Empower Your Brain, Not Your Body

In a recent article in the Duke Chronicle, a Duke University student came forward admitting that in order to foot the bill for her college tuition, she has been working in the adult film industry. Immediately she was defamed and criticized, not just across campus, but across the globe as her story spread.

Recently, she came forward with her story in her own words, where she responds to the scrutiny and defends herself. She says that female sexuality is suppressed, and that she is merely embracing it while empowering herself to get a college degree. After all, she claims to be a feminist, but she works in an industry that many would say is anti-feminist.

My classmate, Lauren, raised a good question about this story. She asks, “Does she send a positive message by embracing autonomy and control over her own sexuality, or does her participation in an industry that helps her make a living off of her body only perpetuate the problems so many of us have discussed?”

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Well, I am not one to “slut shame,” nor does my opinion have anything to do with the UNC-Duke rivalry (Go Heels). But, it has everything to do with true female empowerment.

I beg to differ with this Duke university student who claims that waiting tables is more degrading than participating in a pornography. Sure, I’ve never done porn (and no, I never will), but how is sexually exploiting yourself less degrading than bringing people a meal? Sure, people may complain to you about your service and the quality of their food, but can you honestly say that you don’t find it degrading to be objectified through pornography?

And, furthermore, these films she’s making aren’t just going to disappear. Her body, and her actions, are going to be stared at for years to come – the Internet is eternal. People are not viewing these films thinking “Wow, this is art.” People are viewing these films and thinking things that I myself am too uncomfortable to even type.

I think this sends a horrible message to young women out there. Yes, it is absolutely, positively great to earn your own money and to not depend on anyone else. But, to earn your own money in such a manner is not empowering, it is indeed demeaning. And while I agree that females generally don’t embrace their sexuality as wholeheartedly as men, can you truly say that putting your body on display for all to see is embracing your sexuality? I argue that it is exploiting yourself and destroying your true, personal sexuality.

As women, we need to move away from the idea that our bodies are most valuable. We are so much more than our bodies, and we should not be paid to objectify ourselves. So Lauren, to answer your question, I think this student is perpetuating the idea that a woman’s body is where she holds her worth. We are more than our bodies, let’s embrace our brains.

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Radiance from Within

Have you ever read something that stops you in your tracks and brings you to tears? I know I have. For instance, My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult and Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall & Denver Moore, to name a couple.

Now, have you ever read an online blog post that moved you to tears? As of a few minutes ago, I can now say I have.

This letter written by Dr. Kelly Flanagan, a licensed clinical psychologist and father of three, had me weeping in my university’s library. This letter, addressed to his young daughter, takes a stab at the beauty and entertainment industry, whose skewed views on what it really means to be beautiful have seeped into the minds of young women across the world, destroying the self-confidence of many, one photoshopped magazine at a time.

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These industries have led people everywhere to come to believe that central to a woman’s beauty is her body, rather than her mind or her heart. I myself have been torn down by the world’s flawed definition of beauty, allowing the media to brainwash me into believing that being skinny is better than being healthy and that it’s what’s on the outside that matters more than what’s on the inside. I still have a lot to work on in this regard, don’t let me fool you, but this article made me want to change my ways all the more.

It is words like those from Dr. Flanagan that give me hope and bring me back to the reality that the media and the beauty and entertainment industries are the ones with the problematic definition of what it means to be beautiful. It is the media and these industries that are reinforcing these toxic pressures on women to be “perfect,” when perfection does not exist.

We, as a society, need to challenge the media to change the way it talks about beauty. We need to remind both men and women that your own beauty lies inside, in your soul. Sure this beauty can be outwardly displayed, but not in how you dress or what kind of makeup you dawn, but in your actions and your words, in how you choose to live your life.

Your true beauty has nothing to do with your haircut, your nail polish or your weight. Your true beauty lies in your strength to go after what you believe in, to live passionately and happily, to chase your dreams, to strive to make a difference in the world. Your true beauty lies in your ability to love yourself and to love the people and the world around you. 

It’s time to take a stand. It’s time to stop letting the media, celebrities, the fashion industry or anybody else tell us what it means to be beautiful. It’s time to embrace that everyone is beautiful in their own way, each with something unique to offer this crazy and wonderful world. It’s time for us to start changing the way we talk about beauty, and to stop making it about our bodies (thank you, Kenan, for this wonderful link).

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Remember, today and every day, that you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are worthy. And most importantly, you are the only you there is and there ever will be. Embrace and treasure this gift, a you that is once in a lifetime. 

Thank you, Dr. Flanagan, for speaking up and reminding your sweet daughter, and all of your newfound Internet friends, what beauty is really all about.