What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s (or teens)?
At this moment I’m still in my 20s so I’ll talk about my teens. As a teenager I wasn’t occupied with beauty or my own looks very much. I was too busy doing other more fun things. 🙂 Still, like most women and most teenagers, I wondered how other people perceived me and if I looked OK to those around me. I would sometimes get (negative) comments from kids on the street that probably affected me. So I wasn’t sure if I was beautiful or if every body part looked “OK” but I tried not to worry about it.
I didn’t want to spend too much time on my looks. I refused to use make-up. I didn’t shave my legs/armpits. I didn’t read fashion magazines and buying clothes meant ultime boredom to me. I thought women who were “natural” (no make-up, surgery, comfy clothes, etc) of any age looked the most beautiful. Skirts could be pretty in my opinion, but most of the time they were not for me. I was very much a tomboy, but also a bit androgynous, both girly and boyish. For example I enjoyed performing ballet wearing tutus, but in real life, trousers, T-shirts, big jumpers, all stars and combat boots suited me better and made me feel better.
What does beauty mean to you now?
I don’t think my view on it has changed a lot. I’m more conscious of the influence of advertisements, the fashion industry and peer pressure now. I enjoy reading and writing about the beauty myth and body acceptance, and I still don’t spend much time on my looks. Comfortable clothes are perfect. I cut my own hair, and I still don’t understand and won’t use make-up in daily life. I rarely wear dresses, and when I do, it almost feels like I’m in drag, so I wear trousers under them. I think I’m more accepting of my own body now, and don’t worry about being too skinny, too pale or whatever. I can see the beauty in myself better and also realise beauty standards are a construction.
If different, why have your ideas about beauty changed over the years?
I’m probably lucky to have lots of feminist friends who look critically at the beauty industry and have different views on beauty, ageing and women than most mainstream opinions. It helps a lot to have supportive and accepting friends who don’t judge how I look or criticise me if I don’t shave my legs. I’m surrounded mostly by women of my own age but I also sometimes work with older feminists, who are beautiful both inside and outside. They serve as examples and working together and learning across generations is very inspiring.