A while ago I wrote about how we need both system change and individual change if we want a sustainable future (or a future at all), you can read that here. It’s important to recognize that not everything is up to us individuals. But the past few months I realized that this isn’t just the case for sustainability. It’s the case for everything. Today I want to talk about recognizing system change when it comes to self-love.
Since I got into intersectional feminism, I’ve been increasingly interested in self-love. Treating yourself how you would treat others. Being kind to yourself too. Same goes with body-positivity (or body-neutrality, whichever you prefer). It’s seems very simple. I am kind to others and try to never judge anyone. I should treat myself the same way. But at the same time it’s hard to do this when it comes to myself.
Accepting yourself, it can be hard. There are parts I love and there are parts which I don’t love. Yet, recently I’ve been confronted with it in a way that is new to me. That’s because I’ve stopped shaving my leg hair. I laser my bikini-area and armpits, because I don’t like the feeling of having hair there (it’s still the question if that’s what I really find or what I’ve been told my whole life). But when it comes to leg hair, I don’t mind the hair and felt like I just shaved because everybody did. At least, I thought I don’t mind the hair. After growing it for a while I figured I didn’t like the dark hair and so I bleached the leg hair. Then I felt like it was fine, but it wasn’t permanently blonde now. The hair is turning darker again and so the only option I have left is to leave it like this and wait till summer. Then sit in the sun for a long time and hope it blondes. But the bottom line of this experience for me is: accepting yourself is so hard.
Acceptation is hard
Every time I look at my legs I’m like: so much hair! In my head I define it as ugly and at the same time I hate that. I feel like I’ve been programmed to hate it all my life and so I’m fighting it. Because well, I would really like never having to shave my legs again and never having stubby legs. I want this. But at the same time it’s so hard. Women having hairy legs is not accepted. I’ve been taught this by my family, friends and society. On tv women have bold legs, at my handball training women have bold legs, all the women in my family have bold legs. It’s the norm. It’s never questioned and that’s what makes every young woman who is starting to grow leg hair shave it off. It seems to be the only option. That’s why it’s so hard for me to accept it. It’s been normalized to have bold legs.
We need System Change
And so I figured we need system change for self-love too, alongside with individual behavior. So yes, I’m trying to be brave too. I’m doing this. I’m going to keep this leg hair and hopes it bleaches in the summer (but for anyone who like the dark hair that should be fine too). The same goes with fat, or acne, or wrinkles or anything we’re taught to be ashamed of. We can be brave and show it, but we need system change too. And what system change for me looks like is doing whatever we want, knowing when things are fake and more representation. I don’t think we can have specific rules, like all women should have armpit hair or can never wear make-up. No! Not at all! Everyone should do whatever they want to and that’s what should be accepted. A lot of make-up? Fine! Acne? Fine! No make-up? Fine. Plastic surgery? Fine! Do whatever suits you. Right now, we can’t. You’re judged if you don’t wear make-up. You’re judged if you don’t hide your fat. You’re judged if you show leg hair. And that is exactly what should change.
And to accomplish that we should be aware of things that are fake. Not with individual people. It’s fine if people don’t want to talk about their make-up or plastic surgery. We shouldn’t ask out of the blue either. I’m talking about images and tv, media. If things are photoshopped, I think it should be noted on the bottom of an image. In magazines, on billboards, on tv, on social media anywhere. People compare their self to something that’s fake and so we need to know when something it’s fake. Not to shame anyone. It’s fine if people want to photoshop pictures and then post them. As I said, no judgement, never. But we should know to not have expectations which are not real. This week I walked by a beauty-salon with a huge billboard of a face on there. It was perfect, no pores, no lines, no nothing. We shouldn’t think that’s reality. It can be there and we shouldn’t prohibit it, we just need to be aware that it’s fake.
And since most media is photoshopped and edited, the scale of diversity is really small. We need more realness in photo’s! We need to see different people with different features. Right now the landscape of media is mostly white, skinny, without body hair and with perfect skin. We need to see different things. People of color. Fat people (mind you, fat is not a negative word. People associate it with negative things, but that’s what’s wrong. Fat is just a word to describe someone’s look. It’s nothing more). People with a disability. People with body hair. People with wrinkles. People with hijabs. People with scars. People with acne. You get the point, we should have a more diverse view of society. Because it is!
Sustainability Against Shame
It’s logical that all things we see are fake and uniform. The industry wants us to buy things and they need to set unreal expectations as a norm. And so they also profit from our insecurity. If we feel ugly, we’ll buy their stuff. If we don’t fit into the norm, we’ll buy their stuff to fit in. It’s as simple as that. I want you to be aware of that too. They want you to feel ugly so that you’ll buy their product. The product to lose weight, the product to shave, the product to cover up your pores or acne, the product to make you look slimmer. Again, there is nothing wrong with any of those products. Every choice is okay, whichever you make. But I hope that you can love yourself, or at least accept yourself. Whatever you like.