There is a limiting stereotype the society has towards the looks and body of a woman amongst other things. There tends to be a lot of mental, emotional and physical impact on some women due to the negativity and toxicity that comes with women just embracing their femininity. However, there is now an upsurge of women crushing those limiting mindsets.
Our background, family, culture and peers have a huge role to play in this. As women, growing up some of us were always made to be overly conscious of our bodies and looks. We were told to cover up, tagged as sluts for being expressive in our style, called too skinny or too fat and constantly nagged for these ‘flaws’.
I had it tough growing up especially in a very strict religious setting. Constantly being told how certain clothes were ‘devilish’ and ‘whorish’. I was always conscious of my body image and dressing. When I was fat I wanted to be skinny, when I was skinny I wanted to be fat. This became a weight that had become tied to my identity. As I grew into adulthood, I was very insecure and constantly looking for the approvals of others on how I looked, what I wore and who I was. I constantly heard the voices of my parents, peers, family and strangers in my head, saw their disapproving eyes, heard the judgements, negativity and opinions and carried in my heart all the years I was made to feel there was something wrong with me just because I had different preferences and looks.
I remember always having anxiety attacks anytime I wanted to pick a dress to wear, post a picture, buy an outfit, go for a family or social event. I ended up giving way to the conceptions of how everyone expects me to be ‘as an ideal woman and a good example’. The negativity, judgements and toxicity from strangers, family and peers and the constant battle to stay authentic drained me. I got tired and became complacent due to fear.
I had to die to that girl and weed out the limitations that were stopping me from seeing the beauty in me. I had to take responsibility of my life, choices and body rather than let other people’s myopic beliefs and opinions hinder my growth. Some days are better than others but I am getting there. It starts with knowing who you are and self-love which is not always easy especially at the beginning but it’s definitely worth it.
When a man walks on the streets bare chested, he is seen as sexy or ‘masculine’, if a woman does that, she is tagged a slut and all manner of horrible negative vibes and opinions are thrown at her. I remember always wanting to be a boy when growing up so that the same ‘privileges’ that were ascribed to men will be mine. I was tired of constantly feeling like there was something wrong with me and a boy could get away with how he wanted to be but I couldn’t.
When I was single, I was always told of how my way of dressing, creativity, being outspoken and expressive would make me unattractive to men or make the ‘wrong men’ attracted to me. When I wasn’t single, I was told of how I was a disgrace to womanhood, my man and so on.
When I got raped and finally summoned the courage to speak out on the rape incidences that took place in my life, there were the direct and indirect allegations of it being my fault due to ‘lifestyle and looks’. When I found ‘religion’, I decided that these were the things that made me ‘bad’ so I decided to ‘cover -up’ as I had been taught and judged previously and began to judge people who did otherwise. I became scared of myself and the very things that made me different. I became scared of being a woman, scared of creativity, scared of my body, scared of nudity, scared of myself. I had my ‘aha’ moment and I am grateful I was able to step out of the brainwash, embrace and love myself as I keep growing.
Our society teaches women to be scared of the very thing that makes us beautiful and the worst part is women who slut shame other women. Mothers, daughters, friends, grannies, aunties, cousins, colleagues, acquaintances, mentors, strangers etc who make other women feel less than trash for loving their bodies, embracing nudity, embracing femininity and standing in their truth. Women who refuse to see past the surface and into the souls of women who have a lot to offer.
Photo by Taylor Ballantyne
Recently, Kim Kardashian posted pictures of herself on Instagram and a lot of crazy comments like ‘she’s a mother’, ‘a disgrace’ and what not were hauled at her. Meanwhile, we also have picture grids of four men barely wearing any cloth with a quiz on ‘who’s sexier’ or ‘who will you want to date?’ Towards men, nudity is sexy, powerful, normal and ‘masculine’ but towards women nudity is a disgrace and for sluts.
The game changes when you really know who you are. When you love all of you and accept who you are. When you realise that people’s opinions don’t define you. When you realize that being a woman is a gift and not a cause or a burden.
It’s a thing of joy to see a lot of women who are making a difference. I came across the ‘free the nipple yoga’ almost a year ago on social media and my hear skipped for joy because finally our femininity is a thing to be embraced and not hidden. Our bodies are beautiful and we are free to express them however we feel, no religion, organisation, societal class/group should stand in the way of that.
Look in the mirror embrace all that you are and know that your number one priority is YOU. Our personalities and style are all beautiful pieces that make up our identity. It’s a way of life and expression and women should be proud. We don’t need people to applaud us anymore or boo us – we don’t care about all that. We care about walking our truth and being authentic about who we are.
“You are only free when you realize you belong no place—you belong every place—no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great,” Maya Angelou to Bill Moyers in a 1973 interview.