Turn it around

I have another opinion piece in the Dom Post this morning.

Lipstick, waxing and heels – oppression or choice?

The list of definitions at the end of the piece is written by me, but other than that, the subbing is not under my control.

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8 comments on “Turn it around

  1. Mindy says:

    No trolls on that piece yet, I’m disappointed. Nicely put.

    • Deborah says:

      I suspect that’s only because comments haven’t been published yet. My previous piece brought a highly satisfactory number of trolls out to play.

  2. Mindy says:

    They just aren’t trying today, or maybe the comment moderator is busy doing other things. Or maybe they are trying too hard and not being let through?

  3. Great article. The deinability in the comments is breathtaking and also common-place. I think some trolls have finally appeared 🙂

  4. Carol says:

    Can I strike a slightly dissenting note and not be considered a troll?
    First of all, it was really great to see a guest post by you in our daily newspaper, Deborah. You articulate things very well, and it is such a nice counterbalance to the tedious old codgers they frequently run in that space.
    I agree with all that you said about Muslim women not needing rescuing. I just don’t quite agree with your contention that Western beauty norms – the lipstick, waxing, heels – as being an equivalent level of oppression. For a start, we are unlikely to face consequences as serious if we defy social norms. The other aspect is that I really don’t see this social pressure at work to any great extent in my own community – I am thinking here of our local primary school community, which is more or less typical of urban new Zealand, a very ordinary little suburb of Wellington. Looking around the other mums at our school, there is the whole range from glamourpusses who are always immaculately turned out, to people who turn up at social functions in jeans and swandri. It really seems to me that women are valued primarily for the contribution they make rather than how they look, and that anyone who went overboard on the lipstick/high heels/waxing would be rather pitied rather than envied.
    I do realise that I can’t generalise to society as a whole from my community which has a particular demographic, and that I don’t have that much insight into, say, the lives of younger women, but anyway that’s my 2c worth. I do hope to read more by you in the DomPost.

    • Deborah says:

      I’m not sure that the Western beauty norms are an equivalent level of oppression either, Carol, but I wouldn’t want to make judgements either way.

      I realised after I sent the piece in that I should have re-emphasised the idea of ‘looking from the outside’ i.e. it’s important to take the word of people inside the culture, rather than just looking from the outside and assuming that what we are seeing is unchosen and / or oppressive. It probably needed just one more sentence somewhere towards the end of the piece to make that clear.

      I think it’s very, very important to listen to what Muslim women have to say on the issue. I’ve heard and read a number of Muslim women talking about the freedom they have felt from the pressures of beauty norms, once they decided to wear hijab.

      Many thanks for the considered dissent. The comments in the Dom were starting to make me fume.

  5. Carol says:

    Thanks, Deborah. Formidable! (in the French sense).
    “I’ve heard and read a number of Muslim women talking about the freedom they have felt from the pressures of beauty norms, once they decided to wear hijab.”
    This seems like the crux of the debate. If they truly are free to decide, and there are not negative consequences of doing otherwise, then it’s just as you say; their choice should absolutely be respected.
    I genuinely have no idea how free they are though.
    I am disinclined to defend religious coercion, in our own society or anyone else’s.

  6. perthmum says:

    “If they truly are free to decide, and there are not negative consequences of doing otherwise, then it’s just as you say; their choice should absolutely be respected.”

    I have difficulty with this comment.

    In New Zealand, several years ago, I worked in a legal organisation. One of my colleagues – an incredibly smart and seriously talented lawyer – daily wore flat shoes. She received a huge amount of stick from our male colleagues (also lawyers), and was regularly subjected to derision. She had the strength of character not to care, but I didn’t. I was very careful to never be seen at work in flat shoes – until I suffered painful calluses on my feet and had no other option.

    The point is that there ARE negative consequences to not wearing high heels. But if a woman chooses to do so, should her choice be respected or not? Should it matter whether her choice might be influenced by the negative consequences of choosing otherwise?

    There are negative consequences to not wearing make-up – people have even been fired for doing so, which can in some cases have disastrous consequences for the person and their dependants.

    But if a woman chooses to wear lipstick, should her choice be respected or not?

    Similarly, some women may face negative consequences if they wear – or don’t wear the hijab. But those consequences are dictated by others.

    If a woman nevertheless chooses to wear the hijab, should her choice be respected or not?

    Or has she lost the right to have her choice respected, because of the way that other people act?

    Should we be focusing on what the woman wears – or on the negative consequences themselves?

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