Let’s talk about bone structure.
What happened to this blog? Am I watching too much ContraPoints? Probably, yes, since I enjoy her content. You could say I’ve been slightly obsessed with gender as of late, but that’s not exactly at random.
You see, all my life I’ve been suffering with several kinds of discrimination pertaining to gender. Some of them are issues I’m only noticing now, because previously I was a bit too busy trying to make sense of the bigger overarching prison I’ve been in for at least 2 decades — narcissistic abuse —which left me with little time or energy to focus on other social problems. These other social problems are, of course, things I experienced and keep experiencing first-hand, so although I will try to use an impartial voice, this article is undoubtedly inspired by my own unease.
First of all: please note I don’t exactly have access to any kind of thorough family records.
This is because my mother kept it all from me in a desperate attempt to discourage me from learning about our close and distant relations (because she probably didn’t want anyone from her past to call bullshit on any of the lies she told me, so I guess acting as though she and her mother appeared out of thin air was best). Personal resentment aside, I find it necessary to tell you that most of what I know about my background is because of DNA testing. I can’t exactly know what my direct ancestors going all the way back to Sweden actually looked like; what kind of clothes they wore; what kind of places they went to; because those photos are things I can only imagine and believe they once existed.
Hence, I can only resort to using famous people’s faces here in this article. I will compare myself to celebrities who have a Germanic background (Like Greta Garbo above, or Margot Robbie below) not because I think highly of myself, but because I litereally do not have access to photos for my goddamn family tree. And, ya know, using non-public people’s photos on a public article would get me in trouble. So, I hope you understand.
And why am I only talking about one side of my bloodline? Why not also talk about the Latino side?
Well, that’s simple: the Latino side (even more obscure — if mother hid her own, don’t even ask what she thought of my dad’s. Or probably non-biological dad, to be precise) actually would have better chances of fitting into what people regard today as a “feminised” face. Usually, when anyone talks about women who look “handsome” or “not that feminine”, they’re talking about a very specific facial structure — which I inherited — most prevalent in families of Germanic origin.
Another reason I am using celebrities in this article is somewhat more purposeful and (I hope) empowering to any of my readers who might perhaps relate — cis and trans alike. I want them, too, to see themselves represented in Greta and Margot and so many other celebrities universally recognised as beautiful. This is not to say the more “average-looking” woman with “Germanic” features (we’ll get to definitions in a sec. Hold your horses!) don’t also have their own beauty, because yes they do. But the first steps towards empowerment usually involve looking up to somebody else… Instead of looking straight at yourself in the mirror from the get go (although that is undoubtedly the final objective). And this, kids, is why we need representation in the media.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I wished I had enough money for plastic surgery.
This, my friends, started IN CHILDHOOD. Can you imagine that? A literal CHILD getting bullied because I “looked like a boy in a wig”. I vividly remember being on the receiving end of that when I was 11, at school. “Hey Lucy, when are you getting a sex change surgery”, the bullies shouted.
Surely it didn’t help that I went to a school for literal millionaires (because mam had to flex) and was one of the few middle class kids whose parents pretended to be rich there. So naturally, those kids had access to all sorts of media that preached a very specific beauty standard for girls and women.
Another aggravating factor is, perhaps, the fact we weren’t in our original place of settlement (because, surprise surprise, mother wanted out of her family before she even conceived me — and now ironically shames me for doing the same but this was a tangent for another post). I grew up in this small town with a close-knit community of Italian/Spanish/Portuguese ancestry. My taller-than-normal-with-boyish-features self and the VERY few black girls and the overweight girls there were the outcasts from a very early age because we looked “different” and out of the norm.
Again, hold your horses if you’re taking this the wrong way — I am not at all saying that the different kinds of discrimination above are comparable. They are NOT. All I’m saying is these kids are the ones I gravitated towards and socialised with (that is, if you don’t go into the few forced friendships with “popular” girls my mother tried orchestrating for me to stay relevant with other parents). I was a child. I didn’t even know the concept of “social problem” at the time. Don’t be taking rushed conclusions here.
