What Dressing Like a Slut Says

On January 24, 2011, Constable Michael Sanguinetti and another officer from Toronto’s 31 Division came to a York University Safety Forum at the Osgoode Hall Law School. While presumably listing ways to avoid sexual assault  Sanguinetti  said, “You know, I think we’re beating around the bush here. I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this, however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

It was a choice of words he came to regret. It outraged many people including one MACLEANS commentator  who said, “A woman has the right to dress as she wishes. It is never okay for someone to take away her ability to feel safe in her own body simply because society deems her dresses provocative. A woman has the right to to say ‘no’ and have her decision be respected.”

Toronto Police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray responded on behalf of the Police by saying that cautioning women on their state of dress is not part of any police training. “They are taught that nothing a woman does contributes to a sexual assault.” Sanguinetti apologized in a written statement.

The Constable’s comments triggered a “Slut Walk” at Queen’s Park in Toronto that attracted thousands of participants. The movement has now spread to the U.S. and England. The intent of the walks is to help to remove the stigma of the term “Slut”. They also want to spread the word that those who experience sexual assault are not the ones at fault, without exception.

Which is all very admirable, but ignores the fact that the Constable was trying to tell women that there are violent men out there who target prostitutes (sluts), and in some circumstances, women will be safer if they don’t dress in the same clothing that prostitutes wear in order to advertise the sex trade.

It is the same common sense that says it is inadvisable to wear a bikini to a dinner party given by the bosses wife, or a fur coat to a PETA Rally.

One step beyond wearing hardly any clothes is Nudity. In many countries public nudity is forbidden outright on the basis that nudity is inherently sexual. Large numbers of people are, for various reasons, offended by and even distressed with public displays of nudity. Attempts to make public nudity legal will likely continue to fail, mostly because the majority of people don’t have skin that fits them all that well. That is why most prostitutes dress the way they do – it is more alluring to dress like a slut than to wear no clothes at all.

Which is likely why Mark Twain observed:

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.

So ladies, wear revealing clothing if you want to. But don’t ever think it is safe to wear anything you want where ever you want. Life isn’t about Why you shouldn’t be a victim, it is about how NOT to be a victim.

Glass Ceiling is Made of Cloth

Perhaps the most over used and under explained phrase of modern times is “The Glass Ceiling“. I don’t know how many times I have read it or heard it since the phrase came into being in about 1986. Frankly, I’m tired of it. If women haven’t managed to break through that ceiling in 25 years, then it is because it is made out of something other than glass.

Personally, I think it is made out of Cloth, or some substance like that. It is acknowledged that men still hold the majority of senior management positions in most of the workplace. Have you ever noticed how they are dressed? A pair of pants with the correct break maybe, a shirt with long or short sleeves, a pair of low heeled shoes, perhaps a jacket, perhaps a tie. That is pretty much it. Various types of cloth, to be sure, but lots of cloth. I can’t say for sure what women in the workplace wear. Less cloth, more bare body, probably. Less comfortable shoes…

When I was in High School, girls had to wear skirts in class. It was during the days of the Mini-Skirt, and all the males in the school were very pleased that the Granny Skirt was out. Boys had clothing restrictions too. No blue jeans, no sleeveless shirts. All the girls complained about the inequity of these clothing guidelines, but it didn’t make any difference. Our principal made the rules, and he didn’t seem to mind mini-skirts…

Since that time, women in many countries have won the right to dress the way they want. It was one of the hard fought battles of my generation, I suppose. It is extremely frustrating to me, then, to see women give this right over to the nefarious Fashion Industry. Now, there is a plot to subvert women, if ever I have seen one. What is more bothersome, is that women buy into it… figuratively and literally. It is not like my high school principal is telling them what they can and cannot wear.

