Monday, March 31, 2008

Aging Barbies Take On Capitalism

Beauty is to certain women what money is to certain men. One can never have enough. You know who you are. If you’ve spent more on cosmetic surgeries and Botox injections over the last five years than you did for your college education, I’m talking about you.

I have a problem with the fact that not one single woman I know is really secure that she looks all right. And I plan to make the case that it’s because of gluttonously rich men, and the culture created by their wild, unchecked, gluttonous greed and their need to objectify women and turn them into commodities, that keeps my friends, and women everywhere, insecure in their very skins--not good enough on a cellular level. I think it’s time for us to make those really big bucks, capitalizing on the potbellies, saggy man-boobs, lap flaps, wattles and jowls, baldness, crotch rot, stinky feet, pee stains, flaky, dry, itching skin, actinic keratosis, weak chins, beady eyes, bad teeth, bad breath, terrible wardrobe and all the other plagues of carbuncles and adult on-set acne that men are prone to after a certain age, after the testosterone levels start to drop off, and the prostate starts to swell and those pesky seminal vesicles start plugging up. After they’ve reached that famous sexual peak--right around twenty or so, when mommy stops buying their clothes, they should be just the right age to start to capitalize on their most secret fears and insecurities. I’m sure we can come up with a few they haven’t even imagined yet.

I’ve spent my entire working life, some forty years, in the fashion/beauty/entertainment industry. In the late-sixties I suffered a brief crisis of conscience and got a job in an inner-city community center as an organizer of programs for disadvantaged (a euphemism for minority) girls and women. Before I organized any programs, I thought I ought to get to know the women who used the center, and find out what programs they wanted organized. After a month of meetings and polling, the vote was in. They wanted beauty pageants and fashion shows. They wanted modeling classes and lessons on how to apply cosmetics. They wanted classes and seminars on how to make the most of the way they looked. Their whole lives were focused on how they looked. It was what I was running from, and all they wanted. It woke me up to the real power of advertising. I had to think long and hard about that one. And even I had to admit, that for most of them, the only way they were going to escape the poverty that surrounded and invaded their lives, was to look acceptable, or better yet, good, to (mostly male) white folks who shared the white, male values and appalling lack of taste of the predominant culture that did the hiring. It meant the difference between getting out and up or getting left behind.

I’ve heard the most beautiful women agonize about some imagined imperfection in their appearance that will make them forever second rate, a virtual failure, not good enough. I can feel you assuming that I’m talking about some air-head bimbette. But, I assure you, that I am not. In my group of fashion-model friends who, for the most part, represent the advertised ideal; there are, out of eight women, two Ph.Ds., one MBA, one Masters in Social Work, a successful advertising executive, and the other three are all college graduates successfully working in creative fields. We appeared in the very ads that made the rest of you realize you were too fat, and you had no taste. Despite the fact that we had been given enormous power because we were perceived as beautiful, we didn't really believe we were. And beauty is a double edged sword, much like great wealth. You never know whether someone who professes to adore you, can see past your obvious assets.

Beauty is like money, and then again it isn’t. It can come and it can go. But you can’t horde it like Midas. There is not enough collagen or Botox in the world to hold back the social and professional black hole that reaching the age of fifty, for a woman, sends you to forever. Who knows how much you’ll need as you get older, and what happens to the Botox when it’s been injected between your eyebrows every six months for twenty years? Apparently for certain men, say, someone like The Donald, there isn’t enough money. For Ivana and Marla I’d bet the money is only a means to an end. Enough trips to their favorite Paris couturiers and cosmetic surgeons to keep them desirable long enough to marry the next tub-of-lard in a bad toupee with more money than The Donald. I long for the day when Ivana and Marla don’t give a rat’s ass how they look, and are famous and recognized for their brilliant and visionary investing strategy in new male potency products. I want to hear that they have endowed a new department of research at Johns Hopkins devoted to elongating the bones of men who have been born with the unfortunate affliction of diminished height, or DH.

I know far too many professionally successful women who fall in love with seemingly appropriate men, and within the space of a year they are still working a full time job, still juggling a shared custody arrangement with their ex-husbands, still keeping their own homes livable and attractive, while also playing pretend corporate wife to the new boyfriend. Pretty soon he starts complaining because she forgot to pick-up his cleaning on her way from day-care to work. Nine out of ten of these women require antidepressants, psycho-therapy and/or other medication.

