A friend from high school recently posted a video of a women’s track event on Facebook saying that she missed the glory days of competition in her youth. I thought the video was great – a celebration of women athletes, strong and powerful, hoping to write their names in the ledger of athletic history. Since I couldn’t find the video she posted, I found a similar one here.
Directly below the video in my FB feed, a second video seemed to line up with my mindset: If People Were Honest about Women’s Bodies from the Buzzfeed crew in California (whose short films are charming, funny, weird, and definitely original). The video showed clips of men and women telling the camera things people in society think about women’s bodies, but don’t say, like “I accept the fact that our beauty standards are based entirely on Photoshop” and “I don’t lift weights because I’ve been conditioned to think that looking beautiful and feminine means not looking strong.” Terrific, right? I thought how funny it was that life could line up coincidences like that and catch our attention. Women are strong and amazing and they can project this in their physicality as much as in their personality.
And the coincidence did catch my attention…or turned it toward something else. I watched the Buzzfeed video again, and picked out a detail I hadn’t noticed before. The video’s final clip showed a (young, pretty) women looking in the mirror and talking to herself as she gets ready to leave the house: “I’ve been conditioned to be critical of myself and use self-deprecation as a cover-up so people don’t think I’m conceited, but the truth is, I look amazing.”
That’s great…right? So why did I still feel like something was missing there?
Ah yes, it’s the recognition that women’s bodies are constantly subject to exploitation, objectification, and scrutiny, whether or not we accept ourselves as we are. And the problem of self-criticism vs. self-acceptance is troubling because it doesn’t critically analyze the existence of this dilemma in the face of the normative gaze that society uses to control and define women, namely, that their appearance should be of the utmost importance.
So I watched the women’s track event again and took a closer look at their outfits. Basically, they’re running around in underwear. Think men wear the same things when they’re running? Think again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnKuVe_2pwA And if you want to get more riled up (like I did, once I started thinking about this), put in the search term “Top Ten Revealing Moments in Women’s ________ (fill in the track and field event here)” in YouTube and see how one guy spent several hours of his day splicing together video clips of women’s track outfits gone revealingly wrong (but of course, oh-so-right, considering the number of views).
I don’t want to have to convince myself I look good when I leave the house, and yet I as a woman do the same thing as the Buzzfeed actress does: talk myself into confidence about my exterior. Gotta find a way to get this buzz out of my ear.