What is a Woman?

Just finished an anthology of women’s literature called ‘A Jury of Her Peers’ by Elaine Showalter. The title is also a work by Susan Glaspell.  Am not going to give you reviews on the book or story, I’ll probably refer back to the anthology often. It has made me aware of so many facets of women’s literature I’d not known or even thought of. The last chapter shares how in the 90’s women authors were not constrained by the parameters of the past and could write freely. Yet, many of us women remain in bondage of many kinds.  

Was reading an article, before it annoyed me and made me wonder why I was reading it. It was about women’s fashion and what NOT to wear or do in fashion as an older woman. What to stay away from because it would peg you as ‘old’ or ‘living in the past’ or even (dare we suggest such a thing!) ‘unfashionable’!! From how to not wear makeup from plucking eyebrows (Will remove stray ones, but those odd shaped designs are seriously odd!) to powdery caked on layers. Hairstyles that are ‘too long’ and past your butt to bouffant ‘up scaled’ Farrah Fawcett designs. Then, there were accessories. Apparently the handbag is not cool. Although, the photo made me just wonder. What on earth would a person carry around a tiny hand sized bag for? It might hold your ID and perhaps a tampon, but not a whole lot more. My personal carryall is just that. It is a small backpack I’ve carted around for almost a decade and it is starting to fall apart. (searching online has made me aware that they are truly not in vogue anymore.) My bag can carry paper books, a tablet, spoons (at least two), a pair of socks, assorted coinage, supplies for diabetes, meds headaches, and tummy aches, at least one tiny notebook, assorted writing utensils from sharpies (in purple) to pens and pencils, it can hold a camera, my cell phone, an address book, a small zipper pouch with important stuff like med lists and emergency numbers, my wallet with all sorts of things, including my eldest son’s high school id (I know, completely useless, but fun), needles and thread and safety pins, assorted bandages for minor wounds, and rocks I’ve found that are dear to me. Am pretty positive this bag would be considered totally bad fashion.

Clothes were a huge topic in this list of fashion faux pas photos. Floral or animal prints are bad when you are older, baggy clothes are ok if you wear a tighter top or bottom half to offset the bag. Pastels were viewed as something older women need to steer far away from. They are for younger women, who aren’t washed out by them or look like they are grasping their youth. Capri or shortened pants are a very big no no, since they make one look very short and wide. (the author suggests skirts, and probably has no idea how horrid it is when your legs stick together when it is hot outside) Skirts are a good idea, but not jersey fabrics or dresses or long skirts or too short ones. The latter make you look legless or like you are grabbing for a youth you missed and the former tend to mold to the body and reveal lumps everywhere. Like jeggings and tights. Older women should stay away from those because they reveal way too much. Turtle necks and long sleeves are bad unless the weather warrants them because people wonder what might be hiding and a turtle neck can make you look neckless. Speaking of, big and loud accessories such as flamboyant necklaces or earrings or bracelets should be limited. Agreed, Coco Chanel suggested looking in the mirror and removing one item of jewelry and it makes sense. However, tossing brooches out with the garage sale stuff is sad (I love pins, don’t wear them, but I do adore them!). Finally, the author arrived at shiny tights (hose are a complete waste of time for a woman of any age). If an older lady needs tights, they should not be in a nude color. Dark colors or black. About this time, I exed out of the article and deleted the history!!

While I was reading the last of Elaine’s anthology, I realized, why do I need to follow some fashion guru on what I can or cannot wear? Why do I need to follow what someone else wants to be the person I am? So often today many of us are confronted with ‘don’t do this or wear this or act this way’ because someone will be upset. Often in the anthology, it seemed that an author from one period was ostracized in later years for what they were writing. Over and over women were tied to a way of life, writing, living that was stifling creativity and being. Many of those women committed suicide to escape.

Women still are being stifled. Some of us have been able to break free of conventions and restraint, and for those who have, they embrace the freedom they have earned in spite of cost. Family and friends look askance at that freedom. Well-meaning folks criticize our choices and yet, is it realistic to toss what others think out and only promote self and personal desires to achieve and be? The book, ‘The Feminine Mystique‘ talks about this for American women. I wonder if it is the same all over the world?

Is that what the phrase means, ‘It’s lonely at the top’?

3 thoughts on “What is a Woman?

  1. I have a back pack that I carry around with me! Inside? Keys, coins, cash, sunscreen, pads, band-daids, Meds for pain/hay fever just in case. My sun hat or beanie ..drink bottle ..snacks..ID badge for work, a jacket since we have 4 seasons in a day. I can’t possibly fit all that in a little handbag. That’s why Mr Wanderer calls me Dora!

    Liked by 1 person

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