual harrassment and sexual assault further down)
I took the photo below in August last year for so many reasons. Mostly because of my inner hypocrisy. I feel like a pretty confident woman when it comes to my body but this is not a shining example.
This particular morning, I woke up, looked in the mirror and thought “Damnnnn gurlll, I wish we were going to the beach today so I could rock this bikini!”. Felt guilty about it immediately. Took a very, very, VERY rare selfie. Got dressed and took a train to Bangkok.
I wanted to put it on the internet and see what people thought. You know the usual, “Ooh flat stomach”, “thigh gap”, “petite figure”, “that is an aspirational body for me to look up to as it meets, to some degree (as you can’t tell how small the boobs are), what society wants to see in a lady”.
And that’s how I felt. Good. Kind of.
Then I wanted to hit them with a Truth Bomb! A really gross truth bomb…
This was taken after just over a month travelling throuh China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and this was in Thailand. That means that this was taken after a month without a solid bowel movement – by now that shit was a thing of the past (gross, sorry). Then a glorious bout of food poisoning in Laos had me and my travel buddy ruining our shared toilet from both ends for 24 full hours of stomach cramps and me crying for my mummy.
Even when my body stopped forcefully emptying itself of whatever the fuck I ate, I couldn’t stomach any food for 3 days. This photo was taken on day 4 without eating when I finally was ready to consume some Pad Thai.
I just had to think of what my body went through to look in a way I felt was finally “socially acceptable”.
I guess the point is, even some of the most confident, body-positive of us seem to have horribly screwed aspirations and understandings of how we should look, even if we don’t abide by it and are perfectly happy the way we are.
I know I’ll never look like this again, because when I was finally back to my athletic, 16 year-old Charlie weight of 55kg I was incredibly unhealthy. It’s unattainable. I’m 27 and have no intention of trying to make my body do something it physically can’t (or shouldn’t) do and especially not if it will be detrimental to my health. So what if I won’t look like that again. I’m fucking awesome 😉
But people are so keen to assume, under the supervision of the media, that skinny people are skinny because they’re healthy, and on the flip-side, fat people are fat because they’re unhealthy. That way we know that fat people are lazy and skinny people are awesome. It’s how we keep people in their place. I’d quite like to go into fatphobia from here, but I feel that’s a whole other post.
We put soooo much pressure on each other and ourselves to look good. It’s incredible how much we instill it from such a young age.
I spent the first 20 years of my life with people telling me how pretty I was. It got to the point that when I went to family gatherings, I expected it. If no one called me pretty I was confused. What has changed? Am I not pretty any more? I’m pretty right?
Even in the first year of university a friend told me that people used to comment to him how pretty I was *blush*. I also remember telling an ex-boyfriend that when I walked into any room, I wanted to be the prettiest/hottest girl in there and if I wasn’t, I knew exactly who was. He thought I was crazy to put that kind of impossible pressure on myself but I explained to him that it’s a girl thing. We have to look good.
Thank god this is a thought of the past. I might still subconsciously take note of the beautiful girls around me, but I’m less inclined to compare myself to them because I offer my own personality, intelligence and experiences that is so much more than my looks, and so do they. It ain’t no competition.
We have a weird obsession of telling people how good they look, as if being good-looking is a universal truth, and as if it matters at all. It’s also interesting how it’s changed throughout my life. From well-meaning adults telling young Charlie how pretty I was, to grown men making sure I know exactly how fuckable I am. Cos you know, you spend life making sure you are pretty to make sure you become a sexually viable candidate for men. Ask Meghan Trainor.
It didn’t take long for men and boys to start making crude comments to me as a teenager. If you read the comments on this Reddit post, you’ll see it’s not uncommon for girls under 10 to be catcalled by men who are as old as or older than their fathers.
