I Sometimes Worry That I Wouldn’t Be Such a Feminist If I Were Hot & Other Thoughts I Don’t Usually Say Out Loud

I’ve watched all twelve episodes of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s at least three times now. Although I could probably recite half of the teleplay from memory, the line, “I sometimes worry that I wouldn’t be such a feminist if I had bigger tits” usually replays in my head for a while. First I like it because it’s hilarious. Then I like it because of its somewhat sad and deeper meaning. Personally, I’m satisfied with my boobs, they’re alright (for me at least), but I conscious of the fact that I’m not hot. I’m really, not looking for pity or for people to tell me I am — this is something I accepted a while ago and I’m semi-fine with. I know that regardless of my appearance, I will always, as any version of myself, be a feminist; what I do wonder, however, is how the extent of my feminist beliefs would change in various circumstances.

As a Non-Hot Girl, I feel like I have to put extra work into my personality in order to make up for the looks I lack. I’m obsessed with being well-liked and constantly worry I’m not interesting enough. I long to be everybody’s friend and fear the possibility of ever being an enemy. I’m human playdough — family-friendly, non-threatening and able to be whoever, or whatever anyone wants me to be. I must be amenable and malleable and easy to get along with; the person you can take to any party, who will get along with your parents and will even go as far as not saying anything if you ever upset her. This is me in general, friendships and all. It doesn’t solely come from me being somewhat unimpressed with my appearance; much of it just plain insecurity and people-pleasing tendencies — as much as I may try to pass this off as “a libra moon thing!!” it’s definitely something more than that, isn’t it?

At the base of it all there’s this statement: Being a Non-Hot Girl makes me feel like less of a woman. (I know that it’s internalised misogyny that’s made me feel this way — I’ll get into this more soon). I don’t have that feminine charm, I don’t know how to flirt and I’m much more awkwardly cute than anything even remotely near sexually attractive. (To put it into perspective, not too long ago I was asked for ID for an age fifteen film. I’m twenty). I rarely get approached in bars or clubs; a lot of the time it’s an “is your mate single?” or “can I dance with her?” kind of scenario. I always tell myself it’s fine, but it actually feels really crap. Of course, I’m happy to set my mates up and egg them on if they’re into someone — they’re my friend! I probably think they’re one of the best and most beautiful people in the world — but I’d really much prefer it if these strangers asked my friends themselves. It objectifies them. My friend is not my property and it’s not up to me, so ask them! I’ve had a few nights where I’ve gone home early because I was the one left behind/out of these situations. (I’ve also had some where I forced myself to stay, , but it’s not particularly fun dancing on your own).

It’s really important for me to make it clear that I don’t perceive anyone else in this way — only myself. I don’t view anyone to be anything less than what/who they identify as; I just know that I identify as a woman, but never feel like I can fulfil the idea of what I picture a ‘woman’ to be — even though it’s all social conditioning and fake!

The way I imagine it is that, if I hot, I’d get some free drinks every now and then, a few more dates and more job offers according to some studies. I have this image of people being nicer to me and approaching me, as opposed to me desperately being nice to and making the effort with people. Then, on the other side of that, I know that this would probably mean some really gross comments and treatment too. (Typing it out now, the pros of being a Hot Girl seem really underwhelming).

What I’m trying to get at is this: I have this silly idea that if I were hot, I think my life would be easier, at least in some ways. Then by my life being easier, I think I might be less fussed about all the big changes I want to see in myself and the world around me. I wouldn’t feel as strongly for certain things, because I wouldn’t experience them or empathise so strongly with those who do. In reality, I know this is stupid and just If I were hot I’d still have problems, maybe more than I do now; I might even be more of a feminist because I’d probably have to deal with more sexism and misogyny!

With me perceiving myself as this ridiculous Non-Hot Girl, I tend to reject traditional chivalrous behaviour. I’ve had someone offer to pay for the date and I felt so uncomfortable with the idea — undeserving more than insulted — that I ended up paying for all of it — my drinks and his. I didn’t want to do that either, I’d have been happy to split it! I just got overwhelmed at being treated like something I’m not. I felt like a fraud, like I’d tricked him into believing I was this wonderful, dateable woman.

This was a big mistake because after this said date, we went out clubbing and within twenty minutes, he was kissing my friend. (It’s sad to say, but friends getting with people they knew I was interested in is a bit of a running theme in my life, although that’s partly my fault as well… Miss People-Pleaser would never confront her friend on her upset! In doing so, she may upset them!). After I witnessed that, I slipped out and got the bus home. A couple of hours later, the two of them were bombarding me with apology texts and contacting me on every social media platform we’d connected on. He asked me if we could be friends to which I responded, “no because none of my friends would do that” and with her, we weren’t close enough for anything to need to be fixed. It’s funny to look back on now, but that night did do a bit of damage to my confidence.

