YouTube is a platform that graces the correlation between publishing and new technology; creative content of all genres is posted by millions of channels on a daily basis through the form of videos. Mother-daughter duo StyleLikeU have also taken this opportunity to publish content that encourages self-expression and empowerment.
One of the most popular videos on their channel features Australian actress Caitlin Stasey, whom I have watched on my TV since I was a young girl as my mum and I tuned in for Neighbours. While always having seen her as beautiful, the only other things I’d known about Caitlin Stasey was that she starred in Reign and that she’d launched her own website (herself.com) in hopes of allowing women to represent their bodies without feeling sexualised. This beautiful notion is matched by what she says in StyleLikeU’s video of her, though a certain tone of sadness tinges her words.
Stacey speaks of how the way in which women present themselves are contorted by their audience, as if the female body itself is a spectacle; she speaks of how ‘women’s bodies are so often taken from them, objectified’. She remembers the time a professional director observed her sharing a room with a fellow actor and claimed that every changing room comes with a ‘pretty girl’, as if pretty girls are ornaments and furniture instead of individual people. Stasey notes that long hair on girls is seen as an implication that they are ‘stupid’, whereas short hair is seen as a bold and defiant move. Having recently cut a severe number of inches off my own hair, I realised that I, myself, related short hair on girls with boldness – why? I seem to associate short hair with a form of rebellion against the typical feminine image. (To be fair, I also cut my hair because I was drawn to the idea of not taking hours drying and sorting out the mess on my head.) But what is so negative about being feminine in the first place? Why is being feminine associated with weakness and inferiority? To address the issue at hand, a lot of my friends have long hair and they are some of the most brilliant and resilient people I know.
The actress also comments on how every ‘pretty girl’ in the media is ‘a variation of a theme’; representation – of women of colour, trans women, disabled women – is lacking. And so our perception of beauty is contorted into the belief that only the presented variation of a pretty girl is pretty. Stacey states that even as a white woman, the women she sees on large screens are ‘contrived’.
The issue with men representing women is that they present the gender through their own eyes, not through a woman’s. For instance, all women know – or I hope they know – of the normality of developing at least minor stretch marks as their body develops, but the women on our screens bear none; so we buy creams or go to even further extents to get rid of the signs on our bodies that represent development as human beings. Things such as stretch marks aren’t even associated with men, which is an even wider issue as it is perfectly normal for every human being to have them. Such issues – while obviously not as important as other global events – are, as Caitlin says, a ‘part of a wider pool of oppression’ that needs to be recognised.
My favourite part of the video occurs when Caitlin Stasey is asked why her body is a ‘good place to be’. The actress responds: ‘I’m very lucky to be in my body – it’s a good place to be – because it works pretty perfectly. It does exactly what I need it to do.’
Watch the video interview here. Yes it’s one of those videos that is longer than two minutes, but yes, it is worth it.