Empowerment is not for sale. Liberation is not for sale. These statements are true whether you are a man or woman, but are especially true if you are a woman.
Feminism teaches us to examine our own assumptions about the rightful place and role of women in society. It gives us a lens through which we can examine and evaluate our own ingrained cultural beliefs and assumptions.
Minimalism teaches us to question consumerism. Somewhere along the line, feminism was highjacked by marketers and consumerism. If women were going to join the workforce and the public sphere, then patriarchal consumerist culture was still going to set very clear rules about what was required of a woman to be “suitable for public consumption.” And corporations were going to make a healthy profit by targeting women’s insecurities and setting the ground rules for “how to be a good woman.”
We have been sold a lie.
The lie is this: in order to be a good woman you must conform to an impossible beauty standard, and in order to meet this standard you must purchase many, many cosmetics, clothing, pills, shoes, surgeries, and other things that you don’t need. Conforming to this standard is the most important thing that you will do as a woman. Without at least trying to conform to the standard (which we will define without your input, thank you very much) you will be categorically dismissed by society. You will be indecent, shameful, worthless, and UNLOVABLE.
If a woman were to “degenerate” into her natural state, what would she even look like? Well, she would have hairy legs and hairy armpits for starters. Her brows would be their natural shape, her hair its natural colour. She wouldn’t wear makeup, and she may not even use moisturizer. Her body would be whatever shape it was naturally, it would not be artificially squeezed into “control top pantyhouse” or Spanx. Her breasts would sit wherever they sit naturally, they wouldn’t propped up by an underwire, pushed together and enlarged by padding or surgery.
She would be a woman with no need to purchase all the products that transform a woman from her natural state to a state that society deems acceptable. This woman would almost certainly be scorned by most of society, because so many of us believe the lie that this natural woman is terrible, unacceptable, disgusting, and undesirable. Desirability is sold to all of us, women and men alike, as the ONLY way to be loved in this world. And who doesn’t want to be loved? The lie has gone even further and told us that women in their natural states, especially once they pass a certain age, are completely worthless and are not suited to being seen in public.
The worst part is that many women, myself included, will say that we are doing it “for ourselves.” We are doing it because we have so completely internalized the incredibly profitable lie that only through expensive and oftentimes painful modifications can our bodies be suitable to be seen in public, let alone desirable enough to earn the approval of others. Our self-esteem has come to rely so heavily on how well we can live this lie that we will do things that are expensive and unnecessary at best, and destructive or fatal at worst, in order to embody the current feminine beauty standard that is being sold by our culture.
How is this lie propagated? How has it become so engrained in our culture that we unquestioningly spend literally thousands of dollars over our lifetimes in order to uphold these preposterous standards?
One word: advertising. Pervasive, all-consuming, inescapable, advertising. Millions, and millions of dollars of it. Advertising shames women for not conforming to the impossible standard set out for them. Sexism, racism, heteronormativity, ageism, ableism, and a host of other prejudices come together to define the standards and enforce them in a myriad of other ways, but they are all sold to us via advertising.
Think about it ladies: if we really needed all these products, would companies need to spend millions of dollars pushing them at us? Would they need to literally invent new beauty concerns and “problem areas?”
We have been sold a lie. There is nothing wrong with our natural, unaltered faces or bodies. Our leg hair is not disgusting, only thinking it makes it so. Our eyelashes do not need to be curled and coated in gunk. There is nothing wrong with us in our natural states. It is just that in our natural states we won’t keep fueling the multi-billion dollar beauty industry.
Minimalism can help.
Minimalism is a tool for overcoming our attachments to things in our lives that do not create real value and that do not make us happy. It is a tool for questioning consumerism, and women DESPERATELY need to question consumerism. We have internalized marketing messages so deeply that for many of us it seems IMPOSSIBLE to live a good, fulfilling life without buying products like: razor blades, shaving cream, anti-wrinkle lotion, diet pills, weight loss books, brow waxes, bikini waxes, makeup, or hair dye.
I am venturing the radical notion that we can in fact live without these things. We can live wonderful, exciting, fulfilling lives without paying to support a lie that makes us feel like shit and that costs us so much more than just our hard-earned dollars.
This will not be easy. Most likely, everyone around you believes the lie. No one wants to believe that their deeply held convictions about who is “attractive” or “sexy” or “beautiful” have been manufactured and sold to them by advertisers in order to pry their hard-earned dollars from their wallets.
Don’t feel bad for having believed the lie. It was sold to us as the role of women was changing rapidly and we were just finding out footing in the public sphere. Collectively we were vulnerable to messages about how to be “good women” in a dangerous and challenging world.
I, for one, am sick of trading my time, my money, and my freedom for products that I don’t need, and to support a system that tells women that we are not good enough.
Let’s dare to dream of a world where all women, and all people, feel like their bodies and their natural appearance is good enough. Let’s stop paying money to have our self-esteem eroded.
What would be the benefits of applying minimalism to our beauty regimes? What would be the benefit of paring down or even eliminating the products we buy and the things we do in order to conform to the impossible standard that advertising sells us?
1) More money.
2) More time.
3) More self-esteem.
4) Our sanity.
5) Our lives.
Do we really need any more reasons?
This is not a how-to seminar. This is a wake up call.
So many of us have forgotten that we have a right to exist in our natural state, that we have a right to dignity and respect that need not be earned through expensive grooming rituals.
We have a right to be, just as we are. Just Darby. Just You. Let’s reclaim that right.