Thursday, 31 July 2014

What feminists are secretly dreaming of...

“Young women – our friend or foe?” I recall Carie Bradshaw asking herself this question in one of the episodes of “Sex and the City”.

Recently, I've been thinking about generation gap between women. It seems like for whatever reason many older women feel threatened by younger women. "Threatened" might be too strong of a word here, but the idea of husbands abandoning their wives for younger women is present in almost every country on the planet. 

I have often witnessed women looking with nostalgia at younger girls… as if those bad hairstyles from their 20s were really something to be missed.  I see the longing for youth in my private life, but I also see the often exaggerated version of it in our stories, TV series and movies. Take fairytale about Snow White for example, or movie “Catwoman”. In so many stories there is an evil women, that is so terrified of losing her beauty and youth that she is ready to harm other, younger women. What we don’t see though is the probability that when Snow White grows to be 40 or 50 she will turn into the same evil women her step mother was.

Are these evil characters to be blamed for their evilness? Of course, we should never kill anyone or harm in any other way. I was thinking should we really blame women for their fear of aging and desperation that many of them feel about inevitable end of their youthful charms?

If you are a woman and you grew up on the same planet as me, you probably feel it on more or less conscious level that the most important thing that a girl can be is “beautiful”. You felt it at school, you felt it during family meetings, on holidays, while reading a magazine, while shopping, while meeting up with your girl friends. You felt that the pretty girls always attract attention first and for that reason, at some point of your life wished you were more beautiful. 

Now, unless you look like a goddess, you can probably agree with some of the above. Looks are not everything, but we all know that in current scenario we can be as successful as we want to be, but our weight, wrinkles or wardrobe will not escape the watchful gazes of our friends, colleagues and family. Positive attention gives illusion of power and for that reason when we feel invisible, we feel somehow powerless. This happens to our moms and grandmas, if we don’t take any action, it will happen to us. Getting old doesn't have to feel bad.

It’s sad that we live in the world that is hammering the image of “perfect beauty” into our heads wherever we go. The images of perfectly skinny, blemishless, young women follow us like a shadow. We all know it, we all feel it. You see, even in the era of Photoshop you can be lucky enough to be born with a body type of a model. It’s rare, but it happens. Plus we have make up, we can cover the occasional pimple and still feel fine, but even make up has its limitations. With all creams, pills, diets, operations and cosmetic procedures, there is no way we can escape our old age, erase all wrinkles, stop our body from going through natural process of aging.

Aging woman is hardly ever a symbol of wisdom, or symbol of anything for that matter, older women are not shown to us on TV or in magazines, they are invisible. Can you recall when was the last time you have seen 60 something women on the news as guest or show host? Women, just like men, have more and more to say as they gain experience with age, yet we don’t hear from them very often. Instead, pretty much all women over 20 are depicted as desperate to turn back the clock and be 20 again. (It’s actually ridiculous that I started this article with quote from fictional 30 year old women who already thought girls in their 20s might be her foe! As if 30 was already old!)

It’s incredibly sad how our culture treats older women, as if they were invisible or not good enough for our eyes. The same with obese women or short women – they are all treated like they are not good enough to be shown in our media. 

For example, it is utterly hypocritical how we look at pregnant women with joy and respect, but as soon as they give birth it’s like they don’t have any excuse for that big post pregnancy belly. All moms are supposed to quickly hit the gym to go back to their pre-baby body asap. Images of post pregnancy celebrities are again feeding us guilt about our body after birth. Internet is full of articles about "how to get your body back", as if women lost something. You gave birth and put on some weight, don’t be lazy or too happy, work that body girl!!! Sweat till you injure your recently torn vagina! One would think that at least mothers that we supposedly respect so much would have some time off from the body guilt game, but noooo…. Happy women who are ok with their body means no good business.

I have two brothers; one is 6 years younger than me. During her last pregnancy, my mom has put on a lot of weight and has been trying to get rid of it since I remember. Her dieting sent me a clear message – something is wrong with my mom’s body. Magazines and TV quickly provided me with the answer. My mom, with her body type, post pregnancy fat and stretch marks is not considered beautiful.

What a shame! After I realized that my perception of beauty is created by images that surround me I noticed how much of it is clearly wrong! The beauty culture that we see today is designed to keep majority of women, me and my mom included, desperate to change their body. Do I have to explain how extremely profitable is keeping women in constant need of magic diet pills, slimming creams and anti –aging creams?

For our own sake, we, women need to redefine beauty. My mom’s body is beautiful. She sacrificed her flat belly, perky breasts and tight vagina for me, for my existence. Isn't it amazing? I am responsible for at least 1/3 of these stretch marks! Looking at her from perspective of gratefulness is amazing. Her body produced my body.

This sentence should have the power to close all generation gap. Older women should be proud, not anxious, looking at younger women – relaxing in the idea that we literally came out of their bodies. And this pride should not be directed only to mothers. Women before me made my amazing life possible. I have tones of opportunities and it’s only thanks to them. They are pioneers who came before us, and they have awful lot to be proud of. My mother gave me my body, but there are countless women that I’m thankful for, because they have fought for me, for my rights that I enjoy so much today.

I’m an atheist and I attach my creation to the fact that my parents fucked, not to divine intervention of any god. There is surely something divine about it, but I prefer to thank my parents for my life, not god. I wish my mom could take full half of the credit for my creation and rejoice in the fact, that my young body is extension of her own body. 

I wish we could slowly create a culture where women take immense pride in growing older. I mean, it’s not easy to get old, just imagine all the stupid things you did when you were in college, or imagine how many people die in car accidents or from heart disease, it’s not as easy to grow old as we think it is… But I digress, where was I….

It isn’t true that feminists dream of dominating men. I am a feminist and one of my biggest feminist fantasies is women celebrating femininity. I want to see more women being supportive of each other. One of the feminist goals is creating society were women are friends, allies; not envious, vicious enemies, fighting for men or those few CEO positions. See, it’s not only about being equal with men, but also about being equal with each other, women to women. Without thinking which one of us is more capable to attract a male based on our beauty or age. “Sisterhood”, this word is so beautiful and yet sounds so… uncomfortable compared to “brotherhood”.

Perhaps dreams of sisterhood are not so uncommon if you look at the appeal of shows about female friendships, like “Sex and The City” or my favorite one, “The Golden Girls”. I have a feeling that we all secretly dream of heaving group of female friends where we could feel fully accepted. We all dream of some kind of women’s club where we could celebrate femininity more often than once, twice a year while choosing prom dress or wedding dress.

The only reason of writing this post was to express my mixed feelings about the way we currently perceive aging women and how women interact with each other. Beauty standards and pressure to be beautiful is disrupting completion of secret feminist “Sisterhood Project" and I dream of the time when we put those standards behind us, giving space to more inclusive and realistic idea of beauty.

Written by Innana
and inspired by "The Beauty Myth" by Naomi Wolf

No comments:

Post a Comment