Rambles, rants and raves

A lot of opinions spilling out of my brain


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Please stop selling me body confidence

To all companies and media outlets trying to sell me a beauty product,

I am in my twenties and have been told my various outlets that I must be skinny to be beautiful, have sexy curves, and be confident in the body I have – even though on the next page of your magazine or in another advertisement, you tell me I don’t have the right body.

You are trying to tell me that I am not good enough. That I should be skinny because it photographs well or because it looks good. You try to tell me you care when all you are doing is selling a product.

Please stop trying to sell me body confidence. It would be a far better marketing concept if you were honest. I know this is hard because you are selling the exact same product as your competitors but it would be better than lying that you care. It doesn’t make sense to tell me that I should be happy in my body and then tell me to buy your product so that I can do that. It also doesn’t make sense that you would pay thousands of pounds to have your advertisement selling “body confidence” (though you only show a certain kind of type and look in your adverts) in a magazine that tells us how to lose weight, dress so that we are sexy and look skinny and remind us exactly what is wrong with the way we look.

It seems pretty hypocritical to me that you tell me I should love my skin and then only show models that are typically beautiful in some way, be it in the face, body or both. They fit into all the moulds that you apparently dismiss.

I am just like everyone else and you try to break me with unrealistic or hypocritical and apparently inspiring body messages and then build me back up so I will buy your mediocre product and conform to whatever shape I have to be, to be someone who buys your product.

If you want me to buy from you, then just use all those wonderfully crazy science words and tell me what the product does. Just please stop selling me body confidence when you are part of the industry, and usually part of the same brand, who are telling me that I should be ashamed of it because there is just so much to improve.

Stop treating me like an idiot. Though you may only see me as a body – as a physical entity and nothing more. I have a brain – thoughts, ambitions and opinions. I am not defined by my body but by my actions, like choosing not to buy your product. So please stop selling me body confidence. It isn’t fooling anyone.

From a lost customer.


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Beautiful

With the release of The Great Gatsby – which I am so excited about I could cry, I love that book and I love Leonardo DiCaprio so even if the film doesn’t do it justice, which is the curse of the book-to-film adaptations, I am sure it will still be an AMAZING movie. I’m watching it tomorrow. AHHH!

…Apologies, went off on a tangent there. My excitement clearly can’t be contained. As I was saying, with the release of The Great Gatsby I have been thinking about the word beautiful. I have been thinking a lot about beautiful and what it means and what it stands for, to me. I think Fitzgerald would agree with my very general conclusion that when I think of beautiful, the first split-second reaction is empty.

It sounds obvious because we all know that beauty – at least physical beauty, which is the one we all think about when first confronted with the word – is superficial. I spend a lot of my spare time staring at beautiful images, reading words that paint beautiful scenes and daydreaming of all the beautiful things I can do.

But, when I think of beauty and the word beautiful I don’t really feel anything at all. It doesn’t fill me with anything – not longing, not happiness, not sadness – nothing. It is just a void, an empty word because it doesn’t really mean anything at all.

I like to think that Fitzgerald thought the same thing. He appreciated beauty but his words and sentences and paragraphs and books, multi-layered as they are show, that beauty is empty. He writes in layers to hide the emptiness of the beauty and in doing so, makes beautiful seem hollow. That’s how the word feels to me.

Obviously I find beauty in things that fill me with joy but they are not necessarily beautiful. Or at least not the beautiful which we hold in such high regard in our capitalist society.

Beautiful is a little like a photograph that shows one tiny split second of a moment and nothing else. It is one dimensional and a peep-hole. It isn’t a feeling and nor does it evoke a long-standing one. You may say wow at something beautiful or be struck by a beautiful thing or person but that feeling is fleeting – it disappears and fades. It does not provoke anything for me.

There are many beautiful things in my life but they are more closely rooted with love, admiration, inspiration and hard work than they are with the actual word beautiful. And I think there’s some beauty in that.


