Feminism, body image and mole rats

My goal for this year has been to read more feminist literature. Aside from Daily Life and Jezebel consistently appearing on my recently browsed list, success has been limited. Until last week! It took me six months, but I finally finished my warped, dog-eared copy of The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. It was collected from a backpacker hostel in Borneo, taken to Australia, dropped in a bath, and finally immigrated to Singapore where it was eventually consumed. I know I’m about 20 years late for this bandwagon but it floored me.

The part that sticks in my mind is when we are asked to consider how long we, as women, spend on our appearance. When you add up how much extra time you’ve spent in the shower shaving your legs, those few extra minutes it takes in the morning to slather on some make up, not to mention the haircuts and colours, the waxing and plucking, the moisturising and exfoliating. It’s exhausting to think of our little rituals in such a way, especially when, most of the time, we pretend they don’t even exist, that we just woke up looking like this.

Imagine what we could achieve if we could put that time towards something more productive. The novels we could have written, the diseases we could have cured, the countries we could have run! It boggles the mind.

Maybe we should be focussing more on what our bodies can do rather than what they look like. That’s what I’ve been trying to etch into my brain recently. That it’s not about my pimply chin or pudgy thighs, it’s that those thighs take me where I need to go and that chin… Um, it holds my teeth in? Anyway, this line of thinking started when I took up running about 18 months ago, an activity that I had previously never even considered as something that could even be done, let alone be enjoyable. The whisper grew louder when I started kiting. It reached a screeching climax three-quarters of the way up Mount Kinabalu in Borneo. Who would have thought that my body, until recently just used for filling up clothes and transporting caffeine to the bloodstream, could take me to the top of the highest mountain in the Malay Archipelago? Albeit with some wheezing, sore legs and tears, but let’s leave that for now… The change in my attitude really hit me after going wakeboarding a few weeks ago. Wakeboarding is by no means a huge feat of human strength and endurance, at least not at my level, but it felt good to try something new and trust that I would be able to do it first (ok, second) go. When previously the response to an invitation like that would have been “I can’t”, now it’s “I’ll try”.

Our bodies are by no means impressive. No offence intended but really, we can’t change colour or fly, and we don’t have horns or antlers to gore other people with. They are however the only ones we have, so we do need to make the most of them and appreciate what they can do, not what they look like.  This guy should be an inspiration to us all.


It’s a naked mole rat. They have the longest life expectancy out of all rodents and resist cancer. But that’s not why he’s famous, it’s because he is ug-ly. I bet the last thing on his mind though is getting a wax to be bikini-ready, or getting a spray tan. And he’s naked all the time. He’s much too busy eating bugs and digging to worry about how he looks. Also he’s blind… Ahem. So maybe we should think of little naked mole rat next time we’re stressing about how much weight we’ve lost/gained or if we’ve over-plucked our eyebrows. Mole rat doesn’t care, he’s too busy outliving other rodents and resisting cancer.

 Image from http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/photos/13-of-the-ugliest-animals-on-the-planet/naked-mole-rat 

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