If I were a man I wouldn’t be worrying about the lines on my forehead. If I were a man my worth wouldn’t be defined by what I see in the mirror. If I were a man I wouldn’t feel the pressure to look forever young. If I were a man I wouldn’t turn the page of every magazine, thinking all my problems would be solved if I looked a certain way. There may be 1 in 100 men who feel this way, maybe 2. But for women it’s the majority of us. Trained like dogs to salivate at the sight of cosmetics. Trained by consumer culture to wear a mask over our real faces. Men don’t wear this mask. They are taught to believe what they see in the mirror is enough.
Men don’t dread ageing in the same way women do. Men don’t have the same “sell-by” date. Men don’t feel on the shelf when they hit thirty. Every film, every article, designed to “empower” women actually feed into the idea that there is something wrong. How many movies do you see about a single man crying because he isn’t married or has kids? We have Bridget Jones Diary not Bob Jones diary. If Bob Jones diary did exist no one would watch it. Why has the overweight, thirty something singleton become a nice little consumer packaged stereotype? Why does this character resonate with females at all? Why do we have to learn to be “happy single” ? It seems when we hit thirty we have to fit into one category or another, ladies your options are;
1. Hard hitting childless career gal, with an extra shot of sass in her mojito. Can be found dragging men into bed by the balls and regurgitating their bones the next morning.
2. Little Miss “forever alone”, typically overweight and worrisome, a try hard who hopelessly flirts with anything in a suit. Can be found in her charming yet messy one bedroom apartment reading wedding magazines and writing “Mrs Darcy” repeatedly on bits of paper. Posts memes about wine and marrying cats. Ha.ha.
3. The full of it married gal. Uses nauseating phrases such as “hubby”. Talks shamelessly about the state of her pelvic floor to the office. Is no longer singular but plural, “we” don’t like that new Italian.
4. The life and soul of the party. Squeezes her cellulite into various animal prints, is saltier than the sea and her friends are her daughter’s age. Can be mistaken for a dead tiger on the nightclub floor.
5. The sex crazed MILF. Possibly has a dead husband, possibly an absent husband. Keeps her toyboys in the vice like grip of her vagina muscles. The praying mantis of women, she will hang boys testicles from her neck like a tribal huntsman. Wears only silk negligees and heels. Powers of seduction beyond normal.
6. Botoxasaurus Rex. She’s blonde, she’s breasty. A naval unit tried to board her lips after mistaking them for submarines.
7. The non lesbian lesbian. You know the one at the office, with the short hair, no wedding ring. It’s 2017 it’s ok to have a girlfriend?! Except she doesn’t have a girlfriend. No matter how straight she is, she will always be a lesbian.
8. The quirky chick. Green hair and fuck you attitude. Cute tees with feminist slogans, is in a polygamous relationship with a guy named Skye and a girl named Mist. Knows Tantra, obviously.
9. The divorcee. Bitter and on the prowl, has marriage advice even if you didn’t ask for any. Always the same advice, “men are all the same”.
10. The defiant one. The worst of all, if life were a romantic comedy she would repel the advances of a man way out of her league before she crumbles to her innate feminine side. Yes, she can love again, she just needs a hero to see past her waspish exterior.
The problem with these “anti-stereotype” portrayals of women is that they have become a stereotype. Once again, our worth is linked with our sexuality whether it is in a overt or subtle manner.
No matter how hard they may argue men will never come face to face with their identities in such a way. It is not to say that men are immune to the claws of insecurity and sexual assumption but they are not defined by it as women are. There are not veritable villages of cosmetic products for men aligning the isles of shops. It is not widely accepted that women will discard their men in favour of a “younger, better” model once they reach a certain age.
Men are dictated to each year what they “should” find attractive, by the media, by cosmetic and fashion giants and from that dictation women seek to replicate. In the era of Pamela Anderson we were sold the image of the bronzed, blonde goddess with the gravity defying chest. Then we moved into the age of Kardashian where we are expected to be all things lips and hips. We became an e-card “real men like curves” how about real men like whatever the fuck they want? The make up aisles swelled like “The Blob” in R.L Stein’s ‘Goosbumps’ novella. We are now expected to contour, highlight, colour correct and stick a fucking unicorn on our foreheads. We might as well go up to the counter and ask “May I have a new face please? I want to look like a snapchat filter”.
In the pursuit of “on fleek” we have lost the beauty and wildness of true femininity, the woman who’s power lies beyond the surface, the woman who’s confidence comes from within. That lioness is in all of us, it has been suppressed by the patriarchy for centuries, and now is suppressed by the cosmetics industry and comparison culture fuelled by social media.
Because let’s be real, no matter how much shit you put on your face, you are still the same person underneath. To be more comfortable in a mask and not your real, human face is incredibly sad.
A man is often defined by what he does, a woman by her sexual viability. For instance a male politician is a politician. A female politician however is a politician but she will forever be scrutinised according to her dress sense, her shoes, her “sharp” power suit or “fashion blunder”. Not only is she political but she must also be fashionable too, she must wear the right shoes, the right earrings, the right two piece combo to act as a guide for all feminine power dressers.
I will end this article with an image. Imagine a tribal woman, standing next to a herd of antelope with a spear in her hand. Her eyes are trained on her target and she manoeuvres herself gracefully to attack her prey. With one strong movement she launches the spear into the neck of the antelope. The antelope falls to the ground. She has captured her food, it will roast that night on an open fire and her children will eat from it. Years of training have allowed her to hunt with such skill. She faltered at first, yet with time she became adept. I give you the image of this woman, because you do not know her age, you do not know the size of her breasts or her lips, you do not know if she has a husband or if she had lines around her mouth. I gave you an imagine filled with strength, direction, practised skill, grace and majesty. These are the things every woman can be if we subtract the encumbering load of self doubt and stereotype from our own image. Our own image can be just as powerful, if only we would let it.