This past Sunday, Actress Brie Larson took home the coveted “Best Actress” Oscar for her heartrending performance in “Room.” Although the role has made her one of the most sought after actresses in the industry, her path to cinematic success came with its share of obstacles, some of which the actress has addressed publicly. Most recently, Larson spoke about the unique hurdles that she and other young woman face in the audition process.
“There were many times that I would go into auditions and casting directors would say: ‘It’s really great, really love what you’re doing, but we’d love for you to come back in a jean miniskirt and high heels,’” Brie lamented, “Those were always moments of a real fork in the road, because there’s no reason for me to show up in a jean miniskirt and heels other than the fact that you want to create some fantasy, and you want to have this moment that you can reject. I personally always rejected that moment. They were asking me to be sexy, but a jean miniskirt and heels does not make me feel sexy. It makes me feel uncomfortable."
Larson went onto explain that, although unfortunate, being forced to decide between pleasing a casting director and staying true to herself helped her build confidence. “Every time I was put in front of an opportunity where I had to decide in those moments, ‘do I or do I not wear a jean miniskirt?’ They became huge moments for me of confidence.”
Few of us have been through the severe audition and casting processes for multi-million dollar films. And yet, I think the predicament Larson describes is one that many—perhaps all—women have encountered. In general, we face constant pressure to be a "good" woman—whether from media or our social circles—and everyone seems to have an opinion on what our lives should look like. All these pressures can get in the way of our getting in touch with our authentic selves, what we want and what path will lead to our greatest flourishing. Brie Larson's example is a reminder that constantly trying to please others at the expense of our own integrity will never make us truly happy or confident.
But Larson's story also resonates on the micro level of how women are expected to dress and for whom. One might assume that the clothing in which we are most appealing to others would make us feel most confident, but the opposite is often the case—from high heels and mini skirts to bikinis and skin tight dresses, the clothing that others find most sexy and appealing often makes us, as Larson says, frankly uncomfortable.
In my experience, this has a lot to do with the fact that so many of women’s clothes are not designed for the woman wearing them, but to indulge, as Larson says, “some fantasy” of those who see her in them. And when it takes priority over comfort or confidence, another's fantasy oppresses her reality.
This is not to say that taking others into consideration when we dress is wrong. On the contrary, clothing is a language of sorts and, like words, we shouldn’t ignore their effect on others. But in much the same way that dressing without regard for others can be disastrous, dressing only for others can be as well.
It is worth taking a cue from Brie Larson and asking ourselves what makes us feel confident and strong. I think many of us would find that clothes straight from someone else's sexual fantasy is not often the answer.
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