It is bad enough when women buy into the notion that Boudoir style clothing can be worn to Wal-Mart or the Office. Or that TV and Movies dress women, even strong independent ones, in low cut tops and high heels. Or that hem lengths rise and fall with the same frequency as the tides. Or that all women must choose one of 5 pre-determined sizes (which are not the same dimensions for any two manufacturers). Or that styles change every season. Or that women’s garments are not designed to be easily altered.

No, what I find more bothersome is that they let themselves be told how they should look from head to toe, then they become very critical about how every one else looks. It is a vicious circle of obsessing about what they should wear, how they should do their hair, what make-up they should put on, how skinny they should be, and what female role model they should idolize.

Yes, I know there are other obstacles to women achieving equality in the workplace. But really ladies, if you can’t peacefully co-exist with your own body (just as it is when you hop out of the shower) why do you think you are playing on the same field as the men you are competing with? 

Fat Facts – An Obesity Epidemic or a Beauty Bias?

FAT. How can so small a word have such a bad reputation? The dictionary lists 42 synonyms, not a single one of them complimentary. What a bad rap for something we all have and need!

There is only one body type that doesn’t appear to have much body fat, and that is the one coveted by Runway Models. These people are classified as Underweight, and have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of less than 18.5. If I was to be in that category, I would have to weigh something less than 99 pounds, a figure I haven’t seen on my scale since I was a youth. Statistics indicate that 1.8 percent of the adult American population is underweight. A Recent Joint Study by Stats Canada, Kaiser Permanente, Portland State U, Oregon Health U and McGill U, indicates that Underweight people have the highest risk of death of all the BMI categories. Eating disorders and digestive diseases are associated with this group of people.

Next in line for risk are the Class III Obese people – extreme obesity. These folks have a BMI of 40 or higher. If I was in this category, I would have to weigh 215 pounds or more. US Statistics for 2008 indicate that 5.7 percent of the adult population are extremely obese. Their lives are shortened by 8 to 10 years.

These two classes represent 7.5% of the American public, and their lives are significantly shortened due to their weight. 92.5% of the population will have no appreciable shortening of the length of life. And while increased weight is considered to be a significant risk factor in Cardiovascular disease, (which is the number one killer in the USA with 39% of the deaths each year) the vast majority of those deaths are people over the age of 75. (The average American life expectancy is a bit over 77 years.)

In the category of relatively normal life spans, 33.8% of the people are Class I and II Obese. These people have BMI’s of 30 to 34.9, and 35 to 39.9 respectively.  Apparently Oprah Winfrey just slightly nudges into the Class I Obese category. (I would have to weigh 161 pounds or more to be Obese). These people’s lives could be shortened by 2 to 5 years because of their weight. Obesity has been on the rise since 1960, when the percentage of obese people was 15%. This increase leveled off in 1999, so while there are more obese people, the percentage of them is not increasing significantly.

Next in line for life expectancy are Normal  weight people. They have a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9. USA statistics for 2008 indicate that 24.7% of the population was normal weight. ( I would have to remain under 134 pounds to be in this category, a feat I have rarely achieved for any extended period of time since High School.) But apparently that is okay, because Normal Weight people have a higher risk of death than overweight people. I suspect this could be because there are still more smokers in this category, but I have no figures to back this up. Smoking, by the way, has decreased by just over 20% in the same time period that human weights have increased by a similar percentage.

Overweight People, with a BMI of 25 to 29.9, live longer than any other category. USA statistics for 2008 indicate that 34% of the adult population was in this category. These are the people who have more muscles, bone, adipose (fat) tissue and/or water than normal weight people. While this will include many types of athletes, it will also include many older people who put on weight because they slow down as they age.

