What three images do you think define today’s 21st century woman?
Being Wise… taking in the wisdom across generations
by Christine, age 37
Good image ju ju #2: While the images themselves are not always easy to look at and see, there is power in women seeing other women, connecting with other women, all across this world, no boundaries. From women in the Congo to women on Wall Street to women running countries, villages and families, more than any other time in history I believe that women are coming together to support each other, around the globe. This is inspiring to me. It gives me hope that this kind of “we are in this together” energy will start to overtake the old and tired competitiveness that has been part of women relating to women for far too long, at least in the U.S. When I see friends heading off to the Congo, giving time to beautify women’s shelters, or building companies that will connect women around the world, I am filled with so much hope, because as many spiritual teachers have predicted, it is the women who will come together to save this planet. Although it might not always seem like it, we are coming together, and the world is changing because of it. And I think the more each of us can build real, heart-felt connections with other women and dump the shrew-like competitive behavior, the faster the world will change around us.
Good ju ju killer: Just two words, The Bachelor. I am not going to lament on this too long, let me simply say this: If there was any doubt that women are still affected by the prince charming fantasy… that the Jerry McGuire adage of ‘you complete me’ is still alive and well… and that women are still obsessed with getting married as a final goal… this season’s Bachelor has proven many of the flawed fantasies and ideals are still kicking. Watching Melissa, ‘the woman who got dumped’ say, “I don’t believe you, I think things are perfect. Putting a ring on my finger means forever. What did I do?” says volumes about how we still believe in this romanticized ideal of love and marriage, and will put ourselves into bad situations to get it. Some say it’s just good entertainment. I say, if that is what we women want to be entertained by, what does it say about us? Nothing good. I’d like to see a TV show that inspires women (and men) to love themselves first… and then to find a great partner that makes their life better, without it being at the cost, humiliation and suffering of someone else. That is the kind of world I want as a 21st century woman.
The 21st century lady. The one that everyone seems to want to be? What images define her? Well, it really depends but from what I can tell from watching TV and going on the computer is that most women would like to be that tall, thin, tan, voluptuous woman. You know, kind of like a Playboy bunny! You can even look at young girls. Girls around my school always say, “I’m so short!” and “Wow Olive! When I stand next to you it makes me feel so tall!” Oh but that’s not it! They will also say, “Oh my gawd! Olive you’re like as white as a ghost (chuckle)!” and “I’m fat!” There’s a classic.
I am disappointed to say that what the 21st century lady seems to be is a self-conscious and mean person. Why does it matter to you that I am super pale? Oh I’m so sorry! Am I blinding you? What’s weird is that in Asia one of the best selling cosmetics is Chanel’s whitening creme! This makes it obvious to me that the 21st century lady is someone who wants what she’s not. Even stick thin people say stuff like I’m fat.
The other day at school we were watching the movie “Dances With Wolves”. It then occurred to me that growing up in a Native American tribe in nature seemed nicer than having 50,000,000,000 dollars. Imagine growing up not even knowing the feeling of wanting to be someone you’re not. Just living in nature. No materialistic goods. Just a huge family with culture, tradition, and acceptance. That would be the best life possible
Janet, age 24, says:
Image is a tough idea that so many women deal with in today’s society, whether it comes to body issues, role models, celebrities, or just defining ourselves within our circle of friends, the topic constantly comes up within my circle of friends. Body image conversations always seem to creep up, positive (I feel great because I have been working out all week!) and negative (I am never going to have the body of ________). We have our own definition of who has an ideal body, Heidi Klum, Gisele, Madonna, and a lot of women strive to achieve them. One of my goals this year has been to accept my body the way it is and feel my best and I have come along way from where I was last year. When am feeling bad about my ‘imperfections’, I remind myself that I work-out, feel strong, and my body got me through the day!
Another image we face as women is that of our role models. They are mothers, friends, women in history, and so many more. Recently, Michelle Obama has been referred to as a role model and fashion icon. She has captured the attention of our nation and it is amazing to hear what other women have to say about her. I admire her for putting her children and husband first in her life and how she understands the importance of family, especially when they are in the public eye so often.
Defining who you are with your friends is another image women seek to grasp. As we mature into our mid-20s, I find my friends look to be seen as women who can do it all. Career orientated, boyfriend/husband, friend, volunteering, makes time for family, has a pet, and so much more. I look at the girls who do all of this, and don’t see their happiness. I know I tend to throw myself into things head first, but have learned that doing so isn’t fulfilling Sometimes it is best to take a step back, and do what makes you happiest so you can be your best self. I think it is the best way to define your own personal image!