The above story also proves I am not talking about hormonal imbalances or anything of that sort. Let me repeat: this was several years BEFORE I got my period.
Growing up, the same kind of bullying persisted — but now a bit more sophisticated and underhanded. “Nice” popular teenage girls giving me “advice” on how to fit in would often remark how I had unfortunate features that needed hiding or contouring with makeup. I was a bit of a punk at the time and laughed at them, but perhaps deep down I took it seriously, because my young adulthood had a very constant undercurrent of me feeling inadequate in pictures and always preferring the full-body shots instead of selfies.
This, my friends, was before 4chan even existed (and up until its very first years of existence, I suppose). So the phenomenon I’m talking about, although popular now in certain places of the internet, is nothing new.
It’s the same phenomenon that now makes people go around spreading fake news like “Margot Robbie is secretly trans”, “this cis woman is secretly trans”, “that cis woman is secretly trans” (solely because of the way they look).
This phenomenon is called mediatic propaganda.
I’m specifically talking about the mediatic propaganda pertaining to “attractiveness”. It’s not a science, because it changes with the ages according to the prevailing culture; And it can also change depending on place, even inside the same country and province — like we saw in my quaint little childhood story.
Who is attractive and who is unattractive? Well, usually, this depends on gender. When we look at gender stereotypes perpetrated by TV, Hollywood, theatre, opera, what-have-you… There is a very harsh binary that people adhere to because we are taught to adhere to it from an early age.
Generally speaking: if a woman is unattractive (ie, undesirable as a romantic partner according to the norm), she “looks like a man”. But if a man is unattractive, he “looks like a woman”. Coincidence? No. This is on purpose. This is done to reinforce the binary, which underpins many other inequalities and social phobias.
But wait a sec… Didn’t you say Margot Robbie, Greta Garbo, etc, are generally considered beautiful?
Well, yes, but not in the same way Marilyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn went on to become icons of femininity.
Greta and Margot are, according to the norm, “beautiful” because of symmetry. Almost like you admire an architectural masterpiece for how beautiful it is… But you don’t want to marry and have kids with it. (Absurdist example, but I hope you see my point).
Trust me, the reason I wish I could have plastic surgery isn’t because I am competing for the title of miss universe. I’m good, you go first, lol. I’d be pretty content with having average looks — IF I had average looks. What I want is to be considered feminine. And this is where myself and trans women probably relate.
The “barbarian woman” trope is age-old but still very alive and well.
Do you think it started with Hollywood’s round-faced and “soft” looking actresses always playing main character, whereas the Gretas got to have the dramatic and mysterious villains and temptresses? No. Actually, this goes back way further in time, as far as Ancient Greece (or probably even further — but Classical history is better documented so I’ll stick to it here).
In fact, there is a mythical “joke” that always goes over modern people’s heads (or at least, over the heads of those uninterested in these Historical nuances. I’m sure there are scholars among my followers. Hi, how are you?), and that is: Apollon wanted to sleep with mortal women, but they never seemed interested in him. This is why we have myths such as that of Cassandra, who made a deal with him (saying yes to that superpower he was willing to give), but still didn’t wanna sleep with him (saying no to the romance he wanted in exchange).
And why WOULDN’T anyone be interested in him? I mean, look at him. (The bust above). He is the embodiment of perfection — or was, at the time. He is definitely beautiful.
…But is he handsome, though?
Well, according to myth, no. He looked “effeminate” (and here’s another myth where a mortal remarks that and gets punished). Niobe’s myth is a cautionary tale about hubris, not about trying to disprove the fact Apollon is “effeminate” or his mother had difficulty giving birth — because these are considered facts within the mythology. It’s just things we, ya know, don’t say. They aren’t the epitome of niceness or etiquette. And these things definitely don’t signal respect towards the gods we are talking about… Although they are indeed very “true”.
