April 13, 2012

I Am More than the Shape of My Ass…Aren’t I?

You can fight it, or you can just accept that sex sells.

Let me tell you a bit about me so you have a frame of reference. I’m not ugly. That’s about as good as I’ve ever been able to muster for myself on a lot of days. Sure, given the right lighting and circumstances and occasion, I have been some or all of the following: cute, intriguing, pretty and even sexy a few times.

What I’ve never been (and it’s okay, seriously, don’t try to talk to me out of it or anything, this is not fishing for compliments), is a knockout. I’ve never been that girl that guys hold the door for, or run into a wall checking her out, or had men fight over, or stalk…or any of that stuff that comes from being a particular “look.” And yes, it’s okay. Although, it has caused me pain over the years and it has made me think long and hard about human nature and colors how I react to things, it no longer defines me as a human or a woman (well maybe it does in a way, just not negatively so).

In all fairness, I’ve never really been one to spend too much time primping and preening. Well, that’s not entirely true, I did once upon a time. But, besides the fact that it was expensive and boring, it really didn’t seem to get me anywhere but miserable. No matter how hard I tried,

I just didn’t seem to live up to whatever ideal I was chasing…

and it was painful for a lot of my life. You see, I’m more a jeans, t shirt, no makeup, ponytail gal (granted that this is partly dictated by my love of motorcycle riding). I came into my tomboyish ways by relaxing and accepting that my worth is beyond my curves, my green eyes or thick hair. It’s beyond my large pores or my acne flare ups, as well, and now my grandma lines and wrinkles. My worth has very little to do with whether or not I can get free stuff, ’cause I have a rockin’ bod, whether I could be a Playboy model or on the cover of a magazine or not. My worth has finally come to me, but it wasn’t always that way.

I was once told that I was the ugliest girl that this one boy had ever seen (circa 1984, if you are wondering what the shelf life of painful memories might be). I had a friend just a few years ago say, “Well, it’s easier for you because you aren’t conventionally attractive” (yeah, I don’t know what is easier or what it meant, but somehow it hurt).

I’ve also had people tell me I’m beautiful and stunning and gorgeous (funny how those don’t stand out as specific events for me). I’ve lost parts in plays and jobs to prettier women—I knew it and they knew it. And in those moments, I was occasionally devastated. Now it just is what it is. It no longer defines my worth, and in no way diminishes who those people were or their accomplishments.

The truth is, I’m living an awesome life!

Over the years I’ve had lovers and husbands (and yeah, many I have tortured due to my own lack of self-esteem, but that’s a whole other Oprah!) and everything in between—because contrary to what beer commercials and makeup counter clerks tell you, love and happiness are attainable without Angeline Jolie or Cindy Crawford looks. But what has changed, besides being more accepting and rejoicing in who I am, I mean besides learning to be myself, are the feelings of jealousy and the desire to be something other than me.

Okay, full disclosure, sometimes I do still wish that men would fall all over themselves to help me out when my car dies or I drop something in the store…but hey, I have survived this long right? Sometimes I wish I could just not work and have everything bought for me…sometimes I feel that way, and then I come to my senses. Besides, my husband pretty much makes up for all of that, so I’m not too worried about it.

What has also changed is that now I actually get hurt when people say things like bimbo or trophy-wife and reduce our aesthetically blessed sisters to their looks.

I also get really annoyed when people presume a pretty girl can’t be a smart or kind girl. It ticks me right off. Maybe I’m a little protective because I used to be that average girl that demeaned the beautiful.

Blah blah blah—okay so you are some normal looking woman with a normal life that has learned to love herself and not hate the hotties. It’s really not that new, so why now? Why this article? Why today?

It started this morning on Skype chat with some other elephant writers and editors as we talked about getting readers and the subject of “sexy sells” came up…which it usually does…because it does (no matter how much I want it not to be true, it is—deal with it).

I was lamenting the facts and stated, “Just because it sells doesn’t make it right.” I lament a lot of things—it’s a quirk! So, I started my day thinking about how sad it is that people more often click on the link with the picture of the hot chick, and how can I boost my own readership without stooping to that tactic? Is it stooping? Isn’t it celebrating beauty? (To Waylon’s credit he was adamant that we not just use sexy to sell for the hell of it, that we only use appropriately connected works and I really respect him for that). But the truth is readership goes up on articles when something sexy (or controversial) is in title or the picture? How does it ever change?

I wondered if I was just being a great big feminist whiner. I mean, who does it really hurt?

