Editor’s Note: Kate Valentine, also known as celebrated burlesque host Miss Astrid, is the creator of The Va Va Voom Room (1997), a contemporary pioneer, and one of the best emcees in the business. It is a privilege to share a new article from Kate with you, and I welcome your thoughts in the comments section below. Happy reading. H-M.
The modern problem of body self-loathing has reached epidemic proportions. Most people of the Western world seem to be afflicted. Yet the problem itself is not a disease, it is a bad habit of negative self-talk. The good news is that like any habit it can be broken with dedication and practice.
I have a two year old daughter and I can assure you she has never had a single moment of self doubt… yet. This dysfunction is not something that springs inherently from human nature, but is a cultural dysfunction. We have to call bullshit on it, not only individually but collectively, as it is a highly contagious disorder.
Women quickly sink into the vernacular of self-loathing as small talk. ‘I feel so fat today.’ ‘Oh my god, me too!’ People slip into this type of conversation lightly, without thinking. That faux-sisterly banter is not helping anything. Its not even helping people be less ‘fat’.
“When I got involved with neo-burlesque more than fifteen years ago, it was the first time I sat in a room with a group of women where the conversation did not veer into self-hatred.”
One of the more striking things about active body-loathing is that it seems like it would be more effective. It seems like all this negative talk would spurn people on to ‘do something’ about their ‘problem’. If everyone who talked about how hideous their bodies were used their negativity as a riding crop to whip themselves into thinness it would almost make sense in a horrible way. Instead, what I have more often seen is that people lose weight and then are surprised when they still feel bad about themselves. That is because the true stealth goal of negative body talk is to hate and debase yourself. Your body is just the easiest means to that end.
When I got involved with neo-burlesque more than fifteen years ago, it was the first time I sat in a room with a group of women where the conversation did not veer into self-hatred. On the contrary. Here I was sitting in a room full of women of various ages and shapes that were owning and valuing their unique selves. It was radical. And there were so many more things to talk about!
At that moment it occurred to me that perhaps the ticker tape of negativity that scrolled through my head on a daily basis – that started with my body and then went into every other perceived flaw – could just be cut. Perhaps I could simply decide to stop saying these things to myself. I am going to tell you that it was a lot easier than I imagined. I am going to tell you that beneath all of that sadness and self-pity and disgust I had a feeling I had value.
“…pledge to accept yourself now as you are. Not 10 pounds from now. Not when you get that job or when you meet the love of your life. Quit today — cold turkey!”
I challenge whoever is reading this to consider joining me. What I am suggesting is nothing short of radical self-acceptance. That means you pledge to accept yourself now as you are. Not 10 pounds from now. Not when you get that job or when you meet the love of your life. Quit today – cold turkey! Sometimes it will not be easy, but I really believe it will be easier than you imagine.
None of this is to say you should not be rigorous with yourself. When you are stronger, look at yourself objectively. Strive to be your best physically and mentally, but on your own terms to live your best life.
How much time do you spend with negative self-talk per day? 15 minutes? A hour? All day long? Do the math and figure out how much time that eats up in a year. Then consider donating that time to people in real need. Getting outside of yourself is a great balm, and while body self-loathing is an epidemic in our society, I think we can all agree there are much worse problems. (15 minutes a day is 84 hours in a year.)
“A monolithic concept, perfection implies one correct way that only a few are able to attain. It is destructive and should be removed from your goals.”
You can blame the media, you can blame society, but this starts with you. If you can’t love your self enough yet, think of all the special people in your life that you admire. Think about them being subjected to this type of abuse. You would stand up to anyone who tried to talk shit about your friend or your sister, right? Now consider giving just 10% of that love and respect to yourself.
Think about what a great lover you will be when you feel confident about yourself inside and out. Then you will be able to give more because the focus won’t always be on you and your deficits. Think about what a great friend you will be when you don’t steer the conversation into group self hate. Think of what a great role model you will be to your siblings or children by not passing on this habit of hate. Above all, think of what a good pal you can be to yourself!
One of the enemies is surely the false goal of Perfection. A monolithic concept, perfection implies one correct way that only a few are able to attain. It is destructive and should be removed from your goals.
Instead, I would like to promote the idea of Flawlessness. Flawlessness means that we are all inherently free of flaw. Also, Flawlessness comes from the fierce, queer tradition of serving up the best YOU can.
Welcome to the Flawless Foundation. Pass it on!
Quoted in major international newspapers and held in high esteem and affection by the international burlesque community, 21st Century Burlesque Magazine has documented the contemporary burlesque scene since 2007. Founded and edited by Holli-Mae Johnson.