Haircuts, Kate Middleton and women in the media
I have read a few articles in the last week or so and they, plus a comment about my new haircut, got me thinking about women and appearance. I am not one for appearances. I hardly ever wear make-up; my clothing choices are mainly based on comfort and practicality over fashion and I get my hair cut about twice a year. I don’t think that this makes me less of a woman, however. Gird yourselves for a slightly ranty post…
The first article that I read was about the bikini pictures of Kate Middleton. Is it in the interest of the public that we see a woman wearing a bikini whilst pregnant? Probably not. Especially when the photos were taken surreptitiously with a telephoto lens – it’s not like Kate was parading around wanting to be photographed. This was then followed up by the Hilary Mantel explosion in the papers. Did Hilary Mantel dare to be rude about the lovely, sweet Kate Middleton? How dare she criticise her for being beautiful and inoffensive? Or is that she was criticising the Media for turning Kate into this? Or the royal PR machine for creating Kate as an innocuous and perfect princess? Or did she in fact say that in some ways this is all the Royals have ever been? If you want to read the full speech and come to your own conclusions (which I’d highly recommend as each of the different media, and the PM seem to have read only sections of the whole and blown quite a lot out of proportion in my opinion) then click here. But generally I think the debate surrounding the speech can be seen as another case of women in the public eye being commented on for their appearance before anything else of any substance.
The same fate befell Mary Beard. The academic with long grey hair (yes I mention her appearance for a reason) went on to BBC question time and suffered a string of abuse. In the main it seems that this abuse was not for the things she said on the program, but abuse aimed at her appearance, gender and sex-life. (See her blog about it here) So again, it seems if you are a woman and you are in the public eye then what you say is not as important as what you look like.
In the Independent last week there was an article with a title which says it all: “Yes, Page 3 is bad for women. But so are the photos in OK! magazine” I couldn’t agree more. The article suggests that magazines like OK! Hello! Heat, More! Closer and Now all fill a gap we women didn’t know we had in our lives until the late 80s when these types of magazine were first published, which is to look at other women with few clothes on and discuss whether or not the women are too fat/thin/short. It suggests that these magazines have made their money from making it clear that a woman’s body was something for other women to judge.
It is OK to want to look nice; it is OK to take pride in your appearance. I am not suggesting that we should all wander around without a care for how we look. In fact, if it makes you feel good about yourself then you should feel free to care a lot about your appearance. But I am saying it shouldn’t be mandatory for women to “look good” at all times and in all places. I am saying that if a woman doesn’t want to spend hours making herself look like a model, then that’s OK too – whether that woman is you or me, or whether that woman is in the public eye.
So back to that haircut comment that I mentioned in the beginning: last week I had my hair cut and various Mummy friends couldn’t understand why I had had it cut before the baby came rather than after. The question being why I hadn’t saved it for that point where you feel ‘really crap about yourself post-birth and need to make yourself feel better by making yourself look better.’ For me having a haircut isn’t about looking better, it is about having a pampering and restful experience. I love having my hair washed, I usually have a conditioning treatment and I love the luxury of sitting down for about an hour having nothing else to do or think about. Yes, I step out of the hairdressers with perfectly coifed hair, but I know that will last as long as the next wash as I will not take the time to style it again, so it is the relaxation which I craved rather than the look. Hence the need to grab one of the last moments of peace before all hell breaks loose on the arrival of baby number 2!
So , ladies, as we have said before on this site, if there is one thing we need to do it is stop bitching among ourselves especially about appearances. As the Independent article said “…please let us not feed anymore orgies of self hatred.” Love yourself the way you are and let others do the same.