One of the greatest gifts that switching from tampons to Lunapads and the DivaCup (in addition to all of the obvious things that we are always talking about) has given me is the inspiration to question all kinds of personal and consumer choices that we often take for granted as necessary or inevitable.
For some women, casting aside caring about others’ opinions of them, or even the notion of being a woman at all, can open up whole new worlds of freedom and self-expression.
I have been enjoying the Raw Beauty Talks campaign, where Vancouver social entrepreneur Erin Treloar has been photographing local women without makeup, and pairing the portraits with frank interviews about photoshop, “inner beauty” and how we navigate judgement about appearance.
As someone who uses some makeup pretty much every day, I have been moved by beholding the real faces of many women that I know, effectively “seeing” them for the first time, and reconsidering my own choices as a result. Am I “empowered” in my choices around my appearance, or a still-deluded consumer too shamed to accept myself in my natural state?
While I’m not ready to give up my mascara and mineral powder just yet, there are many other related choices that I have become conscious of since I discovered that I didn’t “need” disposable menstrual products. I still remember the first time I passed by the “feminine paper” aisle in the drugstore in my post-tampon euphoria: I felt so free, like I didn’t have to believe a particularly pernicious lie anymore. In what other ways does the Emperor have no clothes?, I wondered.
What about the practice of hair dyeing and removal? Most women that I know dye or at least highlight their hair, as I did for many years. I still remember the burning sensation at my roots as I tried to do what is still taken for granted as a rationale: conceal the inevitable grey. I have been proudly and happily dye-free for 8 years and feel fantastic about it. When asked what my hair colour is, my joke has become that I have no idea and honestly don’t care. (For a longer, excellent read on the hair topic, head over to our friend Marnie Goldenberg’s blog.)
What if I could feel the same way about the crows feet around my eyes, the scars on my belly, my post-nursing breasts, and acne-pocked skin? How great would that be?
I know other women who have “let themselves off the hook” (literally!) by ditching bras, or at least those with underwire. Others say no to waxing, dieting, nylons, skinny jeans, thong underwear or high heels, just to name a few. What standard “beauty rap” have you let go of (or do you embrace?) Here’s my “off the hook” list: lipstick, hair dye, waxing, high heels, nylons. And still going there (for now): teeth whitening, picky haircut, eyebrow maintenance, eye makeup, the odd facial.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that “beauty” maintenance is necessarily bad. Some women I know love their high heels, for example: they make them feel powerful. Right on, Sister! The point is to become more conscious about whether or not something is a true, freely-made choice that supports your fabulousness, or just something that you do because of a false, unquestioned belief (who would want to look old if they could help it, right?) that doesn’t actually serve you (or anyone, for that matter). Maybe one day I’ll find the perfect pair of heels, discover that tooth whiteneing is toxic, or decide to cut my hair short or dye it purple, who knows? In the meantime, I’m just going to keep checking in to see what feels good to me today.
Ageism is rampant in our society, and nowhere is it visited more harshly than upon women. Look beautiful, stay beautiful, fight ageing: this is what we’re told. How about this instead: love, accept, care for and celebrate yourself in whatever ways serve you, free yourself and others from judgement, and seek joy and liberation in whatever forms they take for you.