That’s when a link popped up in another group I belong to (I think I may belong to too many groups? Hmmmm…Okay, that is another story too, I guess). The name of the blog post simply read “Are you a boob?” Now, at first I was thinking boob as in a dork or silly person or idiot, but I was mistaken. Honestly, I’m not sure why I clicked on the link. There was no picture, and I thought I could already answer the question, but considering the source (a cool group of Womyn Entrepreneurs. Let me know if you want in!), I took a leap (okay, sure, perhaps I was procrastinating and not doing my homework, but it worked out okay, so I’m just going with it.)

The first line of the blog post:

“Woman…who are you? What are you; mystical, smart, enchanting, and compassionate? What defines you?  Are you a body part?  You know what I mean!  Are you defined by your size, shape or overall ‘looks’?”

Well you piqued my interest there Miss Sharon G. Cobb! Next lines?

“Or are you like me?  Simply a real woman…with hopes, dreams, thoughts, feelings, talents, gifts, strengths and weaknesses? Frankly, I’m tired of being ‘viewed’ as anything else!  I am certainly NOT a boob, butt, waist, plump lips or any of the like.’ (sic)

“Here! Here!” I say (I’ll let you read the rest of the post on your own…it’s okay, I’ll wait). So, there you have it. Miss Cobb is calling for a new revolution, and like me, isn’t so happy with the status quo that sex sells, and the blatant over-sexualization of women.  And that somehow it’s all okay, when in fact it may be harming our very spirits.

So you talked about sex sells, you read a blog post that you could say “Ha! See told you so.”  But still, really, why today?

Alright, so here’s the next nail in the coffin of why I had to write this post and write it today! Fast forward a few more hours in my day and I’m doing my school work (along with too many groups, I also have too many projects. I have mentioned I’m quirky, right?)  This week’s lesson? No, seriously, you can’t make this stuff up (well, maybe you could, but I’m not that clever!). Social influence.

Oh yeah, and what does the teacher spend half of the class talking about? How his hypnosis videos get more views if he is hypnotizing a pretty girl, and about experiments that show that men are basically idiots when faced with a pretty girl. I’m not trying to be mean guys, it’s just a fact that men actually lose cognitive ability and make less well thought out decisions when confronted with boobs.  Seriously, men will do some things for certain “desirable mates” they just won’t do for others.

And then he linked us to this article, “Ten politically incorrect truths about human nature.”

Here’s how my teacher, Brian David Phillips, summed up the article, in case the name wasn’t enticing enough:

“Alan Miller, PhD, has compiled a fascinating list of potentially politically incorrect truths from psychology that are simply confounding yet oh so true—seriously, we may wish some of these were false but they’re not . . . our uncomfortable psychological truths? Here’s the list:

Men like blond bombshells (and women want to look like them).

Humans are naturally polygamous.

Most women benefit from polygyny, while most men benefit from monogamy.

Most suicide bombers are Muslim.

Having sons reduces the likelihood of divorce.

Beautiful people have more daughters.

What Bill Gates and Paul McCartney have in common with criminals.

The midlife crisis is a myth—sort of.

It’s natural for politicians to risk everything for an affair (but only if they’re male).

Men sexually harass women because they are not sexist.”

Now, I know some of you read that list and, at one or two items, you shouted out, “Bullshit!” or some stronger expression. I know, I could hear you all the way over here.

(Yeah, I know you want to go back and read it now. Of course, I’ll wait again).

So, here I was, faced with a blog post talking about how the over-sexualization of women is a huge detriment to our self-esteem and self worth, and my own battle with insecurities and desire to at once honor beauty, but not allow it to be the measure or standard to which I held myself and others. Then I was faced with scientific evidence that a lot of that crap is just how we are made.

So here’s what I did. If you are still reading (heck, I can’t believe I am still writing), I’ll fill you in.

Thank you for participating in my social influence/psychology experiment.  

I would like for you to scroll back up and see what picture is at the top of this page, and then ask yourself if you clicked on this article because of it? Maybe in spite of it? Please be honest, because what I have done is put this exact same article out twice with two different lead in pictures. Making every attempt to get each version equal visibility, I am testing the hypothesis that the “hot bod” will get more clicks than the “ass.” So what drew you in? The title? The description? The pic? A combo? 

Oh, and in case you are wondering, I don’t have the answer to any of it. I don’t want beauty to be the only thing we measure ourselves by, but I don’t want beautiful and sexy people to made to feel bad (that’s just nuts). I want young girls to feel good about themselves, all young girls (and boys too). I also want life to be sexy and juicy too. I just don’t know how to make it all work together sometimes, do you?

{Update: Our results were telling – during the initial post with the donkey as the thumbnail the article received 324 hits in 25 hours. During the second 25 hours, with the naked yoga photo as the lead in, the post received a total of 1080 hits—nearly double the views! We would love to hear your view on this phenomenon and what drew you in to viewing the article. Thank you for your input.}


Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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