Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Soapbox Moment

This post was initially inspired by the fact that in one day I had several different friends who commented via blog or FB on how they had been "blog-hopping" and ended up feeling bad about themselves. Kept it in my "holding tank" for a while because I didn't want to sound like I'm on one (I'm really not) but hey, we can stir the pot a little, can't we?

Why do women get so creative in finding ways to feel bad about themselves? This is a rhetorical question and yes, I am as bad as any other woman, but sometimes I even surprise myself with what I find to feel bad about. So I am going to step up on my soapbox and say it: Most of the things that women use to incessantly lower their self-esteem are silly when you really think about it-- or even if you don't think too hard. More than a handful of these things are counter to any common sense, if not completely illogical. Not that they aren't still effective when you want to give yourself an instant downer day --but, hey-- now at least you can add "I'm unrealistic and illogical" to your list of self-tirades. ;) In all seriousness, I don't think women are illogical and silly, I just think we are too quick to feel bad about ourselves without seeing how certain expectations (even if they are culturally prevalent) are inherently unrealistic and flawed. Here goes:

"I don't look like I did when I was 20." -- Since when are you supposed to be able to freeze dry yourself at a certain age and stay looking like that forever? Um, you will stop looking like you are 20 when you are, oh, around 21. Unless of course you want to undergo massive Botox and plastification and then you can look like a scary human zombie of a 60-year-old that bears an eerie resemblance to what a 20-year-old might look like if they had been coated in a semi-solid amorphous material.

"I've put on a few pounds since I had kids." -- There are a few models, marathon runners and mutants out there who manage to escape post-baby weight and look fantastic, but these are the exception, not the rule. (I know quite a few of them and what really stinks is that they are really nice people too so you can't hate them.) ;) For those of you out there who aren't entirely familiar with the childbirth process, a woman's body expands and adapts to accommodate an entire (albeit small) human being, which she manages to feed, shelter and nurture inside her own body for 9 months, despite nausea, discomfort and a large awkward shape. After delivering the baby she spends another 6 months minimum of extremely intense care, involving frequent feedings (often from her own, yet again changing, body), night wakings and nearly incessant needs. The incessant needs for care eventually diminishes but doesn't completely go away for about 18 years. There are those out there who manage to focus on "getting their old body back" during this time. I'm not one of them. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for eating healthy, exercising and taking care of yourself. But how many of us really are motivated to lose weight more by a desire to be healthy and less by a desire to look great in a swimsuit?

"I'm not as cute or fashionable as I was before I had kids." -- Not to say that you want to abandon all goals of cuteness or fashion, but please see above paragraph. But really, being cute and fashionable is all that really matters anyway. That said, it's hard to be excited about cuteness and fashion when whatever fashion you attempt may be assailed by random spit-up, drool or boogers or probably won't fit in six months because of pregnancy/nursing/weight gain/weight loss or child-pushing-buttons-on-the-dryer-induced shrinkage.

"My house is a mess." -- Just so you know, this one is completely your fault. While your children are working their rear ends off, trying to keep things tidy, clean and sanitized, you are sitting on the couch watching cartoons and playing with toys, making messes for them to clean up. Shame on you! Enough said.

I know. This is an old rant. I've probably visited it on my blog two-hundred-bajillion times before. But it still is irritating that so often we/people/society give lip service to things that are really important (spending time with your kids, eating healthy, being there for other people, thinking about more than yourself or appearances) but so much of our culture is really tied up in appearances and the form rather than the substance of things (looking skinny vs. actually being healthy or being "free" to be objectified for your appearance or exploit your body for money vs. true equality for women). I really wonder if the problem of women having low self-esteem is worsened by the messages our culture promotes about women. Our "modern society" talks about promoting equality for women when so often what is really promoted is women used as objects of seduction to sell products. I know. It's all said like a women who resents losing her swimsuit body and would rather whine about it than get on a treadmill. OK, there may be some truth in that. =] But there's truth in my half of the argument too.

I believe in equality for women. But I also believe in respect for "womanly" [Can you even use that term?] characteristics such as tenderness, compassion, nurturing and giving of yourself for others (regardless of what gender the person is who is exhibiting those characteristics). Is it possible to have equal respect for a woman (or man) who chooses to raise children, care for elderly parents or serve in the community rather than pursuing money or fame? Is it possible for a woman to be "beautiful" who may not have a great body, but spends her time with compassion and caring for others? Is the only way for a woman to be equal for her to become more like a "man" (meaning obsessed with self, money, career, power, sex-- although I would argue that a true "man" doesn't exhibit these characteristics either)?

OK. Enough of my rant for the day. I'm really not as on one as I sound from this post. I suppose the problem is that really I wish I could have it all: care for others, raise children, lucrative career, impressive hobbies, perfect body. It's possible, right? All I have to do is buy the right products.... (After all, I'm worth it!)

 (By the way, does anyone buy soap in a box anymore? I'm assuming the term doesn't refer to bar soap-- box too small. Laundry soap might work, but I get it in a plastic container with a spout that would be tricky to stand on for too long.)


Emily Laing said...

Hahahahahahah!!!!!!!! I love the way you think.

Tenise said...

Haha! I love you Karen! Thank you.

Jadie said...

I'm half-way thru this and have to go read something to my 3 yr old. But can't wait to revisit...stinking hilarious!


Jadie said...

Our laundry detergent actually does come in a box--although it's not terribly sturdy and would probably collapse if anyone stood on it. :)

In answer to your question: "Is it possible for a woman to be "beautiful" who may not have a great body, but spends her time with compassion and caring for others?"
I'd say, absolutely. My grandma certainly didn't have a great body, but she was far more beautiful to me than any anorexic, botoxed, face-lifted, collagen-infused creature that we see older stars morphing into as they age. What ever happened to aging gracefully?

Lara said...

You rock, Karen.

I've been thinking about this topic a lot lately...why we a) get so involved in caring what people think and b) self-deprecate so freaking much.

If being humble is having the ability to recognize the Lord's hand in all things, when we refuse to recognize the gifts and talents and blessings He's given us, then we aren't being humble like we think we are by self-deprecating. We're being prideful. And yet, it's hard not to.