23 Comments
Feb 21Liked by Shannon Watts

I think you have it right. When we choose to have a battle over which has more value--looking younger (with treatments) or looking natural without, it’s still a conversation that centers a woman’s value on appearances. And meanwhile the men are unconcerned about aging because their value has never been about that. In media, where is there an opportunity to specifically choose to center middle age women and their wisdom, experience, skill, ingenuity--and will it sell? In a small way, I like Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ podcast which tries to do this. Can women with power change the conversation for the rest of us?

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Thanks for the reminder to listen to JLD’s podcast too!

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Feb 21Liked by Shannon Watts

I graduated highschool the year you were born. I hit middle school with Twiggy as our ideal...sigh. When the 80s super models hit, they were touted to a us as larger, more realistic females. I never fit any of the ideals. Now at 70, I wear no makeup, my long hair is grey and I'm still overweight. I am comfortable in my skin.

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When that stupid man was elected in 2016, I "woke up" and was forced to face the fact that even as a white woman I am not safe in the repub policy agenda. That being said I have become empowered in ways that I never thought possible. My give a shit factor about my "looks" is gone. There are more important things to fight for than my wrinkles. I don't care if people think I am "letting myself go" because I have embraced my natural hair color. I don't want to count calories and try to be small. As an athlete from 3-24 years old I had my fair share of body shaming by coaches and I suffered from disordered eating as a result, I'm not doing that anymore. I eat what I want when I am hungry. I have never done any "procedures" because my mother chased beauty her entire life and she was miserable; out a load of cash and she did not look any better. As a nurse I work with all generations of women. The millennials with their false eyelashes, tattooed eyebrows, Botox for wrinkles that are not even there yet, and their stupid intermittent fasting diets just makes me sad for them. As the mother aged person of the group, I tell them that they are worthy and beautiful. I guess it's my "I'm 50 and I'm going to do what I want" rebellious nature that is guiding me right now and I like it!

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Feb 21Liked by Shannon Watts

Perhaps I risk saying the wrong thing by weighing in. But, I have always felt strongly about being who you are, man or woman. I'm 56 now, and have always been of average looks. I monitor my calorie intake and exercise, and I have had a good career. I never received attention or gazes, but I was fortunate enough to have several gorgeous (IMO) girlfriends in my life. I never cared how they dressed or what cosmetics they used, in retrospect because I loved them. It was the eyes, the femininity, the expressiveness, the intelligence, and the presence of chemistry. I communicated all this to the one woman who became my true love/soulmate in 1998, and although we both believed we would have a family together some day, she, alas, ultimately married someone else. But, prior to that, she had asked me "Do you know how much pressure men put on us?". I was confused by this. I told her that women put undue pressure on EACH OTHER. All these years later, I still believe that, and although I do not have a family of my own and am somewhat lost at times, I think of her and her daughter every day and I love her just as intensely now as I did then. And I see beauty at all ages. This said, I do appreciate that women have been overcoming double standards for generations, and the progress they are making is great to see. But wanting to receive a gaze should never be of any real importance. If both men and women would just be REAL and TRUE, I believe more relationships would succeed, and a greater happiness achieved.

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We do. I feel like we’re often trying to impress ourselves than men. Our idea of beautiful is often different from what you guys find “hot.” I mean, as young women, we see what you guys have on your walls, but we don’t want to look like that. Or at least I didn’t. But don’t you guys do the same? I worry about my son, who is small for his age. He might think not being that big buff guy would mean that no girls would like him. Boys can have body image issues as well but we never talk much about it. He’s only 5 1/2, so I’m not too worried about it yet

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It’s the patriarchy that puts pressure on women. It’s bad for everyone.

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Feb 21Liked by Shannon Watts

Sun in!! I remember it well

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Feb 21Liked by Shannon Watts

In the career I was in, women didn’t last much past 45. Men could be old, bald, graying whatever they looked like. I’ve spent years staying under the agism radar so I could extend my career. Wrapping this part of my life up within the week and I already feel freer from visual expectations.

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Feb 21Liked by Shannon Watts

Hello Shannon,

You are a world-class beauty, natural, inherited, cultivated or purchased, and I believe beauty in the mirror and in the world makes us all feel good, so bring it!

I too think a lot about aging and beauty, and have participated in my share of expensive renovation.

I’d love to add to the conversation that when we pursue it, capture it, reveal it, we are engaging in an ancient practice of enhancement that transcends the male gaze. It’s for us as much as it’s for them.

It’s for Beauty’s sake. Because it’s fun and powerful to transform. There’s a bit of theater and illusion to enhancement and we all love theatre and magic. I also agree that we show up adorned and shamed at the same time, and I’ve toggled between natural and augmented throughout my life as well. (Just went through an intense laser treatment and am in the stage where I’m not sure I see the big difference I had hoped/paid for.)

We can be so hard on ourselves.

Beauty is a gift to all who see us, and enhancing it is a personal choice and maybe even a community service when our efforts inspire admiration, smiles, compliments and adoration.

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“Because it’s fun and powerful to transform. There’s a bit of theater and illusion to enhancement and we all love theatre and magic.” This is true too!

