Like many women, I have found my song of the summer in Miss Eaves’ “Thunder Thighs.”
This past week I bought maybe the fifth pair of shorts I’ve owned in my adult life. They were hot pink (obviously, this color is a bit of a thing for me. I got the super pale skin with some black and hot pink hair going on). I actually said when I bought them:
“I’ll probably just wear these at home – they are a bit inappropriate for ‘public Alix’.”
Then, on Saturday, I wore them in front of my grad-school roommate who gave me some much-needed positivity by telling me how awesome I looked. Of course, this didn’t stop me from then asking my husband if I should actually wear these hot pink super short shorts out in public.
My friend, my husband, and the fact that it was 85 degrees and super humid out convinced me that yes, I could and would expose the world to my pale, jiggly thighs. It took me more than 30 years to get to this point BTW, I never once wore shorts throughout middle school, high school, college and onward. And I know have never been a large woman, but, like many, my body fails to conform to the beauty standards we are often inundated with: my top half is two sizes smaller than my bottom half (I know, I know – sizes are meaningless), pants that fit my thighs and butt often gap drastically at the waist, and I’ve attempted to try on many a skinny jean that I’m pretty sure were made for legs the width of my arms. Combine all this with a few offhand remarks to preteen me like “you really have some tree trunk legs” and “wow – those are some thick ankles!” and boom – three decades of no shorts.
While a few paragraphs about wearing hot pink short shorts might seem trite or silly – it’s no small deal to me. These body issues and individual interactions, however seemingly small, are emblematic of the various ways in which women’s bodies are constantly policed and scrutinized. It often takes an inordinate amount of confidence and courage to dress how we want where we want. It shouldn’t. But it does. Additionally, this objectification of women’s bodies has more serious and deleterious effects (effects which I’m sure are often more pronounced for women of color in this country thanks to imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy/hegemonic masculinity/etc* – I write that as a white woman).
In fact, there is a theory within the psychology discipline entitled Objectification Theory. I am not personally well versed in this framework, but according to Fredrickson & Roberts (1997):
Objectification theory posits that girls and women are typically acculturated to internalize an observer’s perspective as a primary view of their physical selves. This perspective on self can lead to habitual body monitoring, which, in turn, can increase women’s opportunities for shame and anxiety, reduce opportunities for peak motivational states, and diminish awareness of internal bodily states. Accumulations of such experiences may help account for an array of mental health risks that disproportionately affect women: unipolar depression, sexual dysfunction, and eating disorders.
There’s also the fact that this policing and control of women’s bodies – both in terms of presentation and – say – access to things that should be part of basic health care, is arguably inextricably linked to violence against women, rape culture, and so on.
Before I go too far down a rabbit hole of horribleness, I want to get to what is actually making me really happy today – two days after I dared to expose my thighs to the world and call attention to my ass via hot pink denim:
So – thank you Miss Eaves – I am going to keep rocking my hot pink shorts all summer. And thank you world for having such a strong and immediate reaction to this song. When I first saw the music video on Youtube, about 2 hours after it dropped on Jezebel, it had about 600 views. As a finished writing this it’s been four more hours and not only does it have more than 21,000 views, news organizations are picking it up and touting what seems to me be an incredibly genuine celebration of the female body – a celebration from the perspective of the women themselves. To me, this video and what it evoked in me is emblematic of the power popular culture can have to challenge and inspire.
Sometimes the seemingly little or trivial things – such as wearing super short hot pink shorts – can allow us to reject the systems of power that otherwise control us (they are called hegemonic for a reason).
*Get a little bit of bell hooks in your life if you haven’t already done so. Here’s a good place to start.