The Value of a Woman

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This afternoon I sat on the soft leather sofa in my therapists office, and she was asking me what I valued most in life. I immediately listed off what felt to me like the normal things: my husband, my kids, my family, my friends, my work (helping others), and my beliefs. I felt like I was done and was silently read over the list. There was a brief pause as she turned and looked at me.

“Anything else?”

“Well,” I hesitated, “can I put myself up there?”

“Heather, you should be up at the top of this list!”

She went on to discuss with me why I didn’t add myself to the list initially. I honestly wanted to add it, but decided against it because I felt like it sounded selfish. So, the question is: why did I feel selfish to value myself?

Of course I KNOW I have value, but it has bothered me all day since my appointment why that played out the way it did. Why wouldn’t I consider myself just as valuable as everything else on my list? I have been trying to peel away the onion layers of this, and although there’s still so much to understand, I think I’m on the right track.

Fake News

From a young age, girls are bombarded by the “standards of beauty”. I remember staring at the half-dressed emaciated models on the covers of magazines at checkout stands around age 6 and thinking they looked strange, but as a teenager those women suddenly became who I wanted to be and look like.

So, when I was an awkward teen in middle school, the Delia’s magazine was huge, (anyone else remember this? Or does this totally age me?). I remember scoring through its pages coveting all the clothes inside. I felt like such a loser because I didn’t have the clothes, but also because I wasn’t tall and super skinny like the models. This was during the time when my mom was hospitalized with her terminal cancer, so even was she was home, she was not able to help me with makeup and clothes. I was often depressed and some days just flat out hated myself because I didn’t feel like I was beautiful since I didn’t fit these standards.

I will give the fashion industry credit. Things have come a long way since then, but it’s still bad. With the added sources of social media, it seems that “fashion FOMO” and body issues are even worse now. I don’t want my daughter to feel like I did, but I know that navigating that with how many sources of content there are today is going to be rough.

But WHO decided that these are the set standards? I would like to have some cross words with them, or maybe just punch them in the throat for good measure. There shouldn’t be one set of these ridiculous “beauty standards” simply because not every woman is the same. The fact that everyone is different makes this world beautiful. Being the same as everyone else is not.

Me, Too

I know you’re all familiar with this campaign that went viral just a few weeks ago. It was heartbreaking to see how many women, (and men),  I know who posted the status. I am very sad to say I am also among those who posted it. I was sexually assaulted by a guy I knew my freshman year of college and when I tried to report it, I was threatened by not only him but his friends and people who I thought were my friends. He was on a football scholarship, and this could potentially “ruin his career”. It was a hot pile of garbage is what it was. Rape culture at it’s finest.

Recently Hollywood seems to be imploding with the scandals of Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Casey Affleck, Louis C.K, and many others I’m sure that will come out who have all raped or sexually assaulted women. There is one thing in common with all these stories: that the women felt like they couldn’t come out with what happened to them because they were scared, or were perceived to be liars, or were quietly paid off so that they would not tell. It’s this that makes my blood boil more than anything. The fact that we as women are viewed by so many in this world to not have value. Women are viewed as these sexual objects for men to do with what they want, and then we cannot say anything about it.

The world has always exploited women. We are told to look a certain way and act a certain way. Women are praised or judged by what they look like or what they are wearing. It’s rarely for our intellect and achievements. Obviously this isn’t true for the world as a whole, and even though women’s rights have come so far, we still have such a long way to go. Have you ever noticed in tabloids it always talks about what the women are wearing? Women are constantly “flaunting” their bodies, instead of just simply walking down a street living her daily life. Magazines rarely talk about men the same way. Women are perceived as these sexual objects and nothing more.

But here’s the double standard. If a woman dresses more modestly or acts so, she’s suddenly a “prude”, but if she is comfortable with herself to flaunt it and dress a little more revealing suddenly she’s a “whore”. Why is that? Why can’t a girl or woman choose what she wants to do with her own body and let that be that? “My body, my choice” am I right?

So many guys in high school would either never ask me out again, or not even pursue me romantically because I chose to save myself until marriage and wouldn’t give them what they wanted. Since when is that bad? I hope if those boys I knew ever have daughters, that they never have to deal with boys treating her the way they treated girls in high school. Hopefully karma doesn’t teach them a hard lesson.

What’s In a Value?

Last Sunday I got to teach a group of teenage girls from ages 12-18 at my local LDS church. In this lesson, I taught them that no matter what happens, that they still have worth in this world. Despite what this world will tell us over and over, is that we (as women) have so much value. It’s more than what we wear or what we look like. So much more. So, let’s go back then to the question of why I couldn’t list myself on the list of things I valued.

I know I have value, I knew it when my therapist asked me, but I was just afraid to say it. I’m not going to be afraid to value myself now. I will no longer let the things that have happend to me in the past, or anyone or anything else convince me that I have no value.

My daughter will always be taught by me that she has value, and I will help her navigate through this world that will constantly bombard her with these ridiculous “beauty standards”. Lucky for her, she’s got an entire pride of strong women who will also guide her. Wherever she goes in this life, I know that she is going to have the confidence and knowledge to take her far.

