There’s a story I heard of a young ‘celeb’ who had to deny her identity to save her face. She had stepped out of her house one early morning, under a state of emergency, to an ATM nearer her house in her unpolished state. After withdrawing the money from the machine, a lady who worked at the bank nudged her with the ‘are you (this person)?’ question. Her response was a simple ‘NO’. She flatly denied herself. Her reason: answering yes would damage her brand. Her ordinary look was bad for business.
The pressure to project a certain look in order to fit in or earn validation from others has always been an item many have grappled with. It’s not a new thing. The difference this time is that the pressure has been notched ten folds thanks to the media projections of what is or must be the ‘standard’ for beauty.
Social media has evidently become a pressure hub since everyone with an account can grimly comment on all shared pictures. These twitter fingers would fire some very uncouth 140 character comment that could leave you questioning who you are in terms of your looks. Those at the receiving end of such vile judgments have been mostly ladies.
A year ago June, (2016), this subject inspired ‘’Love Yourself’, a poem by poet, writer, sometimes singer Poetra Asantewa. The lyrics of ‘Love Yourself’, as the title suggests, is about embracing your flaws. Like Tyrion Lannister told Jon Snow: ‘Once you’ve accepted your flaws, no one can use it against you’ is the crux of the poem.
If the lyrics are inspiring, the video, released six days ago is very descriptive, intense and beautiful. Directed by Eames, this black and white toned video has Poetra, on what seemed like a surgeons table, about to get a surgery performed on her. A surgery to FIX HER looks to conform to the ‘standard of beauty’ and earn a validation among her friends and society at large.
The first image one encounters in the video is the face of Poetra, embroidered in all of its natural glare. The camera rotates in an anti-clockwise direction and posits it at the 90 percent angle. With her braids spread out and eyes closed momentarily, we see a blurred image of five faces examining something lying below them (obviously Poetra). These five faces are the ‘surgeons’ to fix her flaws.
Watching the video felt like watching someone make a power point presentation, where the visuals aptly reflect the words being spoken. The words: ‘Chisel approximately 3.5 inches of flesh out of the waist area. Lift the breasts to a firm position until it is perky and a perfect D cup. Add three layers of skin until the backside can vibrate with a single poke. Tone the leg muscles until men can see their reflection in your gleaming skin. Widen the hips until it is the exact curve of a bass clef’ are graphically captured from the 0.30 sec- 1 min mark.
One gleans an expression of displeasure and lack of enthusiasm with the whole ‘fixing’ as depicted by the straight face that accompanied the line ‘Soften your muscles, don’t be too boyish’, the swinging of head, the holding of her hand by one of the ‘surgeons’ whilst the others make her up and the tears shed attest to the discomfort or stress associated with image enchantment procedure. Eames creatively magnified portions were necessary to emphasize some of the points she touched on.
”You have to look natural but not the kind of natural that makes you look like you just woke up from a 36 hour sleep”
In the second part of the video, the black and white toned visuals are replaced with a colour-filled image of an elegant, ‘well fixed’ Poetra. Like someone delivering a televised speech, she goes on about the need for women to love themselves by embracing their flaws; to ignore this so-called beauty standards.
She was quick to remind all women to be comfortable in and with their body – size, shape, colour – and not seek people’s (either men or women) validatory comments first before loving themselves: ‘Love the part of you you’re waiting for someone else to love before you learn to love yourself wholly’
Poetra further draws attention to one of the big issues that women globally grapple with: their bodies. With fashion magazines, fashion brands and TV shows constantly projecting a certain physical acceptability code for them, women are forced to take certain measures, sometimes drastic and injurious to the health, just to avoid the obnoxious culture of body shaming prevalent today.
‘You keep running away from your body like it isn’t home. You keep trying to fit your body into negative spaces. Like you aren’t magic’
It’s ironic that, even those who get ‘fixed’ are sometimes not spared the criticism. As it is with life, no one is spared, hence the more reason to embrace who you are. As Poetra rightly observes ‘Everything you do is an open invitation for condemnation, so go ahead and love yourself anyway’.
In regards to the topic of loving yourself, there’s no truth more valuable than her statement above. We at CulArt, therefore realize how important it is for women especially, to embrace this.