From an early age, there is a pressure on women to achieve a particular look. After all, Barbie dolls come with an athletic build and full face of makeup and the majority of Disney princesses are slender with flowing locks of hair and big, doe eyes. Even before a girl is old enough to fully process and understand what society constitutes as ‘attractive’, the message has been placed in front of her numerous times. Subconsciously, she is already being told what is expected of her.
As adults, the idea of what we are supposed to look like is thrown in our face at almost every turn, from the actresses on magazine covers and in movies to the women in music videos, to scantily clad female superheroes in comic books. Even those women who sell us household products in advertisements conform to a particular aesthetic. There is no denying the ever present pressure on a woman to fit a particular mold, to be attractive, to be sexy.
Everyone is trying to sell us this idea of what a sexy woman is, what she looks like, smells like, what products she uses, what she wears. Subtly, and not so subtly, telling us that this is what you should look like.
So, what happens if you are not sexy? No worries! There are numerous remedies for that ranging from hair removal, to plastic surgery, to weight loss supplements and gym memberships. From cosmetic creams that slow down the aging process, to makeup that enhances your appearance. The media tells us that with a little work on our parts we too can achieve this level of sexy that seems almost required of us.
Naturally, after hearing this message repeatedly over years many women embrace it. However, society is quick to remind us that embracing it comes with limits. After all sexy is just one low cut top away from slutty. The wrong shirt, the wrong skirt, and a woman is condemned and branded. We are being told to be sexy, but not too sexy, because too sexy is slutty and slutty is wrong.
Two messages are failing to get across here.
The first is that there is no ‘wrong’ way to be sexy. The amount of clothing a woman has on or the amount of skin that she chooses to reveal does not determine her character or her moral code. It is not a compass for which she should be judged or valued. Unfortunately, we live in a society that sees things different and even if we, as women, reject the notion of slut shaming the battle to fight these stereotypes is far from over.
The second message not getting through is that there is no one way to be sexy. Sexy can lie in appearance but it can also lie in personality. It can be a single stand out feature or a memorable mannerism. Sexy can come dressed in short shorts and heels but it can also be decked out in a pair of comfy sweats and graphic tee. Sexy can be ultra feminine in lace or in leather with tattoos. It can be seen in extroverts and introverts. There is no defining look, shape or trait.
Sexy can be found in the poise of Audrey Hepburn, the confidence of Beyonce, and in the quirkiness of Mindy Kaling. It lies in the wisdom of Maya Angelou, and the strength of Serena Williams. It is different for everyone and looks different on everyone.
Sexy is individualistic and we need to define it for ourselves. Being sexy comes from simply identifying what makes you feel good about yourself and highlighting what your best quality is. It could be in the shape of your legs, the witty comments you interject into conversations, the dimples of your smile or even your extensive knowledge of Harry Potter trivia.
It is time that women take back what it means to be sexy, by creating and accepting our own individual definitions.
Feature image via t-shirt-giant.com