Tag Archives: guest post

Guest Post: “Dude, I Don’t Know Whether to Think You’re a Slut or a Player”

Remember Bryn? She’s the one who alerted me to my very brief moment of Autostraddle celebrity? She’s a beast at so many things, but lucky for you, one of them is writing about gender assumptions, sexuality, and language. Don’t believe me? Read her guest post about how her suavity with the ladies confused a male friend:

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I was hanging out with a male friend a while back and catching him up on my life, which mostly involved detailing a number of my recent sexual exploits, when he remarked, “Dude, I don’t know whether to think you’re a slut or a player.”

I paused, taken aback, then laughed it off.  “Well, maybe I’m both,” I joked.  “But anyway, so, the next morning…”

At the time I didn’t dwell much on it, but I’ve returned to that conversation quite a bit since then.  His comment was offhand and I’m sure he meant it as a joke, yet I can’t seem to let it go.  It unsettles me that my identity is, in his eyes, bifurcated: I sleep with women, therefore my sexuality is impressive; I am a woman, therefore my sexuality is shameful.

Normative framing of sexual behavior relies on gendered tropes of conquest, assertiveness, and mastery for men, and passivity and restraint for women.  The terms “slut” and “player” derive their power and meaning from social expectations that position men as pursuers who “score” when they get laid, and women as meek recipients of romantic attention whose moral fiber is considered suspect if they “give it up” too often.  This heteronormative framework is the dominant cultural idiom and most of us operate within it at least to some extent on a daily basis, relying on it to both guide our own behavioral decision-making and to police the actions and desires of others.

My failure to conform to this idiom was jarring to my friend.  His instinct was to categorize my promiscuity as slutty, but since my desire was directed toward other women – an orientation we have in common – that initial instinct conflicted with his impulse to congratulate me on my demonstrations of sexual prowess, as he might have if I were a male friend.  My behavior was consistent with what would be considered acceptable if I were one of his guy buddies, but inconsistent with what he understood to be socially appropriate behavior for a female peer, and his ambivalent response reflected his confusion at these unresolved judgements.

My own feelings about my friend’s reaction are mixed: on the one hand, I resent that he may never treat me in quite the same way he treats his close male friends, simply because I am a woman and my behavior and expressions of desire are therefore anomalous to him.  On the other hand, much as there is a part of me that sometimes wants to be “one of the guys,” and hopes to be validated for the success of my sexual pursuits, I don’t actually want to disempower the women I sleep with by treating them as conquests, any more than I want to be disempowered myself.  Because it prevents my sexuality from being easily pigeon-holed, therefore, my exclusion from the normative framework of sexual behavior is ultimately probably a good thing.

Related Post: My GMP article about why going down is often a one-way street.

Related Post: Do you hope your child will be straight? Is that a problem?

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Filed under Gender, Guest Posts, Sex

Guest Post: “I Will Never Really Have to Come Out”

Today I get to introduce you Sarah B. She wrote me the most amazing note after my GMP piece “Do You Hope Your Child Will Be Straight?” and ever since I’ve been fantasizing about a guest post. Today’s the day! Here’s her post about feeling guilt while planning what, to outside observers, looks like a straight future, despite identifying as very queer on the inside.
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I’m a woman in my mid-twenties and I’ve already been dating my boyfriend for almost a decade.  I never meant to date anyone that long, but it was was just one of those things – there was never any reason to break up.  I fell in love and that was that.  This was the guy I was going to marry. And I still feel like that.  We’ll get married in a couple years when jobs and grad school and such allow us to live in the same state again.  We’ll both work in academia and have kids and grow old together.

Here’s the catch.  I don’t identify as a straight female.  I would generally use the generic word “queer” to describe myself because I’m not a big fan of the word “bisexual,” but I guess that’s technically what I am.  I like girls and guys.  Well, technically I am attracted to girls and one guy.  But after years of on and off deliberation, I know I want to be with my boyfriend forever.  I am willing to give up dating/having sex with/marrying a female because I have already found the person I am going to marry.

It’s taken me a while to come to this conclusion, but I feel good about it.  I’ve made up my mind and it no longer keeps me up at night.  What I do still think about, however, is how being queer-identified but dating a man relates to my identity as a woman, a sexual being, a girlfriend, and, believe it or not, as a sister.

