Women Can’t Win

hillaryOkay, folks, this is 2016.  We’re a decade and a half into the 21st century, 300 years beyond The Enlightenment, over 120 years since women first voted on this planet, but, for some strange reason, we still have to put up with this crap.

Take a look.

Eight years ago, everybody and her sister was calling Hillary Clinton frumpy for her infinite collection of pantsuits — up to and including some weird up-the-bum photographs of Ms. Clinton from behind.  Fast forward.  This week, Hillary all but locked up the Democratic nomination for president (first woman ever, etc. etc.) she gave a semi-acceptance speech in a super stylish mega-expensive Armani jacket, and — wait for it — social media went berserk.  Suddenly, Clinton’s an elitist cow.  And these weren’t just a few snide remarks; people were digging in their heels and really letting her have it. (It’s incredible how insulting a person can be in 140 characters.)  The last time the fashionistas got this excited (“bitchy” is such a hard word) Sarah Palin’s skirt was too tight and “OMG! Who’s paying for her underwear?”  And let’s be clear: this Twitter, Facebook, Instagram ambush didn’t come from Trailer Trash America.  There were no bathrobes, bony feet or bedroom slippers in sight.  No, no, no!  These social media snipers were (for the most part) sharp-dressed, serious, high-end urban professionals who wouldn’t say “fat girl” if their lives depended on it.  What’s the deal?

I’m not naive.  I wasn’t raised by wolves.  I understand that there’s always going to be a double standard — pie-in-the-sky gender politics be damned.  Women always have been — and always will be — judged differently from men; it’s tucked into the chromosome count somewhere.  (And, remember: it’s not necessarily men doing the judging.)  My problem is this current crop of social media malcontents are playing both sides of the street.  Their selective acrimony is a wonder to behold.

For example, any woman who’s ever walked the Red Carpet knows there’s a target on her back. She better get it just right because the knives are out and nobody’s taking prisoners.  On the other hand, find a bathroom mirror selfie on YouTube where somebody’s ample ass is stuffed into a two-sizes-too-small corset, yoga pants and rhinestone Reeboks and nobody says a word because — that, friends and neighbours — is “body shaming.”  One question: what the hell’s the difference?

In less than six months, Hillary Clinton could become the most powerful person — PERSON — on the planet.  She’s going to have the ability to obliterate Damascus, Baghdad, Tehran and everything in between, before breakfast, wrapped in a shower curtain if she so desires.  It’s unbelievable that there are still people spilling ink over what’s hanging in her closet — as if that really matters.

Women VS Girls

jessicaI like women.  The problem is, they seem to have disappeared.  The nom de guerre of 21st Century female might be “badass bitch” but the poster child is — unfortunately — a girl.  Look around!  The media’s obsession with youth has produced this strange caricature of women that, at best, defies reality and, at worst, is just laughable.  These days, the feminine ideal has been distilled down to an uneven blend of  Bella Swan and Sailor Moon.  After that, it’s a megaleap to Meryl Streep and Maggie Smith.  There’s nothing in between.

Jessica Alba, Kirsten Dunst and Kristen Bell are all well into their 30s, but they remain “girls” in the movies they make.  Elizabeth Taylor played Cat on a Hot Tin Roof when she was 26.  These “older women” are just too candy-cane sweet to even attempt that.  The only one of the current thirtysomethings bunch who might do justice to Maggie is Scarlett Johansson, but she’s too busy being a skin-tight Black Widow in the Marvel™ universe.

Lauren Bacall was 20 when she played Slim in To Have and Have Not, and she didn’t look the least bit out of place next to Humphrey Bogart.  Audrey Hepburn was 25 when she played Sabrina.  Vivien Leigh was in her 20s when she was Scarlett O’Hara, and Ava Gardner was 24 as Kitty Collins in The Killers.  All of these characters were women, not girls.

In contrast, for example, nobody thinks it’s the least bit odd that Amy Adams was in her 30s when she harnessed on the ball gown to play a looking-for-love Disney Princess in Enchanted.  BTW, I’m not ragging on Amy Adams — she pulled it off.  My point is, why are grown women always expected to act like girls, these days?  And they are: even when their characters are long past the age of consent.

I understand times have changed in 60 years.  People are different.  We see gender roles differently and extended adolescence is an integral part of our society.  However, I think it’s pretty strange that we don’t let female actresses act their age until they’re old enough to be somebody’s grandma.