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Screw beauty

I am sick of people trying to impose ideals of beauty on people – both men and women. I am sick of adverts pretending to be about ‘real women’ only featuring white, young females that are skinny enough to have never eaten bread in their lives. I am sick of magazines screaming at me about a new celebrity having lost or gained weight. I am sick of being told that I beauty is the key to happiness. Screw these damn ideologies of beauty.

I am not bitter, quite the opposite, in fact – it saddens me that people put so much value in their beauty. It infuriates me that this society has made us judge our outer shells so harshly when it plays such little significance to the actual type of people we are.

Men’s beauty is not even discussed in mainstream media, men are either expected to be crazy toned with abs that you could use to grate cheese to go over your baked beans on toast or they are seen as fat, bald and hairy. And speaking of hair – when did that become something so gross? Why does every young human on this planet think it is a good idea to wax everything off? We are not dolls and we’re not made of plastic. The hair industry has grown in financial success every year for too many years. In America, laser hair removal alone is worth £244m. That’s a hell of a lot of money to ensure that you look ‘clean.’ Just wash yourself, it would be cheaper.

Saying that I do shave, mainly because I want to and also because I feel slightly obligated. Which is wrong but I can’t help it. But I do wonder who made up all these rules on the ideal beauty.

Who the hell decided that long hair on women is best? Who came up with the genius idea that women to be defined as sexy should have the waist they had when they were 9-years-old? Who thought that women needed to be so damn perfect?

Recently, and I use that word loosely, thin has been directly linked with beauty. As though if you pass a size 10 you are a) no longer a woman and b) no longer attractive which in turn creates c) you are no longer happy. Advertisements use the word health to disguise an unhealthy message that thin is best, and that you are never thin enough. This is unhealthy for so many reasons I could write another blog post entirely on that. This is why people aren’t happy, this is why insecurity is as common as blinking. We are constantly trying to achieve a beauty that we haven’t even given ourselves a chance to consider.

We accept this ideology of beauty straight away. Digest it happily and then beat ourselves up for not achieving what wonderful cameras, good editing and great photoshop skills can do. There’s a reason we cannot achieve that ideal and it’s because it doesn’t exist.

Physical beauty is only skin deep and although it’s important to feel beautiful, it is not the most important thing. It is not the only thing. You are more than beautiful. If that is all there is to you, then you’re selling yourself short. A person is loved and admired because of their actions, their words, their relationships, their personality. Everyone close to you is beautiful to you – that’s more than likely because of their personalities and your relationship with them (not calling your friends and family ugly but you get what I mean).

To tell someone they are beautiful is lovely, and I enjoy getting the compliment as much as the next person. But I would rather be known for my mind, my thoughts, my writing, my work and for how I treat the people I love than for the way my face and body conforms to that tiny cut-out woman shape that the beauty, cosmetic, entertainment and advertising industries persuade us to force ourselves through in order to make us happy.

Trying to conform is not happiness. People are consistently trying to fight stereotypes and being the same through their words and their actions but when it comes to looks everyone seems to want to fit the same template. That isn’t a beautiful way to live life. It’s a way to consistently feel disappointed for falling short of an impossibly high bar.

You are more than beautiful.


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I like him but I hate his show

Gok Wan first graced British television screens in 2006. I remember watching How to Look Good Naked and even though it was annoying at times, overall the programme was entertaining and feel-good. I liked Gok Wan, I thought he was sweet and enthusiastic and made a good enough presenter that it kept me watching.

Then he made a few other shows which were okay. Some were good like Made in China, and others weren’t that great. But last night I probably watched the most annoying programme I have ever seen. I was actually disappointed with Gok Wan for agreeing to present, and be the face, of such a show.

Gok’s Style Secrets was awful. I like watching programmes I can rant about. It frustrates me to the point where I rant and rave like a lunatic and there is something quite cathartic about that. But Gok’s Style Secrets silenced me. I like Gok Wan, he seems like a nice guy and I think we could be friends but this show made me want to die a little inside.

The show sees Gok Wan impart his knowledge of clothes and dating to help a singleton feel good about themselves and bag a partner. It is worse than it sounds however. The fashion is given a back-seat, which is Gok’s strong point and his main claim to fame. It doesn’t seem to make much sense that this side is ignored then. The whole love/dating advice side of the show is cringe-worthy at best.