The B. Sisters

My sister is gay.  She came out a year ago to our parents and let’s just say, a lot of healing has gone on in this last year.  She’s come around now, but my mom definitely had a hard time with it.  In addition, we grew up in a really conservative suburb, so my mom and sister have had to deal with more than their fair share of hateful reactions.

And I feel guilty.  Guilty that, since I am dating and will marry a man, I will never really have to come out.  I don’t have to tell my parents I’m dating a woman.  I’ll never have to correct my colleagues about which gender pronouns they use to describe my fiancee.  I won’t have to be disappointed when my extended family refuse to acknowledge my partner as my wife.  And I won’t face the discrimination that my sister will inevitably face when she graduates from college and has to leave the accepting environment in which she has thrived.  I know most people don’t have to deal with these things, but I could have had to.  I just as easily could have ended up dating a woman, which would cause all of these scenarios to be part of my life.

I know I could tell my parents anyway.  But, at this point, it would be a selfish act to make myself feel better and would just needlessly stress them out.  And there still would be plenty of people who (understandably) assume I’m straight because I’m dating a man.

I don’t know where to go from here.  I was kind of hoping I’d have some kind of epiphany while writing this – or at least an idea of how to end it.  I think I’m just going to be content in my relationship and keep reminding myself that my sexual identity is part of who I am, even if everyone doesn’t know it.  And I’m going to go call my sister and tell her that I will always be there to support her during all the challenges she will face as a result of being gay.  I think this is the best I can do.

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Related Post: More sibling gay love from the super foxy Adam Levine.

Related Post: My brother didn’t believe us when we told him gay people couldn’t get married.

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Filed under Gender, Guest Posts, Really Good Writing by Other People

Guest Post: Telling Someone to Eat More Is Just as Rude as Telling Someone to Eat Less

Image: Lezparados Paradise (http://lezparadosparadise.tumblr.com)

Remember that awesome guest post from Kate about Cosmo, kink, and sexual honesty? She’s back! I’ve been writing about body image a lot lately, and how much I hate comments that begin with “real women have…” The bulk of this commentary is directed towards women with “less ideal” bodies, as if to make them feel better about themselves. Kate wrote a great response about how women who have traditionally “ideal” bodies still have good reason to resent the body scrutiny.

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I’m 5’6’’ and I weigh 130 pounds on a good day. I end up being a size 2 or 4, depending on where I shop, and I’ve been told I have the elusive combo of a flat stomach and sizable boobs. I like who I am physically. I feel that I am healthy and beautiful.  All of these measures are, of course, subjective, and determined by where and when we live. A century ago, for example, I would probably not have been looked at in such a positive light, as my hips are pretty narrow–not good for child-bearing, you know.

These days, there’s a lot of awareness about how we need to have more realistic depictions in the media for girls (and boys) to look up to and I definitely agree. I think that many young adults have unreasonable visions of what they should look like as they’re growing up. I know I did. I felt my boobs were too big, or my thighs too wide, and I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin until after college when I learned how to use clothes to accentuate the parts of me that I feel are the best.

Now that I’m older, and I’ve learned how to dress well and carry myself with confidence, I get a lot of comments about my figure. I get it at work, where people tell me to eat more. I get it at home, from my family, who say I’m too “skinny.” While some people might view those as compliments, or just jealousy, I don’t think it’s polite or even necessary. If I ever told somebody they were a little too chubby around their waistline or that they should eat less, that would be ridiculously inappropriate. Why is it okay because I’m a size 4? When I do try to dissuade comments of that sort, I’m told to either let it roll of my back, or be flattered.

Making comments about anyone’s body type is, in the long run, very against what we should be trying to accomplish as a culture. Our obsession with cementing the “you’re beautiful just the way you are” view needs to extend to everybody, not just those who don’t possess the “ideal” of the moment.  I should be able to be just as proud of my physical appearance as somebody who has bigger hips or is taller or has some little love handles.  And I should be able to just be who I am, no comments necessary, thanks.

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Related Post: Amber Rose, Media Takeout and “good thick” vs. “bad thick.”

Related Post: If we buy into this idea of “ideals” at all (which we don’t), they aren’t necessarily what you were expecting!