I want to hear your thoughts on this!

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

 

 

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For Her.

Today my 6-year-old daughter asked me if she looked fat in what she was wearing. I was dumbfounded that she would even be worried about something like that at her age. After a brief moment of shock I of course told her she looked great in what she had on, and to also remember that every body is different, and every body is beautiful.

To be honest, it made me a little sad to think that she is already concerned with her weight. Her unwavering stubbornness in wanting to dress herself since she was 2 1/2 years old, and absolutely detesting having her hair brushed and styled, was the extent of it so far as I knew concerning her looks. The fact that her weight is something she was thinking about made my Momma heart ache just a little bit.  Remembering my own experience, I was at least 11 before it even registered to me about what size I was.

The more I thought about it last night, the more anxiety I felt for my daughter and the struggles she will have to go through. My experience as a teenager was rough, as it was for most kids my age. It seems today though, that middle school aged kids just completely skip over the awkward phase. Boy, if I could have a time machine I would LOVE to go back and just skip right on over my horrifically awkward middle school years. They were not fun. I was bullied, and I hated myself most days. But you know what? I got through it, and it made me a stronger individual and taught me so much about people in general. I feel like I am a much more empathetic person because of the bullying and teasing I went through.

During my senior year of high school, a friend of mine who I had known since 6th grade asked me if I had moved there in high school. I laughed, and just said “Yup!” and prayed he would not look back at our middle school yearbook. Thankfully I could just laugh it off by then, as I had come into my own by freshman year and had a lot more style and confidence.

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I mean look at me, I was just awkward. Thankfully I had my braces off in fifth grade so I dodged a bullet there, but why on earth did I pick the BIGGEST glasses in the store? I literally have no logical answer for that.  I had no sense of style. Part of this awkward phase was because my Mom was terminally ill all through my middle school years, so I didn’t have her there to teach me things like how to do my makeup or my hair. I’m definitely not blaming her at all, but it’s a huge part of why I was so lost when it came to anything to do with beauty.

It doesn’t seem right that girls are suddenly grown up at the ripe ages of 8, 9, and 10. Why are parents today so obsessed with making our daughters into these little adults so young? Media in general is to blame big time. This social media obsessed generation has access at their fingertips to countless portals of information, photos, gossip, fashion, and news. It has changed our once innocent kids into little adults at a younger age. My kids have accidentally seen or heard things from their friends or via commercials and ads no matter how hard I try to protect them from it, that I had NO clue about until I was well into middle school.

Girls from a young age are being pressured to be sexy and be so much more grown up than they really are. Young girls and women are bombarded with the message that they need to be sexualized to get anywhere in life.  It has become a common theme when it comes to anything in entertainment these days. There are horrendous celebrities that are so commonplace now, and so influential to young girls. It just makes me sick. I will never let my daughter think that Kylie Jenner for example, is what she needs to be or look like. I want to teach her that being intelligent, educated, modest, kind, and healthy will make her beautiful inside AND out.

A while ago, a viral photo went around Facebook of a meme showing what my generation dressed like when we were little (think: side ponytails, stirrup leggings, and puff paint shirts) compared to what little girls dress like now (think: high fashion adult wear in mini sizes). It was meant to be funny, but the more I thought about it, the humor was lost for me. There is so much pressure nowadays for our little girls to be dressing like these little fashionistas, when in reality, they probably could care less.

My daughter for instance, would rather be in a tank top or t-shirt and leggings any day over something fancy. I can’t even get her to wear jeans! Getting her dressed up for special events or even church on Sunday turns into a HUGE debate. I tell you what, my daughter will rule the debate team one day! If she was given the choice between something considered “high fashion” or covered in glitter and fun characters that she loves, she would pick the glitter hands down. So why would I try to force her to be someone she doesn’t want to be? I won’t.

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So for my daughter, I will try my very best to continue to teach her to not be afraid to be herself. The pressures she will face as she gets older are ten times what I had to go through. I am afraid for her, but if she is as stubborn and sure of herself as she is right now at the age of 6, I have a good feeling she will be able to navigate herself through the awkward stages just like I did.

I always make sure I am never negative about my own body. She has often asked me about my stretch marks and stretched out skin on my stomach from having my three kids. I have never said anything negative to her about them, (even if I do to myself), and make sure I tell her they are from having her and her brothers and I am so grateful for them because it means I have my kids.

My husband too, is a huge influence on what my daughter thinks of beauty. He doesn’t hesitate to tell me I am beautiful in front of them, even if I am super sweaty and have just come from the gym with no makeup on. We always kiss and hug one another in front of the kids. Kids hearing their parents say “I love you” to one another is so meaningful. Seeing a good solid relationship, and seeing how a man should treat a woman is very beneficial for their young minds. It sets a standard for them of what a good relationship looks like. I want my boys to know how to treat women with respect, and I want my daughter to know what kind of relationship she deserves to have in the future.

Even though I am not perfect, all I can do is continue to be a good example to her. I want to be the woman she strives to be when she grows up. For now, I will let her continue to be herself, and just be a kid.

xoxo

Heather

The Raw Brunette