My puffy face life.
Ashley Judd wrote a very lovely piece that reenforced my body philosophy. I talk about it often but I’ve never blogged about it because I try not to blog about the things I went through in my youth. From birth you are bombarded with ideas about what you should look like. There are industries built on improving our looks from make-up and hair dye to gyms and plastic surgery. You try to ignore the voices, what other people think your body should be, but when it’s just you and the mirror they all come rushing into your mind and you’re flooded with self loathing.
My mother: I remember my mother giving my older sister “Sweatin’ To The Oldies” tapes during her freshman year of high school and I can still see the hurt in her eyes. I remember all the times my mother went on about how she needed to loose weight even though she’s always been thin. When my other sister started to gain a little weight my mother was the first to point it out, almost daily. I think about all those mornings when I was in high school when my mother would call me in to measure my waist and then shake her head disapprovingly. Then there was the time my sister, her now-husband, and I were walking from a movie and passed a plus size store and she started crying. She read the sign proclaiming what sizes they sold and she was upset because now she could shop there and I knew that shame came not just from our mother but from all the times those stores were mocked . She loves to reach out and touch my stomach and tell me in a hushed and urgent tone that I “really need to go on a diet.” But there was that one time she said the shirt I was wearing looked really good. For someone with a body like mine. After my cousin’s VT graduation my aunt asked my mother to email the pictures she took so our grandfather could see them but first my mother had to photoshop us to make us skinnier (or, to make them look pretty, as she claimed). Then there is my skin. When my mother notices a particularly bad blemish she makes a disgusted face and says that I really need to wash my face as if I didn’t think of that. The rest of my family is no better. Even my aunt will told me that I needed to wear make up more often (I do so very rarely). My sister, with her nearly perfect skin, proudly pointed out that our aunt didn’t say anything to her. My sister doesn’t realize how cruel she’s been about my skin over the years and I don’t know how much she reminds me of our mother in those moments. My mother always has this sadness when discussing my body- the fact that I have to shave my legs occasionally included -like she’s disappointed that she didn’t birth a clone of her perfection.
Dating and boys: I can’t stand for men to touch my tummy now. There was this one guy, who generally has no respect for my boundaries, who would tell me that I had nothing to be ashamed of before touching it anyways. But it isn’t shame so much as it is a reminder of her; I flash on her face. Before all that, at 19, there was my first boyfriend. He told me that I would fall into the “chubby chaser” category of porn. Later he would tell me that our relationship problems were, maybe, because I needed to loose weight? The funny part is I was no more over weight then he was. Years later I was hanging with some guy friends when they introduced me to the “butter face” insult. “Yeah, she’s got a good body but her face….” They joked about putting a bag on her face. I didn’t say anything because all I could do was think about what guys must have been saying about me when I wasn’t looking.
My hair: As a little girl my mother didn’t know how to deal with my curls. I don’t even know if detangling spray existed but I do know she never bought it. As a result my hair was always a huge rat’s nest. My sister teased me by calling me “Medusa”. People tame there hair with product but as for me I let it do what it wants, letting it air dry it and most of the time there are a few nice ringlets in a collection of differently curled parts. My family will often tell me that I need to go brush my hair and when you have curly hair and you go to get it cut they’ll straighten it. People like that Millionaire Matchmaker lady will tell you your curly hair looks cheap and that you should go straighten it. When I was a teen I told a cousin that I wouldn’t dye my hair and she replied, “Yeah, you say that now but wait until you get grey hairs.” I have several greys but I love them. I still don’t plan on ever dying my hair. Occasionally I get the urge to add a pink streak or something like that but I don’t because I’m proud to be natural (and also, lazy). I don’t think there is anything wrong with doing stuff to your hair but I think it should be acceptable not to do anything at all.
So this is what I decided: I don’t worry about my weight, my skin, or my hair. I broke somewhere during all of my mother’s disdain and emerged proud. It isn’t that I never look in the mirror and feel like I’m fat and ugly but now, at the end, I hold my head up and think, “This is what I was given and I’d rather work on loving it.”
“That women are joining in the ongoing disassembling of my appearance is salient. Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times—I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women.”—Ashley Judd, The Daily Beast
I thought of another one...