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Filed under Body Image, Guest Posts

Guest Post: “My Name is Juliana Britto Schwartz”

A few weeks ago I wrote about gendered traditions and expectations when it comes to naming and marriage. Many brilliant commenters pointed out that I was working from a very American perspective and that many cultures handle this differently. One such commenter was my internet friend Juliana who is currently studying in Brazil. Here’s the story of her name, plus a bit about how this whole naming bidness goes down in Brazil:

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My name is Juliana Britto Schwartz. Schwartz is my last name, from my father, carried over the Midwest of the U.S. from my paternal great-grandfather. Britto was given to me by my mother, tracing back to my maternal great-grandfather, a farmer in the interior of Brazil. Though Britto is technically my middle name, ever since I hit high school I started writing out both names on forms and such, much to the confusion of school officials, who never gave up on trying to hyphenate it. It felt important to me that both my halves be included each time I put my signature to something. However, it was only once I arrived here in Brazil that I understood my parents’ reason for giving me my mother’s last name.

In Brazil, children are traditionally given their mother’s last name first, followed by their father’s. Throughout my informal research for this post, I found that though there is no law that mandates it, this tradition holds true almost every single time. I have yet to meet someone who did not receive both parents’ names, in that order. As a feminist, I find this exciting, because it provides each child with a mark of their maternal lineage. And most importantly, unlike in the United States, each and every person has the opportunity to pass on their maternal surname to their own children. However, this rarely happens, and if it does, it never lasts beyond grandchildren or great-grandchildren. This means that most children receive last names passed on from their grandfathers, one from each parent.

Why is this important? Because in Brazil, a country constructed through colonization, there are huge families linked by surnames. On one side of my family, I have 24 people of varying generations who are all referred to as “the Martins.” So, it’s a pretty big deal that Brazilian women very rarely pass on their names. Women almost always take on their husband’s name when they marry, often dropping their maternal surname in order to shorten what would otherwise be quite a mouthful. The woman then passes on only her paternal surname to her children. And soon, that name dies too. So why don’t Brazilian women keep their maternal surnames in the family? Some women wanted to have the same last name as their children, others wanted to avoid excessively long names. For some single mothers, they give their children the father’s name because Brazilian bureaucracy often requires that information. But for most of the women I talked to, tradition was the main factor. This is what needs to be changed. Someone has to start the change.

My mother was an exception to this rule. Having lived abroad for 5 years, once she married my father, she decided that she didn’t want to take his name. Her excuse is that it had only one vowel, but I think that both my parents are bigger feminists than they have yet to admit. So my mother still has her maternal and paternal surname, and I still have mine. And if I get my way, my mother’s name will go with me to my death certificate, and will make it to my children’s birth certificates. Because I believe that we all have the right to carry a bit of the women who have come before us in our names. I’m going to start a new tradition.

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Juliana is a college student living in Brazil for the next year. She likes salsa dancing, cooking, and language. In her spare time, she likes to explore the city of Rio de Janeiro and hit up the beach! You can follow her travels at her photo blog, or follow her Latina feminist blog. She’s also on Twitter and Facebook.

Related Post: Guest post by Sara on Jezebel’s less than scientific scientific reporting.

Related Post: Remember when I guest blogged on a foodie site?

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Filed under Gender, Guest Posts

Food Blogger for a Day

I’m branching out. No sex talk, media spin, advertising criticism, Hollywood gossip, gender wars or body love that you’ve come to expect. Today, it’s all about food. I’m guest-blogging at what, in my mind, is a baby Smitten Kitchen called The Nom Blog. Anna, someone I knew a long time ago and I hope to know again (now that she’s moving to Chicago) is the brains of the operation. She’s awesome and generous for loaning me her foodie platform.

I’ve never written a real recipe before, nor is food photography really my expertise. But every now and then, it’s nice to get out of my wheelhouse. So if you want to see me get my Rachael Ray on (or Ina Garten, if you prefer) go check out The Nom Blog.

Related Post: I attempt to make iced coffee.

Related Post: These butcher ladies are inspirational.

