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Look Here, Woman...

By Mahsuda, Nov 21 2018 12:13PM

Look here, woman. Look at yourself in the mirror first thing. Suck in your stomach, slap your cheeks red. Think you are fat. Think this is a bad thing. Identify imaginary flaws in your faultless body and wish each one away.


Look here, woman. Look at your sleek collection of bottles and pots, jam-packed with promises of youth and standardised beauty. Believe youth and standardised beauty is something very important to you. This is essential.


Wash. Shave. Exfoliate. Moisturise. Blow dry. Straighten. Conceal. Contour. Pluck. Highlight. Define. Smudge. Glue. Flutter. Pout.


Look here, woman. Look at the body-shaping underwear draped across your exercise bike. The brassier that will give you fuller, pert breasts, the knickers that will give you a flat yet hour-glass figure. Be disappointed when they achieve neither. Remember to breathe as you tell yourself this is comfortable. Then remind yourself to use the exercise bike later.


Look here, woman. Look at eyes looking at you as you leave your door. Realise you are late for the bus but do not run. Know that no one wants to see your bits wobble, or witness your flushed face, or realise you are human.


Look here, woman. Look at the cinema poster on the side of the bus as it parks at your stop. See the beautiful blonde beside the ageing, charismatic lead. Step on the bus and rejoice that you caught it in time yet, when you sit down, feel unsettled without knowing why. Continue to seek the eyes looking at you. Be unsure whether they are looking at all. But do not, for one second, imagine that what they see is worthy. Be unworthy at all times.


Look here, woman. Look at your social media accounts. Flick through images of #weightloss and #fitspo. Convince yourself this is inspiring.


Look here, woman. Look at the dazzling shop displays as you walk down the high street. Stop outside the one with the white mannequins wearing fancy red knickers and lacey brassieres. Desire the stomach of the model in the background image. Read the slogan about ‘Must Have’s. Tell yourself this is fine. Ignore the fully dressed mannequins to the left; chiselled jaws, dressed to impress. Write a note on your phone to come back in your lunchbreak. Set a reminder. You must not forget.


Look here, woman.


Look in that mirror again. Trace the scar across your left brow with the tip of your finger. Witness the face that has laughed, the face that has wept, the face that has fought a thousand battles its lips have never verbalised. Feel the head on your shoulders, consider the brain inside it. Revel in the wisdom of your white hairs and wrinkles. Then grin with a devilish sparkle in your brilliant eyes.


Look here, woman. Look at the battles that are still left to fight. Shift your energy to the pay gap instead of your thigh gap. Reject the words ‘bossy’, ‘unladylike’ and ‘bitch’, unless they are said in praise. Opt-out from the glamorous sale of low-body confidence. Throw out your anti-aging/anti-living creams. #eefyourbeautystandards. Hear the women who have been silenced. Report even when others try to silence you. Be angered when they say “angry women are unattractive”. State that your ‘Must Have’ is human rights. Be outraged for the girls whose knickers are paraded in courts to indicate consent. Protest. Complain. Support.


Look here, woman. Look at the things you have achieved. Say them. Write them. Stick them to the ceiling so that instead of flaws you see strengths first thing in the morning. Understand that who you are is not measured in pounds and inches but in something far deeper than your skin.


Look here, woman. Look here.



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Winner of the Bristol Short Story Prize,

the SI Leeds Prize and author of

'The Things We Thought We Knew'

mahsuda snaith...