For my feminist adventure, I watched a documentary on Netflix about Janis Joplin titled, “Janis: Little Girl Blue” which basically talked about how she became one of the most influential singers during the 60s. I chose this documentary because I’ve always heard about Janis Joplin and wanted to understand why she rose to fame so quickly and died so young (at age 27).
In the beginning of the documentary, her sister is interviewed and discusses how when Janis was younger, she was a bit of a rebel and had some issues regarding the way she looked. She was made fun of in school because she spoke out against segregation, and kids called her names because of it. At one point in her career she was singing in Austin, Texas and some fraternities at some school at voted her “ugliest man,” and one of her band mates mentioned during his interview that she really broke down after that (as one would imagine). I remember thinking during the documentary how sad it was that Janis had so many self-esteem issues but yet every time she was shown, she looked happy as can be and the most fun person in the room. And her talent marks her as one of the most influential female vocalists of the 20th century.
As I reflected on this documentary and what it had to do with feminism, I realized how many girls and women are affected by self-esteem and body/appearance issues. From an objective standpoint, one could argue that Janis is not the stereotypical “pretty girl.” But I think so many people (including myself) would say that Janis is beautiful because she’s Janis. That’s the message that I think feminism should include a bit more when discussing appearance issues because I don’t think it’s enough to say someone is beautiful just the way they are. While this is a good message and I do believe it, I think we should go a step further and really analyze what we’re seeing in people. We need to make the objective standard of beauty become the subjective standard of beauty, where we look at each person as if they were our own child and not in comparison with someone we saw in a magazine.
My question for my classmates is: Have you ever complimented someone on something that is not part of the objective standard of beauty or something we/society view as flaws (i.e. thick legs, crooked teeth, etc.)? I know for me personally, I compliment people on things they would want to hear (from an objective standard), and I’m curious how people would take these types of compliments on their “flaws.”