A ballet teacher, whom I respected and actually wanted to please (as opposed to most others who I didn’t think understood that I was really in it for the love of dance) once took me aside after class and told me that I was good enough to be in the more advanced parts for that year’s Nutcracker. However, she wanted me to know that the only reason I wasn’t being cast in them was because she couldn’t (or wouldn’t?) put me in a tutu. As though that would help me understand?? This is probably the one time the message was stated without any beating around the bush whatsoever: lose some weight, and then, literally, you’ll be good enough; talent shmalent, I can’t have you on stage looking like that.
It wasn’t an accidental comment, it wasn’t ignorance, and it wasn’t a joke that I didn’t happen to find funny. It wasn’t an indication of someone’s implicit opinion of my body, like when you watch another girl look from your face to your legs as you walk by. It was right there, clear as day, and yet she seemed to honestly think it wouldn’t affect me, or that it was an acceptable thing to tell a teenage girl.
For god’s sake, make a bigger tutu. You’re not running American Ballet Theater. (Even if you were, it wouldn’t be okay).
How to Rekindle Your Hatred of Every Person Ever In Three Easy Steps, Part 29387598
1. Read article about Ashley Judd’s reaction to criticism about her appearance in which she outlines how body policing and judgment of appearance harms women deeply, invalidates their personalities and creates a society where women are discredited if their face isn’t perfect.
2. Read comments to the Ashley Judd article which say things like:
• “Ashley is a self-aggrandizing bitch who is just making a big deal for the ratings of her show.”
• “Her job is, as an actress, to be pretty and shut up. Nobody cares what she has to say and maybe she should fix her face if she wants to keep her job!”
• “She’s just trying to distract from the fact that she had a failed plastic surgery.”
3. Read comment where lone voice of reason reader of indeterminate gender says “You guys are entirely missing the point!” and watch as other commenters accuse this commenter of:
• being ugly
• being bitter because she is ugly
• being bitter about never getting laid because she is ugly
My Puffy-faced moment
Oh man… which one to choose….
I guess I’ll go with two different ones.
The first time:
When I transfered schools in 11th grade, I moved into a private school in which the student population was pretty much closed to the outsiders who came in. To make matters worse… I had just gotten a new retainer. Now. This wasn’t just any old retainer. Nope. It looked something like a mouthguard. I had to take it out to talk or do anything. This gave me awful names, not to my face, of course because the school was “Christian,” but behind my back. My brother participated in this, calling me “football player” and “ugly” when he was behind my back, but being nice to me to my face. Boost to the self esteem that. I finally decided that I would go out and get a better education than any one of them, then at the reunion show them how smart and beautiful I was.
The second time:
I gained some weight when I was overseas and I asked my mom to help me lose the weight. She did, by making sure I monitored every bite I ate. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom dearly, but sometimes…she just annoys me. Before I lost the weight, she’d shake her head and sigh. When I started losing the weight, she’d start saying, “Good! When you get to your goal weight of 125, we can get you pretty things, because then you’ll look nice!” I tend to bloat with my period, so every time I’d bloat, she’d look at me, shake her head and be all “We need to start taking food away from you. You’re getting fat again.” I have put some weight back on, but I’m working on losing it and she’s just “When I last saw you, your tummy was flat. Now it’s huge. You need to get to your goal weight if you want anything pretty.” She used to call me pretty…. now she doesn’t. Ever. It’s always, “your belly is sticking out” “how much do you weigh?” “did you weigh yourself this morning?” “what did you eat today?” “you ate too much.” I finally reached 135 (Which meant I’d lost about 40 lbs in 6 months) but it wasn’t good enough for her. I had started seeing myself as pretty, but she would always ask “What’s wrong? What happened? WHy arent’ you 125? You should be!” Mind you…. I don’t exercise. If I didn’t know the consequences of eating disorders having a teacher who discussed what it’s like, I’d be bulimic right now. I’ve seriously considered it, but the health risks are too high. My grandma pounded that into my head. But when I look at pictures of my self, or look at myself in the mirror, all I see is ugly. And fat. I’ve started dreading stepping on the scale. Like yesterday, I was 141. Mind you, I’m 5’7”, 23 year old woman. Not too bad. But to me, I kinda look like a contestant on Biggest Loser. I’m trying to decide that I’m pretty however I am. That’s why Ashley Judd helped. But yeah. That’s my puffy faced moment.
A male friend once told me that I looked really good in the pants I was wearing. They’re looser, he said, aren’t they? You should wear them more often, instead of those tight ones you wear.
Not sure if that’s a true puffy face moment, but it’s the first one I thought of.
