Singer-songwriter Courtney Love (centre) and bassist Melissa Auf der Maur, of American alternative rock group Hole, with a fan, 1994. (Photo by Kevin Cummins/Getty Images)
a male friend of mine indulges me in the same conversation whenever we are having drinks, one where i list off the things that women worry about constantly that men never think about. he listens to me talk about weight, diet, exercise, body shape, outfits and outfit appropriateness, hair coloring, waxing, nail care, lingerie, tanning, skin care, makeup, on and on, and shakes his head with exasperation. and always replies, “i literally never think about any of that.” my husband agrees and they both tell me that apart from the occasional thought of working on the beer gut, weight doesn’t figure. neither of them have ever looked at another man and thought, “i wish i looked like that.” in fact, both tell me that they have never wished that they looked differently than they do. it has never occurred to either of them.
this conversation comes up often because it continues to astound me how much women go through daily that men never experience. the standards that we hold ourselves to and live by that don’t exist for men. i would say that largely my life revolves around my appearance. my weight, how i look, my hair and skin are things that are constantly on my mind. that’s not to say that there aren’t more important and meaningful things in my life. it’s more like those things are always present, like being a diabetic who always has to be conscious of food choices and blood sugar levels, it’s just something that i live with. having a child changed my priorities and most certainly my schedule, but i still manage to insert those things into my life, i find time to exercise and color my hair and eat well and use seven different creams on my skin every night. because i feel that i must.
the dark side of being a female comes via comparison. social media seems to have taken over the role once occupied by men judging beauty pageants (and sitting in the oval office, apparently). women posting selfies tauting six pack abs or thigh gaps, or padded behinds with teeny tiny cinched waists. waifish girls lounging on beaches in string bikinis holding giant frothy sugary cocktails. all of them implying that there is something natural about it. easy. i don’t know how girls today are supposed to establish any sort of positive self-image when they are bombarded with images of bodies constantly. bodies that are starved or worked into submission, surgically enhanced and photoshopped and corseted and cajoled into looking like a hundred other bodies in selfies posted on social media.
when i see pop stars or internet starlets of the day getting surgery to give them enormous hips and bums with teeny tiny waists that look like cartoon bodies, i wonder how they will feel about it in 10 years when that look is no longer in fashion. but really, what’s the difference between iggy azalea’s hips and jennifer gray’s nose? perhaps kardashian bodies are the baywatch boobs and lip injections are the tribal tattoos of the present day. it does seem to be an evolution, it’s an intense one for sure, but along the same line. and the thing of it is, despite growing up in a different era i am not immune to the current pressure to look bikini booty selfie ready. the effects of being photographed constantly and having a hyper-photo-documented life and feeling like you’re being watched & judged all the time are real. even if you avoid being snap-chatted or selfie-sticked, we’re all seeing those images in a steady stream, all day every day. what you are seeing 8 billion times a day is bound to influence and make one compare themselves to the easy breezy yet perfectly curated minutia of the insta-world.
i often lament that girls today have no personal style because they are flooded with so much information that they don’t have the space to make choices for themselves. to quote chloe sevigny: “I’m very confused by millennials. When I was a teenager, your wardrobe identified who you were. There aren’t any tribes anymore; just teenagers dressing as one.” as a teenager my idols were musicians and actors that had unique styles of their own, i looked for pieces of them that felt true, or like pieces of the puzzle to the woman i was becoming. i wanted courtney love’s lipstick & babydoll dress or winona ryder’s haircut & baggy old man sweaters. i never wondered who their personal trainers were or what diet they were on.
when my mother was a girl she was not allowed to wear pants to school. her generation fought for sexual liberation as the free love generation and became largely a generation of single mothers. my generation fought for the right to be individual and to “speak our truth.” we fought against conformity as the riot grrl generation and we became largely a generation of career moms. when i look at millennials i don’t know exactly what they represent or aspire to, apart from fame. what saddens me is the extremely cut-throat and competitive attitude of girls and young women today. i agree with chloe sevigny, tribes have been replaced by gangs. it’s taylor or katy and kill or be killed.
what’s incredible is that it is the men who are speaking out about this. i noticed in comedy specials by both tracy morgan and dave chapelle that there were complaints about how women hate their bodies these days, and how sick of hearing about it they are. rappers, comedians and husbands everywhere are sick and tired of the selfie culture and the faux perfection it demands from women. and i have to say, aren’t we all sick and tired of it? isn’t it time the reality tv generation grew up and accepted a little reality?