What you could learn from Tina Fey

Posted: June 15, 2012 in Body Image, Feminism
Tags: , , , , , , ,

A friend of mine sent me an e-book of Tina Fey’s Bossypants. Its awesome. I have yet to finish it, stopped reading it in between due to assignments, but in one chapter, she talks about the beauty ideals when she was growing up, and how J.Lo and Beyonce changed them, since “junk in the trunk” and muscular thighs were suddenly in. But according to Tina Fey, this wasn’t just a revolution for women, allowing them to embrace their beauty, even if they were slightly fat; it only added to the attributes that women were supposed to have in order to be noticed, and to be beautiful.

Now every girl is expected to
Caucasian blue eyes
full Spanish lips
a classic button nose
hairless Asian skin with a California tan
a Jamaican dance hall ass
long Swedish legs
small Japanese feet
the abs of a lesbian gym owner
the hips of a nine-year-old boy
the arms of Michelle Obama
and doll tits

And this does apply to Pakistan as well. The abundance of fairness cream ads, and their popular usage is a prime example.

Tina Fey’s solution was simple; “How do we survive this? How do we teach our daughters and our gay sons that they are good enough the way they are? We have to lead by example. Instead of trying to fit an impossible ideal, I took
a personal inventory of all my healthy body parts for which I am grateful”

I was inspired by this, and decided to do the same thing, because I suffer from crippling insecurities. I sometimes look around my classroom, at all the juniors who seldom come to class, trot in an hour late, with immaculately straightened hair, pink cheeks, kohl-rimmed eyes, and wonder why someone would go to so much effort just to come to university. (Mind you, my own friends have straightened hair and kohl’d eyes, but they also attend classes and have a 3.8 GPA, and many have part-time jobs) I look at those girls, whom I know are only there because nowadays, a good rishta requires a four year bachelor’s, and the mind boggles. Bear in mind, I’ve seen their test papers, their quizzes, their assignments (when they bother to actually hand them in) I’ve seen the more serious students of their batch working on presentation topics such as environment protection, extremism, politics, while the “stylish” girls pick topics such as fashion, hairstyles, new fashion trends (in a class called Approaches To Journalistic Practices, btw) and I want to weep. I’ve painted this extensive picture, not out of any vendetta against these girls, but rather to portray a point; that in our society, every emphasis is on women looking beautiful, and talking less, and even to a vast extent, not being intelligent so they can one day get married. Our education system and society fails them. So when I criticize these girls for being so made-up, I criticize the fact that this is all there is to life for them. Otherwise, I would not hesitate to lump in my own made-up friends in this category, if they were so non-serious about life goals other than rishtas as well. (I’m still friends with them because they’re not)

And again, I am not, and refuse to put all the blame of these girls being the way they are, on them as individuals. They’re the products of a society, of primary and secondary environments where they’re expected to be this way. If you want to be fashionable and trendy, that’s great, I’m anti-fashion and anti-consumerism and those arguments and stances are very different from the point I’m making here. Which is that it is a tragedy when young girls think that their only goal in life is to look pretty, be fashionable, and just get married. The lack of ambition is tragic, and sure, sometimes people just lack ambition even when they have an environment that encourages setting bigger life goals, but that is not always the case, and specially not with women.

In every culture across the world, there is an overwhelming obsession with women’s appearance. In America, this obsession is fueled by a booming cosmetic industry, and celebrities who only profit by pandering to them and promoting impossible ideals for young girls and women. In Pakistan, this obsession is shaped by religious fervor, a remnant of a dark time in Pakistan’s history in the 80s.

But I digress. The main point to remember here is simply this; whether you’re being told to hide your body, or to make it more beautiful, or to flaunt it, your body is yours, and yours alone. And its absolutely perfect. I have seen perfectly lovely women seemingly self-confident and yet, bewailing their too-big feet, or imperfect nose, or too-small lips. To which I can only respond with, “WHY?”

This form of insecurity, self-imposed or external influence, comes in many disguises. It can be the girl saying she’s getting medical skin treatments for her skin because spotty skin looks bad. It can be the girl with the 26 inch waist obsessively working out because she gained two pounds. It can be the family constantly telling you to lose weight, not because its unhealthy, but because its spoiling your prettiness. Its the interview of a celebrity you’re reading so enthusiastically in a glossy magazine, inspired instead of disgusted by how proud the celebrity is to only eat one tomato and two carrots per day. It can be the friend telling you not to wear a t-shirt without a coverup, because apparently, your body is so flawed that it will look bad. (Personal experience, true story)

And at the end of the day, you know what’s important? To look at yourself in the mirror, and not find a single flaw with your appearance. I’m not advocating behaving like a sloth or being plain unhygienic (you can never have too many showers in a day, you can only have too little) or heck, using my argument as a defense for being unhealthy! The last, btw, is something I suffer from, and while I’ve gone on and off diets, I’ve learned not to let it be an obsession and yes, you should be healthy, you should be able to climb a flight of stairs without getting out of breath, but you should NOT be obsessed with your appearance, to the point that you don’t even  socialize much or meet people because you’re too fat or zitty or dark or whatever and you don’t want people seeing you that way. You should not be filled with self-loathing because you’re, well, not the way you wish you could be. There are worst fates than having bushy eyebrows, after all.

In short; learn to look at yourself, and be happy with what you see. That beautiful, cheerful girl beaming back at you in the mirror? Sweetheart, that’s you. Gorgeous, isn’t she?


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