Tonight on the blog, I’m kicking off a special week to round-up January.
After the incredible response to my post earlier this month on Body Confidence, and some horrendously negative blog posts about female image, which I’ve been shown since writing that post, I decided to ask the Experimental Daters to share their own thoughts and experiences on Body Image and Body Confidence.
And so this week on the 30 Dates Blog, we’re celebrating Body Confidence, and exploring Body Image.
One of the worst blog posts I’ve read on the subject of women and image was by a man, suggesting all women need to keep themselves preened at all times for men. Immaculate make-up, trim, toned body, grooming, you name it. It is all an obligation. Southern Belle also posted a similar comment on Twitter last night – a quote direct from the dating site OKCupid, which asks users to agree or disagree with certain statements, in order to better match them with others.
The question at hand was whether women should be ‘obligated to keep their legs shaved’?
It’s an interesting concept – female beauty (and ideas of female beauty) as being purely for the benefit of men. And almost in servitude of men.
Interestingly, rather than making me look at Physicality, the idea made me think about Relationships.
I’ve never really seen personal grooming as something I’ve done for anyone other than myself. Make-up, clothing, hair … I see them as a form of personal expression. Decisions I’ve made for myself, not for a man.
What’s interesting, is that I never really considered myself a feminist growing up.
I went to a highly competitive, successful girls’ grammar. A school where we were taught to take on the world, regardless of whether the opposition was male or female. We were brought up equals.
I never looked in the mirror, and saw being female as something which specifically defined me.
I was a Year Seven student, or a Year Ten student, a GCSE candidate, an A-Level examinee …
At home, choices for sports or activities were never based on our gender. Perhaps it was because he never had boys, or more likely because all he saw were his children, but my Dad let me and my sister try any and every activity we wanted. And whatever we chose, he would support us 100%. I always describe my Dad by explaining that if I’d decided to become a pro sky-diver, he’d have found a way to rent a plane, and would have joined me on the first jump!
I grew up with encouraging parents, supportive of any decision I made for my future, and never suggesting my gender might stand in the way. And as a result, my favourite childhood pastimes included Scouting, cricket and ski racing.
It was only when I went to Cambridge that I realised the rest of the world didn’t necessarily think that way. That people my age had genuinely grown up in a world where women were still seen and not heard. Where a girl’s role was to fit quietly on the arm of a man, and not hold an opinion of her own.
To me, the view was archaic – and on the few occasions I experienced sexism and misogyny, ironically I was dumbfounded. How could views like that still live on in the twenty-first century?
I was single throughout university for a number of reasons. And I don’t doubt that one of those reasons was because I didn’t fit in with the image of the perfect Cambridge female undergrad – a smart cookie, who had earned her place, but who was happy to take a back seat and not compete against the boys.
Instead I simply carried on as I’d done at school. I had goals of my own to achieve, and I planned to achieve them – regardless of who stood in my way, male or female!
As the boys revelled in their successes, and their girlfriends cooed and made all the right noises of support, with little concern for their own achievements, I realised something about my views on women, and about relationships.
I hadn’t been brought up a feminist. I had been brought up an equal.
And what I wanted in a relationship, and still want in a relationship, is a man who is truly my equal. Someone who challenges and excites me. Who is interesting, and adventurous, and not afraid to question me, but someone who sees me as an equal, and appreciates the same qualities in me. A man who finds me interesting and adventurous. Who I challenge and excite, and who I’m not afraid to question either.
In my opinion, relationships are like seesaws. It’s an opinion I formed after years watching my parents make their own relationship work – quite literally through thick and thin.
We all know that there’s nothing worse than being in a one-sided relationship.
Where one party feels like they put in all the work, and the other simply reaps the rewards. For a start, the one always working for it will eventually feel taken for granted. Like they are reaching too high, and can never properly do enough. Equally the partner on the other side of the tipped scale eventually begins to wonder if he or she can do better. Why is their partner making so much effort?
However, it’s important to remember that there is very seldom a perfect balance. And that the very nature of a seesaw is that one side may go up, but it also comes down just as quickly.
Good relationships work in the same way.
Some days one of you needs the other more, on other days the tables are turned. One day one of you might make the greater effort, the next the role is reversed. But the reality of it all is that you both not only see each other as equals, but you feel a mutual appreciation.
The key to a relationship, and to finding someone with whom you want to spend the rest of your life, is working out what happens when the seesaw stops tipping. Measuring up whether you both put in equal amount of effort and attention when the need requires it.
Because life doesn’t always sail on an even keel, and the best relationships need to be able to react to that. The seesaw needs to be able to move, because sometimes one side will get heavier or lighter. But it should also be able to come back to an equal place of rest at times.
When I look at my parents’ 30 year partnership, I can trace a few of the ups and downs, and see the way my parents reacted to the pitfalls. No matter the drama, no matter the problem, they worked together to solve it. And sometimes the reality of the seesaw meant one of them didn’t touch the ground for some time, but the other was always there supporting him or her. They never left each other stranded.
How does that all relate to face value?
I guess it comes back to why I wear make-up.
I wear make-up for me. Because it makes me feel confident, and independent, and allows me to express myself. I’m not wearing it in the hope of attracting a suitor … because in reality, I would hope that any guy genuinely interested in me, would be able to see beyond the kohl eyeliner and cover up.
Of course, there might be days on my relationship seesaw, where I’m flying high, and I look stunning, and I’m preened and prepped and glamorous. But I want any man in my life to love me just as much when I’m bare faced, and wearing my big thick geek glasses! Because that’s still the same me.
If you choose your relationships, solely on the packaging, the reality of life is that the packaging will change. If you choose your trophy wife based on her perfect figure and flawless make-up, what happens in twenty years time? And if you get in a relationship where you feel like you have to constantly live up to an ideal, then eventually you won’t be able to hold up your side of the seesaw any more.
I’d rather a guy fell for me because I challenged and inspired him.
Because I motivated him to think a different way, or because he saw glimmers of himself in me. Because he knew that he could ride a seesaw with me (for want of a less dodgy-sounding euphemism!), and know that we could get through thick and thin, and always end up pretty well balanced.
So to kick off Body Confidence week, I will sign this post off in a way that I know a number of the other female authors will also be signing off the blog … with a bare faced photo. No instagram, no touch ups … just me.
Naked and proud! 😉
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx