Here’s the thing.  No one, literally no one, can tell you what you’re supposed to do.  You have a choice in any and every single thing that you allow into your life (save actions done by others to you, ie. criminal acts) and what you do with your life.

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Too often we allow our mindset to trick us into thinking that you are supposed to be doing this or that, thinking this or that, pursuing this or that.

That’s why mindset work, getting into our wounds, shining love on them to heal is so deeply important.  And too often we are completely blind to where we need to shine love the most:  on beliefs that seem “obvious.”

Case-in-point:  earlier today I came across a blog-post-as-a-facebook-post that had an image of a woman in nothing but panties that showed her ass and it was accompanied with the following:

“This LOVELY image came in the mail today. It came with a coupon for free “panties” so I started flipping through the images of 19 year olds looking a bit too perfect. This image really stood out to me. No one thinks this is real…right? It struck me that 13 year olds probably do. And those of us who grew up with these images might know about Photo Shop, but still hold this as an ideal.

When will we stop comparing ourselves to fiction? What would it be like to be 13 again. To go back to the very first time I compared myself to another girl. To ask am I as pretty, as good, as important, as smart as her? And what would it be like to get a heartfelt, truthfull YES. Would I need to look any further? Would the sight of my 32 year old, mother of 2 ass in the mirror leave me feeling less than? Or maybe all the other things that are true about me would fill me up, show me that I am enough and leave me knowing the truth. – The picture of the ass from the mail is not better than, necessary, attainable or even real. It’s just an edited photograph, and I don’t even like those “panties.””

The comment thread pretty much agreed with her save one soul and yours truly (ME!).  Here’s the thing:  the ad did not tell her she was less than.  Nor did it say anything about how pretty, good, important, or smart the model was/is.  The OP also seemed to think the butt in question was fake/photoshopped.  Here is my series of comments:

Oh well when I was 19 I had a butt like that, too. One I worked damn hard for (lost 40 pounds to get it). I miss it AND I’ll get it back. And when I pose a certain way my butt STILL looks like that.

Sure, there’s lighting and brushing and filters for this picture.

The butt isn’t the problem.

The problem lies in whether this is further exploitation of women by objectifying rather than personifying them (i.e. Women are objects to look at instead of persons to know). And how it is received by vulnerable populations–teenage girls and boys. Because yes images like these can precipitate body image and eating disorders (or be used as thinspo). Boys can form unrealistic opinions about how women should look (often while neglecting their own appearances) and place undue amounts of pressure on them.

I’m a diehard feminist and am prone to say YES it does harm on a CULTURAL and SOCIETAL level. There’s a trade off for some women (what they have to eat and how they exercise) to achieve this look while for others it’s easy-peasy. The question lies in whether the PERCEIVED choice to choose this look is really a choice or simply a response in the patriarchal world we live in.

That’s not the butt’s fault. That’s society’s.

Another person chimed in saying that the ass wasn’t real either.  Which is an affront to people who really do have asses like that.  It’s just as harmful and denigrating to shame a person for being fit as it is to fat-shame someone.

To which I say:

Who says the ass isn’t real? Yeah, Photoshop is prevalent but not always used extensively. This is an assumption on the OP’s part.

This post is totally and completely about how the ass looks. She took one ass and how it looked and started asking if not having an ass like that makes her less than (it doesn’t).

And do you always listen to what society tells you you should be like?

Yes, there are serious issues around objectifying women and how that skews the thinking of girls and boys. However, I don’t look at that picture and think, “Well I’m just not good enough and I’ll never have anything like that. How dare they!?” There’s a lot to be said from a feminist POV (which I wrote in my previous comment).

That doesn’t negate YOUR choices. You choose to perceive the picture a certain way, to perceive your body a certain way, and to perceive what the average woman can achieve with her body. No one is putting pressure on you or anyone else to be or look a certain way UNLESS you ALLOW it. And the best way to help girls and boys who may take this as EVERYONE should look this way is to say to them “this is how one woman CHOOSES to look and you can choose to look another way. And be beautiful. Others can choose yet another way. The important thing is not to judge them for how they look.”

To which this other person said that we don’t have the choice to think like this, because “societal brainwashing [that starts in childhood], which happens because of exposure to media (and family who has been likewise brainwashed by media). If only adults were seeing photoshopped asses, fine, but that’s not the case. We don’t get to choose when society brainwashes us from childhood.”

And one more response from me (there were more comments between the two of us, but I think this sums up everything else that was said):  There are certainly many societal issues. Society can certainly influence lots of people’s thinking.

Yes, media sends a TON of messages (I did a whole class project on this back in college). It is what we do with those messages that are important. I don’t look at a model and think she’s better than me because she’s thinner and society says thinner=better. I just wasn’t raised to think that way (and as the only girl out of four kids, I made sure my parents knew when they did some gendered things…dresses to Sunday School? To this day I hear about how I lectured them at age 6 about how sexist that was…though obviously with simpler language). [To be clear, my choices growing up in poverty were very limited.  We were taught the one thing no one can take away from us is our education and our ability to think.]

Aren’t we more intelligent than that? To figure out that we shouldn’t base our self esteem on others or society’s expectations (or crazy sexist values)?

Ultimately no one dictates your thoughts and choices. If that were the case society would never change and in reality it’s constantly in flux, moving and changing every moment.

I firmly believe the first step in shifting women from objects (included perfected/photoshopped ones) to persons is for individuals to first know they each have a CHOICE in their thinking. They don’t have to take what the world says is good and pretty and beautiful at face value. We get to CHOOSE how we receive, perceive, and think. I frankly refuse to accept any other way of living for myself.

ETA: and it’s not the butt’s fault! That woman has every right to a nice booty and to show it off if she wants and make money to boot!

This exchange was very enlightening to me.  Women have so much bullshit out of our control in a world that is built on a patriarchal system.  From women’s wages to religious strictures to rape and sexual assault.  So. Much. Beyond our control.  To then say we have no control over our own mindset and thoughts and how we perceive and receive? That’s bullshit.  On top of that, this was a bunch of women attacking another woman for using society’s obsession with sex and beauty to make bank.  That’s how the patriarchy gets to continue perpetuating this ugly cycle of keeping women from fulfilling their full potential.  The work we are meant to do in this lifetime.  That ignites our soul.

It’s hard to go up against society.  It’s hard to challenge beliefs of “this is just how it is.”  It’s hard to think that maybe, just maybe there are some things within our control and we aren’t taking advantage of that (which is often the case with health and fitness and I’m just as guilty as the next person).  Yet.  It’s not fucking impossible.  Women do it every. fucking. day.  And guess what?

It starts with our mindset.

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