Wednesday, August 28, 2013

You're Doing It Wrong And Someone Can't Believe You're Wearing That

By Mary C. Tillotson

Some days, it’s tiring to be a woman. No matter what you do, you’re doing it wrong, and someone can’t believe you’re wearing that.

Jessica Alba
We judge each other for our career and family choices (you’re either a terrible mother or wasting your talent, or both). We judge each other for our weight on both ends of the spectrum (did you really need that second piece of cheesecake? Why aren’t you eating anything?). We judge each other for our emotions. We judge each other for the number and spacing of kids. We judge each other for our clothing – too conservative, too revealing, too businesslike, too manly, too ugly, too clashing, too good to be authentic.

Like you’re a slob who doesn’t care what she looks like and a ditz who cares too much about looks. If you’re ugly, no one should take you seriously; if you’re pretty, you probably don’t have any brains.

Like somewhere out there there’s an ideal balance of physical beauty, poise, diet, emotional finesse, and fashion sense. If we’re going to be worth anything, we need a perfect body, impeccable fashion sense, and the impossible skill of being sensitive to others’ emotions but not to our own. Anything short of that and judge! judge! judge! Even for the select few women who seem to have accomplished this, judge for making it too much of a priority, and judge if any minor thing goes wrong in your life. Because you thought you had it all together, didn’t you? Judge!

When the dust settles, most of us end up feeling like we’re ugly and trying too hard at a task we’re doomed to fail anyway. And then we judge each other for being attention-mongering drama queens (phrase courtesy of a high school friend of mine).

Why do we do this to each other? Why do we hate ourselves so much? Why are we so insecure?

courtesy some genius on flickr
I want to propose a possible solution: custody of the eyes.

In Christian/Catholic circles, we often talk about “custody of the eyes” in reference to men: we expect them to make an effort to see our sexuality in the context of our human and feminine dignity, not to the exclusion of everything else. We’re glad they find us pretty, cute, beautiful, feminine, etc., but we don’t want them creeping on us or picturing us naked, because sexuality should be freely given, not taken.

I think women have a similar battle that many of us aren’t fighting. We forget about our own human dignity, and we forget about other women’s human dignity. We judge each other. So I propose that we look away if we can’t get over bitter, judging, envious selves. That includes clothing, blogs, relationships, and life decisions.

I propose that we make an effort to get over our bitter, judging, envious selves. I propose that we compliment other women whenever we can, because we all have down days when we feel swallowed by failure and judgment. I propose that we at least imagine a mile in each other’s shoes, heels or hiking boots, and remember that we all have ugly days and not-totally-on-top-of-my-game-today days.

It’s important to distinguish between what we actually believe is morally wrong and what is just a different decision. Even when someone is doing something morally wrong, it’s important to consider their circumstances and their perspective. It’s important to see their human dignity. A kind, considerate person is in a better place to discuss sensitive issues than a bitter, judging, envious one.

It’s important, also, not to jump to conclusions. If someone else affirms or explains her own life decisions, she isn’t necessarily judging those who make different ones. If someone laments societal trends, she isn’t necessarily judging those who appear to follow them. It’s important to recognize our own human dignity and not perpetuate a culture of judgment. Consider the writer’s intentions, audience, and circumstances before reacting.

I’ve tried this for a little while, and it’s hard. I haven’t been perfect, but it’s been good for me and I’m happier for it.
Who’s with me?

h/t to my friend Anna for helping me think through this last week!

1 comment:

  1. I did EVERYTHING wrong. I think I'm still doing it all wrong. However, my kids turned out OK - well, better than OK, I'm still married, and I'm pretty happy. That's probably enough.


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