Sunday, 23 March 2014

Achievements beyond the dressing table and words beyond prejudice

Hi everyone!

Last week I chanced upon a recent video with the catchy tag line, 'The woman who stripped her dress off while onstage in the name of feminism'. So of course I clicked on it to see who and why...

The woman in question is Tracey Spicer, an Australian media personality and journalist. The video was her address to an audience in which she began by saying, 'I'm Tracey Spicer and I'm a vain fool'. Her reason soon became clear as she ran through her morning's routine of exercise to stay in shape, and personal grooming, involving a myriad of products, which she claims aren't exactly good for us. Tracey Spicer it seems resents every moment of this pampering and refinement stating, 'Imagine what we could achieve if we weren't beholden to society's unreasonable expectations about how we should look.'

To an extent I agree, but I knew this lady and I weren't on the same wavelength as she continued to pull apart and demonize the act of female grooming, to the point of actually removing her makeup on stage and then dampening her blow dried styled hair. 

The finale of her speech was the removal of her dress to reveal a relaxed shorts and vest combo underneath. This is the real me she proudly said as the audience cheered.

While I accept that this act along with her speech was a brave thing to do, I have a HUGE problem with her attitude towards the issue of female appearance!
The main thing Tracey Spicer does not acknowledge is that not every woman takes time to groom herself because she is trying to fit society's expectations. For many women self grooming is called self respect.

I firmly believe that women are genetically prone to take pleasure in decoration, whether that be of surroundings or of themselves. Of course some feel more strongly about this than others, however, I do not think I get giddy over lipstick and nail varnish because society has told me I should, I think it is a basic female trait. I also believe there is nothing trivial about this and that grooming can be a bonding experience between women.

 When Tracey Spicer calculates the time it takes women on average to get ready she says it as a negative, claiming we should be doing something more productive or important with our time. However, for many women this IS productive AND important, it can be empowering, pampering, and in some cases a creative opportunity. Secondly, I don't know any women who take the time to groom themselves who don't also achieve great things well beyond the dressing table.
Tracey asks us to think of all the things we could be doing if we didn’t spend so much time getting ready, like writing a book, learning how to surf, learning how to sing, meditating, doing a Masters, or doing a PhD, but does she think no women have ever achieved any of these things while wearing lipstick and high heels?

 This kind of sweeping generalisation riles me because it is so outdated and the kind archaic feminist diatribe that only serves to divide rather unify. For a woman to claim she is a 'vain fool' because she took time to attend to her appearance (beyond hygiene) is also branding the millions of other women around the globe who take pride in their looks.
While grooming can be taken to extreme measures and abused (especially by the beauty industry itself) I think many of us are intelligent enough to distinguish between social pressure and personal enjoyment and fulfillment.

I would have been much happier to listen to the valid points (and there were some) in Tracey Spicers speech if she hadn't been so black and white in her approach.

Last week also saw another lady speaking in front of an audience about womens roles in society; The brilliant lecture called 'Oh do shut up dear!: Mary Beard on the Public Voice of Women', which aired on BBC 4. 

This insightful essay explored the public voice of women throughout the ages, and explained how public speaking has been a prominently male activity since ancient times. Professor Beard spoke of how women throughout history have been silenced or marginalised in order to dilute the impact of their words and how we have learnt to emulate this behaviour right through to modern day. 

Using examples of misogyny from her own life and that of ancient myths and historic figures such as Elizabeth the First and Margaret Thatcher, Professor Beard examined the role of women not just in the public eye but also their place in history as recorded through words, those of the speakers themselves and their contemporaries.

I found this a factual and clever speech in which Mary Beard came across as an intelligent and well knowledged individual speaking up for women and championing a subject close to her heart with charisma and thoughtfulness. I immediately started to follow her on twitter and I've been thinking about her lecture ever since, especially her ideas on how to overcome this imbalance by re-adjusting our own prejudices and thought processes in everyday life, such as those she mentions in this clip:

You can see Professor Mary Beard's full lecture HERE

Mary Beard was speaking about women as a woman, and as a feminist but she never once stereotyped or generalised either of the sexes in order to get her point across.
So to take us back to the beginning of my week, on one hand I saw a woman speaking about the ancient world in order to make her point about womens place in society today, and on the other hand I saw a woman speaking with ancient ideals to make her point about womens place in society today. Only one of them managed to convince me.

I'd love to know what you think!


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