Women need to learn to say no to the insane standards of ‘beauty’

Women need to learn to say no to the insane standards of ‘beauty’ that all women are expected to aspire to.
Updated on May 30, 2015 06:24 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | BySeema Goswami
By now, you’ve probably heard of the idiots at the Cannes Film Festival who refused to allow women who were not wearing heels on to the red carpet. And also, that the ladies who were turned away included a woman who had had part of her foot amputated. It beggars belief, doesn’t it?

I would have thought that all those female actresses who take such pride in calling themselves ‘actors’ to strike a blow against sexism, would have been up in arms at this kind of sexist stupidity.

But bar Emily Blunt, who said that the decision was ‘very disappointing’ (you don’t say!) none of the women in attendance at the Festival seemed unduly perturbed. Or if they were, in fact, incensed, they did a marvellous job of hiding their outrage.

Instead, it was business as usual at the Festival, as the ladies, primped and polished to within an inch of their lives, paraded the red carpet in low necklines and high heels, teetering past the banks of cameras, precariously perched on five-inch stilettos.

How amazing would it have been if they had ditched the vertiginous shoes in solidarity with their flats-wearing sisters, and turned up instead in comfortable mulesto do red carpet duty?

I would have loved to see if the Heels Police at Cannes would dare turn away Cate Blanchett, Charlize Theron, Julianne Moore, or for that matter, Emily Blunt herself, if they were the ones in flats.

Spare no one: Even someone as gorgeous as Aishwarya Rai had fallen prey to fashion Nazis when she was carrying

a little baby weight earlier

But no, even that small act of rebellion was denied us. Instead, all the actresses at Cannes slipped into their sky-high heels quite ignoring the fact that they would have stood much taller if they had opted for flats instead.

Frankly, I am disappointed. Not just with the lack of protest at Cannes but by the fact that women are still expected to adhere to societally-imposed norms of how they should and should not look.

They must be groomed. They must be well-dressed. They mustn’t look their age. They must dye their hair. They must be thin. They must wax all that unsightly bodily hair off. And, of course, they must wear high heels.

Who made up these rules, anyway? And why, way into the 21st century, are we adhering to these antiquated notions of how women must present themselves to the world?

Why do we not rail against the notion that it behoves the female of the species to dress in a way that appeals to the male gaze? Why do we accept that we must suffer in order to be beautiful? Why should pain and discomfort be the price we pay for being admired?

I wish more women would ask these questions. And that they would at least try to look for some answers. But rather than do that, we fall into the Beauty Trap.

We book monthly wax appointments. And the body parts which must never be allowed to stay hairy increases every year. It started off with underarms, arms and legs.

Then, backs and stomachs were insidiously co-opted into the no-hair area. And now even our erogenous zones must be completely hairless so that we look like pre-pubescent girls rather than grown women.

Even beautiful women are not exempt from the no-hair regulation. Remember the media storm when megastar Julia Roberts turned up at a film premiere in a sleeveless dress, and raised her arm to wave at her fans, allowing them to feast their eyes on her long, luxuriant, underarm hair.

You would have thought she had murdered a cat given the violent reactions to that fleeting glimpse of hair.

Waxing is just the beginning of our extreme-maintenance regimes, though. In addition, we are expected to never go above a certain weight. Cue, extreme diets that exclude major food groups and a punishing exercise regime to get that trim stomach and taut butt.

If we fall short, well then, we get Spanxed as punishment. And it is punishment, as anyone who has ever attempted to squeeze into that instrument of torture will attest.

Blunt about it: Emily Blunt was the only one perturbed that women not wearing heels weren't allowed on the red carpet at Cannes
Blunt about it: Emily Blunt was the only one perturbed that women not wearing heels weren't allowed on the red carpet at Cannes

If you attain a certain age, then the anti-ageing industry targets you with a vengeance, with its arsenal of anti-ageing creams, potions, lotions, serums, and what have you.

God forbid that you get a single line on your face, be it laugh lines around your eyes or frown lines on your forehead. No, no, no. They must be erased by all means known to medicine, from laser treatments and glycolic peels to Botox and Restylene.

That’s not counting the Fashion Nazis. You know, the ones who insist that you remain on-trend no matter what. You must move from jeggings to boyfriend jeans and back again.

Saris only work with trendy blouses (if you don’t want to look like a behenji). No open-toed sandals unless you’ve had a pedicure. And palazzo pants are out this season (for God’s sake, you in that crummy T-shirt, do keep up!).

And then, of course, there is the Heels Police, to treat you like a criminal if you choose to wear a comfortable pair of shoes instead of something that wouldn’t look out of place in an S&M fantasy film.

Word to the wise: do not feed this beast. When even someone as gorgeous as Aishwarya Rai can fall foul of its standards (especially when she is carrying a little baby weight), what chance do you and I have? Back away quietly and no one gets hurt.

Take my advice. Just say no. To all of the above. All you have to lose are your special creams, your stilettos and that annual subscription to that fashion glossy.

In their stead, you will rediscover your self-esteem and self-respect. Now, that’s a trade-off worth its price in fluffy slippers.

From HT Brunch, May 31
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