I’ve never considered myself classically hot, which has been very easy to do because I’m not classically hot. This position is not hard to take so when your skin is see-through and your round, freckled face is so common that at least once a month, some stranger tries to convince themselves that they know you from somewhere. Growing up, the only representation I had of people that looked like me in the movies was Hamilton ‘Ham’ Porter from the Sandlot.
I think I’ve compensated for it with my feisty personality. I’m like a junkyard puppy. Kinda cute but scary at the same time. It’s the same juxtaposition you would feel if you were chatting with Tinkerbell when she suddenly asked you for a light as she beat a pack of Camel cigarettes on her hand.
Amy Schumer (who is hella problematic when it comes to issues of race, btw) came out recently with a movie entitled, “I Feel Pretty”. The premise is that Schumer’s character, a regular looking woman, hits her head and wakes up believing she is gorgeous. She moves through the world like she’s a supermodel- gets a boyfriend, lands her dream job and moves up the ladder quite quickly. At the end, of course, she hits her head again, is momentarily sad that she’s back to her old self, but then realizes that she did all those things looking the way she always does and that confidence, and not letting the judgement of others get to her, was what really made the difference all along. (I’ve asked my feminist guru friend to watch it and tell me all the ways it’s problematic).
ANYWAY, regardless of how you feel about the movie, there’s one scene that I want to share with you. At one point in the movie, she enters a bikini contest (you can get the gist of the scene by watching this video here). She turns her clothes into a make-shift bikini and dances and wriggles and writhes on stage.
I got emotional.
Now, do I think that a bikini contest is the epitome of feminist freedom? No. I understand that bikini contests center the men in the audience. Do I understand that it’s problematic that the only way she felt comfortable doing that is because there’s something wrong with her thinking? Yes, I understand that.
However, if I look at that scene in a vacuum, a scene of a woman who feels free to move and wear and be however she wants to be, I get pretty damn emotional. How often do women get to see that? How often do I get to celebrate my body, all parts of it, in such a way that I am free from caring about what others- men or women- think? Here’s how often: NEVER.
I’m not a fashionista. In fact, the last time someone in public mentioned anything about what I was wearing, it was to tell me that my green purse matched my green t-shirt dress. I was so stunned by someone noticing what I was wearing that I laughed awkwardly and walked away, without thanking her for the observation.
However, as little as I care about fashion, I spend most of my “getting ready” time deciding if what I’m wearing is too shapeless (Will I look like a man? This makes me look too big) or too tight (Will I look slutty? This highlights all my belly rolls.) I don’t even care about clothes and yet, I spend several minutes of my day orchestrating the outfit that will best spare me from judgement.
I think that someone would have to be superwoman to resist all of the ways that society tells women and girls that their bodies are the most important thing. I’m not sure that I know anyone who feels completely liberated from these destructive ideas.
So, seeing it on the big screen, even with all of the problematic components, felt pretty awesome. In a vacuum, Amy Schumer didn’t care what those men or women thought of her. She was celebrating her God-given body in all of it’s juicy splendor.
This scene actually reminds me of a scene in King David’s life where he’s super ecstatic about something and he’s dancing so hard-core in the street that he exposes himself several times in a public parade. David’s wife sees this and scolds him for it. In fact, she despises him for it.
His response to her is, “In God’s presence I’ll dance all I want!… Oh yes, I’ll dance to God’s glory—more recklessly even than this. And as far as I’m concerned . . . I’ll gladly look like a fool . . . but among these maids you’re so worried about, I’ll be honored no end.” (2 Samuel 6)
There are more important things than modesty.
WTF? Things more important than modesty?! For a girl who grew up wearing required one pieces and/or t-shirts over bathing suits, avoiding spaghetti strap shirts and shorts that were too short, this is mind-blowing. Like I’m having to reorient my self-esteem and body image around this new information.
My body is good. No, not like, “Dayum gurl. You hawt. wyd?” Good, like the mountains or the stars. Like, the same God that made those things, made my body. And, in case you’re still doubtful, in Genesis 1, after God created basically everything, including humans, God pronounced it all good. All of it.
What if, instead of conforming to a culture that strangely hyper-sexualizes my body and then shames me for not being modest, I resisted those lies?
- The lies that my stomach, chest, and butt are somehow shameful and different than my elbow or my ankles.
- The lies that any imperfection is somehow offensive and needs to be covered up
- The lie that I’m wholly responsible for keeping men “pure”, as if they have no ability or responsibility for self-control
- The lie that my body isn’t good
I’m not sure what this looks like in action yet. I’m not going to walk around my house naked or parade around the neighborhood in my skivvies. For right now, this looks like me wearing what I want to, things that I’ve never worn in the past, and trying not to care what others think about it. And it looks like not judging other women for their choices.
Maybe, I’ll just revel in the truth that my body is good for a while without anything looking different on the outside. There’s some healing that needs to be done there.
My body is good, ya’ll. Yours is too.
Many applause to you!
If you don’t mind I am going to repost this on The God Journey blog. (I still listen to the podcast ..Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings…) They’ve been talking about some of this, and what you wrote actually echoes some of my own thoughts in response to their recent podcast.
Hope all of you are doing well!
Go for it, Linds!
I’ve looked at you your whole life and never seen anything close to Ham Porter from the Sandlot. I’ve seen beautiful freckles that match your hair color and your eyes. I see strength beyond measure. I see grit and love for the underdog oozing from your pores. I see beauty every time I look at you. You are right Beth. It is good. God doesn’t deal in imperfections. Humans do.
Oh, mom. You have to say that. Xoxo, Ham
I didn’t like the movie for other reasons, but sitting next to you, I knew you were seeing something different. Thanks for inviting me! I’m glad you are growing to feel more comfortable in your skin. It’s really the only comfort we have any control over.
I am interested to hear your thoughts!
I just thought that the crescendo at the end where shes telling everyone to love how they look and feel comfortable in their own skin fell flat at the very moment she went on to encourage women to buy the knockout modeling agency’s knockoff makeup brand. Like…We’ll never be as pretty as these Instagram models (i.e. Emily Ratajkowski, the woman in the soul cycle gym crying because she was dumped).
No, we’ll never be as beautiful as these women, but we are still beautiful in our own way. She talked about how society encourages women to hate or judge themselves and cover up their flaws with makeup and how it’s all bullshit…And then she went on to encourage women to cover up whatever flaws they may see in themselves with the same mega-corp’s cheaper makeup.
I know that it’s important for women to feel good about themselves. And I know it’s hard to feel good about oneself in a society that so rigidly defines what is truly beautiful. But telling women that they are lovely just the way they are and then encouraging them to buy more makeup seems like a mixed message.
I’m not saying women shouldn’t wear makeup. Women should do whatever they want with their bodies, obviously. But let’s not think Hollywood or the makeup industry has our best interests at heart. Their goal is to make money, and they’ll do that any way they can…be it making you feel ugly or making you feel like you just might finally be pretty.
All in all though, if the movie left you feeling better about yourself, then what’s to nitpick about? Maybe I’m just being a grouch.