North American women’s obsession with outward beauty has scuttled a daring and creative plan to pay for health care in the United States.
I don’t get it…When U.S. Senate majority leader Harry Reid proposed a five per cent levy on elective cosmetic surgeries and procedures to help pay for U.S. Health Care, the loudest outcry came from America’s largest feminist lobby group, NOW (National Organization for Women).
I don’t get it…This represents a clear contradiction from that organization’s initial “burn your bra” stance of the late 60s, when the organization got huge media coverage as they burned a trash can full of bras, girdles and cosmetics outside the Miss America beauty pageant—making a clear statement for the unfettering of women to the slavery of “outer beauty”.
I still don’t get it…NOW argued that the tax unfairly targets women, who comprise 90 percent of cosmetic surgery recipients—especially middle-aged women, facing workplace discrimination. NOW’s president Terry O’Neill insisted that older women’s aged appearance was holding them back. “I know a lot of women whose earning power stalled out or kicked down as they entered into their 50s, unlike their male counterparts, whose really went up,” O’Neill told the New York Times.
Laurie Essig, sociology professor at Middlebury College and author of Americans Plastic: Boob Jobs, Credit Cards and Our Quest for Perfection, noted that most women who signed up for cosmetic surgery were not holding jobs in which appearance was critical. She quoted a real estate agent’s complaint: “No one wants to buy a house from someone who looks tired.” That agent was obviously “trained” to think that “old” in a woman equates to “tired” and unattractive.
Ok, you know, I DO get it…This is pure bunk and sadly fosters womankind’s own insecurities rather than empowering us to move forward into leadership. This, particularly when menopausal women (called the “crone” stage by Linda E. Savage, Ph.D., author of “Reclaiming Goddess Sexuality”) currently comprise the largest demographic and could be celebrating and sharing their wisdom and experience with their younger counterparts. But, what message are we giving them instead by expressing an obsession with outer beauty and trying to look years younger than we are? Are we still giving our power away? The Crone Stage of life is a time of celebration of mind and heart, of giving back to society the cumulative wisdom of the years. How are we to do this if we let our patriarchal model dictate the terms of our very existence?
Daniel Hammermesh, economics professor at the University of Texas, and other researchers have demonstrated that attempts to improve attractiveness through artificial means (e.g., cosmetics or surgical intervention) does not improve earnings. Nor does it increase self-esteem, confidence, or self-empowerment—all hallmarks of successful visionaries and entrepreneurs. I don’t need an economics professor to tell me this truth: people can tell the difference between natural and artificial beauty. One comes from inside and shines through in every aspect of that person; the other is an empty shell of plastic, chemicals and insecurities. The argument that older women command less wages or compromised job positions because of their appearance is less likely the case than the employer preferring employees who don’t just look young but ARE young, because they are also cheaper to hire, and easier to manipulate and dispense with.
Ariane de Bonvoisin, writing for the Huffington Post, suggested that most women she met have a new fear: “the fear of not being relevant, the fear of not making a difference, the fear of working on things that don't really matter in the important times of transition we live in. We're hungry to be part of making things better. We want to create, we want to do what we love again and find our voice. We sense intuitively that we have a critical role to play in shaping the future of our world. And yet, so many of us give in to excuses of not being good enough, young enough, smart enough, wealthy enough, creative enough. We still play small, still give in to the "victim" archetype. We still buy into what society's beliefs are and put them right above our own. But we don't really have time for these fears. If I could create a vaccine, instead of the flu one, I'd create one against fear. It's what holds us back, every one of us, in every area of our life. And, while we're holding back, time just moves on faster than ever. We are at a critical time in the evolution of our planet, a time where each one of us is waking up. We feel it. Our intuition is growing more acute. Our inner microphone, as I like to call it, is getting harder and harder to turn off, so that we can't just go along with our normal day. There's a rise in consciousness where we feel more connected to others, a part of something bigger going on, where we each have a role to play. The most important thing isn't to get the promotion, or stay in the marriage, or lose those 10 pounds. The most important thing is for us to remember who we are—why we are here—to do the inner work and find what are our ‘spiritual’ reasons for being on the planet. Yes we do have something great to accomplish.” And Botox isn’t part of it.
I REALLY do get it…NOW’s stance on the cosmetic issue runs so counter to what they presumably advocate for women, and lies so far from the true feminine wisdom, that I am inclined to suggest that they are ironically serving the greedy pockets of a patriarchal-based cosmetics-surgery industry.
…And here’s what I get: Instead of submitting to the current hegemony whose canon suggests a woman’s outward appearance is more important than her mind and heart, organizations that purport to represent the interests of women should be advocating leadership, literacy, powerful speech, altruism and a genuine celebration of the woman in all her facets, particularly the “crone” complete with wrinkles of wisdom. It’s time we grow up and face who and what we are—and celebrate it.
Beauty, like truth, is perceived and expressed from the heart and the soul. Shakespeare knew this too (To thine own self be true—Hamlet). When one is truthful (about oneself particularly) then one is also beautiful. To see the truth about a person or object is invariably to recognize our inherent beauty, the divine nature God has given us, to see beyond the mundane surficial veil we all spend so much time cultivating… "Beauty is truth, truth beauty; that is all ye know on Earth and all ye need to know" (John Keats). It is a simple yet difficult maxim to follow. For in following it, one must be willing to cast off one’s “safe” societal facade and display oneself naked before God and the often judgmental scrutiny of humankind. To look beyond the shallow shores of deception into the deep abyss of truth. To live.
Savage, Linda. 1999. Reclaiming Goddess Sexuality: The Power of the Feminine Way. Hay House. 293p.
Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit www.ninamunteanu.me. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for more about her writing.