Eva Kennedy writes an internal monologue which provides a glimpse into the pain and insecurity caused by unachievable beauty standards and the male gaze.
In quiet moments where I curl up in my dressing gown, eat toast in front of the telly,
I want to be at peace. That little voice that says ‘you’re not attractive now’: she’s
Have you ever sat next to someone and watched your thighs spread like butter
across the couch? ‘You are so chunky’ my little voice remarks in case they’re
thinking it too.
Puffy-eyed, matted hair, eating breakfast in mismatched pyjamas, ‘Thank god no one
can see me now’.
Trying on an elegant dress only to stare with horror at someone gross in the mirror.
‘You’ll never be the desirable girl you are trying to buy your way into being’.
You know that feeling, you know that ache.
Perceiving how we look to others, it’s the craft of being a girl.
The shame in ‘realising’ we may look undesirable in a particular situation. Failing.
Pretty, an imperative measure of success.
‘As if being attractive to men is important?’ I say righteously, but those words don’t
satisfy the craving. I still light up as you call me ‘fit’. How perverse.
Time, all the time we’ve wasted dwelling on our image, trying to fix what is already
splendid, beating up what is already so bruised. In a bundle you receive all the
hours of your lifetime that you have spent thinking about your appearance, what
would you do with it? Every Bristol girl could have a second gap year.
Let’s put away this thinking like Christmas decorations in January, disgusted we’ve
left it there so long.
And I blame you, and you, and you for every time you focused on a woman’s looks,
cementing the importance of it into my head. You were older than me, you should
have known better. And why did he get to judge so carelessly, perpetuating this hurt
while seeming far above judgement himself?
I am a person. How dare you reduce me.
We’re fired at from all directions but the most humiliating wounds are the slow cuts
from loved ones when our armour is off.
What we face makes us stronger than him and him.
We’re chasing a mirage attempting to meet beauty standards. There’s no happiness
here, we must leave.
When I take back my physical body from your gaze, what do I do with it? It’s
strange, it’s just mine. It’s quite lovely and strong.
Seeing ourselves through the eyes of others is an impulse that can’t be broken over
night, but we can shift how we talk to ourselves: our internal dialogue matters, it’s
where enduring change buds.
Illustrations by Jenny Scotland.