Women & Feminism

Sigh

by MomGrind

high heels

Obviously, I’m too old for this. But even if you’re merely twenty years old, the question remains, why would you do this to yourself?

This are real shoes, by the way, sold over at my (otherwise) favorite online discount retailer, Bluefly.com.

Seriously?

by MomGrind

catalog

We started getting Halloween costume catalogs in the mail a couple of weeks ago (it seems like every year, holiday preparations are starting earlier). I’m so proud of my daughters for pointing it out: how come, in each costume shown (nerd, soldier, cop), the man is simply the character he’s supposed to portray, while the woman is always a sexy version of that same character?

And why on earth is the guy always the doctor, wearing scrubs, and the woman is always a sexy nurse?

Blech.

A Realistic Barbie

by MomGrind

realistic barbie

When I was a kid, I had one Barbie doll. She was a redhead and had a tanned skin – so not your typical blond Barbie – but she still had the same weird body – big boobs, a tiny waist, no hips, ridiculously long legs and tiny feet. I didn’t like my Barbie very much, and soon after I received her, I gave her a short haircut, and shortly after that, I threw her away. I was a chubby little girl, and I don’t know if my objection to Barbie was because of her ridiculous proportions – I just know that I disliked her.

This morning, I came across the above picture on Facebook and thought that it was amazing to see the difference between the classic Barbie doll, and a realistic Barbie doll made by researcher and artist Nickolay Lamm. The realistic Barbie doll was created using the measurements of an average 19 year old woman. I actually find the realistic Barbie figure very attractive – feminine and curvy without being overweight. And unlike the classic Barbie doll, the realistic Barbie’s physique is quite attainable.

To answer the question posted in the original blog post, yes, I do believe that young girl are influenced by the unrealistic images they see in the media and by playing with unrealistically-figured dolls such as Barbie. I also believe that these early influences can shape a woman’s body image for life. My girls are older now, but back when they were little, had I had the choice, I would have certainly preferred the realistic Barbie over the grotesque one.

Funny, sure, but also very real – while I look nothing like the woman in the commercial, I often find that there’s a huge difference between how I carry myself outside, in my jeans and heels and tummy held firmly in, and the sheer joy of getting home, going to my bedroom, and peeling the annoying layers of street clothes off. Finally I can breathe!

I don’t know about men – it seems like you guys have it pretty good when it comes to clothing and comfort (except maybe ties?). But for us women, clothing often means torture – the kind where you can’t completely focus on what you need to do, because so much energy goes towards keeping a tight outfit together, pain management (high heels, blisters), or simply holding your belly in.

But it’s slowly getting better for me.

I find that one of the most interesting side effects of growing older (I turned forty this year) is that I’m becoming impatient. Not that I ever was the patient type, but the older I get, the less patience I have when it comes to things that just don’t make sense to me anymore.

One of those is suffering for beauty.

While I don’t plan on switching to ugly orthopedic shoes any time soon (I plan to hold off on that until I’m sixty hehe), I do find that the idea of dressing in a way that might look fabulous, but will cause me discomfort, has lost its appeal. Very high heels, pointy toes, even bare shoulders on a cold night are all pretty much out of the question. So are very tight clothes, especially when I go to a gourmet restaurant and plan on pigging out eating well and actually enjoying the experience.

I thought about this recently when I saw this striking difference between women’s and men’s dress shoes in a store display at a local mall:

Mens shoes vs womens shoes

And I also thought about it when my husband and I went out to celebrate his birthday at the amazing Masa’s Restaurant in San Francisco. The restaurant website requested that men wear jackets and that women wear “cocktail attire.” Cocktail attire often means a little black dress with heels. It was a cold night in the City, and since I had no plans whatsoever of feeling cold or uncomfortable, I simply wore flannel pajamas a pair of tailored pants and a blouse. I looked nice enough, and I was warm and comfortable and able to enjoy the chef’s amazing cooking. When I went to the bathroom, a little tipsy after having a glass of champagne on an empty stomach, I didn’t trip over my heels as I usually do! That’s probably because I wore walkable heels and not my 4-inch ones.

When it comes to my everyday clothes, these days, more often than not, I wear jeans that have at least some stretch – tossed the rigid ones ages ago, a tee and reasonable heels. Maybe I don’t look as good as I COULD if I wore super tight jeans and high heels – I don’t know. But I see no reason to spend my life feeling uncomfortable.

