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Putting my feminist ideals to the test

Posted in Beauty, fashion, and Style & Travel

052011kimcattrallhot100A few days ago I bumped into an old friend I hadn’t seen in a very long while: a very pretty woman who, if memory serves me well, used to have a few wrinkles. Now, they have been replaced by a smooth and rosy complexion. I have to admit: she looked great.

I am still torn on the subject of either surgical or less invasive intervention (Botox and fillers), partly because I vowed I would never go down that road. I don’t need to go down that road – I am not a celebrity nor is my job predicated on youthful looks. Nor am I single, trying to make my best first impression (and let it be known my husband is very much against intervention).

And then there is the matter of my feminist principles, of being accepted for who I am, aging (more or less) gracefully and all that.

If you watched the Presidential debate a few days ago, you might have noticed how great Hillary Clinton looked: was it just the make-up and lighting? Gloria Steinem, who is over 80, looks remarkably youthful as well. I am not suggesting they intervened in any fashion (Ms. Steinem, in fact, flatly denies – so there is still hope) but, if they did, would I feel betrayed? What kind of example are they giving us? Are they saying the pressure is too great?

Last Sunday, my (un-retouched) and still beautiful friend Bonnie sent me an article which I had discovered myself a few minutes earlier in the Sunday NY Times. Debora Spar, the president of Barnard College in New York City, a bastion of liberalism and feminism, ponders the exact same question: “does a little face lift constitute treason?

Ms Spar’s assumption is that aging has become unacceptable, not just in Hollywood, but in any professional circle where women have climbed the ladder.

hillary-clinton-debate-1-w710-h473-2xEveryone is better off if nobody tummy-tucks and uses Botox, but once anyone starts, it gets harder to pull back from the practice.
So instead, an entire generation of feminist and postfeminist women who stormed the barricades of the American work force, planned their reproductive destinies, and even got their partners to fold the laundry occasionally are now engaged in an odd sort of collective self-delusion. Everyone (at least in certain high-profile or professional circles) is doing it, and very few are confessing, a fact that in some ways is more disturbing than the surge in the surgeries themselves. Because not only are we nipping, suctioning and using hormones, but we’re also feeling embarrassed about it, and lying. Neither of which was really the point of women’s liberation.”

I have noticed that, as I get older, I tend to think of problems in terms of principles. Recently, my bank was found to have opened millions of fraudulent accounts without their clients’ permission, in an effort to meet productivity targets. I was not one of those customers – by sheer miracle, I believe – but I felt compelled to transfer my accounts, out of principle.

Now I am pondering my desire to fill a wrinkle, or three, against my feminist principles: why do it? Because I don’t like the way I look anymore? Because most of my friends are doing it? I call into question self-acceptance and wishing to look my best – but let’s be honest: I would do it to keep up with the joneses, so I wouldn’t look like the old crone in the midst of rosy complexions.

Certainly not to cheat aging.

And maybe that is ok too, as long as I am honest with myself.

We fought for equal pay, for fair division of labor, for the right to vote and for reproductive rights. It seems like the next battle, ridiculously enough, might be to wear wrinkles proudly.

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17 Comments

  1. interesting article and interesting comments. I tend to agree with most of them. As you may remember I have given up colouring my hair, and so far so good. Everyone has complimented me, and many have assumed I have added the silver streaks rather than they are natural. Maybe because nobody thinks of me as old enough for white hair. I generally would not have surgery, but I might consider an eyelid lift in time. For me, I think ageing is a matter of attitude and with the right attitude it is very liberating to grow old gracefully. There is old and old, there is middle aged and middle aged going on old. I know women and men who have given up it seems as they got older. They have no style. The women wear no makeup, and wear totally unflattering clothes. Even if they still colour their hair they look older because they lack style and presence, and yes confidence. Maybe it is lack of confidence that means they do not develop style. And when I look at men as old as me or older, I see some who look great, because they care about their looks in that they wear stylish clothes, have their hair cut well, and if they have none left, then they have a smooth and healthy scalp. They have confidence and style. With confidence and style, then age becomes irrelevant. You need the two together. I think Trump is a fine example of someone with lots of confidence, but no style. He looks younger than his age, but comes across as a sleazebag, because he is not a true gentleman.Then I know of people with lots of confidence, but they do not care about what other people think of them. They have their own style and own way of dressing and living, in a take it or leave it sort of way. Fine if that works for them, but it can cause issues within relationships if the partner does not have the same view.
    You have to decide for yourself about the filling. And clearly you want to go down that path, which is fine. I would just add one thought, which I think has already been mentioned, that once you start filling wrinkes, then like dying the hair, you will probably find you have to carry on until you decide not to anymore.

    October 2, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I am with you when it comes to style, something that is often overlooked here in the States where “put together” often means a clean tracksuit. As to the fillers, I am terrified of going down the path where you keep on injecting and completely distort what is needed. And it’s the reason why I have refrained thus far. Cosmetic surgery, if well done, can be very natural, stays in place for years and doesn’t need retouches. We shall see.

