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.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.