Anyone who knew me in my ardent feminist days thirty years ago, knows how I felt then and still feel now about the media portrayal of women.

In the 1970s, graduated high school, four years of college, into the workforce in the early eighties, I raged about it a lot. Now I wearily shake my head and think: Seriously, how have things not changed in over the decades? 

I knew our young women were in trouble the time I said to a female drafter (yes, used to be draftsmen), in humor, that a man-door into a building should be called a people-door. She jumped down my throat about being one of those horrible, obnoxious feminists. Twenty years my junior, I thought: Chicka, do you really think you could do the job you do without feminists having opened up that field? 

But today’s rant, in particular, is how women in commercials are still portrayed as:

  • Talking to our mops
  • Loving bathroom cleaners
  • Being the only adult to care for sick kids
  • Needing eye lashes that look like black widow spider legs
  • Eyelids that look like a Crayola box did a home-run slide onto our skin
  • Eyebrows tweaked to pencil thinness and arched so far onto our foreheads that I marvel and think: How do they do that?

In other words, women are still earning less than men ($.80 to the dollar), but still expected to shop and display ourselves, in the various roles of our lives, as if we had three times the amount of money and double the amount of time needed to look perfect. A quick list: Mascara – $8, a.m. and p.m. face lotions – $25 each every 6 months, special eye lotion – $15, shampoo, conditioner and shine in a bottle – $15 each … that just covers my head! My husband gets whatever shampoo is on sale and doesn’t use the other stuff.

This recent tirade is brought on during a relocation of my bathroom items into my husband’s bathroom. (Separate bathrooms = the key to our happy marriage—this works for me and water-everywhere-man.) He’s leaving for a week, so I’m taking advantage of his empty bathroom in order to paint mine. A mirror fell off the door, gouging the wall and fixing the hole meant I could finally change the color. While I haven’t been unhappy with my husband’s wall-color choices since I moved in, soft-buttery cream throughout the house lacks the vibrancy and warmth that I need.

Hence my desire to have a bit of deep Tuscan orange on the bathroom walls to accent the blue towels and photographs of trips to Wales displayed there.

Bright bathroom colors

Tuscan Orange & Welsh bathroom

Anyone who has witnessed me painting anything large or small has seen the utter lack of neatness that I have while so doing. Once when my siblings and I painted multiple rooms in our parents’ home, they applauded my attentiveness to edging and ability to smoothly get the ceiling rolled. However, applause was held when it came to the mess that is me. Invariably paint wound up everywhere. I don’t know how it happens, it just does.

A million years ago in Red Lodge when I painted the outside of my little house on Word Avenue (great place for a writer to live), I actually wore an entire set of my brother-in-law’s clothes overtop of my own. When I was done applying a coat of primer and two coats of paint to the house and garage, his t-shirt and jeans could stand by themselves because of the amount of paint I’d gotten on them. 

But dang, my property looked good.

That’s the explanation for the full move from one room to the other. There was no way I could simply toss a drop cloth over the vanity medicine chest, and toilet, paint, then access the items I need on a daily basis. No, it had to come out so I could thoroughly tape, newspaper and drop cloth every available space. This is when I realized I have too much stuff. And I’m a low maintenance woman! 

Check out what got moved:

  • Dish holding: mascara, eyebrow pencil, hairclips and eye shadow I haven’t used in six months.
  • Dish holding: cotton balls, Q-tips, bobby pins, face powder
  • Hair goop for my curly days (2); hair goop for my straight days (2)
  • Hair spray to make it shiny
  • Hair spray to hold it in place
  • Hair dryer
  • Hair straightener
  • Face wash
  • Face lotion
  • Deodorant
  • Floss
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrushes (yes, 2 – one regular and one electric)
  • Dixie cups
  • Body lotion
  • Magnifying mirror (hey, I am over 50)
  • Shampoo & conditioner
  • Body soap
  • Face soap
  • Razor and shaving cream
  • Shower cap (for all the days I don’t want to deal with my curly/straight hair)
  • Nail polish in case I feel like repairing my toe job (so this also means polish remover, toe separator, manicure set)

Do you see where I’m going with this? Alex is leaving on his trip. His shaving kit contains: yes, a razor and shaving cream, deodorant, a hairbrush, floss and toothpaste. That’s it. He’s good to go.

I can’t even change bathrooms with that little amount of stuff. 

Do I need each of these items? That depends. Frankly, I don’t care anymore what my hair looks like. Half-way down my back or three-inches short, I have never, ever been able to control my crazy red—now multi-colored as I refuse to dye it any longer—hair. (My Uncle D always asks me what my hair is doing—now.) Standing at the mirror, doing the finishing touches, maybe adding some hair spray … I look fabulous.

Leaving the house, I get in my car, drive to my destination, check the mirror before I get out and, What the heck happened? The hair is out of control again. 

My ongoing battle with trying to tame my hair is the complete definition of insanity.

But we, as women in our society, are absolutely brainwashed into thinking we need: painted toenails (I sometimes do this because I think they look funny when they pop out from beneath bedsheets in the morning which makes me laugh) and fingernails (not me—ever), painted eyelids (rarely me), painted hair (me until a year plus ago), the latest fashionable clothes (not me), perfumes (not me as the bottle I bought four years ago finally ran out), body washes, creams, lotions, you can add to my list … that we need these things in order to be beautiful, taken seriously in the workplace, catch a man, be successful…

Whatever the current programming is.

But do we?

I stopped dying my hair and love the variety of colors this redhead has revealed: blonde, black, strawberry red, white, grey, silver. I cut it off and had it short for several months the way so many 50+ year old women tend to do (and don’t they look incredible!), now it’s to my shoulders again. I save money on hair color, time at the stylist, I don’t need six different goo’s/sprays to use on it or special color-keeping shampoo and conditioner!

I’ve no desire to go “granola” and let my mustache grow in or not shave my armpits. I like being a woman and looking feminine. But following these requirements can be poverty-inducing. Alex pays twenty bucks for a great hair cut at the local Italian barber every six weeks. Most women pay a lot more than that and go far more often—and that’s just for the cut.

I have yet to meet a man who told me blazing red lips or fingertips were the things that made them fall in love with their woman. That if he caught her dancing with her mop and glowing with pride over a shiny toilet, he swooned. What men have told me it comes down to is the woman’s personality, beliefs, morals, ethics, and life plans that they share. Not whether or not she matched her shoes with her purse and coordinated her eyeliner with her eye shadow properly.

The above spewed forth from radical me, I have to stop for one minute and acknowledge that there are women who color their hair for the fun of changing shades every month. There are women who put on dramatic eye shadow and look positively dashing—making a statement they want to make. There are women who love fashion and wear the latest clothes with the panache of Cher in a Bob Mackie dress. To you I say: You go girl! 

If doing these girly girl things makes YOU happy and brings YOU daily joy, then I support your doing it. It’s when we do these things because of societal pressures that I call foul.

When I put my bathroom back together at the end of the week, I’m going to examine every single item and see what I truly need in order to look presentable to the world at large, what I really like having in my cupboard, and what can get tossed out never to be purchased again!

What about you—succumb to those advertisers or do you find yourself rebelling just a tad more every day?