I decided recently it was time I became sexier. By ‘sexier’ I do not mean to dress more provocatively, to flirt more ostentatiously, or to start pouting between the hours of 12am-12am daily. By ‘sexier’ I meant it was time to take control of my body and accept it for what it was. It was time to acknowledge the curves, the extra couple of layers I’ve been making excuses for over the years: (“It’s Winter weight! No, it’s travel weight! Wait, it’s the depression... I’ve got big bones! My family are big...”) and either lose it or use it. I realised I probably wasn’t going to take the steps (pun intended) to lose it, and so only one option remained.
I had to empower myself. I had to find a way to see the curves and back-boobage (that’s where your bra tightens across your back fat to create a set of ‘back boobs’, yes, it’s as hot as it sounds) as ‘sexy’ rather than ‘fat’.
As women (yes, I’ve started a sentence with ‘as women’, you know where it is going), we spend an inexplicable amount of time worrying about how we look. I’d like to pretend I’m above all that shit, but the truth is, I’m not.
I try hard to empower the young girls I teach by reinforcing how important it is to accept you and your body for who you are; that we are all beautiful and that we don’t have to resort to outdated methods like dumbing ourselves down, wearing too much make up and putting down other girls in order to make ourselves feel better. I truly believe all of this and when I say it to the hundred or so girls I have contact with weekly; I say it passionately and with absolute certainty that I’m right. But this doesn’t mean I live by my words.
I do not dumb myself down, I don’t wear much make up at all, but I’m definitely guilty of bitching out other women on occasion because I felt threatened or jealous. I’m not proud of it, it’s not an easy thing to admit, but yes, I’ve done it. I can acknowledge my behaviour for what it is, insecurity, but that doesn’t excuse it. I have in recent times, due to therapy, begun to consciously recognise my behaviour and attempt to change it; but it is an uphill battle.
Perhaps it is instinctual to put down other women (again, not excusing it); perhaps it is a way to weaken the ‘opposition’ in order to emerge victorious in our insecurities. Hurrah!
Whatever the reason, sexism is apparent in our modern culture and is owed almost as much to women as it is to men.
More often than not in the school yard it is women I hear referring to other women as ‘sluts’. It is teenage girls belittling other girls for their lack of make-up and for wearing their skirt at the length it is supposed to be worn at. It is teenage girls berating other teenage girls for their excessive make up and the extreme shortness of their altered school skirt. It is that insecurity seeping out of their every pore that causes these vicsious piranhas to strike.
Where do these insecurities come from? Yes, clearly magazines, inaccurate portrayals of women in the media and advertising, and centuries of being only held in high regard if we looked right and behaved appropriately according to the Men’s Bible of Ruling the World.
A world being run for eons by men, keeping women in their ‘place’; to a ‘modern’ world where girls are inundated with images of girls almost their own age being sexualised and told it is a sign of independence has amalgamated in both genders contributing to the huge mess Generation Z are finding themselves in. The age old argument of the Madonna and the whore are apparent here, but it is young girls who find themselves pointing the fingers and initiating the witchhunts.
I’m not saying I haven’t heard teenage boys calling girls ‘sluts’, commenting on how a girl looks, or that they’re going out of their way to empower their female counterparts; but it is my experience that a majority of teenage boys don’t actually put enough thought into judging and categorising women at all; they leave that to the girls and go with whatever is decided on.
One might argue that attempting to empower young women on a daily basis should be empowering in itself, but if anything, it makes me feel hopeless and sad; for myself and for them.
I always want to get to these girls before it is too late, like it was for me at their age. I want to get to them, and shake them and tell them they’re capable and beautiful and powerful. Perhaps, even if just two of my hundred-or-so girls listen, it will help shape them and how they feel about themselves; which they’ll then pass down to their children or the young women they come in contact with.
Perhaps, just perhaps, it will prevent them getting to twenty-five years old, a week off of twenty-six, deciding they need to become ‘sexier’ and by doing so, attend a dance class far outside their physical capacity.
If someone had told me I was capable and beautiful and powerful as a teenager; if I’d been encouraged and taught that being a woman was an incredible gift, maybe I wouldn’t have found myself close to tears in the middle of an intermediate burlesque class on Monday night, slipping discs in my back left, right and centre as I attempted the high kicks, splits and body rolls; all the while convincing myself I was going to feel empowered, sensual and confident by the end of the lesson.
I chose burlesque because I expected women of all shapes and sizes. I expected women who were in the same position as me, wanting to accept and embrace their bodies.
The latter was true; the women in the class were all confident and beautiful in embracing how their body moved. I was, however, at an adequate size 14, by far the biggest in the class. This did nothing to encourage my sense of self-worth as I towered over each of the other twelve participants and our miniscule teacher, attempting to swing my hips about like a bull in a china shop.
Thank god for back-boobs; each time my knees gave out under me in an attempt to get the rest of my body to surrender, it was my back-boobs that helped me bounce right back up.
By the end of the class I left feeling... sore.
The empowerment will come, I tell myself. With each new class, with each new realisation of what my body can do, of what my mind is capable of, I will feel sexier. I tell myself with each new class I’ll care less about what the women around me look like; just as with each new class they’ll do the same.
Please, tell your daughters, sisters, aunties, grandmother’s, mother’s, girlfriends, wives, female friends, best friends... tell all the women in your life how beautiful they are. Tell them how lovely their womanly figures are, how important their brains are; how important THEY are.
Because as my back and thighs found out on Monday night, having to work it out by brute force is hazardous, and feeling sexy shouldn’t result in a threat to the personal safety of yourself and those around you.