Another week, another shitfight.
In case you were sleeping, this week’s installment of International Female Outrage was started by a Norwegian blogger/WAG who posted a provocative, smug selfie of her hot body just 4 days after giving birth.
What happened next was a blueprint for a familar cycle of outrage that goes like this:
1. A woman does something – plastic surgery, licking a sledge hammer, airbrushing her own photos, taking money from a magazine or diet company to showcase her extreme post-birth weight loss or posting a boastful selfie.
2. Instantly, there’s a loud, negative reaction. From angry blog posts to scathing social media commentary, it’s a spontaneous, authentic pushback driven by women.
3. Next comes the vocal minority who push back against the pushback. Invariably, they accuse the critics of being ‘unsisterly’, ‘judgmental’, ‘non-feminist’, ‘nasty’, ‘disrespectful of other people’s choices’. The critics are also often called “fat, jealous bitches’, usually by men.
I’ve watched this cycle play out in the same way with increasing frequency this year.
Here are some from just the last few months:
While it’s a basic tenet of feminism that women should be able to choose what they do with their own bodies (and thus their own selfies), it’s totally naive and disingenuous to think that the choices we make are made in a vacuum, free from societal influences and pressures.
When a woman rushes to post pictures of herself looking sexy after having a baby or when she gets Botox and fillers to the point of looking alien or photoshops her already skinny body in half or lies about her age….. all of these ‘choices’ are made in the context of a society that values a woman for her hotness and her youth above all else.
Even if we don’t realise it, we’re actually expressing our exasperation with the pressure that caused her to choose to have that surgery or tell that lie or take that smug selfie. Because as women, we’re all subject to this same pressure and sometimes it feels maddening.
That’s why men are so frequently baffled by our angry reactions. Some of them mistakenly think of it as jealousy or shake their heads and wonder ‘why does it matter what someone else does?’
Their confusion is genuine because those same pressures just don’t exist for them. The message men get from society is that the way they look is no barrier to success.
They’re schooled in no uncertain terms that their worth is not indexed to their age or their appearance (Rupert Murdoch, Laurie Oakes, Dave Hughes, Hugh Jackman, Tony Jones, Ricky Gervais, Jonah Hill, Conan O’Brian, George Clooney, Tony Abbott, Bill Shorten, Charlie Pickering, Josh Thomas, Clive Palmer, James Packer, Mick Jagger, Ed Sheeran….need I go on?).
For us it’s different.
For us it increasingly feels like there is no time in our lives when our hotness is not the most important thing. From the little girls in Toddlers and Tiaras to Joan Rivers and the extensive plastic surgery she continues to have well into her 70s.
Yes, they’re extremes but they’re indicative of a wider ideal: that female worth is directly indexed to looking sexy.
At every age. And frankly that’s something worth pushing back against.