A model academic

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I'm proud and I'm ashamed. Once, this past fall, I was a model. And I enjoyed it. Enjoyed being fussed over and ignored. Enjoyed spending five hours getting my hair dyed. Enjoyed getting made up like a porcelain doll, bowing my shoulders, caving my chest in, making faces for the photographer. I enjoyed being, for a time, a completely different person. And I'm some kind of proud that I did it, pleased that I could. Proud that I was chosen, that I was right for it, that my face is now representing something that is completely and utterly not me. Who doesn't want to be told they look good? There's a little ego trip, a little bragging point, in feeling objectively pretty.

But I don't talk about it at school. In that context, I'm just a little ashamed. Or at least a little secretive. It feels strange, in the academic context, to have been a face without a voice, to be employed for how I look instead of what I think. In my academic life, the focus is on what I can produce, not what can be produced using me. And for goodness sake, I do gender. I do body. I do beauty. I do the way we make cultural and functional assumptions about what normal or good should be. I feel a disjoint between what I think, what I write, what I read and what I did that day. I know that there's no such thing as objectively pretty. I know that being a model once isn't a judgement about my value in the world, that my value shouldn't be based on my appearance anyway. Rationally, I know all of this, and I feel strange.

I feel strange because it was great. I did something cool. And I'd do it again. The challenge of embodiment that modelling presented was just plain fun. It reminded me of how I feel when I skate. The concentration on body, on what external effects my smallest actions have, it's always a little bit meditative. Like those maligned and torn-down fourth wave feminists, I wonder if a focus on normative appearance is at odds with my values. I wonder if I'm over-cautious in not talking about the experience. I wonder if that moment actually diminishes me. On the whole, I don't believe it does. Instead of diminishment, I believe it can be viewed as some kind of enrichment. Though I've been treating it as at odds with my academic work, it doesn't need to be. There's no reason that I can't be both object and subject.

PS: To anyone from the "pics or it didn't happen" school of thought, please think before you demand. 

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