The whole ‘trying to date’ aspect is terrible, forced and appallingly acted. The first episode saw a lady consistently referred to as a ‘goth’ as if she didn’t have any other part of her personality and forced to go and talk to actors that obviously weren’t being paid enough to look genuinely interested in what was going on.

Gok Wan has always been a big pusher of being yourself and not trying to change to fit a skinny, pretty media ideal. He has promoted instead working with your shape and aiming for health more than anything. But this show seems to almost turn a cold shoulder against this six year long message that he’s been pushing in all his other shows.

This ‘goth’ girl (which was the least goth-like lady I have ever seen in my life) was told to wear colour and patterns and things that weren’t gothic at all. She was made to clean her room of the things she loved (which in fairness was kind of a good thing because her room looked like it belonged to a 15-year-old boy).

While all this was going on and she was made to look like everyone else (you can still dress for your body and remain ‘gothic’ if that’s what you like), Gok made sure to keep saying that as long as her tattoos were on show they were staying faithful to her. It didn’t convince anyone, it was a little like a car salesman saying that the car he has is the best one you can buy with the money, even though it’s older than some museum artefacts.

The show just seemed overly fake which would be fine if it embraced this fakery. However, it pretended to be a new, empowering and touching show. In my opinion this was it’s downfall. Pretending to be something, you are not while you try to pretend to be better than the industry you are a part of doesn’t work if there isn’t a little bit of truth in the message that you’re trying to spread.

Making someone walk around a bar and walking past the same person two or three times to catch their eye makes you look like a weirdo, it doesn’t secure a date. The chances of that actually resulting in romance is so slim, you may as well play the lottery – you’d be more likely to strike lucky there.

Gok Wan’s newest show is, quite simply, abysmal. The first episode Gok dressed a woman to look nice but like everyone else and so far away from her apparent ‘goth’ persona that I was half-expecting her to be given a baby pink babydoll dress. She was then told to walk around in the same outfit (only three new outfits in total, a disaster considering he’s supposed to be a fashion expert), was not allowed to actually control an online dating profile that Gok created for her (she wasn’t even in the frame) and was consistently reminded that it was the tattoos that made her special (never mind her career, family, hobbies, friends or brain), she was forced to clean her room because it could freak out potential mates (true but still, if he/she doesn’t love your likes to the point that they don’t want to be with you then they’re probably not the right person) and to top that all off the worst, and most basic, psychological assessments ever made on Earth make you want to jump out of a window.

I’m not sure what to think of Gok for spending his time being a part of a show like Gok’s Style Secrets. I still like him but I feel it’s the money rather than the genuine message of the show that has influenced his presence on the programme. It seems a shame and I think the show is fake enough to have knocked Mr Wan off his “real is fabulous” perch.


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What is beautiful?

I was watching the new series of America’s Next Top Model yesterday. A show that focuses on the outer beauty of very skinny, young women but tries to dress itself (see what I did there?) as something a little more profound and deeper than the superficiality of modelling. A model is essentially a clothes hanger, a walking advert; it’s all about outer beauty.

Tyra Banks: you’re wonderful but you’re not kidding anyone.

Anyway, the episode I watched had a pretty touching segment where the girls were required to make a video with some children about what beauty and beautiful means to them.

It’s not a new question, in fact, it’s pretty old debate but it is one that will never die. Mainly because our ideals f beauty change as our society evolves. This essentially means we are always finding ways of ensuring that there’s another sense of ‘perfection,’ another ideal that is pretty damn hard to achieve.

In the Tudor era when King Henry VII was in charge of this little island, the fuller woman with pale skin was seen to be the most attractive type of female. This was because her full figure showed she was able to afford lots of food to eat and her pale skin meant she did not spend her time outside, working. It was all about wealth.

Wealth is still very much linked to beauty though the entertainment industry pretend that they are linking beauty to health. Which, frankly, is a little more than a white lie (especially when you consider than Beyonce who is consistently sold to us as the ‘bigger’ woman is a UK size 6/8).

