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On Being a Woman – Appearances
Great post. I’ve had many, many discussions with female friends through the years on this topic.
I have to think a lot of our preoccupation with our appearance is pure biology. I am not a scientist, but I can imagine that, through the ages, the most beautiful women were the ones who survived. We’ve been hardwired to attract a man, and making ourselves beautiful means we survive and carry on the species. What is interesting is the lengths we’re willing to go to in our modern times to carve ourselves into an ideal that society says is “perfect.”
I would say it’s a tough time to be a woman (as your cartoon illustrates), but I would also acknowledge that it’s a tough time to be a man. I have no desire to go back to “the good old days” (whatever and whenever those were), but both sexes seem to be a little lost these days, unsure of what the other expects and wants. Instead, we seem to have this artificial, hyper-sexed society that devalues everyone, male and female alike. How confusing for everyone, but especially our young kids and teenagers.
Several great points! Yes, I can’t help but think that at least some of the preoccupation with appearance is biological – to attract a mate. Men do some of the same sorts of things, particularly when they’re younger–athletics, body building, buying cool cars to attract mates. But that usually drops off when they become older and are recognized for their accomplishments. Women’s accomplishments are often trivialized (raising children, housekeeping, teaching, nursing), yet without what women do, the culture as a whole would simply deteriorate. It would be wonderful if women were recognized and rewarded for their contributions to culture on more days of the year than mother’s day. Unfortunately, it’s hard to put a monetary value on women’s contributions to culture, so they (women and their contributions) are easy to undervalue.
And I also agree with you that it’s hard for both males and females in our culture, and I blame that to a considerable extent on the pervasiveness of advertising. The media messages undermine a healthy sense of self.
Joanne, I’ve always struggled to understand why women are so often the instigators of this sort of behavior. We are the first to find fault with another woman who succeeds, too often. I can only control my actions on that score, but I try to be genuinely happy for others of both sexes when they find success, peace or fulfillment.
Andra, many women have told me they are often undermined by other women. But in my experience, women have been mostly helpful. Perhaps that’s because I worked in a largely men’s field (science), and the women I interacted with were usually quite helpful. There just weren’t enough of them!
If you’ve happy with others’ successes, you’re probably accomplishing your own! I think that jealousy is probably a symptom of insecurity.
I’ve never worn make-up, so I don’t understand the obsession with putting on your face every morning. Though for at least one friend, the sign that her depression is getting bad again is when she doesn’t even have the energy to put on make-up in the morning. I’ve never been any good at hiding who I am, and I’ve never been inclined to try. There are times when that attitude bites me. In family pictures, my sisters-in-law and their families (who would never say a word in judgment – this is my assessment) look so … balanced I guess? with their kids. Dressed well, but not overdressed. Classy, I think is the word. But my husband, kids, and I look disheveled and slobby. Sometimes, it’s something that couldn’t be helped – the kids are on the autism scale, and it took years to get my daughter comfortable with using Mr. Hairbrush to Remove The Tangles Daily. But at some level, it’s stuff we CAN help. We don’t have to wear stained T-shirts. We just don’t think to change out of them very often. We are seeing the whole family this summer, and we’re making a point to dress reasonably well the entire time, a balance between our comfort zone, which is shorts and shirts, preferably with weird slogans on them, and the comfort zone of our family, which is a bit more polished.
Brava! Hope you find that balance.
I find that I struggle with my own appearance very little. I’ve taken, for as long as I can remember, the “I am what I am” stance when it comes to fashion, hair and perception. While it hasn’t always worked out for me, I still remain baffled at those who spend copious amounts of time worrying about getting their hair just right, or wearing the perfect outfit. I can only hope that, as my nieces grow, they realize that perfection isn’t something to strive for, but rather an ideal that exists in the eye of the beholder.
Love it! Me, too. My policy is to try to look good enough not to offend anyone, but not to spend too much time at it (except for special parties, which I don’t do much anymore!) Once, I wore make-up and was dressed “to the Ts” at work, and someone said, “You look great! Why don’t you do this everyday?” I responded, “If I had to do this everyday, people would just get used to it, and I’d end up wasting a lot of time.”
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