As someone who follows you on Facebook, sees your pictures on Instagram, and notices the things you pin on the rare occasions that I’m on Pinterest, I can say that I kind of know who you are.
You’re smart and you’re capable. You love baking and cooking and sharing good recipes. You’re young mothers, new wives, struggling college students, happily single, or fighting to get by every day. You read and you sing, you work out and you travel. You like weird music or popular TV shows. You’re rodeo queens, political think tanks, expert hairdressers, champions, outstanding photographers, and you can do things with watercolors that just enchant me. You’re the next J.K. Rowlings, Elizabeth Cady Stantons, and Clara Bartons. You’re my friends and girls I want to be friends with.
You are all of these things, and yet, as someone who follows you, sees you, and notices you, I sometimes get a little discouraged at some of the things you’re posting.
You take lots of selfies and share them. I only mind that a little. I’m very guilty of taking selfies, too. You wear nice clothes and put on nice makeup and have nice hair, and yeah, I sometimes compare, but I don’t hold it against you. What I notice goes beyond that. Some of you have stopped sharing your travel experiences, your adventures, and your life with me and instead share images of your face that fill the whole frame and have captions like: “Spain is just beautiful this time of the year! #lovinit.” You’ve stopped sharing inspirational quote posters that you’ve found on Pinterest, ones that speak to everyone, regardless of size or color, and instead share a picture of your lips and your eyelashes with something like “Live life to the fullest! Dream big!” beneath it. And it’s not a huge deal, but it’s very indicative of a bigger issue I see girls of all backgrounds struggling with right now: the need to be physically admired.
This letter is for all of us, but it’s particularly for the girl who has built a virtual art museum around her anatomy. It’s for the girl who obsesses over the slope of her chest and distance between her hips. It’s for the girl who wants attention, good, bad, or any, who treats her cleavage like it’s a Monet, who treats herself like a philanthropist by taking pictures of her butt in workout pants and telling other women, “If you want it, work for it.” It’s for the girl who publicizes her body parts on Instagram to a crowd of bored, stimulated strangers, all who harmonize together with comments such as:
“Where do you live?”
“That is gorgeous”
“Very beautifuuuuull, my looooovvvee!!”
“Can I marry you I would love you forever”
“The things I would do”
I think we women are both ignoring and creating a serious societal problem, one we’ve gotten away with blaming on other people for a long time, and it’s about time we had some girl talk about what we are doing with our bodies.
We live in a world that consumes, uses, and sells the Victoria Secret body like its merchandise. I know you’ve seen it — curved hips, narrow waist, full lips, exposed parts. The girl inside it may have an expressive, beautiful face, but the greedy businessmen who sell her body mostly care that we see her from her lips down. She’s on every television, every movie, every magazine, and every book that lines the shelves of low culture. People love her and buy sandwiches, video games, and movie tickets because of her. People pay money to watch her move, as if she’s a prize race horse set to win the Triple Crown.
But people also hate her and write angry letters about her.They tell Carl’s Jr. to please, for the sake of their kids, get rid of her. Hers is the body that has indirectly launched a thousand ships — Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, “big is beautiful,” and “I won’t be no stick figure, silicone Barbie doll, so if that’s what you’re into, then go ‘head and move along” among them. Because of the toll she has taken on our society and self-esteem, we now tell girls that their bodies do not limit nor define them. We tell Hollywood that it is unrealistic to ask square pegs to fit into circular holes. We see right through and shame magazines that use Photoshop on their cover girls. We’re just beginning, as a society, to talk about the damage pornifying women’s bodies does to us all. We are changing the way our culture talks about and views women one step at a time, and so far, it’s been mostly good.
The sad truth, however, is that the objectified woman we’ve been force-fed all these years still clings more tightly to our self-worth than we may think. She’s leaked onto Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. She hides in forums called “Fitness” or “Thinspiration.” She is worshiped by us, emulated by us, and pornified, yes, by us. She doesn’t look tan and fit and good in a bikini all the time, either.
She looks just like us.
Us, the small and lanky and thin and curvy. Us, the overweight and narrow and big-boned and emaciated. She lurks behind us girls who claim to be all about natural beauty and self-celebration but still haven’t mustered the guts to post a selfie that isn’t altered. Us, the women who tell each other that our bodies are no definition of who we are, and yet, plaster our social media with them.
We women are objectifying women as much as, if not more than Hollywood and society. Don’t believe me? Just look at your Instagram.
Many of you have somehow amassed thousands of followers that come to watch as you cut your body into little square-shaped pieces and demand, like a consumed Victor Frankenstein, that your creation be seen. Many of you push the edge, fed by the hunger to have friends and family and love interests tell you three significant words: “You look good.” You are billboardizing yourself with your selfies, turn yourself into a virtual Mona Lisa with a story behind that smile that no one cares anything about because they’re too busy staring at your body. Because you’re doing this, other girls are doing it, and you’re giving the world permission to keep treating us all like we’re only as good as the skin we expose and the bodies we show off.
Frankly, I’m sick and tired of wanting to be admired for who I am, but feeling like that’s not even important to us women as a whole anymore. We seem to be driven, not by the need to be heard, but the need to be seen. We claim that we don’t want to be “just another pretty face,” and yet we advertise ourselves as if that’s what we are. We are not the helpless victims in a world attacking women’s bodies, not when we obsess over the body of our athletic neighbor, not when we collect pictures of body parts that we call inspiration, not when we take more pride in how our behinds look in photographs than how we make the world a better place, and not when we justify all of that by saying “it’s my body, and I’ll do what I want with it.” Don’t tell me we are blameless when we don’t care how much we know, how hard we work, or how big we can dream; don’t say that when we put no importance on how kind we are to people who are not kind to us, or how brave we are, and instead put all of our attention into how hot we look in photos.
Dear girls who love showing off your bodies on social media, you are more than your body! For the sake of the rest of us and the future of us, stop acting like you aren’t.
I don’t want to see your pretty face all of the time. I want to see how you’re living your life. I don’t want to see those ripped abs and tight thighs you’re wallpapering your Pinterest account with in the hopes that one day they’ll be yours. I want to see you accept yourself and work for a better version of your own body because you want to feel good. I don’t want to see your butt in yoga pants. I want to see you kicking butt on that test or that trial or that insecurity you struggle with. I don’t want to see you change the angle of your photographs. I want to see you change the world.
You are not something to be consumed by other people. You are a woman, and your beauty is not surface deep. So please. Take that selfie. Don’t let this letter stop you. Please. Celebrate your body. Don’t think I’m asking you not to. Just remember that no selfie can capture your actual self, something that goes far beyond surface beauty and isn’t an it but a who. Celebrate her! Love her! Don’t let anybody else forget that she, not the package she comes in, is worthy of praise.
Dear girls, please stop objectifying us.
Start standing up for us.