It’s pretty obvious, once you get to know me, that I really am not much for traditional beauty standards. I rarely wear makeup; it’s mostly a sensory thing. (The feeling of blush and foundation on my cheeks makes me want to scream.) I don’t know how to do much with my long hair, so I learn a few easy tricks and then do them when I feel like it – otherwise it’s in a ponytail. And I’ve heard a lot about my choice not to wear makeup much or to keep my hair long but not really do anything with it. Trust me – I’ve heard it, from family, friends, and even some significant others.
And I’m on board with not telling women what to do with their bodies. I agree that if you don’t want to shave your legs, you shouldn’t have to. I agree that high heels can be bad for your body, and I also think that if you don’t want to wear dresses or jewellery, then no one should be able to tell you anything about it. But now I’m seeing that same judgement coming from the other side. I’m seeing women who don’t do these things looking down on those who do.
Listen. You should be informed. I’m in agreement with that, and I support informing women about health issues or how to better take care of their bodies, if that’s your method in sharing scaremongery articles about high heels or certain types of makeup. I also support telling women that they have a choice. Some women grow up being told that the only right way to look is to be thin, “properly” dressed, and fully made up with shining, perfect hair. It is important to let women know that they are the owners and arbiters of what goes on their bodies and how they choose to look beautiful.
What I don’t support is looking down on women who want to wear dresses, heels, and makeup. I’ve been seeing a bit of that in the feminist sphere lately and it’s annoying me. It’s okay to want to wear those things. It’s okay to want to shave. I shave regularly and get my eyebrows plucked and waxed. I do it because it makes me feel beautiful as a woman. There’s nothing wrong with that, even if you do feel like it supports the patriarchy. When I do those things, I do them for me, not for any man.
There’s also judgement towards women who want to look good for their significant others. As problematic as those feelings may be, and as much as they may support something that you personally find damaging (and I think we all can agree that the patriarchy is fairly damaging), you do have to look at it from the point of view of the woman. Is she being told that she has to keep her hair a certain length and wear certain things? That’s a problem. Is she doing it because she knows that these things please her significant other and she wants to make him or her happy? That’s a completely different issue. The thing is, you just don’t know until you speak to her what the story is. And to judge based on what you see makes you as bad as women who look down on those who don’t follow beauty standards.
Feminism increasingly seems to be a battleground between women, with marginalized sides not being heard or being shut down. This doesn’t have to be a topic in which this happens. Beauty takes so many different forms, with people from different cultures following their own ideals or rebelling against those to become unique individuals. With impossible standards set for us by the media, we don’t need to set them for ourselves.
Fuck beauty standards however you feel like doing that. Be who you want to be, and who is most comfortable for you to be. Just remember to extend that same courtesy to fellow women. Don’t be as oppressive as the folks who told you it wasn’t okay to be who you are.