#SWAAYthenarrative

Stop Commenting On Women's Appearance

5 Min Read
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A few weeks ago, while I was boarding a plane, one of the male flight attendants was checking me in. He looked at my passport, looked back up at me, and said "I like your hair better blonde. You should dye it back." My jaw dropped. What gives him the right—the entitlement—to comment on the way I look⁠, let alone tell me which way he prefers I look? I am not there for his consumption!

This experience really got me thinking... Where does any human get off on giving another human being their opinion on how they physically look, how they act, or even what they are eating?

It reminded me of a comment that my first boyfriend made to me about the hair on my arms. What he thought was an innocent and frivolous observation spiralled into a major insecurity of mine for the next 15 years of my life. Before that comment, I never even noticed the blonde hair on my arms. If anything I even thought it was pretty. But one simple sentence made me want to Nair, shave, trim, or cover up my poor arms for years.

Everyone Has Insecurities

After sharing my airport experience on social media, I had a girlfriend who suffers from autoimmune-derived dark undereye circle and acne tell me:

...When I go makeup free during a breakout, complete strangers will come up to me with unsolicited advice on products and diet. They'll either bluntly dive right into it, or make small talk on the skytrain and then sneak it into the conversation. It's insane.

Obviously, if I'm leaving my house with no makeup and acne, I'm brave enough to face the world knowing that's what everyone might be looking at⁠—but when strangers make comments, it feels like everyone is judging my physical appearance and that they don't care about what's inside or how I might feel sad or insecure about it. They are completely insensitive...

We all have an insecurity, or many insecurities, but the most distressing part about those insecurities, is that they almost always stem from a comment that someone made to us at some point in our lives. I think we all (myself included) need to put extra effort into being more kind and complimentary to one another, even to strangers. We need to teach our children to do the same, and to help them understand that whatever they say to another person may change the way that that they see themselves for the rest of their lives.


A woman in a hijab looking in a small mirror. Photo by Rendiansyah Nugroho on


We are all human. We have all probably been that person to say something hurtful before, so let's just forgive ourselves and move forward in remembering one of the most valuable proverbs of them all...

If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

Unrealistic Modern Beauty Standards

When I see a photo of myself, my beauty is blurred by society's unrealistic expectations.

As a woman facing things like social media, photoshop, and facetune, there is an incredingly demanding paradigm of physical "perfection" that we are expected to meet. This is combined with an additional expectation that it all must appear effortlessness. We are expected to be popular and sociable but also (as women) meek and submissive. We are expected to be sexy but not "slutty." Our bodies should be toned but not muscular, because that's too masculine. Where do the contradictory demands end?



I do love the way that I look. But even then the first instinct when I see a photo of myself is to whiten my eyes, blur out the bags under my skin, hide any wrinkle or age spot, and, essentially, erase any sign of the life and joy I have experienced that is written on my face. I think I might need to shrink my nose (just a smidge). Is it normal to have a shadow between my nose and my cheek? Are my eyebrows too light? Why are we expected to have the skin of a baby, impossibly tiny noses, and hopelessly plump lips?

What Ever Happened To Inner Beauty?

Let's try a compliment swap challenge, where we replace our appearance-focused praise with character-related praise. Instead of commenting on a person's outfit or makeup, we can appreciate other's acts of bravery or kindness. We should enlighten ourselves in acknowledging how often we unconsciously reinforce the notion that a woman's (or any person's) worth is nothing more than the sum of their outward image.

What happened to the realness of the women like Frida Kahlo, Josephine Baker, and Yoko Ono, whose beauty is so true and raw that it takes my breath away. Frida had a unibrow and hair on her upper lip. Her nose was pronounced, striking. Her body was perfectly imperfect; she had uneven legs from both polio and surgery after an accident. But it was not in spite of these "flaws," that she was so beautiful. It was because of them. Her beauty is so deep that seeing a photo of her sends shivers down my spine. I want to be as real and raw and beautiful as all of these women. They are beautiful for what they have accomplished, contributed to, and stood for. They are beautiful for their truth.

That is the ultimate beauty.

This article was originally published February 10, 2020.

3 Min Read
Business

Five Essential Lessons to Keep in Mind When You're Starting Your Own Business

"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.

Find A Need And Fill It

I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.

Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.

Have Working Capital And Credit

There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.

I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.

Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.

My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.

Know Your Product Thoroughly

I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?

My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.

My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!

More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.

Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth

I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.

I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.

Delegate From The Bottom Up

I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.

In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.