This weekend I had an interesting chat with housemates. We discussed plastic surgery. So many different opinions were out there and I love that. Looking at the different perspectives I felt like there was an underlying subject to this discussion: the appearances of women. It remembered me of a documentary I have seen which discusses this matter from different perspectives. I hadn’t shared it here yet. That changes today, since I’m sharing ‘Beperkt Houdbaar’ by Sunny Bergman with you.
How women look is always a point of discussion. I think this is part of a bigger underlying problem, because it keeps women small. But, that’s something for another post. Today I want to talk about all the things women are judged upon. Being too skinny, being too fat, wearing too much make-up, wearing too little make-up, having too much body hair, dressing too masculine (whatever that means), dressing like a slut (whatever that means), having too many wrinkles, having no wrinkles, the list is extensive.
Women are always judged by their appearance, but they can never do the right thing. Everybody has an opinion about it. But before I share more about the documentary I want to say a few words about this. I don’t have an opinion on anyone’s appearances. A lot of people always assume that I am against plastic surgery or wearing a lot of make-up. I am not. I am in team ‘do whatever makes you happy’. Whatever that is. I am done with all the damn judging. Let’s just leave people be. However, we do have to discuss the underlying mechanisms of the dissatisfaction.
Because let’s be honest: the current system makes us unhappy about our appearances. I don’t want to emphasize it too much here, but the majority of women are unhappy about their physical appearance. I could literally cry because of this fact. Because this unhappiness is not our fault. It’s the system around us that makes us unhappy. The magazines with photoshop all over, the commercials everywhere you go, the fact that we’ve learned to tear each other down (I’ll talk about specially this phenomenon another time), the addictiveness of plastic surgery, the fact that our appearances are highlighted from the day we’re born, etc. etc. I have written this before: we need system change for self-love.
The documentary ‘Beperkt Houdbaar’ (translated: limited shelf life) by Sunny Bergman addresses female appearance in a critical manner. The title refers to women aging and the fact that these changes in appearance are seen as a bad thing. The documentary is built up out of all different segments of field research. Bergman goes to visit a plastic surgery fair, a magazine office, a photoshop professional, a plastic surgeon, researchers etc.
I found it interesting how the documentary focusses on both individuals but also on the system. Bergman for example talks with an individual about her upcoming labia surgery, but she also discusses why we want all vulva’s to look a specific way. Another example: she talks about wrinkles, but she also discusses how we photoshop literally every photo in a magazine. I think this documentary shows that the system we live in pushes us to dislike our bodies and that there’s a whole industry profiting from this.
But what is then the solution? How can we all love ourselves 100%? That is a hard question. As I said, I am not against plastic surgery, make-up, shaving, botox or anything like that. But I do think we have to be honest about it. There should be a label that mentions when a photo is photoshopped in adds and magazines. This way we know that the norm is unrealistic. Also, we should see women’s bodies more often.
Some women have never seen another vulva or vagina. No wonder people want their labia corrected because that’s what they’ve seen in porn or the Playboy. We forgot what normal bodies look like. Go to a sauna every once in a while. Or join a teamsport and take a shower afterwards with everybody else if you feel comfortable enough. Follow @the.vulva.gallery on Instagram for example. And let’s all stop judging people who choose to not comply to the impossible norm.
I know that self-love is hard and I’m not entirely there yet either, but documentaries like these can help.