The women we become… By Gayle Gonsalves
Guyana Chronicle
March 31, 2002

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HIGH heels chip along the road, shapely calves highlight the skirt that sashays, a bottom swings left to right, full lips smile and highlight the face. This is woman. This is one of her glories.

The male has worshipped our physical form from time immemorial. Glimpse your reflection in the mirror, look deeply at the image and you’ll understand the mystique, the seduction and the attraction of woman.

Men love to pay us compliments. When we enter a room, their eyes devour us. They whistle, they smile, they compliment. Sometimes, they yell in their loud booming male voice as they drive by such remarks as &#x201CJuliet, Juliet, here is your Romeo?” We stop, surprised, and then we laugh. What else can we do?

Some may argue that part of the female experience is our vanity, but our sense of self has been socialised to focus on beauty. Whether we are aware of this aspect in our life, as women, we do indulge in our appearance. However, it is important for us not to see this as the sole focus of our life but one extension of the many facets of our existence. Vanity can become a vice. It can lead us to see ourselves only as a physical object, limiting our perspectives and forgetting to concentrate on the person we want to be and not an object that evolves.

It is perceived that a beautiful woman has an easier life because she can attract more suitors and marry a wealthy man or men. In our society, a man’s worth is derived from his ownership. A beautiful wife is an asset because her beauty will make him the envy of his cronies. The female physical attributes and any deficiencies have been parlayed into a structure that only sees the physical and forgets the female as a person. For some, our personalities are not important. This demented belief has been translated into a limited perception of our gender as being only physically oriented and it is our only asset. This is not so, but unfortunately, we do pay homage to this social concept and to some degree are unaware what part of our behaviour is instinct or what has become socialised. This vanity has come to epitomise part of our female identity, and in the end, will tear us apart if we believe in only the physical aspect of our gender.

There are some rituals that are wholly feminine. In fact, one can even argue it is a bonding mechanism for the female. There are places where we retreat to experience no censorship and talk freely amongst our peers on our life struggles from an empathetic ear. We congregate in the hairdresser and the spa for facials, pedicures and manicures. These refuges from our daily routines offer us a place to regroup and relax. Despite the males’ grumbles, they also have their own male havens where women don’t intrude. Those are the barbershops and the rum shops. It is also important for us to recognise that males have created the present social structure and it reflects their needs not ours, thus there are many hidden respites built into the very fabric of society.

Civilisation has placed such a major emphasis on female beauty that it has erased us a people. Popular culture worships young women with certain physical characteristics. This is marketed in an extremely sexual fashion where all parts of the female anatomy are highlighted, exasperating the female desire to be seen as a person, but heightening the male testosterone level. As women have sought larger roles in the entertainment industry, they have fed into the male testosterone by indulging in their worship of the physical and not seeing themselves as persons. This has caused much damage to our image. It has evolved to become an accepted media belief to objectify the female. The fact that women have continued to reveal more of their bodies than the male in the mass media has had a negative impact on a new generation of women who, in the end, are feeding into the continued objectifying of the female. It seems each year, more of the female body is exposed in the media until there is nothing left to imagine. This has invaded all forms of art and even sports arena has been impacted by the need for female exposure. For example, at the recent Winter Olympics, at the ice skating competition, the women all wore small revealing costumes while the men all wore jumpsuits that did not cling to any part of their anatomy.

The problem is that the media and popular culture has invaded our daily lives and these standards have now come to be identified with a day-to-day look for the female. This concept of perfection has been superimposed on the female and is an added noose around our necks. Once more, focusing on the physical and not the individual.

A woman is a beautiful person, just as every other creature that walks this earth. However, the emphasis placed on the female beauty is a double standard that must be stopped. A woman is penalised if she gains weight, but no one ever notices when a man’s waist has begun to expand. Male clothing and shoes are not considered part of the mating ritual, nor is it deemed important, while a woman is forced to continually update her wardrobe or be considered dowdy by society.

The passage of time is experienced by all as we walk on this planet, hopefully acquiring some wisdom along the way. Our perspectives change and grow as we lose our youthful bloom. As women, we recognise that our beauty lies not within the heads that we turn, but the person that we become. We can enjoy our feminine aspect by donning beautiful clothes and wearing lipstick, but we must never succumb to believing in those images that exploit the female. For as this walk through life takes us along paths and detours, we recognise that we are born children and life teaches us how to become a woman.