On green hair and women’s bodies

At the moment half my hair is dyed green. This is not a big deal to me, I’ve had unnatural coloured hair for over two years now, and for another year or so before that, my hair is part of my identity but at the same time it’s something that’s as unusual to me as my glasses. This is not true with a proportion of society, and for some reason the green really seems to attract much more attention than any other colour I’ve had.

Sometimes this attention is fine, overhearing a child on the tube ask her mum if I was wearing a wig, and when correcting announcing she wanted to dye her hair was adorable, and most of the comments I get are genuinely flattering. However, some of the time it is fairly obvious ‘I like your hair’ really doesn’t mean they like your hair at all, and it’s just like being a 15 year-old goth with men shouting at me out of their car windows all over again. The other one I get is ‘you’ve got green hair!’ Well, yes, I know. These I can ignore, my appearance has always got me more attention I’d rather not have.

Buying something in a shop and having the sales assistant reach over and touch my hair however, I can’t ignore. Ok, so she complimented my hair, but she also totally violated my personal space. At the time I was shocked, and a bit amused, now I’m really quite angry. Just earlier today I was sitting in a cafe at my uni, drinking tea, reading The Waves and listening to music, and some guy said ‘I like your barnet’, and it’s nothing, I just ignored him, but for me to have been able to hear it over my music he must have said it really loudly, because of course I want everyone to stare at me.

All these little events aren’t much on their own, but together they make me think how much my body is assumed to be common property, just because I stand out. It’s not always men of course, but it does often make me think of the theory of male gaze when it happens, and of the way women’s bodies are under so much scrutiny. I can sympathise with the way famous people have to deal with being told they look too fat, too thin, too old, but more I can sympathise with ordinary women who deal with this not because they choose to stand out in some way, after all I don’t always mind the attention my hair and clothes gets me, but because they happen to have large breasts or, worse, walk along a road. How dare they?

The second of those links I’ve only just seen, the timing of it is odd, and it makes me think maybe I’m getting off lightly. I think I’d rather be insulted than have suggestive comments made, maybe my punk-inspired clothes, glasses and perpetual pissed-off or terrified expression help me, they’ve always felt like a bit of a mask. Still, my immediate reaction on hearing a car beep shouldn’t be to swear at it, one day it will be someone I know.

Related to this is the case of Sophie Lancaster, kicked to death because she was a goth. I was lucky when I was a goth, I think the only physical thing that happened to me was having stones thrown at me on the beach, by kids from my school of course. Oh, and the very first time I remember going out in obviously gothic clothes, aged 13, I got ‘Pippi Longstocking’ shouted at me by significantly older boys because of my striped socks, I’d been told my dad had dies maybe ten minutes before. At least I had more important things on my mind than taking much notice of some idiots. The fact that nearly 9 years later I’m still taking abuse from people I don’t know because of my appearance is sad, as is the fact I don’t even really get angry very often now.

It seems that as a female who identifies as belonging to an alternative sub-culture I get to either be abused or leched at on the street. I refuse to change the way I dress, this is not my problem, this is the problem of people who think perving on under-age girls is acceptable, but I do wish I could think of some productive way to make them realise how unacceptable their behaviour is.

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What part of your body is most beautiful?

I really like this post, I especially like the way the answers seem to have turned from ‘what part of your body is most beautiful’ to ‘what part of your body do you like the most’, so that not all of the answers are about conventionally attractive things, lots of people saying scars or stratchmarks, individual things. It makes such a difference from being told what to like by other people, or worse, hearing people list things that they don’t like about themselves. This sort of thing is so easy to do, just a couple of mintutes to read the commentsor think about what you like about yourself, it’s the sort of self-help thing I’m always a bit suspicious of, but in this case it really just makes me pleased.

For me, I like my hair, even though it’s all full of split ends it’s tick and long, and the most amazing shade of green at the moment. I like the inside of my arms, they’re really pale and smooth, and my veins look interesting, though they show scars and bruises really easily. I have good hands too, small but with very long, thin fingers, and long nails, and interesting little callous’ from writing so much. I have good legs too, I’m short but they’re proportionally pretty long and look good with pretty tights and big boots. I like realising that there are lots of things that I like about myself.

