Thursday, September 29, 2011

Famous Faces of A Certain Age

Paloma Piccaso
A friend of mine has written a book about style and beauty, demonstrating, she believes, that the two create an empowering and intoxicating cocktail. It was briefly under consideration at a publishing house that has a reputation for buying feminist oriented manuscripts. Among the subjects the house publishes are books that give women "actionable" information and advice that will in some way help them improve and enrich their lives.
Lauren Hutton
Her book was turned down, though apparently seriously considered. The reason: Looking good is not a feminist issue.

I'm not here to discuss feminism. For me, the definition is simple -- not always attainable, but simple: Feminism is allowing a woman to make her own choices. She wants to work, she works and she is paid exactly the same wages as her male counterparts. She prefers to stay home; that's what she should do. She wants to have work done on her face (or not) again, her decision.

Toni Morrison
Betty Catroux
Donna Karan
Sonia Braga
As for other issues, my blog is not the platform. However, (you know chez moi there is almost always a "however") I ask you, where is the contradiction between having style and grace and being a feminist? What's wrong with savoring the joy of taking time to look the best we can? Does that somehow compromise principles we may hold? How is that possible?

One woman remarked yesterday that -- I'm paraphrasing, but she didn't sign her comment so I'm not too worried about exactitude, I've got the gist: Women have better things to do than obsess about their looks and spend time gazing into the mirror. It's too boring, she added.

OK, if you say so. I completely disagree.

I'm not talking about the sad cases of women who obsess to the point of distraction over their images, I'm talking about the pleasure, the confidence, the feeling of bien-être (well-being) that taking extra care to look our best can imbue in our lives. Frenchwomen know this, it's part of their culture, it's part of their raison d'être. It's partially what makes them so fascinating. I'm wondering, is anyone complaining or criticizing?
Dayle Haddon
Brigitte Bardot
Dominique Sanda
Gloria Steinem
As Jacqueline pointed out yesterday, broaden the issue, "Let's discuss what makes these women beautiful." Someone else said, "They are themselves with a vengeance." How great is that?

Tell me, where is the contradiction between style and substance?

39 comments:

coffeeaddict said...

I didn't really read yesterday's comments and I have no intention of doing so.
I'm growing weary and angry of constantly having to read, discuss and elaborate on the definition of feminism. I consider myself a feminist but when asked point blank about it I eschew labeling myself as one in public. Because the questions inevitably follow: how can you be a feminist and:
1. shave your legs, armpits and whichever body part deemed inappropriate for hair removal
2. cook for your partner and actually enjoy doing that
3. sewing
And the list goes on. I'm tired of being put ion the stand and defend my actions. Being called a phony or sometimes even worse things than that.
I agree let's keep it simple: feminism is about the right to choose.

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

I find the publisher's response a little disturbing. A strong, confident, dignified woman is a force to be reckoned with! We are all beautiful...but when you back it up with confidence...well, look out! It is just a fact that when we look and feel our best, we are more confident..and less likely to allow someone to walk all over us.
I love the last quote...they are themselves with a vengeance...it is so great! The publisher should have his hand slapped for trying to force women into a small corner.

Sarah said...

@Pam - the publisher was a man?

Jacqueline said...

Where is the contradiction between style and substance? There is none...if the style is genuine and not affected.
My definition of feminism is probably counterintuitive for many people...for me it's not being confined by my gender. I believe as human beings, we are much more than the sum of our parts, and thus should be valued as individuals.
I aspire to be myself with a vengeance!
Great conversation, and I love those fabulous photos of those beautiful women.

helen tilston said...

Thanks for this thought provoking subject:

I feel that

feminism is about the right to choose.

No if, ands or buts.

Helen xx

hopflower said...

I don't understand all this talk and arguing about feminism; a word I don't like, by the way. Humanism, is better. One chooses a life according to one's wishes and talents; the gender does not matter. Sometimes it is not men who are the enemy; indeed, many men are quite supportive.

You are featuring my favorite icon: BB. She is still unbeatable.

déjà pseu said...

hopflower, who said anything about men being the enemy?

I think that publishing house has a very outdated concept of feminism. While it's true that the feminist concept of empowerment has often been co-opted as a way to sell products, there's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to look our best, however we define it, and using style as a means of self-expression. I'm a feminist, and I love clothes, makeup, getting my hair colored and cut, etc. It's fun. And to invoke Emma Goldman, "if I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution."

Villette said...

I've been to a number of conferences at which Christine Lagarde was one of the principles. Anyone who thinks female style is irrelevant hasn't seen the affect she has on men when she comes into the room: it is power, pure and simple. She has taken navy Armani and silver hair and turned them into political weapons.

hopflower said...

déjà pseu: Actually, someone was surprised about a publisher being a man.

Class factotum said...

"Looking good is not a feminist issue."

