As a young 20-something year old woman, cat calling is a part of my daily life. Whenever I dress up for my self, wear revealing clothing to stay cool during the summer, or wear make-up for aesthetic expression, i open myself up to the possibility of being targeted by men who think that my body and appearance are a public spectacle to be examined and judged. It’s frustrating, in this culture where women are socialized to associate their physical appearance with their self worth, to deal with unwanted attention whenever I try to look my best for myself. This might not be true for all women, but for me clothes and make-up are a form of creative expression that are apart of my self-care. If I’m upset or dealing with something, a floral mini dress and red lipstick usually makes me feel much better…until I’m walking around in Carrboro and a man twice my age yells “HEY BABY!” and I start to feel very vulnerable again.
This past year, however, I’ve noticed a growing online movement of women who take pride in being/dressing/looking “ugly.” they grow their body hair out, wear “unflattering” clothing, do unexpected and interesting things with their make up, and actively aim for the aesthetic of ugliness in order to destabilize dominant assumptions about what women should look like. It’s rad. I love seeing politically fat women in crop tops that read “FUCK FLATTERING,” women who bleach and dye their eyebrows teal, women who shave parts or all of their heads, and women who wear clashing neon eyeshadows and lipstick.
But actively aiming for ugly does more than just give women more autonomy over their aesthetic choices, it also works as a protective shield against cat calling jerks and unwarranted positive attention. If you do it right, you won’t even get negative attention because people are terrified of a woman who goes against the grain in such an easily recognizable way.
I’ve been experimenting with this ugly movement for a few months now, and it’s been a lot of fun. Today I wore cheap sweat pants pulled up to my belly button with an ill-fitting crop top and men’s shoes, effectively looking like a mom in the 80’s, and I felt powerful in my unattractiveness. My greasy, splotchy green hair, lack of makeup, and unpleasant scowl made me almost invisible to the men I encountered in public–and I loved it. No one told me I was beautiful/hot/sexy or that I had a nice ass, no one stared at me with longing or looked me up and down, and no stranger yelled at me from across the street or from out of a car. The people who did look or stare did so out of confusion or derision, which was delightful because I knew in those moments that I was breaking some fundamental, patriarchal rules. Being politically ugly works like a protective blanket that shields you from unwanted attention or advancements from strangers, while giving you more options for self-expression, and it’s awesome.
Like just imagine Troye being nervous about getting on the plane and Tyler holds his hand and he’s like “listen babe, It’ll be fine” and then Troye like falls asleep on his shoulder and OH MY GOD SOMEONE STOP ME