There has been a lot of talk about British VOGUE's revolutionary non-issue and the fact that it's a good thing fashion is finally recognizing older women.
I call bullshit.
First of all, we are still not represented in the pages of Vogue. It is an advertising supplement produced by L'Oréal. The only women on the cover are both over 70. Not a woman between 50 and 70 years old in sight.
Don't get me wrong, I love Jane Fonda, an 81 year-old woman who looks amazing. But we know it's a feat only attained by Hollywood royalty (through surgery, stylists, trainers, chefs, beauticians, make-up artists, hairdressers and re-touchers). Jane openly admits to it all. She knows her audience.
We've grown up with her; she's like our cool, beautiful best friend, and we know we've never looked as good as her, but we are totally fine with that.
It hasn't been for lack of trying. There's barely a woman over 50 who hasn't at least attempted a Jane Fonda workout. She's never bullshitted us—looking that good is a lot of hard work. Some of us still put in the hard yards. But those of us who produce endorphins in other ways have decidedly slacked off.
Yet L'Oréal thinks we want a youth-activating serum.
What? Go back to a time where they made girls feel bad because we weren't as perfect as Barbarella?
That's me at 17. Even when I see this photo now, I can still remember looking at it as a teenager and seeing nothing but my enormous thighs. The beauty industry's hatred of "normal" was so virulent that it spread to all aspects of life. I was called "big girl" and "thunder thighs"; I got told that my jaw line was too soft or my favorite old chestnut, "If you lost [some weight], you'd be beautiful." And that was just from men I slept with.
I wasn't alone. I was surrounded by brilliant young career women doing amazing things from nine to five who were just as powerful and talented as Ms. Fonda.
But it was a different story for the women behind the camera: stories that played out in quiet, in tears, in the bathroom. Brilliant young producers throwing up expensive lunches because the creative boys thought their naturally wobbly thighs were hilarious.
We pretty much all hated something about ourselves. And we tried to do something about it. In our young womanhood we bought creams to get rid of cellulite, lift our boobs and ward off those dreaded laughter lines.
None of them worked. Now they want to keep selling to us, but are we going to keep on buying?
Apparently, most facelifts are carried out on women in their forties, when those terrifying laughter lines start appearing. By the time a woman hits her fifties she realizes the enormity of the job ahead—trying to ward off the inevitable. She knows the only way to try to look ten years younger is to spend a fortune and face a lot of pain.
She also knows she won't really look ten years younger—just rich enough to be nipped, tucked and to have had her face burnt off. And we all know if you have that sort of work you can afford the latest 'bee sting serum regime from the foothills of the Andes' that's peddled post-surgery.
Not a $25.99 cream on the top shelf of the beauty aisle.
Look, us mere mortals will always buy the cream. We like it. We like the way it feels on our skin. We like the way it smells. We feel better when we use it. We don't know if it makes us look better because we don't know what our skin would be like without it. But we sure as hell know it won't get rid of our wrinkles.
So stop with the snake oil salesmanship and start affording us the respect you show our daughters who you empower and portray realistically.
After all, we took our own anger at your deceptions and educated the next generation of women to define their own standards of beauty. They have forced you to show young women of color, women of size, trans women, disabled women, sports women and intellectual women.
But you're still trying to scare the shit out of them about aging. Which is ridiculous because it's going to happen. And for many of us it's the best time of our lives, something for younger women to look forward to.
Now they want to sell to us again?! Isn't it time the big cosmetic companies gave us a break from the impossible expectations and show us as the powerful, creative, intelligent, forthright, controversial, and time-marked women we are?
Not just the leading feminist on your cover. A woman we look up to and admire. A general in Gloria Steinem's army of grey-haired women.
We know Jane Fonda's laughing all the way to the bank, and she deserves it. She's worked hard enough—she spent most of the 80s jumping up and down in leg warmers FFS! We love her, and we'll buy a magazine with her on the cover because we want to hear what she has to say. We know her unbelievable good looks are the result of great genes and a lot of work. We also know all L'Oréal contributed was a big healthy cheque.
I know all about this, because Revlon was the biggest client of my agency for many years. I remember once a new independent cosmetic line was launching with brilliant packaging, an eco-friendly product and a really cool ad campaign. I asked my client if he was worried; he said, "Until they have a $50 million ad budget I'm not in the slightest bit concerned."
That was early this century. Now you can build an audience on a shoestring. With the right message and product, you can get the same exposure as a Vogue supplement. You don't even need to be in Sainsbury's to sell it anymore.
There are lots of smaller companies popping up that have formulated products designed to enhance the ageing process not deny its existence. Clever marketers who show beautiful older women realistically with messages to enhance our confidence not encourage us to criticize our reflections.
The most successful companies nowadays are those that take selling to the most powerful consumer group (women between 50 and 70 years old) seriously. If the big cosmetic companies want to compete, I suggest they forget this 'youthful' folly and celebrate our wisdom.
It's not us who need to Reset. Revitalize. Renew.
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."