Try Harder

Give Up

Imagine every day being told
Ten things you didn’t know you were missing
A thousand images being sold
Pictures of two strangers kissing

The covers of magazines fight
For your attention as the voice of the media
Telling you nothing is right
Saying you need to be skinnier

Six dollars eighty for a Women’s Weekly
Pages scream their statistics and data
Who knew bad body image sold so cheaply
The message they bring is try harder

Stop being so emotional, so needy, so soft
Stop wearing your heart on your sleeve
There’s a line in the sand that shouldn’t be crossed
That man in your life’s gonna leave

Think that what you are is enough?
Well honey you better think twice
All around you they’re calling your bluff
And you thought that these people were nice

You will never be enough for them
Where would you even start?
Telling you to “shorten that hem”
They fight for a place in your heart

You’ve had enough to eat today
Stuffed so full you could chuck
A gulp of air, some water sorbet
Don’t hurt yourself, good luck

– Lil Williams

[1] Give Up is a poem speaking to girls about the media and its impact on body image and behaviour. It’s an issue that is close to my heart and at the end I touch on anorexia, bulimia and self-harm. I wanted the ending to be abrupt and shocking to the reader so they can grasp how bad the messages being sent to young girls really are. I also experiment with an ABAB rhyming pattern to give the poem less of a sing-songy tone while still maintaining cohesion.

Written 12 March 2014

Sincerely, Lil

What I Realised While Doing the 21 Day Body Beautifying Challenge

So 21 days (or a few more) is up on the challenge I threw out about body image when I posted the video ‘Why Thinking Your Ugly is Bad For You’. I took the challenge, telling myself in the mirror every morning: “I love my chin. I have a great chin!”

Did it work? To be honest, I’m still not in love with my chin (maybe I need 21 more days). Half way through the challenge, I thought, “Hmm… I now love my chin at certain angles in certain lights with a filter. Does that count as progress?” But I have come to view it in a different way than before the challenge.

The truth is, we will find something to hate about ourselves even if nothing is wrong. The other truth I’ve learnt, or remembered these past 21 days is that getting to a better place about body image is a process, a journey.

I started thinking how much it would suck not to have a chin at all, and that made me thankful for mine. And I realised that tiny little curve from your lower lip leading into your chin … everyone has it. That’s kind of what a chin is. After that I felt somewhat stupid for hating my everyday, run of the mill, some would even say boring, chin.

In the house I’ve moved into recently, every time you walk into the bathroom the first thing you see is the scales. I started weighing myself every day (sometimes even twice a day) in the last couple of months, and was frustrated with the fact that even though I was eating fairly healthy and running a lot, I was either staying the same weight or even gaining it.

It wasn’t until later that my friend Gen made me realise (something I should know from years of being a runner) that running can actually make you put on weight—muscle weight!

A couple of nights before this I was standing on the scales yet again and all of a sudden just froze, staring at myself in the mirror and thought, “What am I doing!?”

All these years and little baby steps toward getting to a healthier place mentally about weight and body image and here I was about to take a giant leap backwards.

I wanted to throw the scales out the window then and there, but after unsuccessfully trying to fob them off to the first person I tried, I gave them to one of my friends, to whom they were not a burden, but an encouragement. To me, scales are my slippery slope, and I now remember that I’ve avoided them for years for a reason.

Another one of my good friends has lived without a full length mirror in the house for about the last 4 months or so, and said she noticed how good she was feeling about herself.

Lesson to be learned from this: if there is something obvious that is hindering positive self-esteem for you, get rid of it.

Throw it out the window. Take it to the op shop. Give it to a friend who it’s actually going to bless. Because you are worth so much more than what the scales say you weigh (which doesn’t indicate healthy body weight anyway) or what the mirror reflects.

Sincerely, Lil

When Feminism Gets Dangerous

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Most people would say that chauvinism is worse than feminism, right? According to Beyoncé’s song, Flawless, ‘feminism’ is the person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.

Now there is nothing wrong with this. This is fantastic and we should all be striving to see the amazing value of both sexes, as equals. It is when radical feminism heads down the path of things like man-hating that this ideal begins to run into the danger zone. When a woman thinks that women should have more rights than a man etc etc, what makes that any better than chauvinism? That is, after all, what chauvinism essentially is.

Both result in an ingrained hatred and bitterness toward the opposite sex, which is neither healthy nor constructive, and doesn’t solve the problems that either sex are battling against. It makes our problem worse by hollowing out an even greater abyss between the genders.

And university hasn’t helped. In particular the arts department. In many classrooms across our nation, bitter women are teaching younger women to be bitter. From the moment I sat down in my first university class, I felt one message being strongly pushed on me:

Understand just how hated you are as a woman.

Now there are positive ways my views have changed because of university. I’ve come to accept the basics of feminism, as valuing men and women equally, but it is this radicalism that still doesn’t sit well with me. Girls walking around angry because of things they are afraid might be done to them, assuming every guy is a lusting jerk not worth her time. And heaven forbid someone tries to open a door for her, pull out a chair, or tell her she’s pretty.

In my Shakespeare class last year, there were some prescribed articles for homework that I would read half way through and then literally have to put down, feeling my chest physically tightening from the pure hatred emanating from the page like tangible waves of nausea.

It actually began to affect me so much, weighing down my mind and spirit, that it was having an impact on my life outside of university.

By second semester of third year, I was feeling ready to finish my degree solely because of this. It was then that I stumbled into my favourite literature class of my whole degree, with a wonderful professor named Alyson.

Toward the end of the semester, we read Howl by Allen Ginsberg, and were asked to write a poem “howling” against something. So I decided to howl against extreme feminism. I don’t remember it being especially good, but I do remember it had an A-B rhyming pattern.

I was extremely nervous to present it to the class, feeling for the last 3 years that I had been severely outnumbered. I was finally speaking out.

After I finished reading, people clapped. Alyson smiled and what she said next actually brought me to an understanding of feminism as an ideal for the first time.

“I want women to have the power, the independence to choose, and if that means getting married, taking their husband’s name, and having babies, then good luck to them! But I can sleep at night knowing that they had a choice” (Paraphrased from my memory).

There is nothing wrong with equality. We were created equal. Equal value, equal intelligence, equal moral capacity. What goes wrong is when one gender sets itself up against the other, seeking to take power rather than add value, whether its men or women. We were also created different, and these differences should be celebrated, rather than eliminated.

Last summer (to my shame) I got super defensive with my cousin Caleb during a discussion about Tony Abbott and the accusations of chauvinism against him. I could feel myself trembling and tears were welling up in my eyes. There was hot anger rushing all through my body. I stopped, saddened at the thought: “What has uni done to me?”

During this time of finishing university and in the months following, I could hear a quiet but clear voice inside me saying, “Put down your weapon. You were never called to fight men.”

I apologised to my cousin.

Imagine how much each of these problems could be improved if both men and women are thinking about the best for others around them, trying to assume the best, rather than walking around with a chip on their shoulder, wondering how to bring the other sex down a peg.

Working together will produce outstandingly better results than living in bitterness, pitted against one another. So if you need to forgive the other gender, or your own, or any of the people at your university etc, do it today. Then walk out of a cage of bitterness/anger/chauvinism/radical feminism/fear/ignorance.

Free.

Sincerely, Lil