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Spend Your Life Loving

Spend Your Life Loving

To me, Dr. Jaiya John's poetic proclamation "Daughter Drink This Water" read as an invitation to a celebration of womanhood, an embracing of everything from the bitterness of birth to the weight of expectation to the complex joy we carry through life, it called to that part of me that yearns to simply be and live free. But why women in particular?

Having been denied equal rights to men for so long, women in countless societies have long held the necessity of using marriage as a means to meeting basic needs, like food, housing, security. From this basic dynamic stemmed the burgeoning expectation for women to look, act, dress, think, and speak a certain way in order to be considered suitable for marriage. The more a woman conformed to the highest standards of these expectations, the greater the chances of a comfortable position for her later in life. Fast forward several generations, humanity has made significant progress in these areas, but we still grapple with the question of how to be a woman.

Every year, we dedicate billions of dollars on industries that thrive by creating, changing, and recycling standards about how a woman ought to look in any given season. For instance, in the 1950s, only 7% of women in the US dyed their hair. After an aggressive marketing campaign by Clairol, that percentage jumped to 40% by 1970. Hair removal is another instance in which the fashion and commercial industry started attacking the appearance of hair in women's underarms in 1915, which extended over the years to legs and bikini lines, as unsightly and decidedly unfeminine. By the 1980s, 80% of women under the age of 35 removed some of their body hair to improve their looks. The most mind-boggling of all is the constant push and pull of whether our skin is too dark (in many Eastern cultures) or too light (in many Western cultures) to be considered beautiful, and the associated creams, oils, gels, and treatments to achieve the ideal skin tone. Additionally, keeping up with the rapid pace of women's fashion has led to a consistent need for us to change our wardrobe with every season, leading to highly detrimental "fast fashion" practices that are wreaking havoc on the environment.

What's unfortunate to me is not just that so many of us spend our lives living with the inheritance of our disenfranchised past, but that instead of lifting women up and scaling back standards and expectations of our appearance, men are also being targeted in greater and greater droves. Fashion and beauty products for men have found mainstream purchase, likely as a rebellion against that other expectation of what "real men" ought to be like as well.

It's my hope that someday there will be a meeting in the middle, that it becomes more about choice and self expression in beauty and fashion, rather than a fear of looking too masculine, too feminine, or too whatever to be accepted, attractive, and loved that drives our desire to look a certain way. I go back to the original quote and its intent: Daughters (and sons), we already are Love. Just as the ocean is water, we need not go elsewhere to find Love.


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