Have you guys ever read Queer Vegan Runner’s blog? No? Well, you’re missing out. Not only is AJ (or Dr. A as I like to think of her) a fellow Hollaback Girl (which automatically makes her awesome) but and all around kickass lass. A blend turned friend, she is sometimes on the receiving end of my ridiculous drunk texts and yet somehow still talks to me. Go figure. Anyway, she was kind enough to indulge my curiosity about body image on the Isle of Lesbos and write a Skanky Tuesday post for me. I’m sure that you’ll all understand why I may have a little bit of a platonic girl crush on her. Without further ado…
I was honored when Kendra asked me to do a Skanky Tuesday guest post. I’m more than thrilled to bring my skankitude to share on this awesome blog feature. Kendra asked me to address this topic because “being attracted to the female form it makes me wonder if you are harsher on your own body or how it makes you look at your body differently than a heterosexual woman would.”
The easier answer is “yes.” (oh, quick disclaimer…this is my opinion on my experience as being a lesbian. Just as no heterosexual woman could be presumed to be the sole voice of all heterosexual women, I in no way imply that this post applies to any lesbian besides me.)
The ideal image of female gender expression is more fluid in the lesbian community. I mean you got your high femme lipstick lesbian, your butch, your soft butch, your baby butch…and a veritable rainbow in between. In order to be found attractive by other women and to feel attractive, there is a broader definition of attractive. In some ways this is very freeing. My experience of going to the club is pairing the right jeans, with the right chucks, with the right t-shirt. Or button up shirt, if we’re going fancy that night. So unless I’m choosing to indulge my lipgloss lesbian persona, I’m pretty damn relaxed and casual at the club. But it’s a perfected casual that takes effort and care. Sure more gay girls may have short hair, but don’t be deceived that time and effort is not required to maintain that effortless casual look. I, for one, did not start flat-ironing my hair until after I came out.
But therein lays the problem. Sometimes a girl (me, sometimes I), likes to dress up. I look pretty damn hot in a pair of heels and a short skirt. And I’m obviously not ashamed to admit it. And I will dress up like that on occasion, usually at the urging of my partner, cause she’s knows what’s hot. But, if I were single, I truly doubt I would dress femme at the club. Why? Because I would not be read as gay. Sad truth, sometimes we lesbians buy into the stereotypes of what a lesbian looks like as much as everyone else. And we also associate the same stereotypes with femme girls (high-maintenance, high-drama) as everyone else.
Oh and the weight thing. Lesbians tend to be feminists (if you want that explained…sigh…email me). We’re supposed to be above the whole body image issue, right? And in some sense that is true. You straight girls read in women’s magazines that guys actually like girls who eat and have some curves to their figure (evolutionarily this makes sense, a guy is going to be attracted to a woman who looks like she can birth a brood of rugrats). In practice, I can vouch for the veracity of this…if guys are anything like me. I am attracted to a wide spectrum of body types. And that’s just based on looks. Once you get to know a girl, personality can make the prettiest girl pretty damn f’ugly and can make a girl who may have one or two attributes that are not exactly picture-perfect seem absolutely adorable.
And here is where the crazy-making begins. I know whom I find attractive. I know they do not resemble fashion models or movie stars (not that I don’t have crushes on movie stars or fashion models…Jessica Simpson, if you’re reading, hit me up, thanks) but in my head I’m very clear that the girls I find attractive in real life are adorable without being Barbie dolls. YET, I am unable to not hold myself to those ideals. I am unable to pass by my mirror at home without lifting my shirt above my belly and looking at my profile (it’s an obnoxious habit). I am unable to get dressed without asking my partner “do I look fat in this?” And when I’m out, I can’t help but compare myself to other girls. Why? I know I am attractive to my partner. I know that girls don’t hold other girls to the same harsh standards we hold ourselves. I know that standards of beauty are by definition unreachable and serve as part of the means by which woman (gay or straight) are oppressed. I know this and yet it is so hard to NOT engage in negative self-talk. It is so hard to disengage from the result low self-esteem and high anxiety that accompanies this.
For better or worse, this sort of negative self-talk is discouraged among lesbians. In a way, this is great – we don’t disparage our bodies as a way of bonding the way straight girls do (I say this having been there, done that). But this silence also serves to perpetuate a stereotype (positive stereotypes can be just as dangerous as negative stereotypes). It perpetuates the Myth of the Isle of Lesbos, that lesbians are immune to the pressures of heterosexual society’s impossible standard of beauty. Or that we are immune to eating disorders/disordered eating. Or that the fetishism of hot girl-on-girl action by the straight porn industry does not affect us. Or that we don’t have our own standards, which may be equally hard to achieve, if not downright impossible.