So, if you look at Greek mythology with the open-mindedness required to at least try putting yourself in an ancient person’s shoes… You’ll probably understand the reason WHY all these princesses and women of prominence didn’t want to make love with Apollon — he is beautiful and virtuous like any god, BUT (and this is a But with capital B) he pushes the limits of “acceptable” masculinity both in his looks and antics, by being, ya know, so soft and merciful and willing to change his mind in conflicts and be compassionate all the time (Yes I know what you’re thinking — no, I don’t like Ovid or the myth he wrote — but even if you take THAT one literally, he wouldn’t have “raped” anyone if he wasn’t under a powerful spell. It’s not like he did anything remotely similar in any of the myriad of other myths). Anyway, tangents aside: the gender binary has been around for ages. And it can totally override someone’s attraction to somebody else because of this cultural conditioning we’re under.
Love it or hate it, Classical culture shaped the modern world — go blame the Renaissance, I’m just the messenger you shouldn’t try to shoot.
And again, love it or hate it, Classical imagery is full of men who look very “manly” and women who look very “feminine” by the standards of a very specific genetic pool which does not account for anything outside what used to be the Roman Empire.
Everyone else gets labeled “exotic”, “a weirdo”, or “built like a barbarian”.
This was true in 200BC and, save for the Medieval period when the “barbarians” were in charge of Imperialism… It’s true again today — the media has changed: now we look at screens instead of mosaics and paintings, but we’re looking at the same standard for a gender binary nonetheless.
And don’t get me started on the racial implications of that, too. Germanic people just so happen to be outside the norm AND be white. The non-white have it a lot worse (side tangent here, I know I don’t post selfies, but I also inherited the Latino “colour”. So, yay, double winner in the outcast lottery).
But Lucy, “why worry what other people think”, maybe you’re about to say?
“Just be happy the way you are”, “just embrace your natural looks”, “go on and define the new norm”.
Why do I always imagine a rich “influencer” totally out of touch with the working class reality giving this kind of toxic positive advice? Anyway, back on topic:
I am not going to take away anyone’s contrarian enjoyment in being “proud to be an outcast” — woohoo! Live your underground life away from any semblance of relevance, dear! You go, you do you!
I know some people enjoy staying away from power as much as possible (even because that makes it easier to blindly criticise anyone who gets power regardless of who these people truly are or what they bring to the table), and I am not here to rain on any hipster’s parade. It’s fine. The world is big enough for both of our contradictory ideas.
I do however have reservations against that approach. It never achieved any tangible results in History, now, did it? I mean… ask the Picts. “Disappeared without trace” my arse, they just didn’t care about influencing anyone outside their close-knit circle of acquaintances, so when their society finally collapsed… There were no outsiders left to tell the story. The same is true for the Myceneans, and [insert random overly “lunar” society where people keep to themselves a bit too much].
I’m not FOR Imperialism — that’s just the other extreme of the spectrum, no thank you, fuck off with the disgusting idea of “conquering” others. As with all things, I think striving for balance is best.
This is not about trying to convince the world myself and other women with the same kind of facial structure are the new feminine. It’s about teaching the world that variety exists. And if the world is afraid of that… Perhaps because it would make it harder to “tell”, on first impression, which women are cis and which aren’t (or which men are cis and which aren’t), that goes to show how superficial we have become as a society.
I don’t know… Try talking to the woman? Talking to the man? Try talking to the non-binary person in between? Learning about their likes and dislikes, the ways they’d like to be addressed? Perhaps THEN, we’d also destigmatise certain looks and start welcoming more kinds of people as potentially attractive — regardless of where they fall on the gender spectrum.
Maybe achieving a more egalitarian society in terms of beauty “norm” WOULD mean it will be “harder to tell at first impression” who is who… But why does that have to be a bad thing? Don’t we all WANT connection? Don’t we all WANT the chance to deepen our relationships beyond this extremely shallow level of simply looking at someone and automatically making assumptions?
Food for thought.