(I was recently contacted about writing an article for the new blog, Opium Noir, and this was my contribution. There are currently three articles up, all written in different languages -- one in French, one in Russian, and mine in English. Go have a look!)
I love fashion and doing my make-up. I love shoes and wearing false eyelashes. I enjoy baking and cooking.
I also love politics.
I love reading about politics, watching programmes on TV about politics, listening to radio shows about politics, and talking about politics.
But, if you were judging me based on my appearance alone, what would you assume I enjoy?
I wonder this as I've often found people to be surprised when I tell them about my passion for politics. Each time it gets me thinking of the mentality many people have about young women and the way we're often judged based on our appearance alone.
I love fashion, make-up, hair, nails, and all those things, and it shows. I often tend to overdress, even when I attempt not to. I wear heels to the grocery store. I wear false eyelashes to picnics. I wear too much make-up by daytime standards. I like to do my nails. But does my appearance speak to my personality? I suppose it does to a degree, but hardly entirely.
A unfortunate stereotype exists in our society that says girls who enjoy fashion and such typically girly things are, more often than not, shallow, conceited, and even dumb. In short, they're too busy figuring out what to wear and working on their appearance to care about much else.
I think this is not only unfair, but inaccurate.
I do love fashion. I've always liked experimenting with make-up. However, I'm far from shallow and know full well there are things much more important in life than your physical appearance. But that doesn't mean that I can't enjoy trying different hairstyles and experimenting with my make-up. I'm also not conceited, and I'm far from dumb. And I know I'm far from the only girl like this. Too many girls are judged as being unintelligent and shallow simply because of their appearance.
Why should it be a surprise that girls can enjoy doing typically girly things and, at the same time, enjoy reading about politics and watching Question Period? Er, actually scratch 'enjoy' -- I'm not entirely sure any of us who watch actually enjoy it, but I think you know what I mean.
It would be near as difficult for me to give up my lipstick and glittery high heels as it would my passion for politics. Of course, I realise political issues are far more important, however, my point is that it is entirely possible to enjoy both. They needn't conflict with one another. Loving fashion or makeup doesn't signal a girl's inability to hold intelligent political beliefs or be intelligent in general.
It's a similar situation when people needlessly judge girls based on what, or rather how much, they wear. It's assumed by many people that just because a girl dresses a certain way it is indicative of her personality. If she's wearing a mini-skirt and high heels, she must be easy, she must sleep around. Have they ever considered that, perhaps, she just likes dressing that way? Moreover, even if their assumptions are correct, what of it? It's her life and her choices to make, not anyone else's. She should be able to do as she pleases without everyone and their mum weighing with their opinions on her personal life.
Of course, someone's appearance can give clues to their personality -- it'd be silly to suggest otherwise -- and it's natural to have first impressions of people. However, judging someone solely based on their appearance isn't just close minded, it's arguably ignorant. Just because a girl enjoys fashion and dressing up, it doesn't mean she is inherently conceited or self-absorbed. It just means she enjoys fashion. She might also enjoy physics and reading about European military history. And just because a girl likes make-up, it doesn't mean she is fake or trying to 'hide how she really looks'. It just means she likes wearing make-up, for any number of reasons. And she needn't justify those reasons to anyone.
I like to think of my appearance as a way to express myself, and whilst it does reflect a part of my personality, there are many things about me that you couldn't know just from looking at me. Just like any other girl, and really, any other person. Just because I love red lipstick and false eyelashes doesn't mean I can't contribute an intelligent thought or understand complex issues.
Girls shouldn't be classified as sluts because they like to dress a certain way, and girls shouldn't be classified as prudes because they like to dress another way. It often seems to me as though there is no happy medium. Your clothes are too revealing or too frumpy. You're too chubby or too thin. You wear too much makeup or not enough. This is precisely why I think it is so important to dress for yourself and how you like. You can't please everyone, so why not try to please yourself and wear what you want?
How you choose to present yourself is so personal that there isn't a right or wrong way to do it -- there's only what each individual likes best. Girls should not be afraid to look and present themselves however they like without worrying about useless judgement and being labelled or stereotyped. Perhaps a girl likes make-up, perhaps not. Maybe she prefers runners to high heels, or vice versa. Perhaps she hates wearing dresses so she opts for trousers instead, whilst her sister loves dresses and skirts. Neither is wrong, neither is superior.
What is wrong, however, is classifying someone as dumb, slutty, shallow, and so on, all based on their appearance. Doing this is not dissimilar to judging a book by its cover. You should never write someone off based on your assessment of them based on their appearance alone. Sometimes your initial assumptions about a person may be correct. I think, though, more often than not, if you look a little deeper than just someone's appearance, you'll find there is much more to that person than you initially had judged.
The girl in a mini-skirt may be girl at the top of her advanced chemistry class. And the girl in full make-up may be one of the most genuine people you've met, not 'fake' as you so easily could've brushed her off as. But you couldn't tell any of that from a single judgement-filled glance.