Through Society’s Mask

**This post contains triggers about eating disorders, self esteem, self harm, and more pertaining to these subjects.

***(I wrote this paper nearly a year ago for my English class, and recently dug it back up. I’ve decided to post it here because I believe many people can benefit from this. In this essay I don’t discuss how society can affect men’s opinions of themselves and the harm it can do to them because the paper was to be specifically about the effects on women. I would like to do a paper about this, however, and I certainly will if someone requests this. Feel free to express your own opinions on the subject in the comments. However, if I say something that offends you, I can assure you that is not my intention. Simply address it in the comments and we can discuss it. Thanks!)

Anorexia, Bulimia, self-harm; what do these things have in common? They are all caused by the influence of society. Everywhere you look, there are images of photoshopped women pressuring girls to be like them. Our society deems that women should rely on other people’s opinions to feel a certain way about themselves. Why some people say that this is healthy motivation for girls, I will never know. All I do know is that we need real women on billboards inspiring girls to be themselves.

From magazines to internet advertisements, unrealistic expectations of women’s bodies have spread like wildfire. Everyone is affected by the cruel, superficial outlook society projects onto this situation. All of the false advertising can seep into young women’s minds, and it can make them feel unworthy. What people do not see is how much photo enhancement goes into these pictures. The internet’s “magic diet pills” do not help young women’s cases either. Needless to say, their side effects may include: low self-esteem, suicidal tendencies, and eating disorders.

Society tells each and every female that they should live up to their friends’, families’, and even strangers’ opinions and standards. It is such a popular campaign that people actually begin believing it. These are the false gods of our world. What we should be doing is promoting self-respect and self-love. If you cannot love yourself, then how do you expect others to treat you respectfully? Society’s principles and commandments can invade the homes of influenced females. As if they do not receive enough pressure at school or work, they also have to listen to it at home. One small comment on a woman’s weight or appearance can change her own opinions of her body for the entire span of her life. Be wary of what you say.

Some people believe all of the false promotions can motivate women to improve the current states of their bodies. All of the “motivation” can cause eating disorders. Starving yourself is not going to do anything healthy to your body. No matter how low the number on the scale gets, there will always be a lingering desire to lose another pound. On the February 2014 cover of Seventeen magazine, a material for adolescent girls, an actress’s struggle with an eating disorder was shamelessly overshadowed by an article for how to get an “insane body” (BR Admin). This is how advertisements blur the focus of young women.

Some may think all the advertising can shed a light of reality on young women’s minds. I have news for them: women are not the picturesque Barbie dolls they portray on magazine covers. In fact, “the body type portrayed in advertising as the ideal is possessed naturally by only 5% of American females” (“Eating Disorders Statistics”). Reality is certainly not a Hardee’s commercial or the cover of Vogue. Beauty is a combination of personalities, genetics, character, and grace. You cannot change who you are, but you can change your opinions on yourself.

Others may say society’s lies can become an “outward expression” for females. I do not believe self-harm can be regarded as so. This “self-expression” element of the act makes the victim feel as if it is okay to cut, burn, or inflict pain on themselves in general. The orange ribbon for self-harm awareness is there for a reason: too many people ignore or dismiss the issue. Those who have harmed themselves in the past may think even lower of themselves than before, merely because of having done so. Megan, a former self-harm victim, shared with abc.net about her experience: “Having such low self-esteem, seeing damage done to yourself really kind of justifies your negative existence.” In my opinion, these are the women—real, strong, beautiful women—who should be given the attention in our society.

My point is: women should feel comfortable in their own skin. Whether they are short or tall, overweight or underweight, they should love themselves. Regardless of what others think of them, self-respect is more beautiful than any diet pill or weight loss program. No one has the right to tell them who they should and should not be. Join with me in demanding real beauty in a fake society.

Works Cited

BR Admin. “Photoshopping: Altering Images and Our Minds.” Beauty Redefined, 2014. Beauty

Redefined. Beauty Redefined. 6 December 2014

<http://www.beautyredefined.net/photoshopping-altering-images-and-our-minds/>.

