There is no one fundamentally correct way to describe yourself or your womanhood. Comedian Amy Schumer summed that up in one tweet, along with her photo from the 2016 Pirelli Calendar. Schumer was one of 13 women in the groundbreaking calendar, which deviated from its usual focus on women's sexuality and bodies, instead widening the lens to their accomplishments and social impact. Women such as Serena Williams, Yoko Ono, Patti Smith, Tavi Gevinson, Fran Lebowitz, and more were also included. Shot by Annie Leibovitz and more intentionally diverse than in year's past, Schumer's photo was only one of two that featured any nudity at all.
In a promotional video for the shoot, Schumer praised the direction that Leibovitz took the calendar in. "I felt I looked more beautiful than I've ever felt in my life, and I felt like it looked like me." The latter part of that sentence is what stuck with me. In a world that's so obsessed with presenting the female form in a conforming, non-radicalized way, it was kind of profound to hear a celebrity like Schumer say that she felt the image actually represented her.
Schumer then took the idea of the image wholly encompassing her identity a step further with this tweet:
"Beautiful, gross, strong, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, flawless, woman," Schumer wrote, and her contradicting words essentially sum up what it's like to exist in the world in female form. The experience of living in a female body is one that's perpetually assaulted by labels, and those labels change depending on how close to convention you'd like to remain. Adhere to traditional beauty standards, and you're likely to be deemed "hot," "beautiful," "sexy," "pretty," or "flawless." Buck those same standards, and may find yourself labeled "ugly" or "disgusting."
Perhaps many would argue that Schumer's use of these words is only further perpetuating the idea that we should subscribe to labels at all, but I see it a bit differently. By stringing together a slew of oft-heard contradictory terms, Schumer makes the point that no matter how we decide to present ourselves, the labels attach themselves to us. But by embracing all of them, no label has any more power than the other. They're all just words, and Schumer refuses to let them get in the way of defining her own womanhood.
Granted, there's no way to know for sure what Schumer was trying to convey with this tweet. But I'd like to think it was some version of the above. Like Schumer, I've heard my own body given plenty of contradictory labels, each of which was supposed to make me feel either negatively or positively towards my being. The real power in our existence as women is that we get to decide which labels we embrace or completely ignore, and that's more beneficial than anything society can project onto us.
To me, Schumer's tweet tells that story — one that is decidedly contradictory, one that is ours to choose, and most importantly, one that is female.