You can never be too rich or too thin, said Wallis Simpson, pithily summing up a lot that is wrong with the world.
Women are constantly pressured to conform to external views of beauty and presentation. There are many aspects of the social beauty norms that I dislike, apart from my obvious dislike of there being pressure at all.
I dislike make-up. When the recent no-make-up selfie craze was on the go, without exception, I preferred the no-make-up version of my friends. You don’t see blokes worrying about whether their eyelashes are lush enough! Or needing to draw great dark panda circles of eyeliner around their eyes (well, except for Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean).
I’ve heard ladies say that they won’t go out of the house until they have their “face” on. How sad is that?
The next item to receive my wrath is shoes. High-heeled shoes, specifically. I’m horribly reminded of the foot binding of ancient China that caused women to bandage their feet into grotesque, malformed shapes. The sex appeal of foot binding was apparently the lotus gait, which was the tiny steps and swaying walk of a woman whose feet had been bound. This reminds me irresistibly of the mincing walk of a modern woman in stiletto heels and a pencil skirt.
But that particularly nasty image aside, who hasn’t seen some poor fashion victim tottering along on 10 inch platform shoes, and had to subdue the urge to wonder when she will fall? There is nothing elegant or graceful about the gait caused by most very high heels.
And the last nail in the coffin of high heels should be that they make women vulnerable. Your ability to run away from a bad situation will be severely hampered by high heels, and I seriously doubt if you could keep your balance well enough in heels to kick an attacker. I mention that because I’ve always thought that stiletto heels look quite vicious, but I doubt that you can bring that viciousness to bear. If anyone has any deeper knowledge on this topic, please enlighten me?
A friend told me that high heels made her feel tall and in control. Dammit woman – you are letting a fashion crutch own you – kick off the high heels and be truly empowered!
Let’s get down to the real you, under the clothes, make-up, and external fripperies. The female body is an amazing thing, capable of great sensuality as well as great strength. Most females hate their bodies.
I could just blame the media, especially all the photoshopping that presents flawless, skinny, beautiful women in every image. Talk about being manipulated – the version of perfect beauty presented on the glossy fashion magazines actually doesn’t exist. Even the most beautiful models aren’t good enough and need to be photoshopped! Think about that. The media, particularly the fashion media, has a lot to answer for.
But of course, it’s a lot more complex than that.
I’ve seen an interesting social reaction growing – an increasing number of bloggers who tell women to love their bodies just the way they are. That’s really good, and I hope more women will start to listen to alternative views of female beauty. But I’m going to complain about one aspect of the love-your-fat brigade, and that’s the simple fact that being fat is no better for you than trying to be too skinny.
I hate to sound preachy about weight, so simply put, women should aim for active and healthy. Carrying too much weight for your frame will put strain on your heart and will raise the likelihood of Osteoporosis when you reach menopause (yes, it happens to all of us!). Aiming at stick thin may make your clothes look great, but it robs a woman of her strength.
Physical strength is understood by men to be important, yet somehow women seem to have missed out on that lesson. You need strength when you have children – picking up 10kg toddlers is certainly easier with a little arm strength, for instance. But there’s also a bunch of uncomfortable topics around abuse and rape, and being a wilting flower doesn’t help a woman in trouble.
I’d love to see all girls doing karate or some form of martial arts when they are young. It is empowering to realize what strength you do have, and it’s even better to learn some basic self-defense skills. A lot of life is a power play, from playground bullying to the corporate boardroom. Sadly, relationships also contain elements of power play, and a certain type of male will get what he wants through physical strength.
Each woman needs to find her inner strength, as much as her physical strength. Sometimes they go hand in hand. Consider that the waif-like, oh-so-fashionable skinniness is a particularly nasty form of control where the woman has been convinced to pursue her weakest self in the name of fashion, making her complicit in her own subjugation.
For every male who reads this, and relates to some aspect of what I have said, feel free to replace references to women with references to men. We are all people together in this journey called life. I address myself to women as I am one, and I think that women particularly need to open their eyes to the many and subtle ways in which we dis-empower ourselves.
I have a final disclaimer – just because I dislike make-up and high heels doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t wear them. Men, feel free to indulge in either, too – Johnny Depp does. I don’t want conformance with my views – I want people to view some fashion standards, from clothing to skinniness, in a new light, and therefore become empowered to choose the real them.
Lor, Being Real.