While these three classes of people will statistically live a similar length of time, there is no question that the people in the Obese class will generally have more health problems, resulting in a significant financial burden on the economy. Of course, this statement is equally true for those people who smoke, and abuse alcohol and drugs. It is also true for the simple reason that our population is aging. The older we get, the more likely we are to develop an ailment of some sort. Invariably we all die from something, few of us simply expiring because our bodies gave out at 125 years of age…

When it comes to public acceptance, 26.5% of the population try to make 73.5% of the population feel miserable. That is because people are more obsessed with looks than they care to admit. In an essay titled Mirror, Mirror Kate Fox notes that studies show that the ‘bias for beauty’ operates in nearly every social situation. People believe that ‘beautiful is good’ as it relates to intelligence, competence, social skills, confidence – even moral virtue. Today’s culture defines the most beautiful people in the world as being underweight or normal weight. The rest are called Fat, and they don’t stand a chance of being treated equally. The so called Obesity Epidemic is as much a Beauty Epidemic as anything.

Power of Grey Hair

My Grey Locks and Silver Strands

A growing number of women are embracing the Power of Grey Hair.

In an article titled The Silver Tsunami, the author suggests this about gray hair:

“It allows the wearer, when walking into the room, to subliminally convey the notion: ‘You think growing older is a bad thing? Think again.’”

The article goes on to discuss the fact that grey haired women are wearing radically younger hair styles:

“In fact, it is wearing exactly those unexpected-after-40-or-50 cuts that make gray hair less of a symbol of aging and more one of confidence and power.”

Catherine Cleary in an article in The Irish Times titled Grey Pride tells her story:

“I stopped out of curiosity, boredom and a desire to be different, to resist what is expected of a woman turning the corner into 40.”

Mia Gallagher believes our fear of mortality is behind the fear of ageing and treating ageing as a disease that can be cured with potions:

“If ageing is a disease then life is a disease.”

Ruth Sutherland in The Observer article To Dye or Not says:

“Wherever you stand on follicles as a feminist issue, a woman who opts for grey liberation is making a statement. She is saying: ‘I’m relaxed and comfortable about ageing.’ That’s pretty brave, because there are precious few grey-haired female role models.”

The Oprah Magazine weighs in with an article called The Gray Hair Bible:

“But a growing number of women—courageous, rebellious, or just exhausted by the tedium of coloring—are going brazenly, vividly gray.”

There are far fewer web sites that embrace grey hair than there are sites that tell you how to get rid of grey hair. Clearly the Grey Hair Crusade for Women is in it’s infancy…

Women, Liberation, Freedom, Beauty – the Anti-Aging Scam

Steve Craig of the University of North Texas presented a paper in 1997 called Madison Avenue Vs the Feminine MystiqueHow the Advertising Industry Responded to the Onset of the Modern Women’s Movement.

The Abstract of this paper states:

In her now-classic 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique, feminist author and activist Betty Friedan charged the advertising industry with perpetuating and exploiting the oppression of women through the use of negative stereotypes. Her book and its charges gave impetus to the growing women’s movement and led to an all-out campaign of political action against advertisers in 1970. Madison Avenue at first responded with protestations and denials, but the threat of product boycotts and pressure from many women within the industry itself led to at least superficial changes. Companies also realized that changing their approach made good business sense and began creating products and marketing strategies that exploited the idea of the “new woman.”

The QuipperyThis “New Woman”, though liberated from many of the inequalities of past generations, now faced a beauty industry that led them to believe that a women could only be accepted in this new world if they met rigid new standards of slimness, beauty, and fashion. As Naomi Wolf explained in The Beauty Myth: “An ideology that makes women feel “worth less” was urgently needed to counteract the way feminism had begun to make us feel worth more.”

This idealogy is called “The Beauty Industry”. It is a multi billion dollar one, aimed at making people feel they are not good enough looking. It is aimed predominantly at women, but men, children and ageing people are  increasingly being targeted. In many parts of North America, a Cult of Youth not only predominates, it demeans and derides.

On the laundry list of supposed unattractiveness, any signs of ageing are at the top. Grey hair (and wrinkles) are the prime offenders. The Hair Coloring industry is fueled in large part by consumers wishing to camouflage their gray hair. The industry promotes the idea that in order to be successful, people should look “vigorous and youthful”.  Appearing “older and more experienced” is deemed undesirable. Not so long ago,  people said grey hair made a man look distinguished, but it made a woman look old. But today, even men are being targeted by this industry.

