Monday, March 8, 2010

In Honour of International Women's Day

In conversation recently, someone said to me they don't think that most men realize to what lengths women are expected to go to look "pretty".

I think that person is right.

I also think many women don't think much about all the things they're expected to do to look "pretty".  For the most part, those things are just accepted.  Normal.  Just what you do.

And it harms us.  Physically and emotionally. 

Physically, the average woman is exposed to a huge amount of chemicals on a daily basis: the facial cleansers, body creams, lip balms, makeup, deodorant, hairspray, perfume.  All of these (except for a very few "natural" brands that actually don't contain any harmful chemicals) are loaded with carcinogens and other harmful chemicals.  Yet if a woman, or even more so, a teenage girl, doesn't wear makeup she's often considered a freak.

For fear of being ostracized, for fear of weird looks, most women shave.  Most women wear a bra.  Most women wear makeup.  And most women would never even consider NOT doing any of these things!!  If they're freely chosen, none of these things are bad (with the exclusion of cosmetics and body care products containing harmful ingredients).  But as the ONLY option, the only way you'll be considered attractive (or so people think), I think it's absolutely horrible.

Why can't people see that breasts are not, actually, bra shaped, and that they move when you move?  Why can't people see that all humans have hair all over their bodies, not just the parts currently considered socially acceptable?  Why can't people see what a beautiful face looks like without a heavy coating of makeup?

I went through a stage, in my mid-teens, where I felt so different, so out of place, and I was desperate to fit in.  So, casting off my hippie upbringing, I bought bras, and shaved my legs, and even after a while started wearing makeup.  I got to the point where I'd usually put makeup on before leaving the house, and if I wasn't wearing any, I'd look in the mirror and think I looked ugly.

That's what kind of snapped me out of it, along with my new findings about just how dangerous many chemicals in cosmetics are.  I didn't want to get cancer.  And I knew that I should not think that the only true beauty was from synthetic gunk on my face.

That also coincided with a definite movement in my life towards finding myself.  Creating my own identity, being my own person.  This involved, and involves, a steady movement to a more "hippie"-ish, more organic, and less constrained by social mores, existence.

So I've become part of the bras and razors are optional club (want to join me? ;-)).   Really, why must I change my body, constrain myself in weird and uncomfortable undergarments, or endanger my health by absorbing harmful chemicals into my skin, to fit into some version of beauty I neither accept nor support?

I guess you could say I'm in the process of detoxing from the expectations of this culture.   In both this area of my life, and in many others.  It's a long process, and often a difficult one, to break away from the expectations of your entire culture.  But I think it's a very healthy, very *good* thing to be doing.



  1. Yay for you for shedding society's expectations! I'm going through the same thing now. I'm working on identifying MY values and living by them. I can't wait to meet you!

  2. Yay for you Idzie! I wear a bra because I'm more comfortable with ME in it. I have gone through periods of shaving and not shaving, again with what is comfortable for ME! I wear very minimal make-up, and again, it is my choice.
    I've, too literally, heard people scream/yelp when they saw that I didn't shave my armpits. It, at one point, became my way of sorting out guys who weren't worth me time - I'd raise my arm, push my hair back from my head or something like that, and see who ran .. or yelped.
    I applaud you Idzie for being so well adjusted at such a wonderfully young age!! I've never thought about Internation Women's Day, but today, you make me proud of it.

  3. love seeing you at this place so young - keep it up!

    i am makeup and shampoo free these days - but no bra? no way! just too flippin uncomfortable - and that says lot considering how much i usually hate my bra on any given day :)

  4. Great post, Idzie. I just wanted to chime in that, actually, bras have been linked to breast cancer (something to do with restriction of fluids and the fact that they hold the breast in an unnatural position for a large part of a woman's life). But, because it's SO anti-conformist to not wear one, and because it would be a wildly unpopular recommendation, most of the big breast cancer research organizations won't even go down that road.