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Feb 21Liked by Shannon Watts

Shannon, You write so beautifully! I loved reading this! I spent my younger years in such deep self-loathing wanting to be like the super-models. How I connect with everything you wrote! Thank you for sharing this wisdom with such clarity and sharp observation.

PS Oh how I loved Sun In!

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Feb 21Liked by Shannon Watts

Totally true! We live in a culture that is way too fixated on physical attributes and not enough on what it means to be a great human, and I mean a human in all aspects. I always keep them in mind what I would want people to remember or say about me at my memorial service. I doubt If they’re going to be talking about my body, my hair, any work I may have done on my face. I want them to miss my inner light, my joy, my enthusiasm for life, ability to “be real” with people, to express sorrow with those who mourn, my compassion and tears over the state of the world and how I love being involved in politics. When my kids were little and we were reading a book together, my two youngest looked at me and said “mom, I hope you never get old and ugly” Well, you can imagine the conversation we started having and I made a commitment to raise my kids to appreciate older people, to look past the surface and the first impression to work their inner life. They are amazing and give me hope that the world can change.

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Feb 21·edited Feb 21Liked by Shannon Watts

You are absolutely right! At 52, I stare at myself in the mirror and wonder what I could do to make myself look less exhausted and beat-up. I strive to look younger. I also have always taken great care of myself (without cosmetic procedures, although I am SO tempted to do some), but time and gravity always win in the end. Does my husband concern himself with the same issues? Not at all - and doesn't understand why I fret about it (although he is a bit sensitive about his thinning hair). When you see celebrity men dating women literally half their age, you wonder if all men would jump at the chance? Then again, why do I care about this so much? UGH!

Thank you for shining the light on this - it makes me feel better that I'm not alone.

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The double whammy of ageism and sexism/impossible beauty standards really affects women over 50 at work. For me this takes a toll. I pride myself on my work and intellect and now am being doubly judged. So I dye my hair, mix in youthful trends, and slather the creams. No other interventions (yet). At least the sexual harassment seems to have passed.

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You and I are the exact same age and it’s funny-although I have always thought you were gorgeous it was your courage, grace and intelligence that I have always admired most. I completely relate to what you are saying about supermodels and the 1980s - I used to pore over fashion magazines like they were Bibles and today I find myself falling into some of the same traps on Instagram. For me weight is the hardest part to reckon with. Every woman in my immediate family (mother, sister, stepmother) has had serious food and body image issues. I always prided myself on having escaped that. But health issues have kept me from exercising for five months right as perimenopause hit and I’m heavier than I’ve ever been other than when I was pregnant. I struggle with this every day even though I know intellectually that this is a big waste of time. I guess all that is to say that I don’t have a good answer but that I appreciate the myriad thoughtful conversations like this one that I see women our age having.

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Oh boy….where do I start? Born in 1966, I have spent the majority of my lifetime totally conflicted. I was born and raised to be a staunch feminist by a woman who worshipped beauty. Go figure. It’s the mixed-messaging and cognitive dissonance that continue to imprison me, despite having the key that will set me free. I do not understand why I won’t use it. I am frustratingly enigmatic.

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My mom was born in sixties baby. As I battle to raise my young daughters in a body neutral home, it breaks my heart to hear how my mother still sees herself. Worrying about ten pounds, gray hair, etc. It’s a staunch reminder that some great work has been done for our younger generations. It also reminds me to keep fighting.

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Yes and no. Yes, never having to talk about what we look like (especially in relation to our value) (at any age) is the goal as far as I can see. But, given that we have been consumed by the male gaze conversation for decades now, I think that women taking the conversation back by and starting new conversations is an accurate and necessary next step in the process. It would be similar to African Americans taking back the n-word, or women taking back the b-word, or homosexuals taking back the q-word as their own. The conversation is already in play and to ignore it as if it isn't feels to me like trying to skip a step or two. And also, I do agree that women who have made their millions off using their bodies for the male gaze now telling us that male approval of beauty and sexuality shouldn't matter to us is ironic but at the same time, if these women who have been iconic symbols of male approved beauty and sexuality do finally speak out about it, maybe their voice has a certain gravitas that is necessary to add to the conversation. Though they should not be the sole contributors or own the conversation.

I'm 63, born in 1960. I had eating disorders most of my life. I had photos of models on my wall, too, and yes, I wanted to be them. I was beautiful but felt ugly. I was aggressively critical of every single thing about my body. I'm very grateful to say there's been a lot of healing over my adult years. However, remnants still rise from my unconscious including how I judge other women. (Ouch.) I do my best to meet those conditioned habits with consciousness and with empathy, and hopefully I am able to release them more each day.

Love, Deena

Btw, Shannon, I recently started a Substack. It was inspired by you and other women who are writing about ideas and issues I also think and care about. Thank you for being so truthful and such an empowering voice.

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I don’t think the fitness industry is necessarily there to make us lose weight. I’m genetically more susceptible to osteoporosis and it’s important that I keep my bones strong. And strength training is a way to do that. I’m not looking to body build. I just don’t want to end up like my grandmother. She may have left this word at 90, but she was very hunched over. There are 80-somethings at my gym who, while looking like they’re grandmothers to teenagers or young adults, are physically active and doing things my late grandmother never would have been able to do at, say, 83.

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