      October 3, 2016
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  2. I’m really not sure how to address this adequately in a succinct comment (I’m considering doing a response post…)
    Personally, I don’t think I’d ever go down the path of plastic surgery or other cosmetic procedures – on principle. But maybe, for some people, it’s a choice between that and putting some sort of risk on their psychological well-being (although, I guess if that were the case, it might be no more than a quick, temporary fix)

    September 30, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Well, I really understand correcting what is perceived as a crippling defect: a large nose, ears that stick out or whatever someone, looking in the mirror, becomes all they see. I can see how that would provide psychological help. Maybe looking “fresher” also helps in accepting the process of aging. What I do see in many women, though, is a rabbit hole of fillers and botox, that ends up distorting their original look or leaving them devoid of expression. Once you start pushing the boundaries, sometimes it is hard to stop.

      September 30, 2016
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  3. Feminism, at its core, is about making sure that women have the same social, political and economic rights as men. Implementing feminism means not working against other women to further your own agenda. To my mind – looking like you want to look is a self-empowerment issue. If it allows you to feel better about yourself and to operate in the world with more confidence or self esteem – then why not? But, if you are employing your looks as a way to do another woman down (by taking her job, husband, family or whatever) that’s a deeply anti-feminist action. We didn’t create the culture of youth and beauty. But, it exists and we often find we have to compete within it… just to get by. As aging women – we can get the short end of the stick in the job market simply because we look older. Socially – we’ve all experienced invisibility at one time or another. The reality is – we have all seen how beauty or youth have worked in someone’s favour.

    I had my eyes done at 45 – and I am delighted I did. Allows me to get away with very little make-up and short-cropped/uncoloured hair. Had I still been living with the swathe of skin and under-eye bags – I know I would have liked myself less each morning. Feminist that I am. So – I say go for whatever floats your boat. Do it for the right reasons and it will work for you. Do it for the wrong reasons and you will always be trying to catch up. There will always be someone who trumps you. Pun intended

    September 30, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      You know that, at the core, I completely agree with you. That piece, though, made me think about women’s complicity in perpetrating this obsession on looks and youthfulness that, if they haven’t created, they are now submitting to. And how do we stop it? Or do we even need to? I might get myself a couple of fillers for Christmas – we will see. Can’t make up my mind.

      September 30, 2016
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  4. Sue
    Sue

    and it’s not just the wrinkles, but the saggy skin, bags below the eyes and cheeks turning to jowls……. I try not too look into the mirror too much!!
    But when I work (or go out) I make an effort to look better (with a little makeup over my usual none at all) but, believe me I sometimes wonder what my, often, much younger safari clients think when they first meet me!
    Then I think that it’s all about attitude, personality and how alive one keeps one’s facial expressions – and hopefully no-one notices the wrinkles or bags anymore…..

    September 30, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Yes, well, thanks for filling in the gory details! Frankly, it all boils down to personality. I think in your line of work, having an experienced guide would reassure me more than some rosy faced, age indescript woman. An unappealing personality with a smooth face won’t last long.

      September 30, 2016
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  5. We need to accept ourselves for who and what we are. And besides I have an irrational fear of injections?

    September 30, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I have an irrational fear of anesthetics. When I underwent breast surgery, I grilled my poor anesthesiologist – I have this fear I won’t wake up!

      September 30, 2016
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  6. I have dark skin so I look younger than my age (as do my parents). I don’t know what I would do if I had more wrinkles but I do know I wouldn’t want to look like a women who had surgery. Perhaps the stunning Meryl Streep, Martha Stewart, and Angela Bassett have had work done. You can’t tell. They don’t look like women in their respective 70s, 60s, and 50s, who are trying too hard look twenty/thirty years younger.

    I see the women with the duck lips, foreheads that don’t move, and it’s distracting. There’s nothing wrong with getting “freshen up”. The point of plastic surgery is to look like the best version of yourself, more rested. Instead these women all look the same. Surgery and Botox is not as popular in Rome as it is in Los Angeles, it really stands out here. I don’t think the women look younger with the super tight skin. They look like they had work done. Which in a bizarre way draws more attention to their age.

    September 30, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I have been at the receiving end of a full dose of Italian tv, with my mom here. I am apalled at what young women are willing to do on a regular basis and have been scared by some personalities I used to know 20 years ago who are now beyond recognition. Everyone in Hollywood has had something done, whether it’s just dermabrasion or some fillers. When you are forced to see your face plastered everywhere….but most of them look natural. I think Jane Fonda, at 78, looks amazing (and I saw very close up recently).

      September 30, 2016
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    • I agree with you. I don’t know what Jane Fonda has done, other than working out, but she looks incredible and natural. Her face moves. Which is a plus for an actress.

      October 2, 2016
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  7. Winston Moreton
    Winston Moreton

    Affascinante. Do you know of any women who perform cosmetic surgery?

    September 30, 2016
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    • sofagirl
      sofagirl

      I do Winston. Let me know if you want a referral. You can go on Safari afterwards xxxx Sofagirl.

      September 30, 2016
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  8. And I do wear mine proudly. And I’ve stopped coloring my hair. I can’t wait until it all goes white. My attitude? If you don’t like how I look, don’t look at me. I give kudos to the women who wear their two piece bathing suits at the beach. It takes a much more confident woman to be who she is, than one who feels she must do whatever … at whatever cost to be acceptable. Just my humble opinion.

    September 30, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      You are absolutely right – it takes a lot more self-acceptance and confidence. Trying to get there.

      September 30, 2016
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