Wednesday, February 26, 2003

I skipped my Human Development lecture today (*gasp!*) in order to instead attend a workshop entitled “Body & Soul: Women of Color in Cinema” at noon. Not that I really care one way or another about women in cinema, but a friend of mine is part of the Multicultural Immersion Program that put together this specific workshop, so I felt obligated to go and show my support. Yeeee-uuuhhh. :-D Anywayz, this workshop is part of the “Celebrate Your Body Week” at our (uhh, I mean, MY) university, which is co-sponsored by, among others, the Student Health Center, Intercollegiate Athletics, and the Counseling Center. I seem to have somehow missed all the readings, debates, speeches, movies, discussions, and various workshops related to this week, but I’m glad I went to today’s event, cuz it was pretty interesting.

One of the workshop coordinators raised the question of “What Is Beautiful?”, actually writing it out on the board and inviting everyone to go up and write/draw either what they personally consider beautiful, or what the media and society at large encourage them to believe is beautiful. So we had a very interesting assortment of responses: babies, a smile, curves, flowers, long hair, tall+slender, diversity, light skin, etc etc. I wrote, NON-CONFORMITY. No lie. And no sarcasm intended either. I happen to think non-conformity is beautiful, ok. People who possess the self-confidence to walk through life with their head held high and an utter lack of regard for what others think of them or want to mold them into have my complete admiration. It’s just sad, however, to realize that the whole notion of “what other people think” is very important to some. Funny thing is, I think I’ve been doing a pretty good job of being a non-conformist myself lately. Well, not “lately”; it’s been a long process. Normal people scare me. Looking like a clone or doing the same thing that everyone else does terrifies me. I’ve always refused to conform to the prevailing standards, hence my infamous “Rebel Child” nickname. :-p The point is, I’ve pretty much finally reached a point in my life where I am perfectly happy and content with myself as a person, and as a result I can afford to view the media’s and other people’s standards as laughable and ludicrous. Somewhere along the way, a few years back, I guess, I gave up on caring what people thought of me, and let me tell you, it’s an extremely liberating experience. I love the things that make me, ME. Which is not to say that I’m deliberately ignoring the fact that I could use some major improvement in a variety of ways…which involves things like procrastination, spirituality, and discipline (and oh, a looong list of other things, yeah). When it comes down to the nityy-gritty though, I love me. So there.

We saw a montage of various music videos…TLC’s “Unpretty,” Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful,” and some song/dance scenes from random Indian films that I of course have never heard of, let alone watched. And I rarely watch television in general, so I don’t know much about music videos, but all I can say is: the TLC chicas had some weird hairstyles in their video, Christina Aguilera looks freakishly odd in hers, and Bollywood movies just plain scare the heck out of me. So there! ok, that was a major tangent. My point is, the songs (well, the first two anywayz…I don’t know jack about the Indian ones. lol) had awesome ideas though. Basically, I left the workshop with the following messages: You are already beautiful just the way you are, and you shouldn’t have to listen to what the mainstream society or the misguided voices in your head say. You can try to look or act like someone else, but in the end you have to live with YOURSELF. And the only way you can live in harmony with who you really are is to accept the fact that you may never look like someone else, and that’s ok. You are always beautiful, both inside and outside, and those who say anything to the contrary are not worth the pain and anguish you cause yourself by taking their words to heart. Eating yourself up over society’s standards of what is beautiful and what is not, and trying to change yourself just to make OTHERS happy, is the wrong way to go.<--Kinda rough paraphrasing, but you get the idea? And not just girls either, I'm talking about guys too...Because EVERYONE is beautiful!! Allah (swt) created us all, and only He has the power and authority to judge the true measure of beauty.

Following the film, we broke up into groups and discussed our reactions to what we had just watched, as well as our thoughts about women and the pressures they face to conform to society’s perception of beauty. One thought-provoking point that someone brought up was the fact that there are cultural distinctions for what characterizes beauty, meaning that the definition for beauty varies across cultures. That reminded me of my last visit to Pakistan (summer 2000), and how my aunts and cousins constantly crowded around me, clicking their tongues as if I were some piteous little orphan and exclaiming, “You need to eat more! You're too skinny! Don’t they feed you in America? You’re not sick, are you?” In contrast, I have some friends here in the U.S. who, on the one hand, look at me enviously and wonder, “How do you manage to stay so thin??” and yet then turn right around and make spiteful comments like, “You better start working out regularly soon, cuz you’re not gonna stay a skinnybones for long at the rate you keep eating those french fries.” grrr… And I remember, one of my closest friends from high school—oh man, she was a track-&-field and cross-country star at our high school, and she’s wayyyy thinner than I am—but everytime she hugged me, she’d laughingly remark, “Yaz, you’re so tiny, watch, I could just push you with my finger, like this, and you’d fall right over!” LOL! And no, for the record, I am NOT anorexic. No, I don’t have an eating disorder of any sort. No, I am not all that skinny at all, actually (and no, I’m not in denial either!). But still, instead of being annoyed now, I’m starting to realize that maybe the fact that everyone I know thinks it’s abnormal to be thin could be a good thing after all, because it means that there are some people who refuse to set stock in the Westernized modern conception of beauty. Which is not to say that Western influence isn't creeping into every nook and cranny of the world though. I noticed that all the actresses in the Bollywood films were tall, slender, fair-skinned, and blue- or green-eyed. Interesting, no?