Deprogramming: Truly Loving Women

"She's too big to be wearing that."

"She's just a tad bit on the ho-ish side."

"How does she expect to get a boo being so...ratchet?"

Yes. This was me. There are thoughts that actually left my mouth on several occasions. In different circles. Without any hesitation. Timehop (that harmless little app that reminds us all of how juvenile and immature we've been on social media) has caused me to really reflect on the "me" I used to be. There are several days where I'll see an old status I posted with an unabashed, shaming opinion and I cringe. HARD. My body literally tenses up. Most days, it feels like an out-of-body experience. I ask myself, "Did I REALLY say that? To real people? OUT LOUD?!" And the answer is always yes. But more importantly, I believed the things I said. Now approaching 26 years of life, I don't believe those things anymore. My beliefs are the polar opposite. Still, I had to hold myself accountable for the destructive perceptions that I not only held, but expressed to other people. Yes, I openly judged and shamed women.

I realize that my mentality was similar to the ideal that we should "love the sinner, but hate the sin." I had friends and acquaintances from all walks of life. I truly cared about these people. But I didn't always approve of certain decisions these women made. I was loving the "offender", but hating the "offense." Where did that come from? I figured that it was time to do some major soul searching to discover the roots of my judgment. Upon some deep reflection, I began to understand that my inclination to shame women came from a few different sources. The two major ones were outside influences that spewed respectability politics, and my own insecurities.

I've been going to church since I made my exit out of the womb. This means I've spent my life around church folks. Though I've found both comfort and love in non-denominational spaces, I grew up in traditionalist sanctuaries. It was practically instilled in my psyche that every decision a woman makes will reflect the type of man she can get. I won't even just simply say "attract". GET. As if the acquistion of a man is the ultimate goal to which a woman should aspire. I heard that if you wanted a good man or to attain the respect of good men, you should dress well (but not too sexy) and act like a lady (by being classy, delicate and soft-spoken). So much of the rhetoric I received was geared toward women being acceptable and suitable for consumption. Every decision a woman made (how she dressed, how she decided to express her sexuality, whether she wanted to have children or get married) was intented to meet the approval of men. And more importantly, other women perpetuated this perception. I watched women I knew judge other women, tear them down, and even exile women that they deemed social unacceptable.

What mattered more than the things I was hearing was the fact that I was battling my own insecurities on a regular basis. I've always been a thicker girl, and I hadn't learned how to embrace myself. There wasn't a lot of love for girls that looked like me. I can't say that I recall there being a fat-positive movement in my adolescent years. I wasn't confident in my body, even when family and interested parties would geniunely tell me I was beautiful. I had internalized my own self-criticism, as well as back-handed compliments like "You're so pretty to be your size," or "Just think of how much cuter you'd be if you lose a few pounds." I took these to mean that I was inadequate. Therefore, it was second nature to tear down thick women who had way more confidence than I did. I was envious. It was easier to say that a girl shouldn't be wearing a dress with all her rolls showing than to say that the dress was cute and I wanted one for myself.

Approaching my senior year of college, I believe my mindset changed drastically. I can't clearly identify the pivotal moment that sparked my transformation, but something in my soul shifted. Maybe it was meeting young women fighting on the front lines for reproductive rights, having lunch with fellow fat girls who loved to eat and had no shame wearing miniskirts, or having deep conversations with women who didn't believe in monogamy. Whatever it was, it affected me. Somewhere between meeting women who were dedicated to a life following Christ, women who cracked open a Bud Light every evening, women who had babies right after high school, and women who hated the idea of marriage...I realized that a women's voice and choice is her power. And shaming her was a big part of the problem. If society devalues a woman, and I devalue her as well, then who is left to cherish her? This is not to say that women can't hold themselves up and love themselves. They've been doing it since the beginning of time. But why should she have to love herself...alone? Why should her choices leave her marred, marked, and set aside? I don't have a heaven or hell to put anyone in, nor am I the image of perfection. It's not my place to criticize or condemn.

I often see this meme (which I loathe with every fiber of my being) that says "Too many Beyonce's and not enough Badu's." This thinking is so backward. Both types of women are important and valuable. I don't care if you like MAC makeup and Balenciaga heels, or shea butter and Doc Martins. I don't care if you're career driven with the plans to be forever single, or a stay-at-home wife and mother of three. I don't care if you're monogamous or polyamarous. I don't care if you're a size 2 or 22. I'm not here to judge you. That's not my place. Just as I should be building women up, I want to be built up as well. Building women up means learning to respect their decisions and be supportive of the right to choose. Life has no blueprint and I don't want to be judged for my journey. It's important to spend whatever days we're given on this earth being happy and comfortable in our own skins. I've come to understand the value of letting people LIVE. I just want you to be happy in whatever way that happiness takes shape and form for you. Do your thing. if you like it, I LOVE IT! <3

With love (and a hot glaze from Krispy Kreme),

Tiffany Krystal