My goal these days? I want to be just as comfortable as men are. Why shouldn’t I?


In the photo: Comfortable in my own skin – and in my clothes (but still holding my tummy in).

Reader Comments

In response to this post, L. emailed me to say:
“I really wanted to leave a comment on your blog, but I understand your decision to remove comments. So in lieu, I’m writing an e-mail to thank you for your last post “Painful Beauty? No Thanks.” I’m in my mid-twenties, and I’ve never learned (or seen the reason to) how to walk in heels over 1.5 in or why I should wear a “little black dress” when I live in Ohio and it’s COLD here more times than not. I also have a nice pant suit (originally bought for job interviews, but it works for nice outings).

I started dressing as a “tomboy” when I was younger because I kept getting told that I couldn’t do certain things (like playing rough or do flips on the jungle-gym) in a dress. It wasn’t “lady-like.” I’m 24 now and I still don’t see why any women would want to wear something she can’t at least comfortably walk and sit in. I can’t understand how limiting personal comfort and mobility is worth it to look “good” or “sexy.” I wear cargo pants, and I still get comments from my sister about how the pockets make my legs look chunky (she’s been trying to convert me to “women’s pants” for years). They’re work pants. If my coworkers are more concerned about looking at my thighs than doing their job, that’s their problem, not mine. I need a place for tools.

It’s comforting to read posts like yours that reinforce how absurd and impractical women’s fashion often is. I felt like the odd one out growing up, and it wasn’t until high school and mostly college that I found other women as little patience as me for heels and short skirts, and the myriad of other impractical and costly products that women are expected to buy and perform in. Women aren’t some magical species that is immune to pain and flawless and graceful. We are people. We deserve the same level of comfort and safety as the other half of humanity.”

manicureI always assumed I would have beautifully manicured nails when I became a grownup.

“Your hands say so much about you,” women’s magazines would warn, urging me to get weekly manicures or else, and I, a teenager, an eager consumer of those magazines, believed them. Dyed hair, manicured nails and high heels were what separated hopelessly unfashionable women from the stylish ones. Looking at my chipped nails, I knew I couldn’t afford weekly professional manicures – but someday I would.

As a college student, still lacking the funds to pay for professional beauty services, I stopped doing my own nails and went for the no-nonsense, cut short, bare nails look. Even when I started working as a professor’s assistant and making some money, my nails remained bare. Law school was hard and required lots of work – I just didn’t have the time to sit at a stupid salon leafing through women’s magazines, I reasoned.

But deep inside, I knew that someday, I would get a weekly manicure and would finally be the polished, successful woman I was always meant to be.

When I joined the workforce and started making real money (finally!), there were really no more excuses. So I attempted growing my fingernails and getting a weekly manicure. But I soon found out that (a) Long nails are the enemy of contact lenses; (b) long nails are the enemy of fast typing; (c) The 20-minute wait until a manicure dries completely is torture; and (d) Manicured nails don’t last a week (at least not for me). Under the best-case scenario, they last maybe a day or two.

So I stopped getting manicures and went back to my rebellious, college-days look of short, bare nails.

I am forty years old. I am most definitely grown up. I have money. If I don’t do manicures now, I probably never will. I feel bad about it, and yet I can’t bring myself to get regular manicures. My bare nails look bad, but manicured nails are just not me.

My friend has beautifully manicured nails, and as much as I’d like to say that she’s stupid and lazy and does nothing all day, I have to admit that she’s brilliant and smart and accomplished and does plenty of things every day apart from sitting at a stupid salon and getting her nails done.

I envy her beautiful nails.

Yesterday I noticed that my nails were becoming rather long. I went to the bathroom and picked up a nail file, deciding that the very least I could do was file my nails instead of just chop them off as I usually do. It took exactly four filing motions, back and forth, back and forth, for me to realize that I did not have the patience for even that. I chopped them off.

But I refuse to let go of the dream.

Some day, when I’m *really* grown up, I just know I’ll have perfectly manicured nails.

Completely by accident, I stumbled upon one of the stupidest paragraphs I have ever read.

“Despite spending years trying to understand women, reading up on their psychological make-up and occasionally watching Oprah for some insight, they’re still a mystery! It’s part of why we love them.”

It appears in a humorous article “teaching” men how to handle women, but it’s actually quite typical of many other articles, books and publications, all aimed at highlighting the differences between the genders and promoting gender wars.

