Nayyirah Waheed on Women Being SeenI am not a woman who cares much about her appearance.  I don’t say that in a self-deprecating way or as any form of indication about how I care for myself. . . but it’s simply true.Most days, I don’t glance in the mirror much less stare at myself long enough to make any changes to my appearance.

I place no judgment on women (or men) who do.  I simply don’t. I haven’t had a haircut in almost a year. I wear make-up only on rare occasion. Most of my days are spent in various versions of jeans and t-shirts.

I’m not immune, of course, to body image issues, and when I hear people dismiss women because of their appearance alone, I get livid, almost as angry as when men tell me that books by women have nothing to say to men. (Whew, just writing that sentence made my jaw clench.)

I spend a great deal of my energy on forming my mind because – through some act of grace or intention – that is where my parents taught me to place my value.  I am eternally grateful for that lesson.

One great advantage to being a woman who writes is that, as Waheed suggests here, I can separate myself (almost) entirely from the obsession that many cultures and individuals have with women’s appearance.  I can be most entirely me.  It’s liberating.

On days when I watch the media rip into women who gain weight or who glorify a change in haircut or who judge the way a celebrity cares for herself because she decided to go out the door without a full make-over, I am especially grateful that I spend most of my hours here, alone, at this desk, where what I say and how I relate to people matters far more than whether or not my make-shift ponytail is really flattering to my face shape.

I pray I get to spend my whole life letting the words of others change me, open me, build me into a more compassionate person, and I pray that my own words do the same.  I want to be the woman who uses her words to lift people up, not tear people down.  I want to be the writer who values other women for their minds, not their hips.

Women, how do cultural assumptions about women’s bodies affect you? Men, how do you see the women you love being affected?

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