Chasing Ghosts

Survey of perfect features creates this face...
Survey of perfect features creates this face…

Our society seems to be on a never-ending quest for perfection. We’re expected to find it, constantly—the perfect dress, the perfect husband, the perfect apartment, the perfect job… but does anyone actually ever achieve this perfection? And isn’t perfection really just a relative term? How is it that we all strive for perfection, yet in our minds, we all see perfection differently? Allow me to demonstrate.

I have a friend who loves women with short, red hair. LOVES them. Freckles are the icing on the cake. To him, a woman with freckles, fair skin, and short, red hair is his dream woman, she is perfect… but yes, this is specific to him. Now, look at another friend of mine. He loves tall blondes. If he could describe his perfect woman, she would be tall, with tan skin, long, straight, blonde hair, and a southern drawl. How is it that these two very, almost drastically, different looking women are both considered perfect by someone, but not by another? Furthermore, how much are you willing to bet that both of these women, beautiful in their own ways, are unhappy with their appearance? Call me biased, but they both probably want to be brunettes… 😉

I don’t know why this isn’t stressed more often, but perfection is a myth. It does not exist. We were all created differently and we are all perfectly imperfect. Without imperfection, neither you, me, nor Ryan Gosling would exist. Nobody, including that person always seeking perfection, is perfect in every way. Nobody, unless you get plastic surgery… jk.

Plastic surgeries and all other artificial enhancements that exist can change your appearance, sure, but to seek that kind of change signals to me only that a deeper, less superficial problem exists (ironically). I believe that anyone who gets plastic surgery is attempting to fix an emotional insecurity. However, the problem is just that—the thing to be fixed is a thought, an emotion, NOT your exterior. Now, granted, there are situations in which someone has reconstructive plastic surgery, and these people are excluded from my argument. The people I’m referring to are the people who are born without actual flaws, but are constantly exposed to an external trigger which makes them believe they are in fact flawed– that they’re not good enough.

I have a friend who was one of the most beautiful women I know. Gorgeous hair and skin, fit body… but she was always unhappy with her appearance. She thought her nose was “too fat”, and I can honestly say I don’t have a clue what she was talking about when she said that.  The only thing I could gather from her was that, one of the most beautiful women I knew, was in fact, one of the most insecure women that I knew. How backwards is that? If someone truly beautiful can’t appreciate himself or herself, how are the rest of us “average folk” supposed to? Anyhow, after a few years of complaining she decided to address the “problem”– she got lip fillers and a nose job. End result: her nose looks pinched all the time. As with many, a stunning woman manipulated and ruined what was an already perfect face, because she was insecure.

The situation I described above is all too commonplace. It saddens me that the way women are portrayed in the media is such an unattainable depiction for the average woman. What makes it worse, is that men gawk over these photoshopped images, only fueling the insecurity women have. Men—please note you are in love with a computerized image of a truly average looking woman. Women—please note that this computerized image is not even comparable to the actual, stripped version of this woman; take away the photoshop, studio lighting, and professional hair/makeup crew, and she would be unrecognizable. Unfortunately, this photoshopped woman is seen as perfection, by both women and men. Perhaps more unfortunately, this woman doesn’t even EXIST in reality… is the problem apparent now?

We, as a society, are striving to achieve perfection… when perfection at the level we see in the media does not even occur in nature. But, never mind that, we still chase it. When does society come to terms with reality? Are we all delusional? When does this chase for perfection end, and when do men and women alike come to learn that no amount of plastic surgery, makeup, steroids, etc. can change the imperfection within?

I truly believe that insecurity guides us all to take measures to improve our outward selves. However, I also believe that you can pile on as many layers of makeup as you want, and only temporarily feel better about yourself. I think the only way to change this sense of insecurity is to begin with you, from within. Once you are able to learn to accept your flaws, only then, will we be able to release ourselves from the stereotypical perfections and false aspirations prescribed by magazines.

Hello, Ladies… This is Your Wake up Call

This is going to be a bit of a feminist rant, but it has to be said.

Disclaimer: I think men are great– sometimes they’re funny, they’re fun to look at, occasionally they’re smart, they’re great for opening doors and carrying heavy things… joking. In all seriousness, this post is not for bashing men, and I am in no way a man-hater. I simply think that women are not making as much progress as they should be in societies across the globe and would like to bring the well-deserved attention to this issue.

For decades, women have fallen victim to societal pressure to act and think a certain way. Society’s portrayal of women:

-Women are supposed to be emotional and care about everyone’s feelings—if they’re not, they’re considered insensitive.

-Women are supposed to be feminine, wear dresses, and do their hair and makeup—if they don’t, they’re considered “butch” or seen as “letting themselves go”.

-Women are supposed to one day marry, have children, and become a housewife/stay-at-home mom—if they don’t they’re considered a bad parent.

