Thursday, December 3, 2009

of audrey hepburn complexes and (im)perfection.

i finally did it.

i unfollowed audreyhepburncomplex. i’ve thought about doing it a dozen times, but i hesitated because some of the stuff posted is really, really beautiful. i liked looking at it. i always went back and forth about it, but today i realized i needed to. it always feels empty, all style no substance. but it’s not the photos themselves that are the problem; it’s the subject. and the subjects make me feel upset with myself, repulsed by my body. with my ankles, belly, skin, legs. the photos posted aren't simply taken for the way the light was that day, or how wonderful that moment was; they feel contrived and obsessed with a certain reductive idea of beauty.

yes, there is a girl on a bike, but she is not riding it. she is posing in that spot, with that light, because it presents us with this certain idea of perfection, of beauty. she is ready to be consumed. she isn't telling me anything other than "my pretty dress matches my pretty bike and whoever is taking this photo knows what they are doing to make it look even prettier." photos like these only trigger negative thoughts in myself. jealousy, coveting, materialistic unimportant negative thoughts. this photo or any other photo you could find on audreyhepburncomplex, or the thousands of tumblrs or blogs or websites like it. i find myself thinking things like, my legs will never be that skinny, my skin has never and will never be that clear and smooth and pale, my arms will never fit into those sleeves, i will never own immaculate dresses like that, i will never be that person.

i don’t want to be that person. but more importantly, i don’t want to want to be that person. that’s what i like about me. i am a good person, i like to think. i try. i try not to get too caught up in thinking about what i look like, or about judging other based on what they look like. i try to surround myself with people who make me laugh and think and who i love and care about. i try not to be too hard on myself, while trying to keep my privilege in check and accept criticism with rationality, not defensiveness. i try to articulate the injustices i see happening around me and resist in the only ways i know how. does it matter what i look like while doing these things?

will wearing those perfect shoes and having the perfect sunflare coming through my window really make my life that much better? fuck no.

i don’t see myself as perfect, and i never will, and i never want to. perfection does not equal happiness, or vice versa. being happy with who i am and this body i occupy is an ongoing process, one i constantly have to remind myself about. unlearn this, julia, unlearn that. i like my strong legs, big jiggly thighs and all. i like my long fingers, my hands that often end up looking accidentally graceful, with lingering moments of teenage awkwardness. i like that i am tall and big, that my presence commands attention. my stretchmarks remind me that my body grows and changes and that that in itself is beautiful, not sad. i let go of the way my body used to look and try to appreciate it for what it is now, with all of its quirks and imperfections and limitations.

i’ve always liked the grit, the dirt under the fingernails, the beauty in awkward ugliness. i am attracted to the imperfections, the scars, the stories bodies tell us. i like the clothes that are falling apart, with the frayed ends, the stray threads, the holes in the armpits, the stains. memories of wine-soaked nights, who cares if the stain won't go away; it simply means the memory will last longer.

i like my hairy knees, the thick black hair of my armpits juxtaposed with my $5 yellow 1950s cotton day dress, with the hem falling out of course, and my crinoline falling down because the elastic is shot. i like it when my slip is showing. i like my goofy smile, because i am genuinely happy.

i hate the soft focus, the glow, the distractions. the world isn’t full of perfect sunflares, pretty camera lenses, the perfect poses made by the perfect bodies. it is real and it is dirty and digusting and it is fucking beautiful.

edited to add: i just recently realized how apt of a title "audrey hepburn complex" is. these unattainable beauty standards are suffocating us.


Miss Dee said...

I love this... very well said.

hannah + landon said...

You are that subject - you are the beautiful girl in beautiful clothing in a beautiful park. But! I've been following you online for a long enough time to know that you are also much more than that (and it makes me wish that our paths had crossed sometime in my 21 years as a canadian resident). It saddens me to think that the pictures in said blog would cause you to feel any inadequacies because in my mind you are perfect - you are strong and bright and beautiful.

While I agree that the world is indeed not full of perfect sunflares I see no harm in ceasing the opportunity to capture and enjoying the images that created as a result. (i am equally drawn to images of a more dirty and disgusting variety).

