Dear Michael Moore: Thank You For Inspiring Me To Write About Body Image

By Maya Melamed

Last week I had the flu, which meant I had some down time to laze about, and I decided to seize the opportunity to finally watch your excellent documentary ‘Where to Invade Next’.

Apart from being such a thought provoking, great movie about social change, you have also struck another cord with me. I started pondering about the way you present yourself in public. It’s either a brilliant marketing strategy, or you simply don’t give a fuck. Either way, it’s brilliant.

In a society that is so immersed in the way people look — a society which has television shows and magazines publicly slamming people simply because they didn’t wear their outfit in the way the critique thought they ought to — it’s refreshing to see your truth spoken regardless of your clothes, your hairdo, or even your posture.

As a woman growing up in Western society, I wasn’t spared any internal self-sabotaging dialogue. I used to think that I need to look a certain way. I used to judge myself according to the body features that I thought were really important: body weight, skin tone, the cloths I was wearing.

When I grew older (and hopefully wiser), I realized that it’s not about how I look: it’s about how I feel about how I look. The emphasis is on feeling confident with the way I present myself to the world. At different times, different styles worked for me. I even experimented with the “not giving a fuck” attitude at some point by wearing any old clothes that I could find — although that didn’t last too long because I quickly realized that I do care about the way I want to be perceived. But it wasn’t the styles that worked or didn’t work per se; it was me feeling that the way I look is in line with who I am.

A lot of people feel the pressure to conform to a certain image in order to be appreciated. It’s especially true in regards to the super-sexualized female image that we are exposed to everywhere. From billboards to magazine covers, to television shows, and the list goes on.

This woman is most likely slim, with a generous bust, luscious lips and a lustful gaze in her eyes. Her skin is flawless, or at least its flaws are showing up as attractive. I have nothing against this woman whatsoever. I think she’s gorgeous! But I do have a problem with the fact that a lot of women end up thinking, hell even believing, that’s how they should look like if they want to feel, or be, loved. I’ll take it even further than that: some women believe that in order to fully enjoy sex, they need to somehow adopt the characteristics that this woman embodies.

Some women don’t feel the confidence to meet a new man because their own body doesn’t look anything remotely close to that image. Some women don’t feel confident to be intimate with someone new because they fear that without having this super-sexualized body, and behaving in bed in the same manner that they think they are expected to behave, their new man will be disappointed. And some women in long-term relationship lose their confidence because their body has changed and it no longer resembles that super-sexualized ideal body, or anything like it used to be when their partner first fell in love with them.

From my personal experience, being an average woman with average body features, I get hardly any attention from men the first time they see me. I guess I’m very blessed that my body is so far removed from the super-sexualized image, that I never even bothered trying to comply and to look anything like it. The men that were attracted to me so far, usually developed that attraction over time, after they got to know me and started resonating with my personality traits: the way I speak, the way I behave, the way I interact with the world.

If you are trying to look a certain way in order to get men to be attracted to you, please consider that:

· A loving man is attracted to your body regardless of the way it looks like, not because of it. I’m not talking here about a casual relationship, I’m talking about someone that deeply cares for you and has the best intentions for you. Sure, there needs to be some attraction there — but the attraction is not necessarily based on the way your body looks like: it’s based on what radiates and emanates from your being. It’s an internal energy field that surrounds you. It’s influenced by the way you carry your body around and by your man’s emotions towards you.

· Not every woman is the same, and not every man is attracted to the same figure. Some men are attracted to skinny ladies and some are attracted to curvy ones. Some are attracted to freckles and some are attracted to bodily hair. Some are attracted to strong confident women, and some prefer the shy quiet type. In fact, according to 2011 analysis of attractiveness patterns done by okcupid, the more a woman had disagreeable attractiveness levels — the more she was contacted by men.

At the end of the day, if you want to attract a respecting man into your life, or if you want to make sure your long-term partner is still attracted to you, you need to invest in one thing, and one thing only: being true to yourself and represent that in the way you look.

There’s a fine balance between investing in the way we look because we find some feature to be beautiful and we want to celebrate our femininity by emphasizing it, and doing something solely out of fear that if we don’t look a certain way, no one will want to hang around us.

If you love being fit and you enjoy the process it involves — please invest in that. But if you’re only going to the gym out of fear that no man will like you if you didn’t, perhaps it’s your confidence you need to work on. If you love putting on makeup and you enjoy the art and creativity of enhancing your natural features — please invest in that. But if you’re only putting on makeup because you’re afraid no one will be attracted to you if they saw your less-than-perfect skin, perhaps it’s your confidence you need to work on.

If you love high heels and they make you feel free and authentic — please wear them in and out. But if you’re only wearing them because you’re afraid men will not look at you without them, perhaps it’s your confidence you need to work on. As for myself, I’m usually OK with the way my body looks like. My flabby tummy, my thick-boned features, my super-dry skin. And in saying that, there’s one area in which I feel completely uncomfortable with: my bodily hair.

I prefer being smooth — hairless — because of social conditioning that was indoctrinated in me since a very young age, that made me see a hairless leg/underarm more attractive than a hairy one. That’s why I decide to remove what I see as excess bodily hair on an ongoing basis. I’m investing my time and money, and I sometime also endure some physical pain (depending on which area of my body I’m removing hair from…) in order to achieve that smooth look.

And, to be totally honest, if for some reason I don’t have the capacity or willingness to remove that hair — I feel so uncomfortable that I leave my legs and/or armpits covered in public. This is definitely a section of my life where I should work on increasing my confidence. But guess what? As far as my partner in concerned, he usually doesn’t even notice if I removed that hair or if I didn’t. Dana Suchow, which is an inspiration in the fashion industry for talking freely about eating disorders and trying to fit into the impossible perfectionism of that world, did an amazing job of leaving her bodily hair on for an interview with Bustle in May 2017.

Back to you, Michael Moore. In your film “Where to Invade Next”, you interviewed the women influencers that are shaping Iceland. At the end of that section, there were marvelous shots of different women, from all walks of life. None of these women complied with our modern Western culture view of beauty — and yet, while watching them, my eyes were getting teary and the only thought that came to me was “how beautiful”. It’s not the content of their looks that made me think that: it was the context of what they represented at that moment.

And for this insight, Michael Moore, I admire you even more.

If you remember just one thing from reading my confused thoughts about body image, remember this: your beauty is not the way your body looks like. Your beauty is the fearless, uncompromising representation of what you truly are.

 

 

 

Maya Melamed runs the Make Love Revolution blog, where you can get your hands on a free e-course to set you off on a lifetime of fulfilling sex. Maya’s passion is to dissolve the taboo around the subject of sex, so people can relate naturally to sex and feel free to discuss, explore and experiment with what makes them truly satisfied with their sex lives.

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