Viagra, and it’s many siblings, gives me hope that equality of capitalist opportunity is about to arrive. We have located the very mother lode, the throbbing, needy heart of male insecurities, and it is just the beginning. Any new product, drug, or procedure that will give a man a bigger, harder dick will sell at any price. Start investing, girlfriends. The future’s looking bright.

36 comments:

Stella said...

Utah, I need to give this far more time. Your words are dead on. How sad that women in the inner city were more interested in fashion shows, beauty contests, modeling classes, make up lessons... Oh, how clearly capitalism is ruining women and turning them from intellectuals to plasticine people.

You've seen the inside of the Capitalistic plot. What I only suspected, you already knew. This article is precious. Beauty is a personal perspective. Every time I see those size 0 models, I can only think, "Those poor women: they don't get enough food to nourish their brain and gain intellect, and are far more susceptible to osteoporosis." I'm not counting anorexics and bulimics: that's yet another issued.

I will be back to write more, but I have to go now. I'm starting a great new job tomorrow. Thank you for reposting this article, Utah. I can't even address all the salient points in this article. You are dead on.

Utah Savage said...

Ah Stella, how glad I am you understand me. Congrats on the great new job.

The dirty little truth about the modeling industry is that in reality most of these women are a body type that is genetic. Tall, long boned, skinny, angular. There isn't anyone in my family that wasn't long and lean. I was mortified all during junior high and high school because I was so thin. I have always been able to eat gross amounts of rich food and all that suffers is my carotid artery as it fills with fat. As we speak I'm softening half a pound of butter to make a batch of peanut butter cookies. You are born with that genetic predisposition to stay lean. The only time I gained significant weight was when I was put on anti-depressants. Drug weight is what I call it. I weigh 20 lbs more than I did when I was eighteen. It's distributed differently now. There's no fighting gravity. And I don't give a shit 99% of the time. But I'm old and I live alone.

Utah Savage said...

Oh, I forgot, I've been a cigarette smoker since I was five. I'm sure that plays some part in my weight. I've never known a ballet dancer who didn't smoke cigarettes.

K McKiernan said...

Its a dangerous game we women play. We want in the "game" so badly... we want to have access to power and the only power we can really have is that constructed for us--power as desirable, beautiful, feminine objects.

So, it is a conundrum for women. It is not simple. If you want to be able to have power, you become obsessed with "the ideal"... the ever elusive ideal. So, women are forced to chase their tail, never ever catching it. We are set up to fail... so many billions made off of our obsession to attain access to power. Cosmetics, billions, Cosmetic surgeries, billions, shampoo/body wash, billions....

And, if women are "lucky" enough to attain the "perfect image," she is also seen as a whore, as vain, as unintelligent, and she probably has starved to a point she has probably killed brain cells... so she may legitimately not be very smart.

Think of how much time women spend on "getting ready." Most women need 1-3 hours to "perfect" themselves. What do men spend? 10 minutes? How do they spend the 2+ hours we spend on frivolity? How much more educated, read, physically active, relaxed do they get to be in the time we spend trying to be presentable?

Oh, who am I kidding, they spend the time whacking it to plastic barbies we can never be without a shitload of dinero and an eagerness to become porn stars.

Self entitled men (which is all I would argue) feed off of our images and gain more power by degrading us.

So... if we actually attain the access to power... if we are able to starve, shave, cut, and design our face and bodies to be exactly what society wants, then we really only have a false sense of power because we have lost ourselves. And, as Utah and Stella both said so well, its fleeting. Intelligence lasts a lifetime, youthful looks do not.

What have we lost while we have prioritized beautifying ourselves? What have we lost out on? Who have we become? And worse, how have we fed the beast (culture) further?

For every woman who teeters on high heels, wears strappy dresses in dead of winter... for every woman who increases her breasts 4 sizes and saunters around with musk melons... for every woman who cares more about fashion than comfort... for every woman who posts pics or videos of herself as object... for every woman who designs (I say cuts) her vagina...for every woman who plies on a mask before exiting her home... you teach and shape what every other woman thinks she needs to be as well.

So... just say fuck it, right? Just be yourself and stop this hideous phenomenon, right?

Wrong. Because if you do not play by the rules, you are absolutely nothing. No one sees you. No one hears you. And worst of all, in context of our society... no one fucking wants you.

Utah Savage said...

It was worth the wait to hear you speak your mind. Thank you for doing me the honor.

Stella said...

And, if women are "lucky" enough to attain the "perfect image," she is also seen as a whore, as vain, as unintelligent...

