So we’re not long into 2016 and January has already proven itself to be a bit shit. I love the new year and the idea of a fresh start, taking absolute delight in the whole ‘new year, new me’ cliché. I have set myself some manageable (I hope) resolutions, which I feel dedicated to completing and which, (I hope) will make me a better me. Better is a suitable word because – as I’ll be the first to admit – there are definitely things I can improve about myself, whether that’s my confidence or my slight tendency to get very very drunk and make semi-wild (stupid) decisions.
But something that keeps wriggling its way into my day-to-day life is the question of who I’m doing this ‘better-ing’ for. As we so often discuss in feminist discourse, can we actually do anything…ever…without doing it for the purpose of the male gaze? In making myself ‘better’, am I doing this for me, or for society? I’ve said I want to be better, but better than what? Better than who? And why?
The existence of the male gaze is something I’m sure those stronger than I can dismiss, but personally I don’t think it has been fully moved away from yet. I base my opinion on the fact that our society was founded by males, with the most obvious example of this being the study of history, not hers. Because of this – what’s known as ‘structural oppression’ – women take a natural secondary position, which isn’t to say we should, just that we do.
I think I’m making these changes for me. If someone were to ask why I dress the way that I do, I’d say that. If someone were to ask why I want to improve certain areas of my life, I’d answer in the same way. I think I’d be telling the truth, too; I tried changing for the benefit of someone else not too long ago and it didn’t work, like, at all.
As much as I wish it wasn’t the case, though, maybe I want to be ‘better’ for the outside world. Amazing role model that she isn’t, Khloe Kardashian will soon be starting a new show, one that centres around attaining something called a ‘revenge body’. From what I understand, she’s championing ‘looking hot’ as the ultimate way of getting back at your ex because, as I’m sure you know by now, appearance is all that matters. There’s a Guardian article that responds to this farce perfectly, do have a look for it because it says everything I’d like to.
As I’m running out of words, though, I’ll just give the gist – that this (obviously) is utter shit. I really really loved David Bowie and so I want to say something about him, even if it’s only small. Part of the reason he will always be valued is because he did whatever he wanted to do. He pioneered a movement that hadn’t even really started yet and, in breaking down gender stereotypes, propelled self-worth to exceed the patriarchal barriers that enclose us all even today. That’s why I think I will always answer that I’m attempting to better myself for my own benefit, because I want that to be the case, whether it in fact is or not. The patriarchy will only be dismantled if we fully go at it, armed with weirdness and creativity and bravery as David Bowie did. Khloe Kardashian can think what she likes, but I reckon that treating myself better, getting to know myself better, doing all that I can do to like myself more – that is the ultimate, and (if you’re really that bothered) the sexiest form that ‘revenge’ can ever take.