Posted by on 8th February 2018

On Purses and Makeup and Shoes and the Subjugation of Women and Their Dreams

“Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic, or competitive. This myth is like heels and purses — pretty but designed to SLOW women down.” — Roxane Gay Bad Feminist, August 2014

I’ve been watching The Handmaid’s Tale lately (which, if you haven’t seen it, is dark and disturbing and abso-frickin-lutely A-mazing), and one scene from the show has been stuck in my head. It summed up a line of thinking I’ve been following for the past few years in a frighteningly perfect way (Don’t worry. No spoilers).

In the scene, Joseph Fiennes, who plays The Commander, offers Elizabeth Moss, his Handmaid, a contraband copy of a woman’s magazine along the lines of Cosmo or Glamour.

She smiles, unsure, but clearly interested in this item that reminds her of better days, and could provide a tiny escape from the horror of her current dystopian life. He flips through the pages and says something along the lines of, “I never understood why women like these magazines. All they do is tell you, you aren’t pretty enough, or smart enough, or good enough in bed.”

The voice in my head said, “Riiiiiiiiiiight?”

Being Thin Enough, and Fashionable Enough, and Pretty Enough

Women have long been set a higher bar for how we’re supposed to look and act. According to magazines, movies, and social media we’re supposed to be very thin (but healthy, and with nice boobs and a booty), perfectly made up and put together at all times, and able to catch bad guys even in stilettos.

That bar is so high I’m not sure anyone can reach it without photoshop, plastic surgery, or an eating disorder. But damn, so many women keep trying, and then feeling bad about themselves for not achieving these impossible ideals.

So we go through life thinking we’re not good enough, and doing and buying everything we’re told in a vain effort to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. We even think we wear those horribly uncomfortable shoes and outfits for ourselves. Really though, who benefits? Corporations, the already wealthy, and the men in power who’d rather women not have the time, energy, money, or courage to challenge them or the status quo.

How is a woman going to find time to do anything when she’s juggling kids, work, and debt up to her bra straps—and trying to look and act perfect to boot? She’s not. As long as we’re focused on trying to make ourselves thin enough, fashionable enough, and pretty enough to be loved and respected, we’re letting our power be taken away. It’s a way of controlling us.

“Heels and purses are pretty but designed to SLOW women down.”

Carrie Bradshaw famously said she “likes her money where she can see it—hanging in her closet.”  That’s all well and good until your car dies, or you want to buy a house, start a business, or retire. Or you finally decide to walk out on the cheating/abusive SO you’ve been living with, only to realize no one will take a pair of Louboutins as deposit on an apartment.

Having financial freedom means having the freedom to make choices and changes in your life. To move across the country, leave a bad relationship, change careers, get a degree, or write the great American novel. Spending tons of time and money making sure you always have the latest outfit and perfectly manicured nails isn’t moving your life forward. It’s holding you back.

Imagine if women were happy with themselves. If we believed in our innate value, power, and beauty without all the expensive lotions and potions and paints and must-have outfits. Imagine what we could accomplish if we used that time, money, and emotional energy to start a business, fight for a cause, or achieve our dreams.

When women realize we don’t need to waste our precious time and money on all this highly-marketed crap to be beautiful, smart, powerful, and respected (or find true love), we’ll be unstoppable.

What do you think? Do you see a connection between the media’s example of beauty, and product and fashion marketing, and the subjugation of women?

Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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