Yes, K, absolutely. You reminded me of work several years ago as a legal word processor. The women in the center cautioned me about one of the attorneys, a naturally beautiful blonde woman as difficult and picky. (I think picky characterizes attorneys in general, regardless of gender, if you'll pardon my bigotry.)

One day, she came down to the center with a rush project. People sort of ignored her. but I said, "I'll do the job." She sat with me and we worked together. Despite the rush, but I didn't feel pushed, given how nicely she treated me. I was a little in awe of her intelligence.

The following day, she had another project. I called and told her it was done: she asked if I could bring it to her. When I brought it in, she asked me to sit down. It was some time ago, so she asked me if I wanted to smoke, and we both lit up cigarettes (no, Utah, I don't smoke anymore) in her office. (Long time ago...)

She thanked me and said the women in the center ignored her. I said, "Why?" She just smiled and told me I'd find out some day. This woman was a highly intelligent attorney and all-around good person.

The lesson I learned is that we women our own worst enemies. We believe the fallacy that there is only enough power to go around, and we treat each other poorly to get that brass ring—whatever it is.

I hope what I've written makes sense. And, K, none of us play by the rules: and we are amazing. I'd rather have my brain looking beautiful.

Here are some excerpts from "Advice to a Lady Upon Her Marriage" by Jonathan Swift (c.f. 1720). Although some of the essay is condescending and downright misogynistic, I admire his advice to women in cultivating their minds rather than wasting time on frivolity, such as clothes and gossip. To me, it's an enlightened perspective having been written 300 years ago. I love his writings.

[I]t has sometimes moved me with pity to see the lady of the house forced to withdraw immediately after dinner, and this in families where there is not much drinking; as if it were an established maxim, that women are incapable of all conversation... I am ignorant of any one quality that is amiable in a man, which is not equally so in a woman: I do not except even modesty and gentleness of nature. Nor do I know one vice or folly, which is not equally detestable in both.

Utah Savage said...

Swift is one of my all time favorites. I almost always think of Swift as I write one of these tongue in cheek pieces. Strange that you would introduce a bit of Swift into this conversation. I just wrote my own modest proposal--Marriage is an Anachronism. Sent K a rough draft. She said, post it! I'll have to change my name and move. God I love strong smart women.

Petrosexual said...

Aw... better picture. Good.

MadMike said...

I used to smoke cigarettes. I loved them and I hated them. I would seek out women who smoked so that when we kissed there was no mutual taste of ashtrays.

I stopped smoking almost two years ago and now I can't stand to be around women who smoke. I can be around fat women, or women with flabby breasts, sagging asses, big mouths, and otherwise disgusting "attributes" but I can't abide a smoker. I couldn't even abide CNN's Poppy Harlowe if she smoked and she is one stone fox. Anyway, enough about that. It is my experience that when it comes to being attracted to the opposite sex one person's meat is another's poison. I like bright women, and I don't care if age is starting to demonstrate itself. I don't care if they don't look 20 anymore because they are 40 or 60. After all I don't look 20 anymore and I am not sad about that. I am glad I can still remember it, but my common sense tells me that we all change so just be kind, compassionate, and caring, with a bit of intelligence sprinkled in and I will be fine, unless of course you smoke:-)

I really wanted to say fuck somewhere in here but didn't find the right opportunity. Fuck! I hate when that happens. What do you think Vigil?

TomCat said...

Hi Utah. First, thanks for your visit and comment at Politics Plus.

Personally, I reject the Madison Avenue concept of beauty. If a woman is beautiful on the inside, the outside will reflect that beauty. As for me, have most of the physical flaws comment to men that you described, but I'm beautiful too.

K McKiernan said...

Did you really just get on here with a bunch of women and describe flabby breasts as "disgusting." Oh, please tell me I read that wrong.

Utah Savage said...

Tomcat, I loved your comment and the fact that you aren't as sexist as old madmike, nor apparently as shallow. Loved your comment, come back often. I usually write about the political season, but I'm growing fatigued with it all.

Utah Savage said...

Madmike, you old fuckhead. always glad to hear what you have to say, but on this piece you just sound like a sexist old fart. I'd like to hear from your trophy wife. I'd also like to hear from the one you discarded for your trophy wife.

