Womanhood to a girl is about as clear as an adolescent’s complexion.
From birth, Miss Infant is decked out in pink and purple, sparkles, bows and love-hearts. Tiaras and fairy wings are a fashion accessory like a pair of D&G sunnies and they are encouraged to accept the title of ‘princess’ or ‘fairy’.
All the while, Little Miss is watching her mum manage a job, housework, fitness and kids.
At school, Miss Teen might learn about the liberation of women, how they fought for the right to vote, fair wages and abolishing discriminatory laws. They might learn about the glass ceiling too and be encouraged to take up any career they like – if it’s a male-dominated sphere, so much the better.
Meanwhile, she flicks through magazines showing lean and bronzed female bodies, interviews of the woman clown (she juggles many balls) and headlines about weight, sex, beauty, success and happiness.
Miss 20s takes all these conflated ideas of womanhood and translates them into her own self-image. She sees the princess and the fairy, the juggling mother, the liberationist, the career woman, the model, the fitness addict and the super wife with her Michelin Star-rated kitchen, freshly ironed underwear and handmade bib business on the side. She sees them all and has her work cut out trying to reconcile all that with what it means to be a woman in twenty-twelve.
Gosh, don’t ask me – I’m no closer to understanding for this small scrutiny of motivations.
Blogger, writer and mother Alison Sampson said some compelling things in her Everyday Spirituality column, published in Zadok magazine.
“We need to continue the as yet unrealised feminist, and Christian, project, which is to accept and enable women not as the dominant powers approve of them – sexualised, decorative or invisible – but exactly as they are,” she writes.
Recently Bella Magazine was launched in Launceston as an alternative to the highly sexualised publications teens are used to flicking through. This is culture-shifting material. It teaches young women that their value does not hinge on the way they look – not even on what they can achieve – but just because they are. It’s a really great little publication – highly recommended.
I love the centre spread of the Winter edition. Four girls, aged in their mid-teens, dressed in winter woollies and beanies are looking directly into the camera lens, showing eyes brimming with innocence and naiveté – and they are so beautiful for it. There are words too: “Beauty is being the best possible version of yourself inside and out.”
Back to something else Alison said in her yarn: “The perfect human, Jesus, loved every woman he met not for her value to him, but for her very self; and we are to model our lives on his example.”
Amen to that.
The way Jesus treated women was revolutionary. You might even go so far as to say it was the very beginning of women’s liberation. At a time when women were considered male property, he sat beside them, shared with them and spoke up for them. And that relationship continues – He is still affirming the value of women for all who will hear it.
As printed in The Examiner newspaper for Keeping the Faith column, Monday October 15.