Say what you like about sexism in Hollywood back in the day; at least women were allowed to be grownups!

elizabeth taylor

A Dedicated Follower of Fashion

Paris fashion updateFor a man (moi) writing about women is never a good idea; invariably, he’s going to piss somebody off.  The problem is, despite what every amateur sociologist with a pen will tell you, women do not speak with one voice.  Therefore, regardless of what you say, somebody is going to get mad at you and point out what an incredible handicap that Y chromosome really is.  However, since women are half the population of this planet, and I’d rather not publically admit my cowardice (again) I’m going to write about women and, more courageously, one of the strangest things they do.

Just as the worm follows the plow, here on earth summer is followed by Fashion Month.  All over the world supermodels are being dressed up like anorexic Barbie dolls in a hip-swinging, heel-to-toe, catwalkathon that dictates what women will be wearing when the snow melts again next year.  These masquerade balls might be centred in New York, London, Paris and Milano, but there isn’t a person alive, male or female, who will not feel their effects.  This kind of power is worthy of comment.

FYI:  Just so you know, I’m a big fan of the fashion industry.  I believe the way we adorn ourselves is central to our species and, more immediately, fashion, like trash, is virtually recession proof.  A good thing in these troubled times.  But I also have to admit I have absolutely no creds when it comes to fashion itself; I’m still wearing the Levis and sweatshirt uniform I wore when I was 20, allbeit in the new roomier, rumpstrung size.  Don’t get me wrong: I’d wear Armani if I could afford it, but the lapels would probably be circa 1975.

However, to continue, one doesn’t have to wear this year’s fashions to notice that they’re godawful hideous — the fashion3culmination of the four decades of godawful hideous that came before it.  In fact, women’s fashions have been off-and-on godawful hideous since Mrs. Grog the cave woman accidently tore her leopard skin and invented décolletage.  Historically speaking, women have dressed in some of the weirdest contraptions imaginable.  You don’t have to go much past panniers and bustles to figure that one out.  Nor have things changed that much.  After all, skinny jeans, a direct assault on the circulatory system, can’t be comfortable, and they must take upwards of an hour to get into.  This kind of time and trouble certainly explains why, centuries ago, fashionable women were sown into their clothes every morning and stitch-picked out of them every night.

It strikes me that, given the evidence, fashion designers may have seen women, even examined them closely, but they have no idea what women are about.  Otherwise, they wouldn’t harness them up like this.  However, the more important question is why do women put up with it?  Obviously, back in the day, they had to, but here we are in the oh-so-enlightened 21st century and the fashion industry still generates billions of dollars telling women what to wear, and most of it looks like crap.

Here’s the deal!  Women don’t dress for men, anymore.  They don’t have to.  If they did, the only retail outlet in the mall besides Starbucks would be Victoria’s Secret.  These days, women dress for other women.  Why else would somebody willingly pay money for a shapeless, strapless gown that straps her in like an L’Oreal cosmetic test bunny?  Respiratory problems?  It’s the female equivalent of the macho man, zero-to-sixty bum-numbing sports car or the bone-shattering mega-bass. I-can’t-hear-you stereo.  Women style and profile for other women mainly because other women style and profile for them.  And it all starts on the runways of Paris et al

Gucci Milan Fashion WeekTake a look at any Give-Me-An-Award Red Carpet TV program.  Who’s watching the show?  It ain’t Ben and Gary from lamps and lighting at Home Depot, even though Selma Hayek’s going to be there, falling out of most of her dress.  Nope, it’s Sara from plumbing who wants to know what dress Selma’s wearing, what Joan Rivers and her band of witchy critics are saying about it and where she, Sara, can get the knockoff so the girls back at HD will be green with… you get the idea.

Of course, there are some who would say this has always been the case, but I don’t think so.  In the old days, attracting a man was a necessity for women, and marrying well was an art.  Fashion played a huge part in this game of reveal and conceal.  These days, while sexual attraction is still part of our makeup, nobody really cares what we cover it with.  Witness Miley Cyrus’ recent VMA performance.  Would she have done better in Yves St. Laurent?  I doubt it.

I’m sure that the last thing any woman wants to hear is she’s a slave to the fashion industry.  Or that in the caring, sharing 21st century, she’s in direct competition with every other woman on the planet.  However, as the man said, “It is what it is.”

And let the emails begin.