I follow a local morning radio show, Jackie, Tony and Donnie on Facebook because I genuinely enjoy their banter and I can tolerate the music they play most of the time. They do a weekly write-in, called "Dear Donnie," in which listeners can write in with their concerns and the internet can collectively comment and offer advice, etc. I get that they pick the most ire-inciting emails each week because, hey you gotta drive traffic somehow. Anyway, last week's "Dear Donnie" was a doozy and I can't stop thinking about it. Basically, the author was upset because she works very hard to stay in shape and she is horrified that people who do not work out the way that she does have the audacity to wear "revealing" swimming suits in public places and she doesn't think it’s fair that she has to look at their "nasty bodies" when she works so hard for hers. The anonymity of the author afforded her the ability to say exactly what was on her mind without the repercussions of everyone knowing that she's a total a-hole, but it really bugs me that she even had a platform (and numerous supporters) for her messed up body ideals and sadly, this is not the first time I've this argument. I don't know when and where we came up with this loosely defined set of rules which women can show what parts of their bodies and when and why we think we have any control over it whatsoever but it is becoming seriously outrageous. I kept thinking about if someone wrote in and saying how they were so tired of seeing "fat dudes" mowing their lawns shirtless every single Saturday morning. I have a feeling that people would say things like "well, it's hot" and "mowing the lawn is tough work," or probably some junk about how men’s bellies and nipples are evolutionarily non-offensive because they are men and that is the way that it is. Rather than the slew of comments about how these "whales and hippos" don't belong at the pool because "fatties" don't deserve the right to cool down until they drop the chubs. Double standards aside, the irony of comparing women to aquatic mammals when denying them the right to cool off in a body of water is beyond comprehension.
My impulse is to say, "If you don't like it, don't look at it and move on," but that doesn't really address the concept of just accepting people for who they are. If these ladies are happy splashing around in a two-piece then why can't we just be happy for them? What difference does it make how they look? Since when does "not perfect" necessitate invisibility? Historically, deciding that people are unworthy simply based on a certain group being "offended" by their physical appearance has led to some pretty dark places in humanity. Of course, this issue gets easily dismissed as a concern for a random stranger's “health”. And it's not that I'm not an advocate for health and personal well-being. Over the last year I have lost well over 60 lbs through diet and exercise. I was unhealthy, depressed, my joints were killing me, my family has a strong history of type 2 diabetes plus it's REALLY hard to chase two toddlers around with the equivalent of 3 cinder blocks on your back so I decided to make a change in my life. I've tried a million times to lose weight but it stuck this time because I did it for myself, not anyone else, and definitely not to ‘earn’ the right to wear any particular article of clothing. And you know what, I still wear THE EXACT SAME SWIMSUIT I was wearing 60 lbs ago. Not because I have earned the right to wear it, just because I really like that swimsuit.
I can think of five weekly publications off the top of my head that make their bread and butter simply by photographing celebrities and subsequently bashing them for the fabric that they have decided to drape over their bodies on any particular day. And it goes beyond celebrities, if you go to any event in which there are more than 2 women it’s inevitable that they will spend a generous amount of time appraising and discussing each other’s clothing and deciding if it is appropriate for a particular venue. If middle school had a restrictive dress code, then the real world is just an amplification, rather than freedom from it. While nobody has to sign a contract at the beginning of the year to promising not to be textilely offensive, the consequences of wearing the “wrong thing” tend to be much harsher than getting sent home for the rest of the day. The gossip and judgment is absolutely brutal. It’s a terrible, terrible habit that I am most definitely guilty of too. I recently went to a wedding where I noticed a non-bride wearing a white dress. I spent 15 minutes judging this woman, almost to the point of anger, “Doesn't she know better? WHO does she think she is?” Then I realized, Did I actually confuse her with the bride? No. Does what she is wearing have any effect on my physical well being in anyway whatsoever? No. Does anyone else seem to care? No. It was none of my darn business what this woman was wearing. She was happy in her dress and having a good time and nobody died, and all and all it was a pretty good wedding. Why on earth did I have such a response her darn dress? Why is this so ingrained in our psyche that we allow what somebody else is wearing to affect us to the point of not enjoying an open bar to its fullest extent?
And the funny thing about dresses is that I wear them almost exclusively, which leads me to be asked constantly why I am so “dressed up” when I wear things like a cotton sundress to a barbecue. I’m not trying to be more proper or dressed up than anyone else; I just really really hate pants. Like really. I feel like they are too constrictive, I hate the way the fabric clings to my legs, the way the seams dig in, and the complete and utter lack of ventilation, the non functional-pockets. I have no idea why anyone would ever wear anything but dresses whenever possible, including men. I currently own 3 pairs of jeans and I will begrudgingly put on a pair if there is a thunderstorm or a blizzard, and maybe if I ever go horseback riding, but they feel like pure torture to me. Going sans pants is my choice based entirely on my comfort level, so what does it matter to anyone else? And on the other side of it, I know women who are the most comfortable wearing mens’ jeans, and subsequently they wear them almost exclusively. And that’s their thing. If they want to show up to a funeral in a pair of jeans, well damn, funerals suck so you might as well wear something that doesn't make you feel like you’d rather be the corpse.
I don’t know if I’m a feminist because definition of the term is constantly changing to involve allowing judgment for whatever group of women is being stigmatized at any given moment, but I do know that I am a mother of a daughter, and I don’t want her to grow up in like this, constantly feeling like her worth is earned solely on appearance. I know that I need to first break my own judgmental behavior and then work on helping her have an open, confident outlook on life and I’m doing the best I can in a society that demands the opposite, and I encourage everyone else to do the same, because I really think we will all be happier that way.