“Eating Disorders Statistics.” ANAD, 2014. ANAD. ANAD. 6 December 2014

<http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/>

Rice, Deborah. “New statistics reveal dramatic increase in self-harm hospitalisations for young

Australian women.” ABC, 2014. ABC. ABC. 6 December 2014   <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-23/alarming-spike-in-self-harm-in-australian-women/4902384>

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The Gender Tag & My Own Experiences

1. How do you self-identify your gender, and what does that definition mean to you?

I identify as female. This doesn’t confine me to the gender roles that are associated with women. To me being a woman is powerful and beautiful, and that also applies to any other gender. I’m very confident in what I identify as.
2. What pronouns honor you?

I use she/her pronouns
3. Describe the style of clothing that you most often wear.

I tend to wear whatever is comfortable. Since I’ve cut my hair short into a pixie cut, I haven’t quite felt comfortable in dresses, but that’s my own problem with stereotypes I’ve heard throughout my life. I’ve always worn plaid and whatever jeans I feel like wearing, and rarely dress up.
4. Talk about your choices with body hair. How do you style your hair? Do you have facial hair? What do you choose to shave, or choose not to shave?

I’ve been growing out my hair a bit recently because I have a school homecoming dance next month, but will be cutting it back to a pixie cut as soon as it’s over. I don’t have facial hair because my sex is the same as the gender I identify as. I shave my armpits, and will usually shave my legs around once a week. However, I’ve been really interested in dyeing my leg hair thanks to Amanda’s Chronicles on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIR9Ah1RyxE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBqcr-JVDpc
5. Talk about cosmetics. Do you choose to wear makeup? Do you paint your nails? What types of soaps and perfumes do you use if any?

I wear makeup if I feel like I want to. I don’t wear makeup for anyone but myself, although I used to wear makeup almost everyday a few years ago. When I decided to stop wearing makeup daily, I felt almost like I was letting myself go. Soon my viewpoints changed, though. The less I wore makeup, the more I felt like I was truly being myself to others. I didn’t have to put on a mask for other people. I can now look in the mirror and truly think, “I am beautiful”. On the days I do wear makeup, I don’t wear much. I take on the approach “less is more” to enhance my own natural face. I sometimes paint my nails, but other times I won’t because I play guitar and have a nervous habit of picking all the polish off. I bathe daily, if that’s what the last question was asking. I usually don’t wear perfume, even though I own some, because I forget to put it on.
6. Have you experienced being misgendered? If so, how often?

I think I’ve only been misgendered once, and that was by a man in the shopping mall around Chrtistmastime last year. I had just gotten my hair cut off. I was shopping for a scarf with my grandma. The sales clerk asked me, with my back turned to him, “Need any help, guys?”. He didn’t see my grandma at the time, I assume. Once I turned around he quickly corrected himself and said, “Ma’am.” It didn’t bother me quite that much. I mostly thought it was funny because he ended up being too apologetic about it.
7. Do you experience dysphoria? How does that affect you?

I’ve never experienced dysphoria that I know of.
8. Talk about children. Are you interested in having children? Would you want to carry a child if that were an option for you? Do you want to be the primary caretaker for any children you may have?

I’m interested in adopting children of my own, but I’ve never wanted to carry a child. I think my partner and myself would both be the caretaker of children equally.
9. Talk about money. Is it important to you to provide for a family financially if you choose to have one? Is it important to you that you earn more than any partner you may have? Do you prefer to pay for things like dates? Are you uncomfortable when others pay for you or offer to pay for you?

For me it’s important to provide for my family, but I wouldn’t feel pressured to make more than my spouse. As for paying for dates, I think the best option is to split the check. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable when others pay for me because I don’t want to be a money grubber or anything. I prefer to pay for my own things so as to not feel that way.
10. Anything else you want to share about your experience with gender?

Story Time!

Now I don’t know if this qualifies as an answer for one of the prior questions, but I’m going to proceed anyways. Around June of this year I decided to start doing costume makeup. In the recent months I have been interested in cosplaying and genderbent character roles. The first time I ever made myself look like a guy was this past summer. I applied my makeup and contoured my face to look like Sam Winchester from Supernatural. I was so shocked with the transformation that I didn’t want to remove the makeup. At the time I started questioning my gender, and if I was genderfluid. I soon realized that was not the case. I may seem ignorant in that sense, but I haven’t had extensive experience with gender. I’ve never really questioned that aspect of myself because I never felt the need to. I’m glad, though, that I have decided to start applying costume makeup on myself because of how much enjoyment I get from seeing the end product.

My point is: as long as you’re comfortable with who you are, and are open to yourself, you can begin to love yourself as who you truly are.