Katie, age 35, says:
Today’s woman steps out of her urban dwelling, briefcase in one hand and latte in the other, hair perfectly styled, enshrouded in a darling, professional ensemble. She walks in the highest of heels with the greatest of ease, never stepping in dog poo or sounding needy, as she trots through the city on her cell phone, talking to her perfect boyfriend.
That’s the fantasy. That’s the image of the modern woman that I hold in my mind. It’s the picture that keeps me awake at night, wondering how I got here: steeped in consumer debt, with last year’s fashions to show for it; bunion-footed, from mercilessly squeezing my woman feet into Barbie doll shoes for years; and lamenting that I perpetually leave the apartment with wet hair, too rushed to use the blow dryer or avoid the dog poo, as I stomp hurriedly along city sidewalks, to jump-start my dizzying, over-scheduled day. And … boyfriend? What boyfriend? I can’t find the time to meet one.
For me, the three images that most define today’s woman are: 1) confident, flawless; 2) adorned with material indicators of professional success; and 3) needing nothing. I’ve acquired those images from several sources: my family, certain women’s magazines, and social commentary. There is an externalized feminine ideal, and I believe every person in the world holds a unique version of it. That fictional picture refracts women as we truly are.
I don’t subscribe to every such ideal. I don’t have a negative body image; I wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t speak in excessively polite tones, using only the “right” words; if I feel like it and I’m in a comfortable setting, I swear like a drunken sailor. And I don’t buy high-priced fashion items or pointy, high-heeled shoes anymore; I shop frugally and buy shoe brands like Dansko, Ecco, and others that introduce style to comfort.
But I do hold myself to a standard of a certain kind: the one described in my fantastical scene. Doing so has the adverse impacts on me that I’ve set forth in my real-life scene.
Yet, contradictory as this may seem, the same images that harm my experience bring out my authenticity. When I don’t use the standard to abuse myself, it lifts me to a higher place. I just have to remember that I’m aspiring to be the best version of me, not anyone else.
Debba, age 40-something, says:
March 8th is International Women’s Day. It was created in 1811 by Clara Zetkin to recognize achievements, advancements and continued challenges of women globally. Celebrated in 49 countries, it is a wonderful reminder of how far we’ve come and how much more we need to do – for all of us. (For more info, visit www.internationalwomensday.com)
This day has a lot of impact on me when I consider what women have achieved in the past 100 years – the right to vote and bear witness, as well as improvements in equal pay and opportunities. (We’re not all the way there but we’re moving in that direction.) It also reminds me to look beyond my neighborhood to other places on the planet where women don’t have rights and are subjected to injustice and unfair conditions.
My idea of a 21st Century Lady is global. With the daily bombardment of mass-media and the Internet, we’re confronted with travesties and challenges that lie ahead for our international ‘sisters.’ While we can take pride in previous accomplishments, we all are aware of women suffering, whose voices are muted from decisions and from impacting their lives and future.
Images that come to mind are the girls in Mumbai who my girlfriend Tina just visited on a mission trip. As young as ten, they are sold into sex slavery by their parents. How can that not make us stop to think – and cry? Situations like that always confuse me how we can feel that our society is so ‘advanced’ yet things like this take place in our lifetime.
Another image prominent in my mind is my girlfriend Becky. Becky’s husband found out he has a rare and aggressive form of cancer this week. She is part of the 21st Century images because there are too many women dealing with cancer – theirs or their family and friends. And not just cancer, but we’re dealing with unemployment, divorce, and often wanting to be in a different situation (work, relationship, weight, etc.). Life is short and often we get wrapped up in ‘stuff.’ This girlfriend reminds me to appreciate all that is in my life and how we can’t take anything for granted.
To take a more positive note, another image of 21st Century women are the 160 Girl Scouts that I spoke to recently. They’re full of hope and curiosity. I spoke to them on the importance of girlfriends and how we’re there for each other through guys, jobs, changes in our lives. I hope they will appreciate their friends and reach out to others. That’s a great image for the future of women. Debba Haupert is founder of GIRLFRIENDOLOGY, the online community for women based on female friendship www.girlfriendology.com .