YWCA Hamilton: Voices

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Women’s Bodies: Self Hate and Objectification

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I was disheartened today to come across an article from the Globe and Mail about Aging Women and their obsession with their bodies.

The article, while attempting to be funny in an ” I understand what you’re going through” kind of way, describes the oh-so-awful changes that happen to a woman’s body as she ages.

Taking a step in the right direction, the author acknowledges that:

Many women fight tooth and bicep to delay arrival to this place. Midlife makes them feel invisible to men and somehow diminished, despite their accomplishments. No wonder all those big, fancy cosmetics companies and plastic surgeons frame their age-defying pitches in the feminist language of “rights” and “choices.” They understand that some women see youthful physical beauty as an expression of their power.

Unfortunately, the critical analysis ends there. Instead of delving into why women feel this way or thinking of other creative ways for women to exert power, the author attempts to take a more humourous route. A route, I would suggest, is very damaging.

Using unsightly cartoon drawings to illustrate her points, the author examines, one by one, the “worst afflictions”. The article notes that it is sad that the names women choose for their “ailments” are always laced with annoyance and contempt, rather than with the love or fondness a male might use.

Regardless, the list includes “the bitch wrinkle”, “bunny lines”, “the quilting pattern”, and “vampire dinner lips”, to name a few.

The problem with this type of humour is that it further objectifies a woman’s body, deducing her into mere (flawed) body parts, rather than the entirety of her being. How can you be powerful or meaningfully contribute to society when you are obsessively contemplating what to do to “cure” your “quilting pattern” face?

I know many women who are in their 50’s and 60’s who are incredibly beautiful women. Their beauty, however, was not purchased in a plastic surgeons office and isn’t reflected in their self depreciating sense of humour. Rather, the most beautiful women  I know are so striking because of their tangible sense of self acceptance and self love. Moreover, these women are so beautiful because rather than obsessing how to look younger or more attractive themselves, they live their lives in a way that seeks to find goodness and beauty in others.

I’m not interested in hearing someone lament about their “bunny lines” when there is so much other work to be done…like ending poverty, achieving gender quality, finding a cure for HIV/AIDS etc.

Confidence, self love and acceptance are the markers of true beauty, at any age.

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