All of this aside, I like you anyway. Don't get discouraged with this foray into sexual politics. Lat time, when I wrote about legalizing prostitution, Vigilante told me he had noting to say because I was "Off-topic." Actually I'm right on topic, but we can argue about that when and if Vigil shows up. Where the fuck is he by the way. His no swearing edict has forced some passionate commenters to seek me out so they can relieve that pressure to speak freely, let the profanity fly.

MadMike said...

Everything I write is "tongue-in-cheek". I blog because I enjoy the communication and the back-and-forth. I don't intend to be serious unless it is a serious subject, such as Utah's most insightful post on prostitution. I wrote what I felt about the silliness of our vanity, mine and others. Like it...lump it or who cares. I have no trophy wife at the moment. I am between companions and that is fine. Please note most combative "K" that I placed "disgusting" in quotes. I also talked about kindness, compassion, and shit like that. I even blogged an entire piece you authored on my site because I was impressed. So don't get toffee nosed with me. Read before you rant. You too Utah. I would have thought you would have known better.....Sighhh....time to walk the dogs.

Vigilante said...

Yeah, Utah. Can't you get anything friggin' straight? Mike doesn't have the trophy wife. I have the trophy wife. The Original Trophy Wife. Don't get us mixed up. Don't drink so much (during the day time, anyway). Your mind is melting.

Utah Savage said...

Oh it's not what I'm drinking guys, it's what I'm smoking. Just because it looks like a cigarette doesn't mean it is a cigarette. But, really Madmanmike, I'm so sorry about the trophy wife crack.

Vigilante, so does your trophy wife read???

Utah Savage said...

Toffee nosed! My god, toffee nosed! When can we get back to cussing?

MadMike said...

LOL! Does your "trophy wife read"?? Oh there will be the devil to pay today! I love bloggin!

MadMike said...

You must admit it is an oldie but goodie Utah:-)

K McKiernan said...

Ohhhh, Mikey Poo, look again. You certainly did NOT place quotes around the word disgusting, but rather, you placed quotes around the word attributes.

I had hoped you just gave us a typo and not another example of male arrogance wrapped in entitlement. That is why I took pause... I DID wait a moment and then wrote "Oh please tell me I read that wrong." Remember?

I have to admit, though, when Utah called you an "old fuckhead" I laughed so hard I tinkled a bit! Thanks, you all... I really really needed a hearty laugh.

Love and Kisses.... even to you Mikey...
K

K McKiernan said...

Ok.... one more thing... am I dumb?... too young? (my birthday on Thursday says I am not)... what about toffee nosed don't I get?

Am I in la-la land? Help me out.

So... a trophy wife, eh, Vig? I wanna see a pic!

I think I would give just about anything for all of us to sit around Utah's house and shoot the breeze face-to-face...

What a hooooot that would be!

K

MadMike said...

Well shit! You are right K! Perhaps I am just an "old fuckhead" after all:-) Despite I would also enjoy sitting around with Utah and just getting fucked up, both physically and intellectually of course:-)
P.S. Toffee-nosed is an English expression that is loosely translated as "stuck-up." :-) :)

Petrosexual said...

Mad M., watch your mouth. McKiernan's day job is a public prosecutor.

J McKiernan said...

Well, all, I'm back...

...much to the dismay of many, I worry... :(

But I just have to say, Madame Savage, that this is the best piece you've ever written. On the money without fail, biting in the best possible way, smart, funny, perceptive...like a rant without any ranting. Every word needed said, and you said it better than just about anyone.

(Except maybe K. ;) )

Beauty is a woman's hottest commodity...and it ain't just an issue for aging barbies...it is fast becoming a huge issue for young and innocent barbies. More to the point, the 'young and innocent' barbies are aging faster than they really should...

Our daughter turned five in February. Her birthday party was a 'sweet & sassy' party where all she and all her little friends went to a girls hair salon, were interviewed like celebrities, made up like models, and then participated in a runway show complete with music, strobe lights, and an emcee discussing each girl's hobbies and interests as they strutted their stuff. She had a blast...so did all her friends. And I have to admit, K and I were smiling ear-to-ear. It was so cute...but that was because we used our love for our little girl to block our natural thought processes. A moment's reflection would reveal how insidious this party and everything the salon promoted really was.

But we did it for our daughter. This has become who she is, for better or...much worse. If you thought the era of Britney and Christina was treacherous and deadly for young girls of the time, our daughter is growing up in the era of Hannah Montana and Jamie Lynn Spears...and the era where Britney is seen as a fat old bag who doesn't even deserve to raise her kids.

