This post is my entry for Women’s Web’s ‘Celebrating Myself’ Contest.
Edited To Add: This post was one of the second prize winners, yippee!!! Thank you, Women’s Web!!
Every year, come Women’s Day and I watch with fascination the profusion of images in the media supposed to be celebrating womanhood. A whole host of jewellery, cosmetics and sundry other companies fall over each other trying to woo the modern, upwardly mobile woman. Full paged adverts are brought out invoking the ‘essence’ of womanhood–I am sure the makers of these ads haven’t a clue themselves as to what they mean by this ‘essence’ they keep talking about, but who is complaining as long as the cash registers keep ringing!
It is probably just as well, because what are these ‘days’ if not spectacular marketing gimmicks to tap the huge potential of surplus, disposable funds in urban households. There’s a whole industry, worth billions of dollars worldwide, aimed at beautifying women. Everyone basically wants to sell their wares and playing on the insecurities of the target group is a perfectly legitimate advertising strategy. And so Women’s Day for them is another occasion to bombard women with images of the ideal female form and never mind that the ideal is subject to frequent updation.
If you spot an irony in women being asked to celebrate womanhood by becoming ever so slightly more deserving of male attention, by buying into the myth of eternal youth, by chasing the increasingly impossible ideals of physical beauty –you can stew in your own juices. Because by and large these ad campaigns are wildly successful.
Whether it is the media onslaught that feeds the insecurities of women and makes them place disproportionate importance to youthfulness, or whether the media is only exploiting the already prevailing sentiments is a little like the chicken-or-egg conundrum. Either way the result is a culture that expects women to keep chasing the next milestone of supposed perfection.
The dark should become fair, the fair fairer and the fairer the fairest of them all, and spotless too, if you please!
The plump should strive to become slim and the slim should aim to become size zero, without, errr…losing their curves. And of course there are plenty of options to fix those curves too, should they succumb to the forces of nature and gravity.
Terms like liposuction, dermal fillers and botox have sneaked effortlessly into popular lexicon. In the fortnight running up to Women’s Day, newspapers were full of exhortations to women to avail the ‘fabulous’ discounts on these and a number of other treatments at the rapidly mushrooming, and obviously prospering, beauty clinics.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say that market forces have a hidden agenda to keep women preoccupied with their looks, but I do wonder why it is that the same market forces do not make automobile companies, or even cellphone companies for that matter, offer even paltry discounts to women buyers on Women’s Day. Because these do not contribute to beautifying the female body, maybe?
It would be too presumptuous for anyone to declare how women on the whole should or should not celebrate themselves, but here’s how I think I would like to celebrate myself.
–By reminding myself that I am human before I am a woman. That I am more than the sum of my parts. That I owe it to myself, and no-one but myself, to take good care of myself and to keep myself healthy and fit by eating well and exercising.
–By taking pride in looking my age. By accepting the inevitability of ageing and being comfortable with it.
–By refusing to chase the chimera of eternal youth. Basically, by treating my body with the respect it deserves and not subjecting it to absurd expectations and comparisons.
–By loving the skin I’m in, and I might or might not be using Olay products.
–By religiously setting aside an hour of me-time everyday, to do with as I please.
–By indulging in my interests, especially those which do not fit the stereotypes of what ‘most’ women find interesting. By reminding myself that most stereotypes do not benefit me or other women –and by making it my business to do my bit in not reinforcing them as far as practicable.
My years on this planet have left me wiser, more patient, more clear-headed, more pragmatic, more accepting of my own little faults and foibles and those of others too. My years, and my experiences over the years, are a part of who I am today and I celebrate them as much as anything else when I celebrate myself.
Because I’m worth it, with or without L’Oreal.