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Guest Post: Jezebel’s (Unscientific) Science Writing

You know how sometimes I rant about the conflation of correlation and causation? Sara is responsible for that. My reading-heavy, numbers-light education was a little lax on all that science-y stuff. Hers was not. She pointed out something really fascinating about a particular type of Jezebel content, and I asked to her explain it to all of you. Here she is:

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Whatever it might make you think about me, I’ll say it: I read a lot of Jezebel. I think it’s smart and funny, that they take a much stronger stand on issues of sexual assault and abuse than do many other media outlets, and I can’t help but love the snark. While occasionally I cringe when they take an advertisement I have no problem with and dissect its misogyny, for the most part I find the writers intelligent, informed, engaged and hilarious.

Comic by Natalie Dee (www.nataliedee.com)

The one area of their writing where this is consistently not true is what I will hesitantly call “science writing.” I say hesitantly, because while these articles are written about scientific studies, and purport to offer a scientific evaluation, they are anything but. Jezebel, usually so critical, regularly fails to extend their critical thinking skills to science, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s because no one who writes for them has a background in the field.

I’ll take one of my favorite recent examples. In June, Jezebel ran a story about two new studies showing that diet soda increases weight gain and risk of diabetes. At first, this seems fairly unsurprising – we all know diet soda isn’t on the food pyramid.  Then, a portion of the study is quoted saying that this claim is based on a comparison of diet soda drinkers and non-soda drinkers, a claim Jezebel doesn’t question. How can the study make a claim specific to diet soda drinkers when what it really compared was soda drinkers and non-soda-drinkers? At the very least, you’d need to compare soda drinkers and diet soda drinkers to make any sort of claim about the effects of specifically diet soda. And what about other lifestyle choices? It seems pretty likely that people who don’t drink any soda at all might generally make healthier eating choices, or drink more water, or exercise more, or any other habit that might explain their relative health. By the same token, it seems possible that diet soda drinkers might generally eat more sugar than non-soda drinkers (and the study never points out that there isn’t actually sugar in diet soda) because they have a sweet tooth and are generally a little unhealthier.

My point is not that any of these things are necessarily true, it’s that the study is a poorly conducted one because it makes no effort to rule out any of these other correlations. And Jezebel, queen bee of critical reading, fails to consider any other claims besides those made in the study. Time and again, when Jezebel purports to discuss anything in the realm of science, they suddenly lose the ability to critically analyze the material they’re presenting, and they do their readers a great disservice in the process.

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[It's Emily again.] Here are a few other examples of Jezebel’s science-y coverage being a little heavy on conclusions and light on criticism. This one’s about girls and sports and professional success. This one’s about virginity loss and divorce rates. While Jezebel (rightly) undercuts the immediate assumptions about promiscuity, they don’t point out the dearth of discussion about other possible correlations and causes, like socio-economic class and religion.

Related Post: Sometimes Jezebel pisses me off, too. Like when they apply a hacksaw to a Bieber quote to deliberately create outrage.

Related Post: Depending on how you cut this data on body type and sex drive, the correlation/causation gets real tricky, and changes the outcome in drastic ways.

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Filed under Food, Guest Posts, Media

Dreams DO Come True

*GMP article about age gaps, Ramen, and internet formulas is up, but I will tell you about it tomorrow.*

Boy, oh boy, today I am peeing-in-my-pants gleeful about this post. Do you remember Virginia who writes at Beauty Schooled and Never Say Diet? I wrote about her here, and here, and here. She covers beauty culture, body image, health news and all things fascinating with sharp wit and insightful commentary. I have a big, fat blogger crush on her.

Today, in things-I-have-been-wanting-to-say-forever, I’m guest blogging over at Beauty Schooled:

From my online profile

“I’m online dating (pause for commiserative laughter) and last week, I received a lovely note from a potential suitor. He addressed things we had in common, complimented various portions of my profile, and concluded with this: Anyways, you do not strike me as someone who is curvy…would be nice to chat soon. Wait…what? You were doing so well! Let me get this straight, based on a written profile, I do not “strike” this guy as “someone who is curvy.” Hmm… let’s investigate.”

Read the rest at Beauty Schooled!

Related Post: I wrote a body-positive guest post for Emilie’s blog I Came to Run.

Related Post: I totally agreed with Virginia on this No Skinnies Allowed yoga.

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Filed under Body Image, Republished!