Now for women anyway, beauty seems to be defined by a California tan, long hair (on your head), skinny waist, hairless like a Barbie and abs that could grate the cheese I like on my beans on toast. Again, it has nothing to do with health: you don’t need to have a six pack or a tan to be healthy. It is all to do with wealth. A tan shows you can afford a holiday, a good, toned physique shows you have time and money to join a gym and work out, the lack of hair on any other part of your body is not natural – you’ve had to pay for that.

The ideal will change again. It will either become so ridiculous that people would need to sign up to therapy if they believed that type of ‘beauty’ could be attained or will implode and people will go the opposite way as they realise that the majority of images shown to us in newspapers and magazines are edited and photoshopped to look cleaner, much like the articles they decorate.

The definition of beautiful in the dictionary is: having qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, think about etc. This changes all the time just like the clothes you like, the things that you find interesting or what makes you happy. It is not a concrete look or object.

Beautiful right now to me is my bed, pyjamas and The Shadow in the Wind. A beautiful human at this current moment in time to me is completely different to what I thought beautiful was when I was a child. It will probably be different to me when I’m older.

The physical beauty quickly becomes obsolete once you learn more about a person. Although it is overused, I find those I know more or less beautiful depending on how they are behaving or talking to me in that moment of time.

Physical beauty is a wonderful thing that is different to different people. It also changes. But to answer the title question, beautiful is a feeling, a mood, a desire. It is more of a sentiment. A perfect, unblemished moment.


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Discrimination

Drawing by Natalya Lobanova
(http://happy2bsad.tumblr.com/)

This image is so true that I don’t know whether to laugh and cry. We are told on a daily basis that as women we should embrace our bodies. We are told real women have to be a size 16 and have a belly. We are told that we shouldn’t be hairy and should only have hair on the top of our heads. We are all painted with one brush, the only thing we have in common is that we all have the same reproductive parts; us girls that is, we differ from boys. Obviously.

The thing is no matter what women try, they will always be classed as something because society loves to label. It makes the government feel comfortable to stuff people in boxes because then they can be piled up high on top of each other and people are easier to control when they feel forced to be something they’re not.

We shave our legs because we’re told that it’s more womanly that way. We’re told if we wear short skirts and get into trouble that we have some sort of tiny responsibility for it. We’re told that if we’re a size 8 we’re too skinny and we’re not real women. It’s ridiculous. We’re whistled at and shouted at by people in groups and people in cars (usually men) but it’s not harassment because that’s just the way the world works.

Gender is the one form of discrimination that seems to be misunderstood, dismissed, agreed with and a big cause of a divide in opinions. No one really knows what to think or what to say about it, the amount of opinions is almost as high in number as the amount of people it’s about. As soon as I was born society presented me a mould given to me dependent on my gender, the problem with moulds is they don’t cover the variety. That’s what  the human race is: varied. Within our homo sapien species there is enough variety that means in 7 billion people not one is the same as the other, similar – maybe, but not the same. There is no need for moulds or expectations of a person based on what’s in between their legs, the only reason for it (like I’ve said in previous posts) is due to the fact that it’s easier for national and international statistics to be created. It’s easier for us to be labelled. Like tin cans sitting on a supermarket shelf. These expectations are so ingrained in us, to do something that seems so meaningless like shave our legs, that it’s hard to step away from it. Some of us may pride ourselves on breaking the mould, on not conforming, on being different but we’re all fighting the same fight. Striving to be unique and as different as possible, to stand out from the crowd whilst all the time wishing to belong.

The end of discrimination is unlikely. It’s idealistic and although I’m not a pessimist, the realism is that we will always judge because that’s how we have developed. I will continue to shave my legs, to use the ongoing example in both image and post, partly because I feel I should and partly because I like the feeling of shaved legs. I will try my hardest to not let the stereotypes surrounding my gender, ethnicity, education or background have any type of strong influence on me. It is the people that succeed (in whichever way they see fit: through family, career or love) no matter what the greater majority are putting on them that are the true successes. They are are the ones pushing the walls of that square box we are forced into, not agreeing or disagreeing with these discriminations but simply stepping above them.  Easy as that.