The Death of the 1950's "Housewife" and Rise of Beauty Ideals for Women
Next weekend we have decided to get a team together for the Color Run in Los Angeles. The theme is "Hero" and it got me thinking about what it means to be a heroine. If we look back over time the concept of heroine has changed with the culture. During the industrial revolution and WWII, women were called to action to fill the shoes of the men who went to war and for the first time, women's magazines were fueling the fire with inspiring Heroine like content. Never before had these women had the opportunity to work in factories, drive trucks, and do more than be the ideal housewives all in the name of patriotism; consumerism is more like it. With the men gone, women did the jobs that kept the economy and society functioning and they loved it.
I was working on a photoshoot recently with a good friend who has been a photographer for longer than I have been alive and I was sharing with him how the industry is changing. When I started as a model in 2002, I rarely to never had a female photographer and if I did the rest of the photo team would be male. Now, I work with all female photo teams and photographers often. He laughed and said "Of course, it makes more sense to have women shooting and working with a group of women, the only thing that stops women from taking over is confidence. Skill has never been the issue." Well shit.... If that is not the most accurate assessment of women, I don't know what is. He is right, we haven't developed confidence in our skill sets because the opportunity to not only refine them but be valued for our abilities over our beauty has been limited.
When the war ended, the magazines swung back into domesticity and three million American and one million British women were fired or quit their jobs. "Throughout history, women's magazines have been the most powerful influence in changing women's roles in society. They have consistently glamourized whatever the economy, their advertisers, and, during wartime, the government, needed at that moment from women." Says, Naomi Wolfe author of THe Beauty Myth. By the 1950's, the traditional women's magazine's role was re-established as, Housewife. "In psychological terms," writes Ann Oakley in Housewife, "they enabled the harassed mother, the overburdened housewife, to make contact with her ideal self: that self which aspires to be a good wife, a good mother, and an efficient homemaker....Women's expected role in society was to strive after perfection in all three roles." The thing we should pay attention to here is that the definition of "perfection" was and is currently in the hands of women's magazines and the advertisers who own them.
With the second wave of the women's movement, a large number of unfulfilled women traded the traditional role of housewife for the workplace. Advertisers feared the loss of their primary consumer and were in need of a new strategy. Marketers' reports described how to manipulate housewives into becoming insecure consumers of household products: "A transfer of guilt must be achieved," they said. "Capitalize on guilt over hidden dirt." There were several other marketing strategies developed to manipulate housewives into thinking less and purchasing more, like, suggesting specialized products for specialized tasks and identifying products with a "spiritual reward." You know what I am talking about.... when you vacuum and feel the holy spirit move through you. LOL. The truth is, as ridiculous as this sounds you and I both would have believed whatever advertisements we were exposed to in our quest to feel something during our mundane daily routine.
As it became less and less profitable, it didn't take long for the economist to discover what would take the place of the housewife era and create a new role for women in society. "Somehow, somewhere, they figured out women will buy more things if they are kept in self-hating, ever-failing, hungry, and sexually insecure state of being aspiring "beauties." Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique. The perfect psychological formula had been created in the form of a beauty ideal that would be the most powerful and profitable force used against women for the sole purpose of selling products. Of the women's culture of the 1950's, Friedan so clearly identified that "There is no other way for a woman to be a heroine" than to "keep on having babies."; today, a heroine must keep on being beautiful."
If we are being honest with ourselves there are parts of us that believe that in order to be a hero we must first be beautiful. I wanted to do this color run to make a statement for my daughter, myself, and all girls and women who might see us. It is time to break the beauty chains that hold us down and keep us small. We don't need to look like Gal Gadot and wear a mini-skirt and strapless top in order to be a force for goodness. The definition of heroine is; a woman admired or idolized for her courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. Your physical beauty plays no role in your ability to be a hero by your self-esteem does.
Next weekend, give your self-esteem a boost and join our team for the color run on Saturday, June 23rd, in Los Angeles. This Sunday, June 17th, we are getting our HNS Color Run team together to make posters and hero costumes for ourselves and our children who are joining us. You can join us too! If you want to put your activism to good use, there is no better time then when we are going to dress up, inspire young girls, spread positivity, and walk/run for the hero within all of us. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
If you can't make the color run, you can still make a poster and take a photo! If you are in the LA area and free this weekend and want to join us for our poster making party, email email@example.com for details.
If you are not local you can still make a poster at home and post a photo! The time is now to speak up, stand up, and build the future we want to see. That is exactly what a hero would do and I think it is time we become the heroes we have been waiting for.