Looking sloppy and being poorly groomed certainly does not advance one's cause.

LuxeBytes said...

Love this post.

I define feminism precisely as you do, Tish.

Pretty isn't the opposite of smart. Someday I'm going to write a manifesto about that. (Well, probably not, but I like to say that I will.)

Why shouldn't a woman use everything at her disposal? A man would, and no one criticizes him if he's attractive and well groomed. Rather, people just think, "Wow, he's the full package. Smart, witty, charming, and handsome."

xoxo --
Marsi

tweedlibrarian said...

I love this discussion. I am a feminist and humanist, and believe one can most certainly have both style and substance. I think it IS all about choice. If your little boy wants to wear pink nail polish, is that so wrong?

I love lipstick, pretty shoes, and frilly things. I also expect to be paid and promoted equally at work. And if I'm not in the mood to wear lipstick, that's my choice, too.

It's too bad the publisher turned down her book, but I'm hopeful she can either self publish it, or find another publisher.

kathy peck said...

I have the same definition of feminism as you do, and I would include the right not to care about your looks as one of those choices. Not one I would make, but I can see that someone might not be interested in style, maintenance, etc. Style and substance are not contradictory. They coexist for me.

Anonymous said...

All you have to do is look back over history and consider how much appearance, grooming, carriage, looks, etc. has played a role for MEN and ask whether or not that in any way diminished their perceived intelligence or jeopardized their position and influence in society. The answer is NO. So, why are women judged so harshly when they take the time to attend to their grooming and appearance? I really hate double standards. Helen

LPC said...

I notice most of all, Tish, that the sheer volume of women you are showing us is provoking a shift in my attitude. Maybe we can promote the pictures, and change the underlying issues without having to bring up the dreaded F-word.

Oh, and I will tell anyone I'm a feminist. Tough luck if they assume that means I'm angry. Because sometimes I am.

Karena said...

I believe a woman of substance has great style. She is her own woman and as all of these shown, ages beautifully!

xoxo
Karena

Art by Karena

James said...

Male or female , having a sense of style comes across as having self confidence.Was there a better icon of feminism than super stylish Murphy Brown? Tell your friend not to give up on her book.

Alice Olive said...

Agree, the right to choose is what's important.

"...themselves with a vengeance" - what a fabulous expression. And applicable to all aspects!

Anonymous said...

Tish, I have never understood why caring about your personal appearance/fashion and being a "feminist" are mutually exclusive. Self care is pleasurable and stress reducing. It shows self respect and lets others know that you value yourself. I know that what is on the inside is important but having some "curb appeal" sure won't hurt -- Christine Lagarde is a great example.

Gretchen said...

To get at two points (Anon's comment that gazing in the mirror is boring, and your query about style and substance, and thus a roundabout comment on perceptions of feminism and feminity) I believe that it's a matter of degrees. Someone, male or female, young or old, who slavishly seeks out mirrors, obsesses over their clothes and accessories to the exclusion of any other pursuit or thoughts, and acts like a helpless waif is boringly narcissistic or exceedingly insecure. This woman the worst kind of stereotypical "feminine," straight out of some nasty joke men make. On the other end, a woman who shuns all forms of grooming, dresses in shoddy or shapeless, colorless clothing, and derides others for not recognizing her for her mind, is the reason so many people, male or female, are hesitant to claim themselves as "feminist." I don't for one moment believe any of the readers here fit in either category. Some may be more "traditional" and some more "modern" in dress, thoughts and actions, and in acceptance or willingness to adopt surgical procedures, but I hazard to guess nearly every one here would say, to each her own, and more power to you. That, to me, is feminism. And femininity means we all have enough decorum and grace that no one will belittle another's choices nor try to tell them their way is wrong.

A bird in the hand said...

Looking good is about self-care and self-respect, and psychologically uplifting. For me, that is part of feminism, as if my independence and my ability to choose.

Just look at Gloria Steinem: a famous feminist who has always looked good!

So, yes, I agree with you.

Anonymous said...

Gretchen expressed my point of yesterday better than I did.. mirror gazing does limit one's viewpoint..and substance means more than style in my book.. all these ladies you've featured do a great of job of being who they are with style ... you can try and be all that you can be while excepting where you are in life.. it's boring when people can not except where they are and it is also boring when people just give up and do not make an effort

Jill Ann said...

I find it unfortunate that women who believe in the concepts of feminism, sometimes feel it necessary to deny that they ARE feminists. "A movement is not responsible for all those who profess to believe in it." as some wise person once said. Those who oppose women's rights have found it convenient, for many years, to spotlight the fringier elements of feminism (unshaven legs, man-haters, bra-burners, women-who-are-feminists-because-they-can't-get-a-date.) In fact most of us are perfectly normal women who may or may not be pretty, wear dresses, shave our legs, etc., just like any other subset of women. I think it's important for all of us to stand up and say, "this is what a feminist looks like." I've been one since at least age 14, and I love men, makeup, and fashion. Let's own it, ladies.

