why beyoncé is hot and you’re not: lessons on self-worth
July 22, 2015 § 2 Comments
It’s been almost two months since I got married and went to our wedding receptions in L.A. and Canada. I know, you’re thinking, “this bitch is excessive”—but that’s not totally true. I just had the perfect excuse to eat lots of cake and go on vacation for two months—ha! Is there even a point in getting married if you don’t eat lots of cake or skip out on work?*
I’m over weddings now, obviously, and real life has settled back in (ugh). So, now that I’m back to being a normal human being (and a wife!), I want to talk about heavy discussion stuff. You know, the stuff that enlightens you, makes you realize that life is sort of tragic and you need to reevaluate your existence. That kind of stuff.
Writer Karley Sciortino (fave) of Slutever went on a panel at the Frieze Art Fair titled “Why Am I Hot?” with host Casey Jane Ellison and other speakers including activist Grace Dunham. Dunham is mostly known for being the younger sister of “Girls” creator Lena Dunham, but she’s also really intelligent and well-spoken. She ends the “Why Am I Hot?” panel with a speech on how we determine our self-worth in a culture which values things like Instagram followers, $$$, power or, to put it bluntly, market value. Listen to her speech (at the 1 hour mark) which is not depressing, but encouraging and eye-opening.
Too lazy to listen? You should have, but whatever. Here’s an excerpt from Dunham’s speech:
I wonder if the artists […] feel like being recognized—your work being recognized as valuable, through praise or press or money—makes you feel like you yourself are worth more. And I wonder if, whether or not you’d like to admit it, being priced and sold, having your work sell well or not sell well at all, has affected your sense of your own worth more than you’d like. I wonder if you’re jealous of other artists, who sell more or sell better, who are more known, more recognized, more appreciated.
If there are dealers and collectors[…], I wonder how selling art and buying art makes you feel about your own worth. Does it make you feel less boring, more relevant, more powerful, more attractive? Do you feel some shame about the fact that you sell or buy, instead of make? Do you wish more people knew your name? Do you wish more people loved you or wanted you?
I don’t ask these question because I hold judgement, or because I think that you should be judged. I ask because I think that these emotions are the logical result of a culture that breaks us down and assesses us, makes us feel like we’re worth more if we’re powerful, if we’re rich, if we’re known. A culture that makes us feel like maybe we’ll be loved more if we have those things, and if we are those things.
So if the question is, “Why am I hot?” I think what we mean is, “Why am I valuable?” and “How valuable do you think I am?”
I wonder what different answers we might get if we asked ourselves, “Who do I want to be?” and “How do I want to be loved?”
Basically, she breaks things down into this: we’ve been determining our self-worth based on social assessments—but if we’re deemed valuable by the system we live in, do we feel known to our very essence? And do we feel loved? The answer is yes and no. The (totally capitalist) market evaluation that we fall victim to has little to nothing to do with being truly known or loved, but it sure feels good to feel valuable and validated, and feeling valuable sure feels like being known and loved. How much of myself have I compromised in order to fit in the value system and feel “loved”? Worse, have I contributed to this really sad and pathetic system by placing my own form of this evaluation on others? Ugh. I told you this was heavy.
I just started listening to Millennial, a new podcast created, hosted and produced by Megan Tan. Tan is an aspiring radio producer who decided to start the podcast in order to practice her craft, despite not having her dream job and being a part-time waitress. Listeners follow her journey as a 20-something vying for clarity and success (aka the story of most middle and upper middle class American 20-somethings). Struggling with issues of self-worth, Tan cries quietly to her boyfriend, Ben, in self-pity, jealousy, confusion and anger: “There’s so much pressure on what you do defining you. And so when you’re around people, you just want them to know you’re actually legit. That you have skills.”
It’s like Dunham is speaking to me. It’s like Tan is speaking through me. Finding your place in this world is hard, especially when your profession and your possessions are socially equivalent to your identity. I’m sometimes a writer, sometimes employed, sometimes unemployed, always confused. I’m constantly struggling with questions like “Who do I want to be?” or “Do these heels give me cankles?”
In the next few months, Andrew and I are planning to leave San Francisco, for a while at least, to pursue my career goals and new personal goals—i.e., figuring shit out and getting a dog or a cat. Neither of us are sure of what we hope to do or who we hope to be, but thankfully we’re doing this together. I hope, then, I’ll be able to answer questions like these with a balanced, honest sense of self-worth.
*Just kidding about weddings being only about the cake. But let’s be honest: the cake is important.