And what will happen as this little girl grows up in a world that values all the things she has embraced from such a young age? Well, if she stays gorgeous, she will do just fine....for a while. But the 'aging barbie' on-set occurs much sooner than it once did...already happened for poor old Britney. Staying power is no longer in the cards. The 'beauty window' is getting smaller and smaller...and will indeed continue to shrink. But like all evolutionary...or de-evolutionary...societal constructs, once it shrinks enough, the cycle will just repeat itself all over again.

After all, you know what they say about those who don't learn from history....

K McKiernan said...

Was I right or what telling you to re-post this essay? Yeah, you can thank me later.

Never let Petro-sexual of all people get your goat and make you question yourself. I mean... afterall, what does that Hummer tell you?

Someone is overcompensating for SOMETHING!

Utah Savage said...

J. That was one of the best things I have ever read about the trickle-down aspect of the Beauty Myth. Beautiful writing, honest, vulnerable, dead-on. Bravo J. So glad to have you back. Since we lost you and K here for awhile I had to lead all the men who so like what you guys have to say to your site. You can all thank me later. I'll accept lemons in payment. For god's sake, if any of you are planning to visit the Mormon temple here in Salt lick City let me know, I'll meet you at my place and pollute you prior to your entering the holy grounds.

Utah Savage said...

And just for the record, never ever through another beauty day for the little ones, no matter how much they might like it. It's poisonous.

Utah Savage said...

Throw? As you may have just figured out I can't spell for shit.

J McKiernan said...

I used to be a spelling bee champion back in my glory days...if it means anything to ya.

;)

J McKiernan said...

By the way, nice line about "accepting lemons as payment." Quick, sharp...and a reminder of a very sad, very telling post.

K McKiernan said...

I know... I know... I felt awful taking her to such a party, but when you love your child and its what she really wants...

Sigh. I know. I know what you all are about to say...

E said...

Utah,
Holy mother of all that is holy. Like Stella I'm going to need to process this and then report back. i can say that I Quite Rather Think I Love You. So let's just get that out of the way. Furthermore, let me say in just a few off-the-cuff thoughts that you have nailed something here. I'm not sure if you have read this month's issue of Vogue? I was actually going to do a post on it, as it was The Shape Issue or The Body Issue or one of those. But a few articles really stuck out. One was by Min Jin Lee, detailing her thoughts about herself at each weight she has been in her life. It absolutely broke a hole in me as I read it because I recognized myself a little too closely in her ability to recall with alarming detail her weight in college, pre-boyfriend, post-boyfriend, post-surgery, etc. And how it all played into her sense of self, or total lack thereof.

And not to sound like a Vogue groupie (I got the subscript free by using leftover America West miles), there is a funny one by Joan Collins entitled Why I Hate Rich Men. Her best line was when some rich guy she was dating found her attention on his every word to be lagging. He said, "You are fucking boring." To which she replied, "Well, darling, you are a boring fuck. Goodbye!"

I'll write more later when I've processed your amazing post.

MadMike said...

LOL "Petrosexual" and "e" for that great Joan Collins line.

Vigilante said...

E, I am especially glad to see that you found your way to Utah's Wilderness. The first time I landed here, I was much taken (favorably) by the first 70 words in Savage's profile (About Me). At this point in my life, my skin is much too thin for the amount of savagery practiced here, and I rarely escape with it intact. But I'm sure you'll do quite well.

TomCat said...

Utah, I was involved in the women's movement back in the 1960s, and believe in the concept of equal-value relationships. In the 1970s, I had five out of seven male sales people quit my, because I promoted a woman over them as Sales Manager. By the same token, beware my off the wall sense of humor. When that is engaged, I can be a wonderful male chauvinist pig. For example, the gal I promoted wanted to shoot me when she asked why I had done so, knowing that it would not be well received. I answered that I considered her the "best man for the job". :-)

PS. I added you to my blogroll.

BAC said...

Utah, you are right. Madison Ave spends big bucks telling women what we are supposed to look like, and the sad reality is that most of the women in their ads don't look like that -- photoshoped photos set an impossible standard for women.

And what's up with women being pitted against other women for bald, flabby men? Geezz ...

I remember in my teens saying to my parents if there is Playboy for men, why isn't there a Playgirl for women? And does anyone else notice how women are displayed with full frontal nudity, while there is always some object covering a man's genitalia?

Men in Hollywood don't want to have to compete with other men regarding the size of their dicks, but they are all too happy to have women compete with each other over breast size.

Thanks for the post, it's great!


BAC