Guest Post: The Dangers of Dating While Freelancing

Meet Jessica Leigh, today’s guest-poster! Like me, she is pursuing that miserable beast known as “online dating.” Except instead of the reasonably safe waters of Chicago, Jessica is swimming with the sharks in New York City. What happens when an aspiring freelancer dates other aspiring freelancers?

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New York is lousy with freelance writers. Surely this is not a revelation to anyone who has ever seen a film or TV show about twenty- or thirty-somethings’ stumbles and sexual exploits in the Big City. (My interior monologue is still read in Carrie Bradshaw’s smirking cadence.) I’ve always known that lots of wordsmiths flock to New York to lurk in coffee shops and write snarky reviews or thoughtful long-form exposes, but the size of this demographic didn’t hit me until I became unemployed and joined their ranks full-time.

I’m on the prowl for another job, but in-between firing off pitches and resumes and trolling boutiques and restaurants looking for work, I sit in coffee shops and creep on my writing competition. I’m generally mild-mannered, empathetic, and non-confrontational. However, crankiness spurred on by my non-existent paychecks, air-conditioning, and promising prospects has brought out the worst in me. My warm-weather, no-income alter ego is ferocious. Cute guy with the thick specs and tousled locks, hunched over his laptop and squinting in concentration? Better stop fantasizing about his eyes behind those glasses and start thinking of him as The Enemy. There are dwindling numbers of 500-word columns about arts and culture, and this island isn’t big enough for the both of us.

This problem is further complicated by the fact that I’m simultaneously trying to break into writing and the dating scene. Suffice to say, I find myself on lots of dates with fellow aspiring freelancers, which means that between bites of budget-friendly food, we dig for dirt about writing opportunities. When I find myself on dates with fellow writers, I sometimes discuss pieces I’ve written. I am wont to wax poetic about the muffins I reviewed for a local site, or prattle self-consciously about articles past.

Mutual sharing usually leads to cheers and high-fives: it’s pretty fun to write pithy pieces, and even more fun to rehash the hours you spent agonizing over alliterative puns or double-fisting salty snacks while reading scathing comments on your blog and wondering if you’re the Worst Writer Ever. Generally, these conversations are hilarious, fun, and lead to another round of pity-party drinks as we strategize about getting gigs. Yesterday, though, this mutual disclosure turned daunting when it occurred to me for the first time that (gulp!) I could become an anecdote or character in one of my dates’ articles or stories.

Mid-way through my iced chai, I learned that my date authors a sex and dating column for a highly-read women’s magazine (“I know, it sounds kind of stupid,” he allowed. “How many times do I need to reiterate, ‘Just suck his balls?!’”). I immediately felt uncomfortable. Would he describe our date in his column? Would I be identified as “Girl Who Visibly Squirmed When I Said the Word “Balls” on Our First Date?” Did he invite me out because he really found me intriguing, or because he needed to conduct an informal survey for an upcoming column (maybe something along the lines of: “Do Dates Find It Arousing When You Casually Mention That You Broadcast Your Sex Life to 10 Million Readers?”)? I’m a longtime reader of my date’s column—weirdly, even though we haven’t hooked up, he has shaped a fair share of my sexual technique. Does the fact that I—and my partners—have benefited from his recounting his tales of (to put it crassly) tail mean that I should stop panicking about becoming one such story? I don’t think so. One of my previous boyfriends writes short stories, and I was always comforted when his characters evinced neuroses that where reassuringly different from my own. I don’t like unexpected cameos between the sheets of someone’s bed or pages of someone’s magazine. There won’t be a second date. I want to keep my sex life in my own bedroom—not on millions of other ladies’ nightstands.

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Since the writing of this post, Jessica is happy to have disabled her OkCupid profile. Now she spends her time stalking her neighbors’ stoops to snap shots for her blog, where she geeks out about plants and people who grow them.

Related Post: Another recent guest post about Cosmo, sexual honesty and kink.

Related Post: Best online messages to date.

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Filed under Gender, Guest Posts, Really Good Writing by Other People, Sex

Guest Post: The Safe Word is “Cosmo”

There are many, many Kates in my life (seven in my phone, not counting Katies). Today, one of them (not this one) has kindly volunteered a guest post on Cosmo, kink, and sexual honesty.

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There was an article in the April 2011 edition of Cosmo about “the kinky sex trick you secretly want to try.” Turns out, the kinky sex trick is handcuffs and blindfolds. Not very new ground for Cosmo to cover, but I’ll forgive them that. What I won’t forgive is the way they approach the subject.

