What is expected

A shock ran through the media this week: Hillary Clinton appeared in public without make up! Apparently, Hillary has been eschewing fasionable dress lately, wearing silver hair clips and scrunchies (you remember the eighties?). The press are shocked and appalled.

I am shocked by their reaction. The expectation that a woman paint herself to appear in public is antiquated. The fact that most make up contains toxic substances is appalling. The media should be lauding Hillary for choosing not to participate in a retro ritual that highlights physical appearance at best (at the expense of other attributes?) and poses a health-risk at worst. The media respond instead with criticism: unprofessional, not serious enough for her job, homely (!).

The public obsession with women’s appearance has already been commented in this Blog. Read my post about Ashley Judd’s wise words for more. Yet the motif plagues us, surrounds us, enters us while we, oblivious and numb, buy in with very real dollars. The amount of money spent on the quest for beauty in this country is staggering.

And the message continues to barrage us: step outside our line and we will harrass you. In Ms. Clinton’s case, it is an attempt to disempower her as a symbol of authority: her hair clip is worn by middle school girls (gasp!). Fortunately, Ms. Clinton is not easily intimidated.

“At some point it’s [physical appearance] just not something that deserves a whole lot of time and attention. If others want to worry about it, I’ll let them do the worrying for a change.”

Well said, Ms. Clinton. I applaud you for being a role model for the rest of us, despite criticism from fashion trendists, such as Tim Gunn (who sometimes sports a god-awful shirt and tie combination, which just shows that there’s no accouting for taste).

No photo this time: I don’t want to perpetuate the hype. Ms. Clinton deserves to be respected for her words, not her looks.

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3 thoughts on “What is expected

  1. Recently, my 13-year-old daughter was on the city bus with a group of friends. A woman in her mid-20’s looked at one of the girls and said to her, “If my daughter dressed that slutty, I’d whoop her ass.” This sort of thing has started to happen a lot to these middle schoolers when they are out in public, and the phenomenon feels of a piece to me with the issue you raise about the cultural norm that suggests we get to tell women how *their* presentation works for *us*. So, here were girls whose sense of themselves is still emerging, who are trying out what they like, what they are comfortable with, etc. – in a very real way, they were acting on new-found independence by even being out on the bus without an adult in the first place. And every girl on that bus got smacked down. My daughter responds with indignation and shock; she has a deep knowing that this is wrong. But when things like this happen again and again, we start to question ourselves, “Maybe I should dress with others in mind so no one will smack me down on the bus.” Then as a society, we lose an essential creativity and vitality because another girl has learned to ignore her healthy impulse toward self-expression.

  2. Totally agree with you, Katrina…if only I could convince MYSELF that my gray hair is beautiful instead of just old. I’m trying. I was fortunate to have a mom who let me wear what I wanted and dye my hair weird colors and all that. Not all girls have that option.

    Good for you, Hillary! It gives the rest of us regular women a chance to be ourselves. And, I think Hillary looks beautiful and youthful. “Done up” tends to look aging, don’t you think? Plus, I’m with her – who has the time and patience for all that? I’ve got better things to do.

  3. Kim, I don’t think if we magically removed all external judgment about how women look that we’d all magically accept and love everything about how we look. I just want the freedom to struggle with my own aging and changing attractiveness within the confines of my own psyche without having to worry that others might feel free to weigh in on the topic of my hair or my weight or my wrinkles or my style, too – and want that for others.

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