-Lastly (well, for this rant anyway), women are expected to patiently wait for Prince Charming to appear out of nowhere and sweep them off their feet—if they don’t, they’re coming on too strong and are seen as aggressive.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Please note that this is all bs (pardon my French) that has been fed to us for years in the news, media, magazines, storybooks (what up, Disney), and even from our friends and families. But why does it have to be this way? It doesn’t, and shouldn’t be. However, the issue is that by not challenging these prescribed notions, and simply accepting them because we fear the unexpected outcomes or find it easier to assimilate, we (both men and women), perpetuate these stereotypes.

Let’s take a look at the other side of the coin, reality:

-When women are emotional—they can be viewed as clingy, possessive, and for lack of better words… just overly emotional.

-Next, say a woman decides to wear a leggy dress when she goes out. Let’s say someone slips something in her drink when she’s not looking, and she gets raped (this is intense, I realize, but rape is an issue for women all over the world, especially in Sweden). Who is blamed in this situation? The woman. Why? Because she shouldn’t have been dressed in such an exposing way. That’s right, it’s the woman’s fault that some asshole didn’t have self-control, violated her freewill, and sexually assaulted her. Now, getting back to less intensity…

-Imagine you have kids, but work a full-time job. You quit your job because you need to stay at home to raise your children. Both you and your husband went to college, and you make more money than him, but because you’re a woman, you should raise the kids… maternal instincts, remember?! Quite clearly, there are circumstances in which a man might be better suited to stay at home than his wife, such as the one I just outlined. In either case, someone is losing the return on his/her investment in education (but this is a separate debate). Regardless, there is absolutely nothing wrong with stay-at-home dads. In fact, I just recently had a conversation in which one of my female friends expressed gratitude that she was raised by her father—if she wasn’t, she would have never taken an interest in finance (she’s making a killing working in finance now), and possibly never learned golf (which gave her a full college scholarship). So, as is evident, not only does this stereotype create a barrier for women, but it also puts men at a disadvantage, as they might simply be a better choice for staying at home with kids (assuming one or the other stays home, of course).

-Finally, why do women have to wait for a guy to approach them at a bar? Why can’t women decide whom they want to talk to? Why should men get to call all the shots?

While I have traditional values and still believe in chivalry (yes, really), I can also say that women should feel comfortable starting a conversation a man that catches their eye, or even setting up a date. Women should not have to wait passively for a man to choose them—women should be able to choose men, too. Sure, we have the option to reject a guy or continue talking to them, but why not expand that to include initiating conversations?

Women are just as capable of making the same decisions as men, but we sometimes don’t because of an internal pull to act in another way, which might conform to societies expectations. The longer women play into these stereotypes, the longer they will go on—it simply feeds the vicious cycle. I think the best way to overcome this is to realize that despite what you do, not everyone is going to be happy, so you absolutely have to do what’s going to make you happy in the end. What are the implications of this?

Well, for starters, women need to stop planning for things that might never happen. I recently read “Lean In”, which talks in more detail about a lot of these issues I’ve mentioned. In this book, there is a reference to a conversation between the CEO and one of her female employees who has just been offered a promotion. The employee’s gut reaction is to turn down the job promotion, because she doesn’t think the job will be kid-friendly. The CEO asks the employee if she’s discussed possible arrangements with her husband, to which the employee replies, “Oh no, I don’t have kids yet.” “Well, are you pregnant?” “No, I’m not pregnant, or married. I actually don’t even have a boyfriend.” I think you get the point now why this is an issue to make plans for what society wants your life to involve.

Second, some men love to make sexist comments, without even realizing it. Often it’s all in good fun, but the more women allow these jokes to go on, the more they will. Eventually, I fear that people in general will take women less seriously. I have personally had a countless number of experiences in which men make sexist comments about my achievements—anything ranging from good grades, to getting a decent job, to even events I’ve been able to attend. For instance, “well, it must be easy getting a job when you’re a hot chick. What did you wear to the interview?”… 1) That wasn’t flattering in any way, and 2) I got offered a job before you did because I’m smarter than you and personable. Another example, was when someone assumed I let a male friend pay for my ticket to a basketball game: “must be nice having boobs, you get to go to cool sports games for free” … I don’t feel I even need to explain my reactions to this.

I could go on forever, but the main takeaway here is that until women are made cognizant of the gender inequalities that still exist, progress in equality will be stagnant.

-S

Inspirations for my feminist rants:

“When a man gives his opinion, he’s a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she’s a bitch.”
― Bette Davis

“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.”
― Rebecca West

“Why do people say “grow some balls”? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.”
― Sheng Wang

“The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it. ”
― Roseanne Barr

“I hate men who are afraid of women’s strength.”
― Anaïs NinHenry and June: From “A Journal of Love”–The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin

“No woman can call herself free who does not control her own body.”
― Margaret Sanger

“I deserve better —such a dangerous, mad thought for a woman to entertain.”
― Meredith DuranAt Your Pleasure

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