The same male friend also once said, Isn’t that So-and-So’s dress? Yes, I replied. I’m surprised it fits you. Oh.
The truth is he was clueless about the implications of his comments, didn’t mean to offend me or imply anything about my weight, etc. But in this case, ignorance is not bliss - at least not for those around you.
Thank you all for all this digital love!
I just want to take a moment to thank all of you beautiful and kickass people out there who have liked, reblogged, and commented on my puffy face response. Your kind thoughts and words and revelations mean the world to me.
This story, after all, still hurts to talk about — I’m even wincing right now as I write this — because the experience was so degrading, so upsetting, so mean-spirited. I consider myself a strong woman — birthed and nurtured by one and surrounded by many others — but it’s amazing how quickly your confidence can waver when an individual lessens you to an object, a shape, a thing. Often in the face of such antagonists, I have been at a loss for words, because this is the sort of stuff that leaves you speechless. But I’m appreciative the words clicked this time. This is word vomit I can get behind!
Also: you have my full permission — and utmost support — to add my puffy face words to your own argumentative arsenal. I think part of the reason so many jerks get away with what they do is because no one has ever called them out on it. Well, it’s our turn to call them out on their crap. Or at least get a conversation going about why some people are getting away with saying the most sexist, racist, and ageist crap — because it is embedded so deeply in our history, our culture, and it is being inherited and promoted and taught at a frightening speed.
So thank you to Ashley Judd for being so kickass and brave and smart and RIGHT ON for inspiring this puffy-face campaign, and to Newsweek and The Daily Beast for spreading the good news and for getting this chick to open up about things, and, ultimately, help her learn to embrace herself.
If you haven’t done so already, please share your own PUFFYFACEMOMENT (using the hashtag #puffyfacemoment) and let’s all support one another, and bask in each other’s brave beauty.
I love you all. Thanks again.
Sometimes I have to sit back and remind myself that I have it easy. As in, really easy. I’m young, middle class, white, able-bodied and cisgendered. I’m revoltingly privileged. Whenever I’m frustrated that no one is listening to me when I try to explain the simplest things about feminism, I take a deep breath and tell myself for the millionth time that I’ve really hit the jackpot with my circumstances and I should be grateful.
And then, there are other times when I can’t help it - I feel like shit because I’ve been made to feel like shit.
TW for talk of body shaming/policing and mentions of eating disorders.
My Puffy Face Moment
“The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at (and marketed to) us, and used to define and control us. The Conversation about women happens everywhere, publicly and privately. We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification. Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted.”
I realised how guilty I have been of perpentuating this Conversation all my life, even though I should have known better, as someone who was frequently called unpleasant names as a teenager for being bigger than the usual petite Asian girl. One particular memory that stayed with me was when i was 15. A few of my schoolmates (unsurprisingly all male) were mocking me during a school trip in Perth, where it was colder at night outside. While we were listening to our teacher make some closing comments, they snidely remarked at how I was able to wear only a thin cotton shirt in the cold because I had enough fats covering my body to insulate me from it. I remember them continuing throughout the length of the teacher’s little speech despite my feigned ignorance, and it finally stung enough for me to utter some crude language at them and walk away.
I have initiated conversations with males and females alike about whether they find this particular woman - whether a mutual friend or a celebrity - ‘pretty’. I suppose this was such a normal thing to do that I never realised that this was, as Ashley Judd pointed out, muting the voices and accomplishments and reducing the personhood of these women. I should have known better, given that I myself have been part of such Conversations about my own looks, with me participating and picking myself apart. I would be better looking (and the assumption flows that I would hence have s better life) if I didn’t have eczema scars, if I had a smaller frame, if I was a few kilograms lighter, if I looked good in shorts. Unbeknownst to me then, I was reducing myself to merely a physical representation, forgetting my achievements and my aspirations in my chase for physical perfection.
I participate in this all the time. Just yesterday I sent a non-made up picture of a female celebrity to a friend, gloating about how awful and old she looked in her ‘before’ shot. On hindsight, I suppose I felt that since I wasn’t criticizing the lady in her face or publicly on some message board online, it was alright because she would never know how horribly mean and reductive I was being. Of course, what I didn’t realise was that I was joining in the Conversation and worsening the problem of objectifying women.
