I work in an image-based industry, the performing arts, and it’s hard for both men and women who are constantly being judged and scrutinised because of the way they look. I also teach and mentor young girls and young women with my dance teaching job. For today, I’d like to talk about being ‘sexy’ and what that means for me and most of the women who work in this industry. I am not going to discuss the difficulties my male friends face in this post but will address them in the future so please, bear with me. I want to explore the idea of why we may feel pressured to be sexy or to meet that particular archetype that society has laid out for us.
First of all what is sexy? Seriously, I’m asking you what sexy is. Think about your idea of sexy. Is it physical or is it a personality, a confidence? Is it all of that? I don’t think I can count the times I’ve heard people, mostly men, talk about what they find sexy in a woman. “I think curves are sexy”, “Intelligence is sexy”, “Her smile”, “Her personality” and the list could potentially be endless. That all sounds great, right? Seems we all have a chance to have ‘sexy’ endowed on us. It doesn’t have to be just about the way we look. It seems we have moved beyond that and are looking beyond image and physical appearance. Great, but, I still don’t see why I need to have a sexy smile, like why the f&*k does my smile need to evoke sex. Can’t I smile because I’m happy? Before you sit there and cry about how men face the same problems I fully acknowledge that, especially in the world of performing arts! My real issue is this, as young girls and young women we are exposed to this idea of sexy very early on. I only need to spend a day at a dance competition to see the inappropriate costuming and choreography being presented by 8-year-old girls to reaffirm that there is a huge problem and we need to resolve it.
Let’s look at the acting world, why do we feel the need to be sexy and why is every strong female character written to be sexy? Why are actresses feeling the need to explore that part of themselves in order to play those roles? Can’t she be strong, badass, vulnerable and intelligent? Why does the word ‘sexy’ need to be put into the mix, is it necessary? I don’t have the answers, I am honestly throwing these questions out there because I feel like it needs to be thought about. I have my opinions, certainly, but I don’t have the answers. I have the opinion that the idea of ‘sexy’ is presented in the media for views and ratings. I feel that being strong or badass doesn’t work unless she’s also sexy because that may actually pose a real threat. Gazing on a woman and imagining her undressed takes away some of her power. The ‘sexy’ aspect of the character keeps her passive.
I am personally uncomfortable being ‘sexy’. That is, I am uncomfortable purposely acting or presenting myself in a certain way that will make me appear ‘sexy’. I don’t want to have to expose my body, wear two kilos of makeup and evoke reactions from men to get a job. I’ve been told by people that I should try it and it might help me get a foot in the door. I’m currently attempting to build more of a social media following. A way to achieve that is by posting half naked pictures of myself online something I am NOT comfortable doing. If you are confident doing this I’m not judging, merely reflecting on my own position in the matter.
When I look at the beautiful young girls and women I teach I don’t want them to feel inadequate or like they need to be a certain way to get noticed for their talent. I don’t want them to look on social media and think they have to take pictures that expose their bodies or make them appear provocative to get noticed. I don’t want them to feel like that is reality and like they have to be that way. It’s about teaching these girls and women that they don’t need to be anything but themselves. It’s about showing them better role models and seeing women who are strong, brave, intelligent, kind and passionate. The word or the idea of ‘sexy’ is not always necessary and it needs to be challenged. I mean, if a woman is all those things and then we think she is sexy so be it. She isn’t sexy first and all those things after it. She is all those things and sexy MIGHT be associated with it depending on who is making the judgement because sexy is subjective.
I don’t think we can sit here and blame society and misogynism anymore. Sure, it is the reason for all of this but we have a responsibility to change things. I love seeing more and more women take control of the word ‘sexy’. I feel like they are on to something there. Words and ideas are so powerful but they can also be challenged and changed. If we are the ones to control what sexy means for us it could mean a change. If sexy isn’t about trying to be a certain way that evokes lust, want and sex the idea might work better.
I realise people might look at me and think “What has she got to worry about she’s ‘skinny’ and ‘pretty'”. I don’t want to have to try to make myself sexy and you know what? Sometimes I feel f*&cking insecure about the way I look as well. I’m sick of it though, and if you agree with me let’s embrace it and challenge it. Let’s celebrate each other, the way we look, the way we feel and let’s use our art to set a better example.
I’d love to hear thoughts, opinions and ideas from you on the topic. Comment below!