Jill Ann said...

Oh, and Deja Pseu, this is why I like YOUR blog so much, I think: when I read Hopflower's comment, I immediately thought, "who said anything about hating men?" and laughed when I scrolled to the very next comment to see that you had posted exactly the same thought.

Flor Asturias said...

Well, this is a interesting issue meanwhile we take a coffee. If I have to resume this, I tell that beauty is more than a nice face and slim body. Beauty is connected with the soul, mind, thoughts, efforts, failures, dreams and goodness. And do not forget the health. All in a face that can irradiate this energy, with the proper wrinkles, as the result of a life well lived. Beauty in the eyes, in the hands. Women: Be Proud Of That

Deborah C. said...

This topic is definitely worth considerable discussion. Thank you for pursuing it. I think you touch on some very important issues in your honest and refreshing way. The suggestion by readers that you are too focused on looks misses the point. What I believe you are focused on is how to cultivate grace as we age. This is not any easy trait to acquire. Aging is hard and particularly difficult in the US where we do not have a culture that respects aging. Our media fixates on celebrities as examples on how to look great after a certain age-which is unfortunate. Those women have the money to spend on themselves- a luxury afforded to only an elite group. So the whole issue becomes one of money and genetic luck. How fortunate the French and other cultures are to have put value on graceful aging. I love your glimpse into the average French woman’s world of fashion and beauty. I have gleaned good advice from your blog and find myself thinking…is this what a French woman would wear/buy/go out in? I certainly don’t hit the mark all the time but it has been a fun and helpful reflection-and that says a lot. Another addictive blog for inspiring confidence is : http://advancedstyle.blogspot.com/. I think you would enjoy it.

Parthenope said...

I think that looking good is part of the art of living - an art to be culltivated just like literature, painting, music, interior design, gardening, good food and wine. Something which you have to practice, and work hard at, but which makes the world a better place.

Elizabeth Eiffel said...

Great blog that has generated wonderful comments. In the 70's, I marched for the feminist call for equal rights (pay, opportunities, and recognition) and naively assumed that feminism supported women in choosing their own path in life!
I agree, feminism is about the right to choose, including the right to feel good about one's appearance.

Debbi@SheAccessorizesWell said...

I think that we women of a certain age are still changing the world by blogging and making people think beyond just what we see in magazines and newspapers. These past few posts have been excellent and thought provoking. I have lived through days of rampant sexual harassment, not being paid equally, and denied jobs just because I was a woman. I think that gives me the substance to be stylish if I so choose.

Anonymous said...

Men don't get to" choose" usually. Most men I have met resent the fact that women get to choose what they want to do. Stay home, work, whatever.,( solely because they have a uterus.) Inneresting....

déjà pseu said...

But Anonymous, that's the beauty part of it: now that more women are working, you have more options to find someone who will support a stay-at-home spouse. And because feminists are less tied to traditional gender roles, they'll be the ones more open to having a house-husband. Win-win!

PSING said...

http://tinaturnerblog.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/332659_10150368970194453_681644452_8263326_1946223347_o.jpg

and then, there is 72 year-old Tina Turner....

Coastalharp said...

Thought provoking! Wonderful post...interesting comments. Hooray for bloggers! Posting real people, real beauty, real substance! Changing my life more than any magazine ever could!

That's Not My Age said...

I care about fashion and style but I'm not obsessed with my looks (I've got more important things to worry about!) and I'm a feminist - surely femininism accepts all women?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for discussing this topic. Sometimes I feel so alone with my thoughts about this as I dont have anyone to discuss these things with. After reading this blog and others like it I feel validated and nurtured in my mature womanhood. Applause to all us women of a certain age.

Diane

hopflower said...

If you are going to quote someone, please do it correctly.

Anonymous said...

I will leave the feminine debate for others today, but I want to thank you for all the wonderful faces of mature woman (like me). It is just the pick me up I needed!
Madeline

materfamilias said...

I wish I'd seen the publisher's response, in context. I could imagine working at a feminist press, dressing stylishly, wearing makeup, reading books about style, picking up Vogue every month . . . and STILL turning down a book on women and style because I rightfully saw other publishers who could do that work and I could only afford to concentrate my resources on, say, economic or labour or whatever issues.
Good luck to your friend and her book, and thanks for the lovely and inspiring collection of images.

quintessence said...

I am SO sorry I missed this week of fabulous posts about a subject I feel strongly about - and of course agree with you!! There is ZERO contradiction between being feminist (or at least in favor of the women's rights) and wanting to look one's best. What a totally ridiculous concept!! Anyway - trying to catch up from being in London for the design festival last week - FANTASTIC and inspiring trip!! Hope all is well with you!!

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