I can’t believe it took me this long to realise this, but I want to stop such behavior on my part. I want to stop judging myself and other women based on what they wear, how heavy they look, or how good their skin is. I know it will take some time before I turn my nose in disdain at someone in the train who wears tight fitting tops that shows off their bellies, or someone who puts on thick make up in an attempt to hide their acne. But I will try. Even if I looked like a supermodel (which I don’t) I have no right to judge and denigrate another women based on her looks.
No one has, or should have this right.
My puffy face moment, while dressed like a man.
Two summers ago I worked as a banquet server at a country club. My normal work attire involved a tuxedo shirt, vest, and black tie. It was not the most attractive or feminine get-up, to say the least.
One day, while passing out hors d’oeurvres, a middle-aged man stopped me to ask a question. He was in the company of another man, but made a point to address me. Thinking I was about to be given a normal request for something such as a drink, I put on my customer smile and said, “Yes?”
He said, “Have you ever seen those German women, you know, the ones who carry the big glasses of beer? The ones with the big chests?”
Man: “You have? Well, we think you should carry more heavy glasses.”
Shocked, I made a small mumbling comment and walked away. Even now, I’m still not sure what blows my mind more - the fact that he thought he had the right to make an assessment on the size of my chest, or the fact that he believed that exercise and heavy lifting was what could “cure” me of my small boobs? Seriously? I mean, when I work as a server at a country club, I anticipate being treated like a second class citizen. That’s simply how it goes. But to be the subject of what could probably constitute sexual harassment from someone in an obvious position of power above me was just sad.
I’m not truly upset about it and never have been. Why? Because I’ve been hurt so much worse in the past… by my peers. By those middle school boys. By the girls who perpetuate a misogynist society simply by bringing other women down.
My Puffy Face Moment
Before I share my moment, I just want to say that collecting these stories is a beautiful thing. THANK YOU! Let’s show and share and read and … CHANGE for goodness sake.
I have a few (of course … don’t we all?) but the one that most stands out happened when I was eight. My Dad (who is a good man and loves me dearly and wouldn’t ever intentionally do anything to harm me) had taken some snapshots of my brother and me around the farm to use up a roll of film so we could get it developed. When we got the photos back, my Dad was flipping through them and called me over to look at one of the photos.
In the photo, I was standing in the middle of the garden holding my pet rabbit, Pepper.
“Look at this picture,” my Dad told me. “Do you see that?” He asked, pointing at my belly. “You’re getting a little fat. You need to go outside and play more. You don’t want to grow up and look like Aunt Mae, do you?”
My Dad probably thought he was doing me a favor. That just being frank and open about it would be the best thing and that this way we could “fix” my “problem.”
Before that moment, it had never occurred to me that I might or might not be fat. I was blissfully unaware. Not even for a second. And after that … I was hyper aware of my physicality.
But … I had only been told about this “problem” I had, and wasn’t given any tools for really dealing with it. I didn’t know how to exercise. I didn’t know how to eat more healthfully. I just knew that there was now this thing that was wrong with me. And I had to walk around with it every day not knowing how to fix it.
When I was 16, I was looking through family photos and I came across that snapshot. And without even thinking twice, I tore it to shreds and threw it away.
So you've got a puffy face: How I will never be a "perfect woman" and I don't give a shit.
I’ve always been fairly chubby. I have also always been athletic, swimming every day for a few hours intensely as a child, competitively Irish danced, and played soccer at different intervals in my life. But I have the puffy face syndrome. When I smile my cheeks look like a chipmunk and my freckles protrude immensely.
The puffy face syndrome comes from eating and DNA. I love food. It’s a problem, I know. I eat salads and fruits probably more than the skinny boned girls, but I also retain weight and it’s hard to lose. That problem came from my mother. I can’t remember a time when my mother wasn’t internally cringing when I was eating. I know she doesn’t want to “see me end up looking like her,” but hey it’s in the genes!
My father was worst when it came down to body image. I will never really know if he realized how damaging his words were. And they came straight from media jargon (my dad loves comedies and the awesome fat jokes that come along with it). My father enjoys calling people fat and ugly. He regularly enjoys cat-calling in the car, but not for reasons you think. He LOVES pointing out the “chubs”. He calls my neighbors down the street the fat twins. The lady who is cutting him off in the car (he’s a very aggressive driver) is the fatty. And the best is the conversation he had with my then 12 year old sister about a “WOAH that women is ugly” and how she was to never date someone who is fat and ugly. She promised. Which is why she is gong to marry a One Directioner.
Edit: WOAH this way way longer than I intended, but I wanted to say all of this. Adding a cut.