I am a woman restored. Fresh from a few hours in the chair of the wunderkind I have returned to my beloved lilac – showing a bit pinky this month – but there is joy in the different shades of loveliness don’t you think?
A wise woman once said – that you wear your hair every day and so spending a bit of time and effort and casholah is justified. It being a crowning glory and all. If I ever go thin or bald – I’ll be down the wig shop before you can say ‘two Dolly Partons and a Beyoncé for party nights!’
I feel more like myself. I bleached out the lilac a couple of months ago – in advance of a corporate gig. As it turned out that didn’t quite come off and so I bowed to the pressure of conformance to no avail. I’m not even sure it was necessary – but somehow I felt that fighting with the perception of how effective and or authoritative an auditor with lilac hair might be wasn’t worth it for me. So I went blonde for the dollar.
Dollar came there none. Lesson learnt.
I am currently engaged in the same vein but from my desk – so I thumb my nose at the conventions of the office and fully expand back into the freedom and joy of working from home. I am my own woman and I shall wear my hair how I choose. Currently in a half quiff, half bob combination giving a rockabilly edge to my turn ups, all star fakes and partner’s checked shirt.
Which brings me to another pre-occupation. My weight. I am not a fat activist by any stretch of the imagination – although I absolutely despair of the pressure of the ‘gaze’ that sweeps up and down our female bodies like some fucking roving, eye in the sky. Ever present – ever vigilant – we are policed from every quarter. You are too thin, too fat, too curvy, too athletic – not feminine – too girly – not attractive, under weight – over weight, blah blah blah.
I’d mind less if there was any kind of consensus about what is ideal – then at least I’d have something to swing for. But to be honest no fukker knows. Women are carved up and fed back to us in bits. Kim Kardashian’s arse, Madge’s arms in the yoga years, a news reader’s legs, Jenifer Aniston’s haircut… Those amazing women who are fat and demanding recognition for the struggle that represents just to be treated as a human being – are vilified and accused of promoting obesity.
When mostly they are simply arguing for acceptance, demonstrating their fierce, fit alternative beauty. Coming out from the shadows and refusing to feel embarrassed by their bodies and asking why it is they should be singled out.
Thin is prized above all else. Our bodies, our looks are commented on from day one. Little girls are praised and prized for their beauty. My littlest niece came to visit recently from Australia. It struck me how rarely we big up the kids in our lives for their achievements. I was super mindful of how and what I chose to comment on.
It wasn’t that hard – after a few days I trained myself to foreground her smarts, wit, reading, story telling, crafting ability and her loving nature. Same as her elder brother in fact. I trained out any and all comments on how they looked – because it’s bloody irrelevant.
My littlest niece currently eschews all things girl – this may be a phase, it may not – but for now she is adamant that she ain’t no skirt wearing, princess loving girly girl. I recognise this fierce little ‘ocker’ – she’s her own woman at five and my greatest wish for her is that she continues to plough her own uniquely crazy happy gorgeous furrow without the force of that ‘gaze’ making her feel like it would be easier to conform.
Because really – what are we conforming to? Outdated notions of femininity, or of what a healthy female body looks like? Or the pressures of the social media ‘hive mind’. It’s all as confused and constructed as it ever was. We need a new punk feminism that will appeal to the next generation of people trying to make sense of it all.
We should be sticking two fingers up at the norm ing of overly thin bodies – and the continued requirement for women to just shut up and focus on dieting. The more obsessed we are with clean eating, the right type of diet, working out or fitting into badly designed – high street clobber the less likely we are to notice that we’re being shrunk. Shrunk in thought and deed as much as dimension.
All over the Internet are women who sit outside the ‘hollywoodised’ norms of acceptable – getting this shit done. Wonderful yogis working to undermine the notion that fat is unfit, like Jessamyn Stanley. Extraordinary older women living juicy lives, wearing what the fuck they want, travelling, making art, writing, cooking loving and cocking a colourful snoot at fashion and youth. Daring to be visible and returning the disapproving gaze with feisty ‘FUCK THAT’ aplomb.
If you are feeling that your personal agency is shrinking go and find them. Outsider artists, musicians, writers, feminists, crafters and yogis and join their motley crews. Then come back and tell me all about them. I’m so in that tribe!
You might like to start with Ari Seth Cohen’s blog www.advancedstyle.com – packed to the side bars with role models for anyone who struggles with the constant pressure to look this way or that. If I have to be in a squad – I’m going to build my own crazy happy gorgeous squad.
Watch this space!