As someone who is generally very open about my sex life, I don’t think there is much to be ashamed of in the way of sexual preferences. Kinky, gay, poly, however you want to describe and act out your sex life is fine by me. I don’t think that anybody has a right to judge anybody else on what they want in bed (within legal limits). So when Cosmo–while discussing handcuffs–mentions that S&M has a “skanky rep” and that you need to be careful so your boyfriend doesn’t think you’re “actually sadistic,” it rubbed me the wrong way.

My interpretation is that they’re saying, “Sure, it’s okay to be ‘kinky-lite’ (their words, not mine) but anything more than that and you’re in danger of scaring off your companion.” And you should definitely not talk about “heavy bondage or dungeons and whips.” That’s not light-hearted enough. Now, I am all for introducing more people to fun things to do in the bedroom, but what about the girl who is curious about bondage? She’s going to get the message that isn’t something a guy would be interested in, or even that she might scare him away. There has got to be a way to talk about a certain kind of sex without talking negatively about other practices.

Maybe they feel the types of people who are actually sadistic are not reading their articles, likely because somebody who is into more heavier S&M probably graduated from handcuffs and blindfolds a long time ago. But there is nothing wrong with wanting to explore many different avenues in your sex life. When you have a partner you trust, you should be able to talk about anything without the fear of being embarrassed or deserted. And that is the message these types of articles should be sending: the idea that you can approach your significant other about anything, because there is nothing wrong with expressing what you want, no matter what it is. Besides, if my partner didn’t at least want to hear my fantasies, he’d be gone faster then you could say “dungeons and whips.”

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This Kate and I met in a gender studies class in college (taught by a Katie, of course). Our pint-sized class quickly grew close, and on the eve of our final deadline we all landed in the A-level of the library scrambling to finish our papers and chowing down on a pound and a half of Swedish Fish.  You can read more of her stuff at her tumblr, Kate Likes to Complain.

Related Post: A quite explicit (you’ve been warned…) guest post from Matty C. (SFW).

Related Post: This piece from The Atlantic perpetuates the problem that Kate described above; it purports that any non-vanilla sex is somehow not what women want in relationships.

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Filed under Guest Posts, Media, Really Good Writing by Other People, Sex

Guest Post: “Something as Simple as My Wardrobe”

Looking for an outlet during MCAT season, Kudret decided to emulate some of her favorite style bloggers and snap a daily photo to inspire fashion creativity and jump start her brain. Four months later, she’s reflecting on the origins of the project and the personal and cultural journey she has already taken:

I know that I’m not ugly. Far from it. But growing up South Asian in American society, not fitting into white norms of beauty, I think that my perception of self is severely dysmorphic.

I moved to Pakistan when I was 6 years old. When I moved back to the US, at the age of 11, I was in the middle of full-blown puberty. I probably had a distorted accent due to my dramatic transcontinental moves, and still showed the lesions from a full-body outbreak of reptilian Psoriasis. My hair had decided to change its nature, going from straight to wavy overnight. Puberty had only highlighted the problem that most South Asian women have, with my upper-lip hair and unibrow growing darker and thicker by the day. My teeth fell out, but never grew in properly, and I had an adorably unevenly spaced smile.

This project was a way of cheering on that 11-year-old girl, and telling her that she is beautiful. She was never a “not” and she is so much more than just merely “hot”.  The simple act of photographing myself in the morning, and putting myself out there, made me take the time to invest in the external. It would be cliche to follow that with, as I focused more on my appearance, I began to feel inner beauty too. But like most cliches, there is a degree of truth in that sentiment.

This project has fueled some interesting debates about morality and modesty, and how modesty is a fluid concept. My older family members see a young girl who has grown into a confident woman, but I see this project as a way to reconcile my bicultural identities in something as simple as my wardrobe. It’s a way to exist more comfortably in this body, in this skin and with these looks, undictated by magazines or TV shows.

Kudret at 11, 14 and 17 (Photos: Courtesy of Kudret)

Related Post: Guest post from Amanda on bridal boot camp and wedding pressure.

Related Post: Guest post from Matty, thoughts on penis size.

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Filed under Body Image, Guest Posts