This morning I came across a ridiculous article on MSN, describing a recent controversy over Michelle Obama's decision to wear shorts on a family outing to the Grand Canyon. The article invited feedback, and pretty much everyone who wrote in agreed that her shorts were not too short, were perfectly appropriate to the situation, and were not an issue we should really be wasting our time on. I couldn't agree more, especially with the point that we shouldn't be wasting our time on this. So why am I? Because I noticed something far more subtle, but disturbing in the article -- this quote: "While most women would agree that shorts (at any length) are often tough to pull off...".
Really? What is so difficult about shorts? Is it that shorts are generally unflattering, or that the average woman doesn't have legs worthy of showing off? Either option offends me. Must every inch of my body be perfect, and my clothes perfect for showing it off? Am I not allowed to dress comfortably, instead of perfectly fashionable, every time I leave my house? Do I need eyeshadow and high heels to work in the lab?
A few years ago a young girl approached me while I was doing work at a coffee shop and asked if she could ask me a few questions for a school project. I agreed. Her first question was, "what beauty magazines do you read?" My answer, "none," completely flabbergasted the girl. Her mother had to prod her out of speechlessness and suggest to her that she ask my why. Why? Because I refuse to allow something into my home that constantly reminds me that I'm not pretty enough, fashionable enough, rich enough, pleasing my husband well enough...
Part of me fears the challenge of possibly raising a girl (once I get started on family) because of the increasing prevalence of such degrading expectations of physical perfection. And another part of me hopes that I have a girl, whom I can teach to love (or at least not fear) science and math, and to shun the media's shameless expectations and be proud of everything that she will be.