Here’s my take on the subject.

1. Despite some differences, I am not a mystery. I am a person just like you, with very similar needs, wants and thoughts. Very boring, I know. But it’s true. Even the very stereotypical woman on the left is probably more similar to you than you think.

2. I’m a person first, a woman second. Yes, I am obviously a woman with female equipment and you may or may not feel attracted to me. But I am not – I will not – be defined by my gender. So whenever you wonder about what I’m thinking or how I’m feeling, it is fairly safe to assume that my thoughts, feelings, and aspirations are not that different than yours.

3. Being a second-class citizen is extremely difficult. Yes, even in the industrialized world, where women truly are blessed with rights that women in other parts of the world can only dream of, we are still second class. For a smart, talented, ambitious person who happens to be a female, it’s extremely frustrating.

4. I like you. I’m a feminist, and I’m angry that so many of you assume I’m somehow inferior just because I’m a female – I hate the tension between the genders. But that doesn’t mean I hate you. I like men. I think men have accomplished so much in terms of advancing humans and bringing us to where we are now. I also think many of you are cute. 😉

5. I remember reading somewhere that women’s deepest fear when it comes to men is being physically hurt. Men’s deepest fear when it comes to women is being laughed at. How sad! Just so you know, I’m not here to ridicule you or to make fun of you. Yes, if you ask me out on a date and I don’t feel attracted to you I will say “no,” but I will never try to hurt you on purpose. I am not the enemy. I am a fellow human being. We’re in this together, in this weird and intense and very temporary thing called “life.” We should be working together to make sense of things, not bickering and fighting and feeling suspicious of each other and writing stupid articles and books about how women are a mystery that men will never understand.

Despite the huge success of books like “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus,” my personal belief is that women and men are not that different. I really wish we could get along better!

trying on shoesTo the woman who landed on my blog after searching for the phrase, “Where can I find sandals for ugly feet”:

No doubt, you were dismayed when your search had brought you to this blog post: The Ugliest Shoes I’ve Ever Seen. But I’m glad you found me (or maybe it is I who have found you – I doubt you stayed here more than a second once you’d realized how irrelevant to your search my blog post is), because I have something important to tell you.

Please stop doing this to yourself.

We all do it, of course – all women. We find something we hate about our body and focus on it to the point of self-loathing. In most cases, it is something only we notice, or something that while others MIGHT notice, they don’t really care, because they see us as a whole person, with an expressive face and eyes that reflect our personality and many different features and qualities – some might be considered attractive according to current beauty standards, others perhaps less so.

But the bottom line: You are an entire person and that’s what people see. Let me assure you, that when people look at you, they see YOU. No one looks at you and thinks, “Oh my, that woman certainly has ugly feet!”

This is true for a round tummy, for cellulite, and yes, even an entire collection of wobbly bits.

Mark Darcy: What on Earth are you doing?
Bridget Jones: Getting dressed.
Mark Darcy: Why are you dancing around in that tent business?
Bridget Jones: Because I don’t want you to see any of my wobbly bits.
Mark Darcy: Well now that’s a bit pointless, isn’t it? As I happen to have a very high regard for your wobbly bits. In all circumstances.
Bridget Jones: Really?
Mark Darcy: Absolutely. I think it’s high time we had another look.

One of my daughters recently asked me, “Mom, is my nose too big?” To which I promptly replied, “No. It’s the perfect nose for your face. But even if you had a big nose, it wouldn’t have mattered, because when people see you, they take in the entire you, not just one feature. So never focus on just one feature in yourself – good or bad – and allow it to take over. A beautiful person is a whole person. It is someone who takes good care of herself – eats well, exercises, respects her body. It’s also a person who is interesting to talk to, a well-read, intelligent person that radiates self confidence, loves herself and is kind to others.”

I won’t deny that ‘perfect’ external beauty is attractive. But it’s attractive only up to a point, and only if the personality behind it is not a turn-off. While the beauty, fashion and diet industries pour many advertising dollars into convincing us that external perfection should be our goal, we must learn to be very critical of these messages and work hard to avoid absorbing them.

In real life, outside the glossy pages of women’s magazines, external perfection, even if achievable (and in most cases it’s not) is not an indicator of happiness or success in life. Want to be “better?” Work hard to be the best person that you can all around – not to achieve pretty feet, a straight nose, or whatever else you think might be considered attractive according to today’s beauty standards.