With today's photos from a trip to the Block Arcade in Melbourne, I want to talk about two phrases that I have taken out of my vocabulary. Those phrases are 'you wore it better' and 'you look pregnant'. Let's start with the 'you wore it better' phrase. On a recent trip to a racewear event for the Bendigo Fashion Festival, I discussed with my sister what I would do if someone was wearing the same thing as me. Most times in our lives, the same attire doesn’t matter. I’ve worked with one of my closest friends for over a year now and we’ve found it funny that for the most part we haven’t come into work accidentally wearing the same outfit. Events like weddings or races are different though. There seems to be a stigma attached to wearing the same thing as someone else unless you happen to be in the bridal party. Can you imagine attending a wedding and accidentally discovering you’re wearing the same dress as the bridesmaids?
You wore it better
When deciding what I would do if someone at the Bendigo Fashion Festival event was wearing the same thing as me, I decided I’d do what comes naturally: I’d run over, hug them, tell them they have amazing taste and get a photo.
Someone else wearing the same thing as me is not a competition. It’s not about who wears something better. Tell me, is your natural reaction to quickly reassure a friend they are wearing it better than ‘that other bitch’ or is it to recognise that someone else in the room has the same aesthetic tastes to you? Choose the celebration. That shared bond is something to celebrate.
At a Taylor Swift concert last year, I spotted a woman in a different section of the audience wearing the same skirt as me. I mentioned it to the woman next to me and she said reassuringly ‘oh don’t worry, you’re wearing it better’. I responded by raving about how well the women was wearing it and how great it would be to run into her in the halls of the stadium. I think it helped changed my companion’s perspective.
If I’m confident in who I am and if I am confident in who other women are, then there is no need to feel threatened by the same dress or skirt or top or shoes. I understand and respect my own uniqueness and I also understand and respect theirs. I feel like this stems from a place where women work to modify their bodies to be not too skinny or fat, with boobs that are just right and waist that is the right shape and skin just the right amount of tan. It’s a gradual washing away of identity and the things that make us different. Yep, my bum and her bum and different shapes and sizes. That’s great. Our power comes from within us, not from how many boxes we tick on the Barbie doll check list. When I see a woman wearing the same clothes as me, I’m seeing a unique person from a complex and long life, coincidentally at the same place as me, enjoying a parallel of aesthetics. What a way to have a shared experience with another unique human being!
You look pregnantNow let's look at the phrase 'you look pregnant'.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a round belly. There is no straight line from my crotch to my cleavage. My waist nips in at the sides, but the front sits out in the perfect mound round at the bottom. I’m totes ok with this. Being ok with this isn’t something most woman would come to automatically because having a belly is associated with being pregnant and/or being fat.
I say ‘and/or’ because both times I’ve had pregnant sisters, I have had people refer to them as being ‘the fat one’ or just ‘fat’. Our current society has a doctrine of ‘skinny’ being desirable and attractive that is so permeated through our world that people assume that weight is an indicator of health.
Let’s take a moment to look at this. If all ‘skinny’ people are healthy, then we’re endorsing eating disorders, the unhealthy side-effects of diabetes or even cancer treatment, excessive exercise, thyroid problems, lack of muscle and more. If all ‘fat’ people are unhealthy, then we’re condemning people who run marathons, lift weights, and carry too much muscle as being unhealthy. A person’s size is not an indicator of their physical health. Understanding this helps identify that the only reason being skinny is the ultimate goal isn’t related to health, it’s related to perceived attractiveness and the quest to be desirable.
When a person ‘looks pregnant’, this is being used to shame them. It’s another way of saying that a person looks fat. It doesn’t just shame people that aren’t skinny, it shames people who are incubating other human beings.
On top of that, unless a person acknowledges that they are pregnant, don’t assume. A week after having her baby, my sister had someone ask ‘when are you due?’ It was incredibly awkward. She proudly said ‘I’ve just had the baby. He’s a week old.’ The person then fumbled around attempting to justify why they had assumed she was still pregnant. I have known several people who have looked pregnant even though they weren’t. A common side effect of pregnancy is to have the abdominal muscles separate so that the stomach protrudes, looking like a person might still be pregnant. This doesn’t always resolve with time. I have friends that had surgery to fix it because of the constant comments they received about ‘when are you due?’
When you say that someone ‘looks pregnant’, it’s not said in a positive light. It’s something that’s said to degrade a person for their looks. If you’re about supporting other women, recognise where it comes from, vow not to say it about the strong and complex women in the world around you. Create a space where women don’t have to fight the constraints you’re putting in place to be the powerful person they are.
Top: C Wonder
Belt: David Jones
Photos: Goldfields Girl
Location: Block Arcade, Melbourne