A Nice Reminder

This was photoshopped, an entry from The F Word, one of my favourite blogs because it’s British, and has such a huge range of interesting posts. This one I especially like, it’s so simple but very clever, and reminds me that pictures like that, which I see every day and think nothing of, are edited and shot cleverly, and the models have amazing make up and so on, which is why they look so good. I know all of that, after all I’m worryingly addicted to America’s Next Top Model, but I don’t know it consciously, which I think is also the point of the – vandalism? conceptual art? improvement?

Maybe next time I look at a photo of me and see how pale I look, or how my skin is all blotchy, and then see a beautiful picture of Christina Aguilera, who I would quite happily look like, I’ll care even less than I already do. I know I don’t have that many issues about my appearance, possibly less than I’m expected to, after all my skin is far from perfect but I never wear foundation, but anything that makes me happier with the way I look is good.

Why I love Wet Moon

This is Cleo and Trilby from Ross Campbell’s series Wet Moon:

cleo1

I love this series, at first I’d look at the covers when I was at work and think “Wow, those are some hot girls”, then I read one. Istill thought “Wow, those are some hot girls”, but I also realised that Campbell’s girls sound, to me, like real girls. They bitch and squabble, and talk about nothing important at all for pages at a time, and they just hang out, they gossip. It feels like watching a reality show about a load of sort of goth girls, I’ve always had a hard time remembering that characters are just that, they are constructs, and Cleo, Trilby, Mara and the rest feel like real people to me. My face at the cliff-hanger at the end of volume two must have been amazing, I bought volume three just a few days later and volume 4 is on the way.

Much of the appeal is the art, the simple fact that Ross Campbell does draw hot girls, but not just that, they’re hot girls that have different body shapes, ethnicities, and most important – different faces! It’s sad that I’m used to telling who a girl is by her hair and costume, Campbell’s girls don’t need that, the only two I get momentarily confused by are sisters anyway.  However, this is not without controversy, as this thread shows Campbell raising the question of whetherone of his characters is racist or offensive.

Having read three of the volumes I have only just come to a realisation that Wet Moon, certainly fictional, is also really rather surreal, but in such a way that it is only after stepping back from the book I even considered it. But what town is about 25% goths? It seems a small university town, but it has a goth club, a coffee shop called ‘Burial Grounds’, and two cemetaries, and nobody seems to think a one-armed girl taking photos of herself on the floor covered in dirt and rubbish is unusual.  It’s a goths dream, which I think is rather the point. I know that at 15, when I actually looked a little bit like Cleo, I would have fallen in love with the town. As it is I think I want it to be real.

It feels bizarre being so obsessed with a book, it hasn’t happened in a while, Wet Moon really has filled my life for the last few weeks, and the way the girls, especially Cleo, are so obviously awkward about their bodies and themselves but then so amazing in their tiny shorts and little tops has made me think showing a bit of flesh now and then isn’t a big deal. Wet Moon is drawn by a man, it would be easy for me to talk about sexualisation, all Campbell’s girls are very sexy, and the male gaze, and so on, but it doesn’t feel that way to me, because the reader sees Cleo worrying about her hair or her weight and dressed up for a club, and just hanging out with her friends, so much of what is presented does not seem to be be through the male gaze at all, and I find myself wanting to the sometimes revealing outfits to be a sign of the character’s ownerships of their bodies. So, maybe I should prove I really am comfortable in my body, maybe wearing shorts in the summer instead of boiling in jeans won’t be such an issue this year. Maybe I’ll admit that, coveted by society as my body-type may be, I’ve not always been as confident about it as I should be.

I wish I had found Wet Moon earlier, I would have loved it, but I’ll settle for loving it now, and though this was really a bit too gushy it had a point, I love comics because they really do change the way I see the world, all books do, and this one helped me change the way I see myself a little, which is nice, and bizarely self-help-like.