I can’t say my uni love-life made much upward movement from there. I currently have two draft tweets from what I like to call ‘Sad Girl Hours’ — this tends to be from around 11pm-4am on a bad night where I have nothing much to do other than lay in bed reflecting on my late teens and current self. I conjure up every embarrassing and humiliating thing I’ve done over the past few years. I cry over being a stressed, confused and nervy bisexual girl who’s a “Romantic”, but also determined to be super independent and is “too busy for anything anyway”. I think you get the idea... Now, these two Sad Girl tweets:

*chirpse is anyone you’ve had ‘thing’ with

I remember this entire scenario so clearly! I was having a bit of crappy time in general and felt a bit lost and low, then, in this one weekend, I had two, technically three, people upset me. The guy I saw on the way to the pub, that whole had been done and dusted for ages. There were no hard feelings at all, just I’d spoken to him for months and had never met him — he didn’t live in the city and eventually we just stopped talking. So, you can imagine my surprise when Sad Girl Yazz had to bump into him with his new girlfriend. I was already feeling fragile and the whole combination just became overwhelming and I cry-laughed down some side-street in Brighton. There was too much going on for me to process! I took a moment to sort myself out and continued to the pub, of course.

The second tweet, I actually wrote last night:

I find it very hard not to get excited when someone that I think is really cool and attractive, seems interested in me. The two-way thing is a rarity and so I need to make the most of it. This brings in two topics — my supposedly ‘high standards’ when it comes to the people I properly pursue, and my over-romanticising, over-emotional self.

I must just own so many pairs of rose-tinted glasses because, fucking hell, they never seem to come off! Even as I typed that first line I accidentally wrote “paris of rose-tinted…” — this romanticising shit never ends! I fancy a new person practically every week — it’s been like that for years, with three, maybe four, intense crushes or “chirpses” every year. And I become infatuated for a little while. (It’s embarrassing to admit, but I’ve gotten this far, nothing to hide now). It’s like reading a book backwards. I have this whole idea in my head of what could be. I have the end picture in sight, but I can’t work out how I could ever get there. I do it with everything in life; I struggle to focus on the present.

For me, nothing’s ever turned into a relationship or anything close. Everyone will tell you “it’s nothing to do with you” or offer comfort by saying that “it’ll just happen”, but with this many failed attempts, it’s impossible not to look at yourself. In my case, I think I might be too open — she says as she writes down everything she’s never said to anyone, but is prepared to put on the internet. I (clearly) don’t find it hard to be honest or to lay my feelings out (unless it’s going to hurt somebody). I think this can be for some people, which is completely fair and so I’m working at holding some details back when I meet new people.

Another issue that comes with this excitement, is me as pursuer-type. I’m ambitious in many areas — I want to do well at uni, I’m determined to somehow make a living as a creative, I will go up to cool strangers in an attempt to make a friend, and I’m not too shy to let someone know I’m interested in them. This too, can be a bit intimidating or forward for people. I never mean any harm or pressure, but I understand.

Then my ‘standards’. They aren’t high for a passing “oh I fancy them”/“they’re attractive”, but I’ve been told by friends a number of times that they are very high when it comes to me being properly interested in someone. Ultimately I think I know what I want — and that’s not to say it’s something serious. I say this in the nicest way, but I’m just too busy to waste my time on people I don’t really connect with. Although I feel lost and lonely sometimes, my self-esteem isn’t low enough to settle for anything that wouldn’t make me happy, and that, too, applies to many situations.

For the most part, I’m great. I have a wonderful life, with so many incredible opportunities. I’ve spent time living in four countries before I’m even turning twenty-one. I love my friends to pieces and would give the world for them. My family are supportive and I have a stable home-life. I generally like who I am as a person, even with all the insecurities I’ve laid out here… I have all this, and I still feel lonely.

I’m just one of those people who live inside their own brain. The past few years have made me realise how hard I work to try and be anyone’s anything. I want to be kind and interesting and smart and funny. If I can be all these things, then surely the ratio of hot:personality needed to be seen as attractive can change.

More than once, I have been referred to as someone who is ‘together’. I’ve become so good at putting on the smiley, patient front that I can even trick myself into believing the same thing. It’s not often that I let myself be angry at people — unless it’s political or they’ve explicitly been an ass. Almost every inch of ‘Yazz’ that is presented to the world is a choice.

