Here’s something any female loving person should know about: xojane.com
Xojane is a great little website that is focused on women’s stories as written by real women. And these women are selfish bitches. Proudly so. Xojane’s mission is to create a haven for women to speak selfishly about anything they gdamn well please. And I like that. Yea, it includes beauty, clothes, celebrity crap…and granted, not every woman is into that, especially if you continue to fight the sexist and sexualized portrayal of women in pretty much everywhere (the most recent culprit being most Superbowl ads, GoDaddy’s being particularly offensive and stupid). But overall, Xojane has a fun, sarcastic slant to its writing, and doesn’t shy away from more serious issues. My favorite feature, however, has been these themed calls for pictures from readers showcasing things like their non-photoshopped bellies.
I scrolled through hundreds of pictures from women around the world, taken in various degrees of love and shame and fuck y’all, reading the stories that accompanied the photos. Women talked about their struggles with loving what they saw in the mirror, how some had not even looked at themselves until this photocall; many had battled diseases such as bulimia, sported scars from cesarians or surgery; some said nothing at all, just silently sent in their picture with a first name. The curators of the gallery were bowled over by the response, and set up multiple galleries to hold these photographs. Perhaps they never thought women would so openly share their bodies in a culture that bitch slaps any real depiction of our physical selves.
I didn’t submit a photo. I thought about it. I compared myself to other pictures. I looked at my reflection and thought, “I’m way too bloated today”. Then I forgot about it and went on judging myself and my stomach each morning, evaluating the paunch to see how guilty I would feel if I ate a piece of chocolate. Or to assess the effects of my work out the previous day, and give myself permission to feel sexy because I looked less fat.
What kind of way is that to live?! I don’t know. But I still do it.
When I lived abroad in London several months ago, I did a test on myself and called it The Facial Hair Project. I had this awful habit of plucking my eyebrows and facial hair every single morning. I did this while looking into a tiny, handheld mirror that magnified all my follicles times a billion. I have no recollection of how I got into this routine, but I’d been doing it for years. I rationalized my behavior by thinking I was saving money on waxing or some other kind of hair removal process. In reality, I was obsessing about my appearance. If I missed a hair on my chin and saw it further into the day, I would feel incredibly self-conscious, and wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything else except how I must look like Tom Selleck.
Fortunately, I had a lot of time on my hands while abroad, so I started thinking of ways to challenge my self-image. Obviously my confidence had many ways in which to quickly shoot down the gutter, and I wanted to find out some root causes. I started with my facial hair. I put down the tweezers and declared I wasn’t going to pluck anything for an entire week. In response, my friends said, “Only a week? Are you even going to see anything?” Yes! Definitely! I was convinced that a week was all I could take before I went ape shit, and shaved my forthcoming Santa-worthy beard and mustache off my face. I took pictures and videos of my thoughts and feelings daily, tracking my progress.
Boy. Was I disappointed.
By the end of the week, I could hardly see anything. I recorded myself with a shitty built-in camera so I couldn’t get the same detailed effect I’d gotten with my magnifying mirror. I kept looking for reactions on the bus: an awkward glance in the direction of my upper lip, or a comment about the bearded woman made under the breath. Nope. Nothing.
So, I decided to go an entire month. Dang, did I feel liberated! I didn’t realize how much time I wasted every morning traumatizing my face! I became rather fascinated with my hair growth, noticing that the left side of my lip grew hair quicker than the right, or that my chin was sprouting a formidable opponent to the hair on my head. I got others involved in the project by interviewing them about their habits and opinions in terms of haircare. At the end of the month, my face looked like this:
Then I decided to get everything waxed and start a new chapter in my facial hair history. I don’t believe getting my hair removed was “giving up”; I just happen to like myself better without facial hair. If by the end of the month, I had found I enjoyed the fuzz, I would have kept it. And honestly, I started to find it kind of hot in a gender bending-light way (I know, it’s so baby bender). The point is that I stopped torturing myself on a daily basis, and have a very different (and WAY more relaxed) perspective on how facial hair impacts my beauty. The entire project challenged me to think of other ways in which I could let go of shaming behavior.
For example, my morning face. Everyone has one, but really, only women make a huge deal of it (I think? If not, you can let me know!). So Xojane has started another gallery called Morning Faces in which readers submit a picture of themselves first thing in the morning. I happily posted my own picture, after stopping my hands from trying to “fix” my hair. I encourage you to do the same and challenge the shame.
Cheers for beards xx