As women, we need to be there for each other. And yet, I can’t tell you how many disparaging comments I’ve heard over the years: “How can you walk in those shoes? “Is your hair real?” “Are you tired? Your face is different. “Why are you wearing so much makeup? You don’t want to look like a clown! The list goes on.
I always feel some nervousness when it’s warmer in Claremont. As the weather warms, my style inevitably shifts from baggy sweaters and leggings to crop tops and denim shorts. I worry about how my body will look different and feel insecure about the feedback I will receive. They are never overtly mean, but rather subtly scathing, criticizing the way my shorts are too short or the way my chest protrudes from my shirt. These comments highlight the systemic insecurity and judgmental attitude that many young women share.
To be fair, it makes sense where that came from. From a very young age, we are bombarded with images of perfect airbrushed celebrities and Instagram models; we’re told to look “natural” while being sold 500 different makeup products and confronting idealized, surgically enhanced body types. Insecurity and confusion about the male gaze has caused us, as women, to tear ourselves apart for reassurance. This is a serious issue that needs to be discussed and explored.
As someone who is passionate about body positivity and self-expression, I do my best not to be judgmental about myself and others. However, I still find myself comparing my body, makeup, and style to my friends. My friends ask me questions like, “What kind of makeup do guys like?” “Is the lipstick too much? or “Do guys like big boobs or small boobs?” in a desperate attempt to please their peers. While these little questions seem harmless at the moment, they hint at a deeper issue: self-hatred and comparison.
Fashion, and especially makeup, are two of the most powerful ways to express yourself. I can paint the night sky on my lids with a smokey eye or wear long false lashes to feel glam. I wish I could put on a red party dress for Vegas Night, then wear sweatpants and a loose sweatshirt the next day and feel comfortable. These choices should be for ourselves, and they do not define who we are as people or our personal values.
We need to stop making connections between how much or how little someone wears and what it means in their life. Specifically, as women, we need to stop being sarcastic towards each other and thus fuel a system that is built against us. The solution to this is awareness. We believe that meanness comes from women being “bitchy” or intimidating and, in fact, this mean behavior is praised by guys. They love to say “catfight” and fuel our drama and intimidation. When one of your girlfriends makes a comment that you don’t agree with, tell her how you feel. Emphasize that your friend’s appearance has nothing to do with yours and that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.
I think real beauty comes from intelligence, confidence and kindness. This reality check process every time we look at society’s beauty standards is tiring and difficult, but it’s worth it. Don’t follow accounts that make you feel bad about yourself, follow fashion trends that turn you on, and don’t be afraid to cover up or wear as little as you want. Celebrate your friends’ uniqueness and the things that make them different from you, because that’s what will start to dismantle that misogyny at the heart of the idea of female beauty.
Anna Tolkien CM ’24 is a literature and film double major. She loves her pugs, creative writing and iced coffee.