    I've been bra-free for a few months, and I never thought I'd be comfortable with it. But, I actually love it. My back feels better, and my boobs actually feel better (and I didn't even know they weren't feeling great until I tried this). Big tip for anyone else considering weaning off of a bra: wear tank tops or camisoles instead. It makes you feel like you aren't "exposed."

  5. I don't feel comfortable without my bra, but shaving and make-up are optional in my book.

  6. I've been thinking about this since I was a teen - I'm now 35. I went through periods of not shaving, not wearing a bra, etc. And I went through phases of heavy makeup, etc.
    I was at a talk last night and hijabs were mentioned (Muslim woman's headscarf). A Muslim woman who was there who chooses not to veil said that the hijab is a rejection of the Western beauty ideal. Makes you think about veiling in a whole new way - not oppressive at all, rather, freedom :)

  7. Idzie, thanks so much for posting this. I've always felt that young woman who don't follow the "normal" beauty styles and ideas are way more grounded and some to look up to :)

  8. The real question is, why do women have to be pretty? Men don't have to be pretty. A woman's self-worth is so built up around her physical appearance.

    By the way, I ran across your blog because graspless on LJ linked to it. Just felt the need to comment. I actually tend to be allergic to most of those harmful/carcinogenic products. And I hate make-up :)

  9. It's true that men don't have the burden of having to be pretty, but let's be honest here... Men still have a societal expectation to be attractive... "hot" or "buff" or "lean" or whatever. They are expected to be clean shaven (face and chest), have a six-pack and biceps that stand out, and no beer belly/gut. I'm not saying that men have it just as hard (they don't!), but I AM saying that they also have an expectation to be attractive to the other sex. Or the same sex, for that matter. It's just in a different form and to a different degree.

    And in terms of not wearing a bra... I hate wearing bras, but unfortunately I am rather... largely endowed. It's just plain uncomfortable to be walking around, jogging, lifting stuff or anything else that involves not sitting down when my ladies don't have the extra support. Which I hate. I DON'T like strapping myself in every morning, and I REJOICE taking it off at night. But it's just not practical to go without one most of the time. *Shrug*

  10. @Dharma Family: Thanks! And I can't wait to meet you as well! :-D

    @Carrie and Justin: Thank you! And I totally LOLed at your way of sorting out the good guys from the bad... That's just great. :-P

    @Deb(bie Debbie Doo): Thank you! Though I didn't mention it in this post, I've been shampoo free for about 6 months now, as well. When I find baking soda works just as well, why should I even consider putting chemicals on my head??

    Haha, a lot of people say that, but I really find no bra is more comfortable to me! I still often wear one (for some cloths, you just have to), but I find it uncomfortable.

    @Cassi: I read about that! I also read tons saying it's not true. So I'm really not sure which one to believe... However, since I've never heard of a study linking NOT wearing a bra to cancer, bra-less seems like the safer choice! ;-)

    A LOT of people seem to find (or just think?) that it's uncomfortable going without a bra... I find that surprising, since to me it's the opposite! Glad you find so as well!

    @Starre: Cool! :-)

    @Alison: Very interesting, thanks for sharing that! Does cast a rather different light on veiling.

    @Anime-consultant: Thank you so much, and I'm glad you like the post!! :-)

    @julialovesrain: That's very true, that is the real question! And it really saddens me that things are the way they are.

    @Laylah: Agreed. Men do have a difficult time of it as well, though as you said, not as difficult a time of it as women.

    I'm a larger cup size as well (though I'm also fairly petite, so it's all relative), and I still find it more comfortable without a bra! I honestly think it's more what you're used to than anything, as I used to feel, because I was larger, bras were the only way to go. Then I stopped wearing them for a while, realized I could be quite comfortable without them, and suddenly, when I started wearing them again, they were just so uncomfortable!! *Shrugs* Anyway, thanks for your comment! :-)