GUEST POST – Measuring Up to Expectations

This week on the 30 Dates Blog, it’s Body Confidence Week.  Following my original post about body image last week, one of my friends shared a few rather damaging blog posts about female appearance on her Facebook.  It was Emski who first posted a picture of herself without any make-up on Facebook, and encouraged her friends and family to do the same, in a gallery on Shutterfly.

And so I felt it only fitting that Emski write the blog’s first proper Guest Post.

Miss Twenty-Nine xxx

Whether you’re male or female, at some point in a day, we all look in a mirror and weigh up the image we see.

No matter how confident you are, given the choice, I’m sure most of us would be able to find something we’d like to change.  Bigger breasts, longer hair, straighter hair, firmer thighs … the list is endless.

But who are those ideal changes really for?  To please ourselves?  To please the opposite sex?  Or society in general?

I’ll start with me.

I used to hate how I looked, and wish I was half my size.  Years of bullying at school played havoc with my self-esteem, and I would often not get out of bed, let alone go out in public.  When I did go out, it would be in baggy jeans and a jumper – ashamed that my body was over a size 12.  For years, simple everyday things, like going swimming, or to the beach with friends, were foreign to me.

It took a very long time for me to come to terms with the way I look, and accept and embrace my appearance.  But what I realised was that the reason I was unhappy with myself wasn’t because of my own opinions.  It was my fears of how other people would judge me.  Negative messages about ‘plus-sizes’ which had surrounded me growing up – in the media, and in society.  And it took a very long time to ignore those messages.

So if my ‘ideal’ changes weren’t really to please me, then who were they for?  The opposite sex?

It’s interesting contemplating the perfect body shape.

In the 50′s Marilyn Monroe’s stunning curves made her the ‘perfect woman’ for all men. Now it’s the smaller Kate Moss figure of the 00′s that our generation admires.

Whilst a size zero frame might be ‘perfect’ for catwalk modelling, male preference isn’t as predictable as the fashion industry.  Everyone finds different features attractive.  Just because the media tells us a certain look is ‘attractive’, doesn’t mean all members of the opposite sex agree.

And even if there were a certain ‘code’ to please men, then why should women conform to it?  Is it right that we define our bodies and style, purely for the men in our lives?

It’s a topic a number of the other writers on the 30 Dates Blog have already addressed as part of Body Confidence week, and rather than repeat their views (which I share), I wanted to look to the final pressure affecting self-modification.

Society.

In Western society, certain body features are considered attractive.  Larger breasts, smaller waists, fuller lips.

But in other parts of the world, far more barbaric physical requirements are regarded as the ideal, and some of these requirements are forced upon women without their consent.

According to UNICEF, over 125 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to Female Genital Mutilation in Africa and the Middle East.

It is said that 30 million girls are at risk of being cut within the next decade…

FGM involves a partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.  Female circumcision.  The act is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.

It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors, and as such is also a violation of the rights of children.

The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

And the reasons for this brutality? “Because men want it so’’

FGM is not a religious act, it is a cultural one.  It is a rite of passage and often a prerequisite for marriage. It is believed that women become more docile as a result and less likely to ‘stray’.

Incredibly, in 2014, this is still a belief.

As a result of their culture, those women must physically be a certain way for their men.

Not by cutting the hair, or toning up heir thighs.  By mutilating their genitals.

And you thought a bikini wax was painful…

Another barbaric expectation on women in some cultures today is overfeeding.

In complete contrast to the calorie counting which has become an acceptable part of everyday life, in Africa,  Mauritian females are brutally force-fed a diet of up to 16,000 calories a day to prepare them for marriage.

The idea of feminine beauty in Mauritania is like America’s cults of super thinness in reverse…

Two very extreme ways of showing how women are made to change against their will, by the pressures of society to attract a mate.

‘Pain is beauty’ they say.

Force feeding a young girl against her will. Painful – yes. Beautiful – no. Not the person, but the act itself.

Surely this is a wakeup call to us all in a world where pedicures and low-lights are everyday concerns?

Again, I pose the question, who are we trying to change for?

My friends in longterm relationships have regular PJ Sundays with their partners, where they spend the day looking like they’ve just rolled out of bed.  They go on beach holidays where their only make-up is a natural tan, and their partners love them no matter how they look.

It’s my single friends who seem to be the ones on a permanent quest for style ‘perfection’ to get a man to notice them.

I spent many a time trying to get the ‘right look’ because I thought it would attract a man.

My longest relationship started while we were talking in our PJ’s after a long day at work. He fell for me bare faced and relaxed in baggy clothes.

Male friends admit they can see when a woman is noticeably trying too hard and that ironically, those women would look better if they tried a more natural look.

And so, this week on Facebook, I asked my female friends to follow me, and take a no make-up ‘selfie’ to share with the world.  An act of solidarity, to show people that both confidence and beauty are more than skin deep.

Every one of my girlfriends is stunning to me, both inside and out, and I wanted to show them all that when their faces are stripped back of all products, they are all are truly beautiful.

The way you live within your skin makes you more beautiful than any amount of makeup ever can.

My curves are what make me who I am I love them. I embrace them. And I show them off. To me, they are no longer something to hide.  They are something to be proud of.

The journey from teenage me to 28 year-old me has been a long one. The hatred I once felt for myself is a memory of the past. The love I now have for my body has triumphed.

I don’t yet have a full-time man in my life, but I know when that happens, it won’t be from me strutting the streets in a mini skirt with hair full of spray, it will be because I’m happy being me.

A version of me that is proud of who I am and not afraid to show it.

A me who loves herself, and is willing to say ‘Balls’ to society’s expectations, and misconstrued views of  pefection.

As my blog name goes, I am ‘Just Me’.

And I will always be good enough for just me.

Emski
xxx

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