Men seem to have an easier time shopping than me.
I recently went shopping with my boyfriend. I naively assumed that shopping for him came with all the frustration and body shaming I have experienced shopping for myself. When I shop for myself, I expect disappointment that I don’t look like Beyoncé in a playful, sparkly onesie-jumpsuit, because women are supposed to have a bad body image for themselves. For this man, though, shopping had very little to do with failing to be a sex object. Men, when shopping, don’t take into the account of body image.
Did you know that, according to the clerk at one trendy men’s store, most men actually don’t want the back pockets on their pants to hug the curve of their butts? They’d prefer to be able to carry their wallets in their back pocket. Most men don’t care how their pants make their butt look, because they are going for practicality instead of their body image.
If other women like me could see themselves more as the person shopping than the body being shopped for, women could have a more body positive experience.
All my body image problems began long before I even enter the store to shop. Not only do we see the same kind of woman popping up everywhere, but we also see women as objects when they do show up. So, let’s say I see Taylor Swift rockin’ a green strappy dress, I’m already making assumptions about how I should look in one and how people should see me when I put it on. Again, this is how women are supposed to feel with their body image. This process is called self-objectification. It means that because the media and society see women as objects, it’s also how women see themselves. This phenomenon has been associated with lower self-esteem , lower GPAs , and higher rates of depression.
Looking at myself as if I’m an object on a stage turns into this whole body-hating exercise. I find all the ways in which I don’t match up to the images I’m seeing and imagine my body under the same microscope Beyoncé finds herself under. Even she can’t measure up. The good news is that it doesn’t HAVE to be this way. We can learn to love our bodies while we shop.
Identify the reason you need an item and choose both form and function.
I can tell you my boyfriend does not worry about whether or not his shoes are cute. He buys shoes that are designed to cater to his needs. Summer: breathable; Living in NYC: supportive and comfortable.
I live in Brooklyn, New York and I’m discovering there’s a “practical fashion” thing going on here. I’ve incorporated this sensibility into my wardrobe via my mom’s hand-me-downs. My mom was a nurse in the 90s and she had many clothes that were designed to keep her comfy while she ran around on her feet all day. Ladies, I regularly wear supportive sandals and shoulder-pads and get lots of compliments. I’m not saying you have to dive into “nurse mom chic” but comfortable and playful attire is already currently in fashion.
Some companies are already starting to understand the importance of both form and function. We know this because yoga pants exist. I believe companies have a role in changing the idea of body image for women. I think as consumers we have the power to ask designers to create beautiful clothing that doesn’t simulate foot binding. If that means more elastic, so be it. Let’s make supply meet demand.
The most important thing to remember is that your fashion is up to you, not the people looking at you. Choose your gaze over the male gaze.
You are the SUBJECT, not the object of your clothes. You decide which clothes you want to bring to the world. Whether it’s a pink onesie, a strappy dress, or a burka, do not let all the noise about who and what you’re supposed to be affect you.
The sexiest thing to put on makes you feel powerful and awesome. It’s confidence: confidence in who you are, your body and your outfit. I’ve always said, “It’s not what you wear; it’s how you wear it.”
Photography Credit: Semra Sevin
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