I feel a little sheepish saying all this as I'm well aware that my own internet presence often falls into that "soft focus, glowy, sunflare" business and am secretly hoping that you do not think less of me because of it, silly hm.

julia aka garconniere said...

hannah: this is exactly why i was so hesitant to unfollow this tumblr, and to raise these sorts of criticisms. because it does draw you in! it is beautiful! and like you say, "i see no harm in seizing the opportunity to capture and enjoying the images created as a result." i WAS starting to see harm in it, for myself, but it does not mean it is bad across the board. i seriously doubt the goal of the person running that blog was to make people feel insecure about themselves, but sometimes that's the result.

i'm glad you commented, i was wondering how you felt about it; some of your pictures are posted on audreyhepburncomplex... i prefer to see these sorts of photos in context, by the author or subject or photographer, you know? i think that's where part of my problem with tumblr lies. there are pictures of you in pretty dresses with dirty feet, and i love it because it's real and because you are presenting it yourself. you chose to upload it, to share it. in the case of audreyhepburncomplex i felt like some of the reality i love so much in blogs and photos was lost, or glossed over, you know? its context stripped away and simply presented as a "pretty thing."

Andi B. Goode said...

I think I half agree with you. I know what it feels like to look at those sorts of pictures and think the same things. To wish my stomach was flatter or my thighs skinnier. I don't do it so much, now, but sometimes I still do it and have to actually look away from the photo and remember I actually like the way my body is. It's funny because I like my body, now, but when I didn't I was actually a bit skinnier. But I think I've grown up.

But I still like to look at things that are pretty just for the sake of being pretty. Although, it is a shame when those pictures are of people, isn't it? To just be a pretty thing is a bit empty. Then again, maybe if the picture is seen as a whole (ie a pretty picture that just happens to have a person in it) it's not so bad? I do see what you mean, though, about it being harmful to you and I think the decision to stop looking at it (for yourself) is probably a good idea if it's making you feel bad.

I always wonder what people think of me because of how I dress - you know, whether they think I'm 'just a pretty face' and obsessed with my image. I don't think I'm obsessed but I just like to look neat...I'm still attracted to the less pretty things and less neat things in life, though.

I think I've gone a bit off-topic. I don't think I leave comments this long on any other blog.

-Andi x

P.S. I have an article written by Rachel Moseley on Audrey Hepburn called 'Tiaras and Trousers' or something. Have you read it? It's not related to this post but the title made me think of it.

anja louise verdugo said...

Thanks for this! Even though I love a good sunflare, I still know the feelings that you're describing. I have a bad habit of relating those feelings to my level of personal success- like, if I was skinnier, if I was prettier, more people would read my blog, buy my dresses, etc. I just wanna be me, and I am trying to be that, because it's too hard to be anything else! I know you just said something about this on your lj too- it's so weird/complicated to be involved in fashion in the ways that we are while also not really being down with the ideals that it represents. It's hard to know where to draw the line, and where we belong and how "fashion" and "beauty" as they're presented endlessly online relates to what I like, what I believe in, what I enjoy.

I also agree that I love seeing Hannah & Landon's photos because I know (internet know) them, I know that the moments they're capturing are pure and fun and done with love, not just a picture taken to be pretty because the internet likes pretty. It means more when you can connect the photos with a life.

And honestly, unfollowing and just eliminating that source is the best therapy. I haven't had to do it in a while now, but occasionally I just reach a breaking point and unsubscribe from pretty much every blog I read, needing to detox and just remember to pay attention to the things I really like and not bombard myself with pictures of beautiful models and skinny bloggers in their expensive clothes as if that's something that is relevant to my person. It's always, always good to reconnect with yourself and sometimes the only way to do that is to silence the outside voices that are present in your brain-space.

ps you're great

Amelia said...

I like the realness of this post - it IS the girls in the $5 thrifted dresses with the goofy smiles and worn out soles who make the best magic. Of course, if I had $300 I would never spend it on designer heels and sunflare photos anyways.

Emerald said...

I really don't agree. I think the whole point of photography is to show the beauty that can exist in the smallest moments of life. I mean, this should never make you doubt your own beauty, because, yes, there is great beauty in imperfection, but the beauty of taking a really good picture, or of the perfect sunflare is not something we should ignore in life. Not everything should be a reflection of you.

Dottie said...

I don't know the particular sites you reference here, but I agree with you about the detriment of over-saturation of manufactured beauty. In particular, I am quite tired of the "sweet girl on bike" photo when the girl obviously is using the bike only as a prop. That's not showing beauty existing in the smallest moments of life, that's a cheap knockoff. (Not saying that's the case with the photo above, but I see a lot of stuff like that floating around.)

Ashacado said...

Yes yes yes! I have absolutely nothing to add. Just well said. I needed this food for thought today.

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