 Clairol has a product called Nice ‘n Easy Grey Solution that “uses a breakthrough Gray Retexturizer Pretreatment to soften coarse colour resistant grey hair.” Brown Betty sells a product that colours pubic hair . The product received a positive review from the online edition of The Oprah Magazine. SanoTint advertises that “SanoTint hair color is one of the only “green” products available that creates a deep, rich, permanent hair color that will cover grey hair.”  Restorias message clearly states what their attitude is towards gray hair:

Unfortunately there is no cure for gray hair, however there are many products on the market to help you deal with your gray hair problem.

A salon owner, Louis Licari, sums up gray hair on women by saying,

Very few women look more beautiful and vital with their gray hair showing. You have to have the perfect shade of silver hair combined with a flawless complexion to wear your gray hair successfully. When your hair is gray, your face must look perfect every day. Any stress or fatigue is magnified when hair is worn gray. To allow hair to go gray creates a huge burden for most people trying to look their best.

hair color gray arctic blonde
“Arctic Blonde”

It is estimated that before the 1950’s, a minority of women over the age of 40 dyed their hair. Today, it is the vast majority of women, according to Anne Kreamer, author of Going Gray:

One reason people dye their hair is that when they look in the mirror they feel they aren’t seeing their authentic selves. And what they mean by “authentic self” is that period in life where they thought they looked their best. So they try to recreate that moment through hair color. But it might be helpful for people to know they don’t have to. No one pays attention to anyone else! We have far more latitude to be comfortably what we want to be than we think we do. We should all be more tolerant about aging, no matter what choices people make.

For men, grey hair has traditionally been a badge of authority and experience. But the hair colour industry would like to change this, probably because they have nearly saturated the market for womens hair colour. Clairol Natural Instincts for Men claims, “Look like yourself again – Natural Instincts for Men fights grey in 10 minutes…” Then there is Touch of Grey. Men who use it will “show your experience and your energy.” Restoria  states that “Going grey isn’t anything to worry about. With Express for Men you can eliminate grey hair in a few easy steps and be on your way to feeling more confident and look even younger.”

Hair dye isn’t the only product that is sold with the express purpose of making people think they are “worth less” unless they use them. There are industries for cosmetics, diets, plastic surgery, clothing, shoes, spas, films, TV… all designed to reinforce an impossible ideal of what women should look like.

    • Anti-Ageing products offer the promise of a “Cloak of Youth”.  Youth is beauty. Age isn’t.  Most of these products are targeted at women. Women are not young enough looking, slim enough or sexy enough. Women should use these products to be acceptable, desirable and valuable. This generates a fear of the natural process of ageing.
    •  TV, Magazine and Internet advertising promotes youth over age. It sells vanity product through advertisements of  “ideals” that are impossible to achieve.  Examples on the internet: ” Discover Anti Aging Information For Looking Younger And Feeling Great!” “Learn how to look younger by getting rid of grey hair with hair color in this free hair care series of anti-aging videos.” These advertisements are at the very least offensive in their Ageist Attitudes. They are  dangerous messages for young girls and women because they erode self confidence. They are demeaning to women in general because they objectify them.
    • In the Entertainment Industry, it is not uncommon to have an older leading men in the movies or on TV, but most of the leading ladies are younger, or have to appear to be a lot younger.

If a society is preoccupied with looking young, how can they see ageing as a positive process?
If a women is preoccupied with making herself look different, how does it make women seem real and genuine?

Go Grey, Girl – Be an Arctic Ice Blonde!

Hair colour (or color) is a confusing and controversial topic, especially if the hair colour is grey (or gray!) To start with, great swaths of the population spell the essential words differently! Although it is quite acceptable to spell grey – gray,  and colour – color, having grey hair is quite another matter. Of course, the individual hairs aren’t actually grey either. They are either some shade of white, or the original hair colour. The grey colour is an effect achieved by the mingling of the white and dark strands. Sheer trickery.

