Diana Martinez is a senior from Mount Holyoke College and a woman’s history major and Spanish minor. Her journey as an activist began when she joined her college’s feminist a capella group called The Nice Shoes, who sing empowering songs to promote human rights. With the Shoes, her Mount Holyoke sisters, and strong influences from her sister and mother, she has learned how to effectively dialogue and raise awareness about the issues most important to her. Diana says, “The SPARK Summit champions my beliefs about the perceptions of women, and I cannot think of a more effective, or FUN way to join the struggle for equality!”
“Sexy” has become one of the most exclusive words known to pop culture. Judging by lyrics to songs, the dancers in music videos, and the models in magazine and billboard advertisements, it seems there is only one type of sexy in society. As the media’s influence grows, the vision of sexiness narrows because such patriarchal images of women penetrate almost every mind in society on a daily basis.
Why is it that we allow the media to tell us which characteristics constitute sexiness? We know the agenda behind the media: to sell products and to stabilize social norms by perpetuating stereotypes. So then why is their definition held up above all others’ opinions? Because the media’s ideal images become the public’s opinions. The media teaches its audience that there is only one acceptable body type that can be sexy. It also teaches us that sexiness can only exist in a woman’s appearance, as opposed to her personality or skills. The media’s definition of sexy allows only a small population of women to follow its strict requirements, and in doing so preaches to the rest of the women that they aren’t worthy of attraction or a relationship.
Who does the media teach us to be sexy for, anyway? I should think this answer is quite obvious. Girls and women are taught that the purpose of imitating sexy is to attract boys or men. Let us remember that the majority of television advertisements are geared toward males between 18-34 years of age. Once again, this is a case in society in which women are to be dependent on the opinions and desires of men. This idea, in and of itself, is highly heteronormative, implying that women should only try to attract the opposite sex, not other women. It also clearly suggests that women should not be achieving sexiness for themselves, either.
So if we are the ones who are expected to pull off sexy, why is it that we are subject to the narrow definitions of the media and patriarchy? Shouldn’t we be the ones defining what makes us the sexiest? We do, after all, know our own individual bodies and personalities better than anyone else.
A woman’s strengths are sexy. She should figure out what they are and accentuate them. Emphasize that part of you that you love the most, quite possibly some part that defines a particular aspect of your personality or identity. After years of fighting with the hair straightener, I realized that my curly hair defines a huge part of my ethnicity, and I learned to make my big hair work for me instead of against me.
If we did just try to be sexy for ourselves, we would be more satisfied and comfortable.
Just because the television classifies sexy in a particular form does not mean we have to be dependent on its definition. We must remember that there are plenty of people who find attraction in certain characteristics that do not follow the ideals of the media. Although the media can seem all encompassing, it does not completely brainwash its viewers. You may find that many agree that your natural physique is plenty sexy.
To me, “sexy” is another word for attractively confident. Notice the emphasis on the word confident, not the other way around. I strongly believe that sexiness is not present just because someone is normatively attractive and displays it well. Sexiness is constituted in one who feels confident, and in turn, his or her confidence attracts others.
Confidence manifests attraction and therefore, confidence is sexy! Do you ever hear the phrase, “She’s sexy, and she knows it”? It’s an obvious example of a woman flaunting what she is proud of, and her ability to do so comfortably. We just have to think outside of the box in terms of what is sexy. You can be proud of any aspect of your body, even if it is does not fit the media’s ideal of exemplary beauty. Or, you can demonstrate sexiness through strong aspects of personality. Strength is sexy; intelligence is sexy; assertiveness, activeness, generosity: all sexy. And, if you are one of those few people who happen to lie in the category of the media’s ideal, do not think that you can’t flaunt it if you’re proud of it.
It is true, not every woman has that look, but it is still your own body and personality to take pride in. So pick your favorite characteristics (and even some of your not-so-favorite characteristics) and show some pride! A sexy person is one who is comfortable in his or her own skin, and comfortable with what he or she is doing and saying. Set an example and feel sexy with your self, it’s amazing how contagious confidence can be!