This week my dear friend, a second waver, we’ll call her, and I were talking about the way we judge women in our culture. This conversation came up because I had just submitted a grant (cross your fingers!) that addresses the way that women are represented in the media. The focus of the grant is on raising awareness with young women that the messages they are sent, those very subtle messages, are deceiving.
She wondered if some of this obsession women have with looks is cultural and she talked about how she wore make-up at different points in her life depending on where she lived. Then we moved into a conversation on how easily we silently judge other women about what they wear, how they look, why they dress the way they do, and so on. We talked about how so many young women today wax away EVERYTHING and do so in the name of “cleanliness.”
I harp on this topic today because I wonder how we can break this so-called cycle. As self-proclaimed feminists we are aware of the pressure to wax, paint our face, dress nice, yet as much as we fight against this pressure, we still bow to it, in many ways. I wonder, is there a balance? The documentary, Miss Representation, which I have written about previously features a gorgeous blond as filmmaker. She briefly mentions her struggles as an actor being typecast as the dumb blond, but I feel like she just glosses over how she fits into this whole paradigm.
I think, too, of some of my favorite movies, those produced in England and Holland, like Mike Leigh’s Secrets & Lies or Antonia’s Line. Are these movies on my top ten because of the subject matter, the acting or the writing; or are these movies so good because the actors look like REAL people? When you live in a culture, (the U.S.) where everything presented to you is “perfect” it is hard to see what reality is. What is beauty when we only see it photo-shopped and touched up? How can we find real beauty and reject the artificial?
I know women who don’t wear make-up and tend to dress in a non-conformist way, but even they are conforming to some sort of “look” that fits into their world. I think of a good friend of mine, a former student, who has a unique style that reminds me somewhat of Ellen, the CoverGirl herself.
I certainly don’t have an answer to this big issue on this rainy Wednesday in New England. Perhaps I am thrown into these thoughts today as a teeter on the edge of PMS feeling bloated and fat, eagerly awaiting my period so this monthly slump will pass on. Maybe its because I went to my bridesmaid dress fitting the other day for my sister’s wedding and felt huge in that oversize dress, literally four sizes more than I normally wear. Maybe its because I fell down the stairs two weeks ago and my lower back is still aching and discouraging me from running. Or maybe it’s just that the media-owned-conglomerate is plain old patriarchal and the only way to avoid it is to turn it off.
Stop buying magazines that don’t feature REAL women. Stop watching television that mis-represents us. Only watch International films. And when that woman walks by you wearing something you would not be caught dead in, say to yourself “you go girl” and let the judgment fade away.