Post written by Jane Hunt, former inaugural CEO at Fitted for Work.
I have a fascination with TV series that get canned after a season or a few episodes. Indulging in this obsession means I’ve watched series from all around the world and from very different genres. It becomes very obvious why some programs were canned, but for others, they didn’t make it because they were too quirky, too far ahead of their time in tackling issues or just not to mainstream taste!
I recently started watching ‘My So-Called Life’ featuring a young Claire Danes. It’s about a group of young people growing up in the 80s and lasted only one season. It tackles some very difficult issues, such as abuse, and explores feelings of growing up that most young people experience: not quite fitting in and feeling like the world has tilted slightly and they haven’t quite got their bearings.
One episode focused on three female characters and their feelings about their bodies. The main character, Angela (Claire Danes), got her first pimple, and was feeling acutely self-conscious and ugly. She kept trying to hide her face and avoided people noticing her.
At the same time, her mother, Patricia, wanted to enter a mother-daughter fashion parade. She made identical dresses in fabulous Mary Quant style (worth watching just for the clothes!) for them to wear, and the funds raised supported a ‘battered women’s shelter’. Patricia wanted badly to do this with her daughter but the more she tried to convince her to participate, the more Angela experienced herself as ‘ugly’ and ‘not up to scratch’. This meant Patricia felt the distance and exerted more pressure. It was painful to watch.
At the same time Angela’s friend, Sharon, had been voted by a group of guys as being in the top 10 girls in the school for her ‘excellent’ breasts (yes, a very cringe-worthy act by the boys!). Angela was intensely jealous of her friend – she thought she was beautiful and attractive and getting noticed by boys, whilst Sharon was mortified and started to wear big jumpers to hide her breasts.
And so the episode plays out, with each character working through their feelings toward their bodies and each other. I found the episode very moving – I cried when Angela broke down to her mother and sobbed at just how ugly she felt. I could also relate to her mother’s comment that ‘she just never enjoyed being young and beautiful’ because she was so busy trying to ‘look and behave’ the right way. Her regret in being caught up as a young person in the wrong things was palpable.
Each of the characters confronted their feelings of shame and jealousy and questioned the why they were internalising the strong external pressures to look a particular way.
It was a reminder that for most women, myself included, being comfortable in your own skin is a journey that takes time, and it’s often a journey filled with pain and joy. The episode ends with Angela watching her mother and sister and other mothers and daughters model the dresses they have made in a fashion parade. She cries while watching them, as she sees the beauty in all of the women and feels the loving support women can give each other.
One way you can experience this strength of community is to get involved in the Jean Hailes Women’s Health Week. I am proud to be an ambassador for the Week and FFW and Dear Gladys are partners because we believe that all women should be empowered to feel comfortable in their own skin. The benefit is not just to you, but it will also ripple out to your daughter, niece, sister and grandmother.