“To be female in this world is to be buried under impossible standards.” Lisa Renee.
Fashion Week gives me the shits. I don’t actively search for images of the events online but they hound my socials and I find it difficult not to resent the impossible standards presented by the thin, gazelle-like women who flaunt their gaunt bodies with next-to-no-clothes on. The dangerous message created by the sycophancy of the media towards these absurd shows is that the only acceptable size for a woman is the human equivalent of an “After Eight” mint.
For different reasons, the current movie awards season is just as irritating. On these occasions, it seems the media takes great pleasure in swiping at female celebrities about their weight, age, and how much Botox they have injected into their bodies. And I struggle not to get caught up in the heinous Clarkson-esque criticism of women despite my personal abhorrence to sexism and bullying.
Surely, it was no coincidence when I found myself Googling “How to get rid of a turkey neck” the other day, an act that proved that I am as vain as the next person when it comes to the dwindling confidence I have with my ageing body. On an intellectual level, I know that my chin collection is not important, but I am tired of not being able to slouch and straining my neck for every selfie.
Interestingly, I have found peace with the other problem areas of my advancing years with an uncharacteristic stoicism, so I can’t explain my extreme reaction to this particular physical grievance. Furthermore, I am a feminist who feels strongly about sexism, ageism, and double standards, so I can’t fathom why this genetic aberration (that was clearly inherited from my father), bugs me so much.
Who am I trying to impress at the age of 57?
At a recent birthday lunch to celebrate a friend’s 60th – during which she turned the tables and thanked each friend for the value they added to her life – every woman around the table agreed how liberating they felt to 1. Be invisible, and 2. Not care what anyone else thinks.
What lies at the root of my vanity?
I’m fortunate not to be dating again or working in some hideous industry where beauty supersedes merit. Furthermore, I’ve reached an age when my grandmothers had happily evolved into grey-haired old women who didn’t give a fuck about what they looked like and I’m acutely conscious of my privilege in reaching this age.
I imagine most of us – men and women alike – have some part of our bodies we would change if we could. In summer, a friend of mine boils in Sydney’s humidity in long sleeves because she hates her arms so much, and many of us attempt to hide our muffin tops in full-piece cossies and looser-fitting clothing.
Why do we worry?
We worry because we are not held to the same standards as men in western culture or by the media. Furthermore, certain men refuse to move beyond the gender roles of the 50s when they – as the main breadwinners – exerted more control over their middle-class wives.
But what is more concerning is that these standards are getting more hardcore and women are still trying to meet them. Porn has dictated that women shave their pubes, armpit hair remains a taboo, and some influencers are even promoting tanning again. We express our sympathy to those women around the world who are still fighting circumcision, abuse and imprisonment for demanding their rights at the same time as obsessing about serums and surgery to give ourselves a few more years of youth.
Evidently, men don’t feel the same pressure
When was the last time you heard a man moan about the pressure to look good or talk about body image issues? Surely, the majority of them can’t be worrying about the definition of their abs, not if the male bodies I see at our local beach are indicative. The majority of men my age have far bigger muffin tops than the women next to them, whose bodies have carried children and navigated the ravages of menopause.
And, perhaps, the saddest part about these double standards is that, unconsciously, women are fuelling this prejudice against their own sex. In buying the magazines and products that promote these unrealistic standards, we are condoning it. In the same way that we continue to accept the bulk of the responsibility for the care of our children (despite the damage it does to our careers and financial stability), we remain silent when newspapers print pictures of female celebrities on holiday who have “let themselves go”.
We have bought into the message that for women, success is affiliated with beauty and youth, whilst for men, it is about power.
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