The relationship most women have with their appearance is a complex one. Rarely is it ever simply a natural part of one’s identity and a way of being; normally beauty or sexual attraction is either underplayed and feared, exaggerated and abused, or put aside all together.
When women’s day celebration rolls along, I often ask myself which aspect of being a woman we are addressing? Is it the celebration of this appearance, of our beauty? An emphasis on our sexual differences from men? Or maybe an apology for the equality that seems to be forever eluding us?
Being a woman of a certain appearance opens doors in life, giving privileges, but beauty can often come with a hefty price tag.
One event in particular sticks out in my personal memory, highlighting how definitive attraction can be in setting the course of one’s life.
Three years ago, I messaged a dear friend to catch up. Having met him over twenty years ago, we had become very close, maintained our friendship despite the distance, valued each other’s company dearly, and had even visited each other’s families on a few occasions. Now both happily married, we could expand our friendship to hang out with our respective partners and children. Or so I thought. But instead of receiving a response from him, I got a message from his wife, asking me if I could get on a call. In a conversation that seemed like an episode from a soap opera, she told me she felt uncomfortable with our friendship and didn’t want me to call him ever again.
Three years have gone by. I didn’t even get a chance to say a ‘good-bye’ to my friend. Somehow it felt as though my looks or my way of being were to blame. I felt anger, sadness, disbelief, frustration.. I asked myself what I had done wrong. I wondered what gave her the reasons to assume I was a threat to her marriage. And I felt a profound sadness in knowing that I could be simply discarded as a friend, just because I was a woman.
Eventually, after much soul-searching, I accepted the sad reality: as a society we still heavily stigmatize women, especially those that happen to or dare to be attractive, powerful, or comfortable with who they are, labeling them dangerous and threatening.
Our looks have turned us against one another. We seek to look the part, then compare, distrust, label. We call each other names, we talk behind each other’s back, we backstab. All because we have an acquired fear of our power to attract, our sexual appeal, and a deep-seated shame of who we are as women. We teach our daughters to be proper, to tone down, to lower their gaze, to feel ashamed of their body parts, protect their sexuality, guard themselves from the improper eye. Then when they grow up, we continue to reduce them down, put them in boxes.
As a society we have surgically removed sex appeal & beauty from its owners, processed and commercialized it, making it into a commodity. We allow it only in small dozes, when it’s controlled, compartmentalized, and kept at a safe distance, especially from the ownership of the woman herself. This separation has not only allowed for the perpetuation of ´sex sells´ market, but deprived us of our wholeness, leaving us in an eternal search for perfection, making us feel incomplete and deserving only upon conditionalities.
Paradoxically, despite all the beauty pageants, pornography, and sex sold, our society is unable to handle real self-expression of femininity. We have gone as far as condemning true unfiltered expression of being a woman, the raw unadulterated beauty of who we truly are as inappropriate, allowing this rejection to perpetuated, relinquishing our power individually & collectively, throwing away the core of who we are. Instead, we fake what being a woman means, and squeeze ourselves into societal boxes generation after generation.
No, I am not saying that beauty and sexuality defines us wholly; it’s simply an essential part of who we are. It’s an expression of feminine identity, of the natural force to attract, to seduce, to invite in, and to embrace. Just like the sun that mesmerizes everyone at sunrise and warms the gaze of the spectator with its golden rays, so does our feminine attraction constitute a natural force and power to be reclaimed, honored, and bestowed with generosity. Not feared and degraded, or enslaved and traded as a commodity.
On this women’s day, I invite each and every one of you to reconnect with your power to attract, to feel your beauty flourish, to shine in any direction you please, aware of your entire majestic self, unafraid to shine your light, whether it will scare others, unnecessarily attract attention, make someone fall in love, or unleash judgement of any sort. Embracing our natural essence, we can finally reclaim what has always belonged to us, regain our ability to be complete and collectively regain our equality and power from inside out, and with it abandon the need to celebrate women’s day. Because being a woman is an occasion to be celebrated every day!