When I was a younger teen, I thought that being a ‘manic pixie dream girl’ was a good thing. I recently (half) jokingly admitted to some friends that thirteen-year-old Yazz based herself off of Sam from ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ and that now I wasn’t sure where she ended and I began. I thought she was the perfect balance between quirky, smart and cool. Manic pixie dream girls are allowed to be multiple things, but each of the aspects have to be diluted. You can know about art, cars, games, sports, whatever! But you can never know more than the person you’re pursuing because, if you do, you’re a threat. I know some things about films and music and global affairs (and life)! These are the things I’m passionate about — and those who catch my eye usually are too. They find it exciting that I like the same things as them and think they’re complimenting me by saying things like “I can’t believe you’re into [very popular classic rock band, DJ, director etc.]” — for a while I took these comments as compliments too. Then when you step back, you realise that liking this thing isn’t particularly unique or alternative. The scenario is just a result of us all being taught that everyone appreciating the same aspects of culture — despite their gender, race, class etc. — is absurd. You’re “not like other girls” because someone of background can’t surely like the same things as someone from background.

Again, I’m not shifting the blame entirely onto one person or one group, because I too have been conditioned to think this way, and, admittedly, I still help fuel these ideas. Just last month even, I did something I’m really not proud of. I didn’t want to make the person I was on a date with uncomfortable, so I let them ‘educate’ me — in this situation, it was straight up mansplaining—on one of my favourite writer-directors. I wasn’t feeling the date from the get-go and so was just awkward and found it difficult to relax the entire time. I was uncomfortable and therefore I was unconfident. I didn’t want to destroy the mood or seem mean, so I let them tell me how they knew of a (very famous) filmmaker before their 2019 Oscar-nominated film was released. This particular person is one of my favourite people in the industry and someone I look up to as an aspiring screenwriter. It was Noah Baumbach. The same Baumbach who was nominated for his first Oscar in 2006, made every twenty-something’s favourite, ‘Frances Ha’, works with Wes Anderson and has a child with Greta Gerwig… that super alternative, undiscovered writer-director, yeah…

It continued and didn’t get much better from there now that I’m thinking about it. My internalised misogyny of having to be polite and agreeable went so far it scared me. Despite texting my friends that I needed to work out a way to leave an hour or so in, we spent seven hours together. We were walking, it started raining and he asked if we could come back to mine — please never ask someone that, let them offer. I didn’t know how to say no without seeming rude or upsetting him so I replied with “uhh yeah okay”. That was the closest I could get to saying “I’m not sure I’m into this, so no, sorry”. I thought the prolonged “uhh” and uncertainty in my voice might have been enough to get the idea across, but clearly, it wasn’t. He wasn’t a bad guy or anything — I hate that I’m defending him — but I just didn’t like him or think there was any chemistry there. It didn’t go so far as us doing anything I’d have been regretful of afterwards, but the way the whole situation played out is just something I’m ashamed of.

One way I’ve been trying to let go of my supposed high standards and negative feelings towards my appearance is by putting myself out there more. After banning myself from dating apps for eight months, that date was an attempt and evidently it wasn’t great. I have very mixed feelings about it, but writing it all out now, I understand that they’re mostly bad. I was trying to be carefree and just have some fun and not worry about things having to get ‘deep’. I wasn’t comfortable, I wasn’t particularly attracted to him and I wasn’t really thinking. It was a mix of adrenaline, wanting to let myself go and not wanting to upset him. I was some weird, half version of myself — still people-pleasing, but doing the thing I’m always against — settling.

I’m fine — I seriously am! And I don’t want people to worry about me or think that everything I’m discussing means I’m damaged or anything because I’m not. In (sad) reality, I expect many people who read this will have had similar experiences, it’s just that nobody really talks about them.

As girls, we’ve spent our entire lives being conditioned to think that we have to be one thing. You’ve either got the looks, or the personality, the brains or the body, you’re a prude or you’re a slut … it goes much further and much deeper than anyone really thinks it does, and once you realise this, you have to spend your time unlearning it. You’ve had this string of reductive, misogynistic ideas forced down your throat and you have to work out how to untangle it all to even be able to speak freely. Women aren’t one thing, or two, or ten, or three-hundred. Women aren’t at all. We’re complex human beings who have our own interests, thoughts, skills, talents and opinions. It’s probably going to take me a few years to get to the point where this is all I think of when I think of/see/hear the word ‘woman’ and therefore can accept myself as a Whole, Full Woman; I expect it to take even longer until I can unlearn everything else I’ve been led to believe about women, but at least I’ve recognised these issues at all.

Yazz James

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