I’m writing this anonymously because for once I want someone to hear only my words and not the lips that speak them. This is the story of how I learned about the love hate relationship, my relationship with myself. I was an early bloomer. My body began to develop sooner than most girls. As a young girl I didn’t really understand this process. I had no idea that I would soon begin to fear my own body. I didn’t know that becoming like the women you see in magazines was more a curse than a blessing, and I didn’t know that no one would accept it. After all, when girls complain about feeling ugly everyone gathers around them and lifts them up. They tell them that beauty is more than skin deep, that traditional concepts of beauty are unrealistic and chauvinistic, that they’re designed to put women in a box, but when you talk about being afraid of being too pretty no one cares. In fact, they hate you for it. They tell you to quit complaining because you’re lucky, you have the body that everyone wants and you should count your blessings. What they don’t realize is that they’ve shoved you into that little box. You know, the one they just told the other girl was wrong, well they just put you in it and told you to like it. If you’re the picture of archetypal beauty, you’re taught to sit down, shut up, and appreciate what you have, but I don’t appreciate it. I don’t appreciate the leering men, the eyes that undress me with their glances, the catcalls and come ons that follow me wherever I go. More than that, I don’t appreciate the women that are supposed to understand me that are helping to push me down. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked by a group of girls and heard them whisper slut. How many times I’ve been walking down the street and had another girl pass me and yell whore. Girls who don’t know me, have never talked to me. Even worse, when I try to talk to someone about it I’m told that I’m conceited. I’m sure some of you reading this are thinking just that. You’re thinking that I’m full of myself and just complaining so I can get attention, but the truth is that getting attention is the problem. I can’t begin to count the times I’ve been afraid to leave my room because I wasn’t sure I had the strength to face the catcalls and leering gazes that are sure to greet me. In fact, I spent most of middle school in baggy clothes, wearing a big jacket to hide the body underneath. In a 100 degree weather my mother would ask me, “Aren’t you hot?” and I was would say no. I didn’t complain I just tried so hard to hide, to hide from the body I couldn’t control that kept turning into something I hated. I loved myself, but I hated the way I looked. I hated that even in my baggy jackets people still stared, men still hooted and hollered, and other girls still whispered slut. I just wanted so badly to disappear. I hated being the center of attention. I hated my body.
It has taken me awhile to be able to wear clothes that fit properly, that show off my curves and not be ashamed. It took me years to be able to be proud of my body, not because others lust after it, but because I love it. I had to begin to see myself as more than my appearance, as more than an object. The hardest part was that I had to do this alone because there aren’t any support groups for girls like me. Girls who hate their bodies that everyone else loves. No one takes you seriously when you look a certain way but claim to hate the way you look. I had to find a way to love my body because I knew I loved myself and I knew that to truly be happy I needed to love all of me.
Some days it’s still hard to leave my room. Some days I second guess an outfit because I’m afraid what attention it may draw. Some days, I still hate my body, but I learned to cover it. I became overly confident. I make jokes about how great this shirt makes my boobs look, or how great my curves are highlighted by that dress, so that maybe my girl friends won’t look at me with that hint of distain, maybe if I do what I’m told and appreciate what I have then everything will be okay. But, it’s not. I still struggle with being sexualized when all I want is to feel invisible. No matter what I do I still feel like an object and not a person. I constantly wonder if he’s talking to me because I seem like a nice person or because I’m some type of prized boar. When it comes to men I feel like a piece of meat. When men tell me how beautiful I am I always laugh because how can they know if I’m beautiful when they just met me? I could be a horrible person, but none of them care because I’m “beautiful.” Because of this I’ve never had a boyfriend, and any man who tries to tell me he loves me I run from because I never trust that their love is actually love and not just lust. I can never be sure that he wants me and not my body. When men look at me, I can see the lust in their eyes and it scares me. I’m afraid that no man will ever look deeper than skin deep and really love me, not the body of this girl but her soul.
Being sexualized has made me a very different person than that little girl was. Often I find myself saying things that sound so conceited and ridiculous that I can’t figure out why I say them. It’s like every shout-out and whisper has gotten under my skin, into my soul and poisoned me a little. I don’t want to be like this, but some days it’s hard to fight the stereotypes that follow me around. The stereotypes that say that pretty girls are spoiled, or stuck up, or charismatic, or confident. Sometimes I wonder if my personality was created by me or by everyone around me shaping me into the girl I’m “supposed” to be instead of who I am. Most of the time when I look in the mirror I can’t figure out who is staring back. I can’t seem to see the beauty that others see. Mostly I see a stranger who looks nothing like me. Often, I stare at my reflection and wonder why it looks nothing like me.
Maybe I am just a spoiled girl looking for something to complain about. I don’t know. All I know is that I have never been brave enough to say these things, but here at Georgetown I’ve met some very strong women that I am proud to call my friends, and that have empowered me to speak out for women, for women who have no power to speak for themselves. So, I write this for those women. For women like me who are sexualized and told to like it. Who are judged on their looks and told to not complain about it. While other women are told that being valued on their looks is wrong, we are told that we deserve it. Why do I deserve it? I can’t help the way I look anymore than anyone else because if I could I wouldn’t look like this. If I had a choice, I would look like anyone, anyone but me.
I’m hoping that writing this will help, that saying what I could never say will make a difference, maybe not now but someday. If you’re reading this and you understand what I feel, then take heart because you can walk with your head held high. It will be hard but you have to remember that you are stronger than any label. If you don’t understand what I’m saying, maybe you have a friend who does. Try to be there for her because, trust me, all she wants is someone who will look at her with love instead of lust. Someone who will tell her she’s beautiful and mean every part of her, not just the outside. I write this because being sexualized is not a choice, because beauty is more than skin deep and that goes for everyone. I write this because women deserve to choose how they are seen based on who they are not what they look like. This is the story of how I learned about the love hate relationship.