A quick search for the precise term “grey hair” brings up many, many pages. A search for “gray hair” is the same. I spent a morning previewing a very small sampling of these pages and came to the conclusion that women, and the fashion industry, have more or less declared war on grey hair.

I decided to revisit the Gray Land of Grey Hair after a few years of colourful experiments in the hands of my well meaning, and much younger, hair dresser. Upon arrival at my Grey destination again, I found that my former Grey Locks were now mostly Silver Strands. There are a number of reasons why I am delighted with this colour, not the least of which is the fact that it brings out the most interesting reactions from family, friends and strangers.  The reaction, for the most part, is a startled silence. During the growing out period, not a single person said, “Wow, those are some roots you’ve got happening!”  And now that I have these silver strands, only two people have commented. I’ve had several compliments from total strangers, but family are not saying a thing. Curious.

arctic blonde
This is my Arctic Blonde hair!

The best part of grey-white hair, though, is the small silent band of sisters I now belong to. Whenever I pass a stranger who shares my hair colour, either she or I initiates a small smile. We hold each others glance just long enough to say, “Welcome to the White Side!” I’m thinking we should have a little wave, too, maybe similar to the one that is shared by the motorcyclists we pass on the road. It’s the same wave we give and get from the drivers who live near us in our rural setting. Just a slight lifting of the hand off the throttle or the steering wheel that says, “You are one of us.”

While the vast majority of women are busy keeping their grey hair at bay, men tend to accept the grey look as part of the natural order of things. If women viewed grey hair on women as a sign of power and maturity, rather than fearing it is a sign of being old and worthless, would women finally have the gender equality that they have fought so long to achieve?

Maybe what women need is just a little rebranding, and for me, what could be more perfect for a Canadian than ‘Arctic Ice Blonde’? If you are unsure of what I mean by the term, check out this Arctic Blonde Pinterest Board. Then, there are the Arctic Blonde Strippers – a group of quilters from Whitehorse in the Yukon.

If you google Arctic Blonde, you will also come across a Miss Clairol Hair Dye by that name, but we all know there is only one way to be an Arctic Blonde, and that is to let Mother Nature do the job for you.

As for a community – there are Silver Sisterhoods and Graceful Greys – but what should I call a group for Arctic Ice Blondes?

Norway – Climbing Preikestolen in Comfortable Shoes

NorwayA few years ago we  hiked to the top of Preikestolen in Norway. Preikestolen is a steep cliff that rises 604 metres (1982 feet) above Lysefjorden, opposite the Kjerag plateau. It has an almost flat top of approximately 25 by 25 metres (82 by 82 feet), and is a very popular hiking destination.

We were advised to wear good walking shoes because of the terrain. The hike up was steep and challenging, but the view from the top of the cliff was breathtaking. We stopped at the summit long enough to catch our breath, admire the view, and have lunch.

As we sat munching sandwiches, an elderly Norwegian woman arrived. She wore a simple cotton dress, knee high hose, and comfortable older-fashion sandals. She looked like she had just stepped out the back door to put wash on the line.  I was amazed that she could clamber over the rocks and boulders in a dress and sandals, but she did, and apparently in relative ease. I was impressed!

More people arrived onto the plateau at the summit, and most of them were dressed in serious hiking footwear. Then a young women came into view. She was wearing white, pointed toe, thin soled go-go boots, with clothing to match the look she was trying to achieve. I was amazed that she could clamber over the rocks and boulders too, but the look on her face said she hadn’t found it as easy as the elderly lady. “Ouch”, her feet said.

We all made it off the mountain that day. Some had sorer feet than others.  But what I don’t really understand is why some women think they have to stuff their feet into uncomfortable shoes. Men don’t do that, do they? Why do women?

I suppose the answer to that question is, “It is fashionable.” So the next question is, why are so many women slaves to fashion?