“I’m worried about sleeping with her.”
“Why I asked?… Vagina competency is so like riding a bike…It all comes back to you once you’re in the saddle… Or ‘straddle’.”
“I always just…” she hesitated. “Feel so body conscious when I’m with a new partner.”
“Do you feel body conscious in general?”
“No. It’s just being naked in front of women. They’re so ‘judge-y’! ”
My head went through a thousand thoughts and memories. Getting dressed in high school locker rooms, the way you feel after a deep scroll through IG, sharing clothes with friends.
The constant compulsive dialogue of comparison that runs through my mind as I just coexist along side of other women.
It’s curious how much we blamed men aka the media, corporations for dictating unattainable standards of beauty. But where in this discourse do we (women), take responsibility for our own participation and perpetuation of how we asses our own value and the value of women around us.
As a young woman, I remember during a pretty “standard” conversation with a group of friends. My girl, let’s call her Z-Aaren… Replied “Yes” when asked if she thought a particular ‘off beat’ celebrity was beautiful. When follow up questioned further by another member of the group “Like really?!”
Arren I mean Z-Aaren plainly said “Sure why not?! Everyone is beautiful.” Bomb dropped. That was the moment I knew Z-Aaren was a better person than I, and that there was something really shameful about how we lived our lives regularly evaluating others by looks.
I’d love to tell you the above moment is where I became a “woman’s woman”- a serious down ass chick for women and reformed all my critical thoughts patterns. But I’d be lying to you. It actually only got worse when I started dating. When I dated a pillow lipped, bronzed fem…I thought about how thin my lips were all the time, and repeatedly self tanned my Irish completion and palms various shades of yellow. When I’ve dated beefy athletes, I’ve drank protein shakes and obsessed over developing back muscles. Sleeping with women didn’t help me become more body and female positive, it only turned critical lens up and extra inward. I began creating pressures and body standards for myself based on playing body comparisons with the girls I slept with.
I sound like a real flighty douche bag, I know girl’. So focused on looks… And maybe I am. But the hard truth is, there’s a 95% chance you are too. Have you ever used the HER app? If you answered yes to this question then the bad news is you likely aren’t in the saintly 5%. I know… I’m bummed at myself too. I so badly want to be the most empowering, gives no Fucks Merryl Streep-ass, lady loving, best friend and ally you’ve ever had! But I/we have “baggage.” Prada pun intended, cause this mess is the straight up Devil. We as a community have developed and adopted a dating app where we select partners and friends based solely on a small number selfies, and age. Savour that.
NB.: No shade on the HER app. “Love and respect the community building you do.” But the app’s popularity (1.5 million users in 55 countries) says a little something about what we value and how we participate in perpetuating standards of beauty. #RealTalk
I’d like you, would love to say that as queers we live somewhat outside traditional standards of beauty. That we’re enlightened, exempt from all the mainstream pressures to look a certain way. That as women who love women we’re intrinsically more feminist and above imposing aesthetic pressures on eachother. But unfortunately that’s not quite how it seems to play out. The pressures are actually more amplified amongst us. Imagine for example, the level of savage the Mean Girls movie would have been on if everyone had also been trying to sleep with each other.
This phenomenon isn’t exclusively witnessed on the HER app. The entire Queer-internets are dripping in the similar types of body shaming evidence. Take our in house IG page @effort.lez. We are continually searching for content that connects and performs with our audience. The conclusions we keep drawing from AB testing time and time again. Thin, white, “attractive”, trendy bodies and faces get more likes than anything else we post that deviates from this formula. With the exception of cat memes of course. Cause’ everyone loves cat memes!
Listen I don’t want to get all Autostraddle on you here and bum you out. There’s good news too. As a group, Queers are so much better looking than heteros. Kidding. Maybe.
Listen it’s hard out there for female bodies. Let alone queer female bodies. We tend to develop relationships with our own bodies based on how others treat our bodies. As a result of living in a culture and community that is aesthetically obsessed, many of us see our value in pounds and post likes. And our bodies as sexual currency. We’ve developed this understanding of our bodies as being a social commodity. A vehicle to get us ‘liked’, accepted and a means to success in life and dating. A quick glance at depression and eating disorder stats among women will show you what we are doing to ourselves and each other with this fuck-ery isn’t serving us.
The body has a way of always keeping the score and our history. The next time you see a headless picture of some smokin’ gay lady’s sculpted abs with hips thrust forward. I want you to TRY to think past wanting to drink an iced-coffee off the crevices of her stomach. (Just me?) Instead consider that she grew up in a culture that polices her body, imposes unattainable standards of beauty on her, and discriminates against who she is (gay and perfect). She’s heard countless messages about gender conformity and expression, and been taught by hetero normative culture that what she desires is wrong. This ab-ed smoke show since a very young age has been taught to feel ashamed of who she is, who she wants and how she looks. Those editorial level abs in that headless selfie are glorious, but they are also likely communicating overcompensation and need for perfection driven by a lifetime of feeling shame and inferiority.
Imagine what our community could be like if we valued our bodies for the history they bore and what they can do instead of what they looked like. Queer bodies have marched, overcome, thought and theorized their way out of so many levels of oppression. And done so faster than any other marginalized group in western history. We are strong, resilient, capable and have every reason in the world to be proud. Internalizing these truths, valuing each other is where we will empower ourselves and set each other free. And some of that…starts on the internets.
So don’t swipe left on women or yourself. Click “Like” instead!
Peace & Self-Love,