I have issues with gender roles (clearly). I make jokes about not being very girly, but really I'm plenty girly. I just have a different definition of what makes a woman a woman. Thankfully my mother did her best to teach us what is important about being a woman. She taught us to be strong and independent. She taught us not to waste too much time on the frivolous things that girls do, to not be too wrapped up in our appearance. She never had destructive literature laying around (a.k.a. beauty magazines), she never watched trash TV, and she encouraged me to wear less make-up and not dress like a skank. Like many teenager girls, I fought her on these things. For a time, I just didn't understand how important it was to learn what she was trying to instill in me. It wasn't that being a girl was bad, it was that all the things the world is trying to make you think you need to do to be accepted as a girl are bullshit. Think for yourself.
Thankfully I did learn this eventually, but not without plenty of issues and heartbreak in the process, the biggest being body image issues. These are so prevalent in women in our society. I used to argue that blaming it on the media was a cop-out. And while I still think there are a lot of other factors, the media sure doesn't help. They are giving us what sells. If so many people didn't like that shit, they wouldn't show it. If more people demanded things were different, then they would be. But for now, the majority of what you see, hear, and read in the media is telling you how you should look and what you need to be doing about it. I do my best to ignore all that because I want to be happy with who I am and how I look. I want it to be ok that I have small boobs and a small ass and a less than perfect body. It should be ok that I don't wear make-up most of the time, don't spend exorbitant amounts of time and money on my hair, nails, or clothes. That I'm happy to not slather chemical-laden creams and sprays and gunk all over myself. Why? Because I'm super confident? Not at all, I'm just as self-conscious as the next girl. It's because I know the truth. All of that shit they push on you will not change you. It will not make you younger, prettier, or happier. Some of it might change your appearance temporarily or give you a fleeting moment of happiness. But if you have body image issues, no amount of make-up, hair product, fake nails, designer clothes, or plastic surgery will fix that.
How would I know? When I was in the midst of battling anorexia, it did not matter how skinny I got, how much weight I lost, how much I worked out, or how little I ate. It was NEVER enough. I always saw myself as fat and ugly. No matter what anyone said, compliments, reassuring, support to get better, none of that made me stop. The change had to happen in me. Not external, perception is a lot more than just physical. It was all a mental battle. As are all body image issues. If you feel bad about your looks, you can do something about it, and I don't mean get a make over. I mean you can get help to fight the mental battle and issues that are causing it. And you can help yourself. I've worked very hard over the years to rid myself of the things that do not help my body image issues. I still have my moments, but it's a lot better than it used to be. I find that reducing my time around things (TV, social media, magazines, etc.) and people that make me feel bad about my appearance really helps. Instead I try to surround myself with people that love me for who I am. It's hard for me to be around women that talk mostly about their appearance and how much time and money they're spending on these things they think will make them feel better. It makes me sad because I know how it feels to believe you need to look and be different than you are. You don't ladies. You can look like you really do, be who you really are. You don't have to cover yourself up with products. You can be happy without all that.
So what does define a woman? To me, it's about beauty beyond the physical exterior. Who she is, what she does, her actions, these things define her, not how she looks. A beautiful woman is confident, compassionate, and caring. She's strong and independent. She stands up for what she believes. She makes up her own mind about who she is, she doesn't let anyone tell her who to be, what to do, or how she should look. She doesn't worry about what the world thinks of her or how much of a woman she is. She knows who she is and she doesn't hide it. That's the woman I hope to be someday. That's a woman redefined.