I quickly realised that my body will be considered public property by many people who feel the right to make sure I know that I’m a woman and should start accepting barrages of “compliments”, verbal and physical, that I never asked for. Let me list out some of the “compliments” that I’ve received (and remember that I’m just one privileged young lady in a sea of women who have dealt with much, much worse):
- The man in his car at an intersection who asked 15 year-old me with a BK soft serve in hand if he could “have a lick of my icecream”. *voms in mouth*
- The family friend who used to make comments on how “little clothing” I was wearing (on a hot day on my own family property) and touch my exposed midriff or shoulders when my parents weren’t around. I was probably around 14 or 15.
- The guy who waited until I, at 19, was sitting alone at a table in a quiet bar to silently walk over, put his hand down my top, under my bra and grab my bare breast.
- The group of lads in Bournemouth who, at the busy bar that I was working at, instead of ordering their beer, started discussing whether I was hot or not, then exactly how hot I was. They decided I was an 8/10 and expected me to thank them for their kind rating.
- The guy at the same bar who told me that I squat (“She squats bro” is a shitty meme that makes me hate the internet). Nope I don’t. Then how did I get this ass you ask? I got it from my Mamma and even if I did squat, it’s not so you can comment on my booty at my workplace. Now fuck off and order a drink off someone else.
- The man who, when I was door-knocking for work, locked me in his house and tried to kiss me.
- The bar tender (at The Fiddler in Auckland – be careful there) plying an extremely drunk and alone Charlie with free shots, ass gropes and an offer of a ride home after he finished work.
- The taxi driver who told me my ride would be free if I kissed him and drove down a side street.
- The many back-handed compliments I’ve had about my boobs from the guys that are “totally ok” with me having a small chest and think it’s important that I know that they think my breasts look good even though most people won’t. (Lolz)
- I’d love to know the exact number of times I’ve been groped in my life. I know it will be terrifyingly high. I’ve been going to bars for 10 years and that’s where it’s most common. Let’s imagine I’ve had my ass grabbed once every weekend since I was 17 (which, let’s be honest, is a huge underestimate). This makes over 500 times. Let’s be clear about this too, because people let grab-assing slide a LOT, but this literally means I’ve been sexually assaulted well over 500 times.
- Now let’s add on the car honks, yelling out the car window, guys telling me to get in their car, construction site catcalls, guys on the street commenting on my body, guys following me down the footpath, and around bars and parties.
You know that these “compliments” are likely to make a girl feel gross, uncomfortable and/or unsafe, than be all “Yay, some random creep wants to do bad things to me!”.
- And last but not least, the guys that have used my drunk body as their sex toy.
Considering how much stuff people have done and said to me (this is far from an extensive list), and I’ve only taken 2 guys to the police, that’s HUNDREDS of people who have gotten away with some fairly serious offenses. And I’d say the majority of them don’t even know what they’ve technically done.
My personal experiences barely touch the surface of the issues that come from the idea that women should be hot for the enjoyment of men (which I’d also like to point out is super heteronormative – there are lots of other sexual orientations wandering the earth that this REALLY doesn’t apply to. Why would a lesbian want to look hot for a dude, and why would a gay guy want a girl to sexy herself up for him?? And then there’s the asexuals who just don’t give a fuck!).
It’s not even true, we are not for male consumption, we just are.
So let’s get this long ass post to a swift close…
There are lots of ways people and the media perpetuate what “hot” is, and how important it is that we, as women, should be hot. But we don’t need to be. We should look and dress how we want without having to worry about how people will perceive us, and especially not just for men to gawp at us. And men, stop treating us as such. For me it’s still a work-in-progress changing my mindset on these things which are pretty well ingrained in me, as I realised in Thailand last year, and I’m still tightening the screws and water-proofing my positive body image and the way I speak to people. I think I’m doing fairly well though 🙂
All you need to do is stop comparing yourself to others and be the best, healthiest version of yourself that you can be, and nothing else should matter. If you feel comfortable and want to wear that little crop top and booty shorts because you like them, wear them, if you want to wear trackies and a hoodie because they’re comfy as fuck, wear them, and if someone has a problem with that, or calls you a slut or a prude, questions your clothing choice because of your body size, or treats you in anyway badly because of how you’re presenting yourself, tell them to speak to Charlie. You’re awesome, almost as awesome as me xx