My stilettos, my choice. Your Hijab? You’ve been brainwashed!

c1492d1b9a40d95336eb738d895c9ae2Ever hear anything like this? “It’s shocking that Muslim women have so little say over what they wear. They say it’s their choice to wear the Hijab. They’ve been brainwashed! Their free will has been corrupted and they have no idea what real choice and real freedom is. Not like me. I know real freedom.”

You stand there in your size 9, 4 inch stilettos crammed with your size 9.5 feet, toenails painted and cuticles trimmed, leg hair ripped out by the roots with hot wax applied regularly. The shoes hurt but they make your legs look great.  You know you could wear flats… you choose to wear heels.

Your $12 ultra sheer super control top pantyhose do their best to contain that tiny tummy bulge but what it can’t hold in is managed by your Spanx. Your dress is exactly the right mix of professional and sexy so that your meeting today will go well; if your ideas don’t dazzle them, they’ll be hoping for a peek to determine of the colour of your $65 underwire push up bra and wondering if it matches your thong and whether you’re landing strip or clean. You choose to wax because it makes you feel sexier…

Your skin glows… it should, after being religiously scrubbed, buffed and exfoliated. You moisturize twice daily of course, to stay smooth and silky. Your makeup only takes a half-hour now, and you’ve narrowed the routine down to about 15 steps and products. The cost is alarming, but that’s how it goes. You choose to use good skin care and cosmetics; they are much more expensive, but they make you feel prettier…

Your hair… well, it continues to be a struggle. You are going grey and would like very much to let it go, let it happen. In your profession though, grey hair is an invitation to the younger, bolder, hipper folks to step in. You’re not quite ready to let that happen so it’s cut, trim, dye, streak, highlight, foils… you name it. You choose to colour your hair because you know it makes you look younger and sexier…

You pull on your exercise gear and go for a run a few times a week. You hate it hate it hate it and it hurts your knees but you only have a little time to exercise and you seriously don’t want to gain any weight over the winter. Your body needs to be bikini ready when you head to Mexico for a winter break. You may be getting older but you sure don’t want to seem like you’ve given up! And your man, well he likes you looking slim and hot and you want to keep him looking…

Women in the west are the most brainwashed in the history of the world, I would wager. I’m one of them. I have bought into the Virginia Slims, Coca- Cola-Calvin Klein-Betty Crocker-Cosmopolitan femininity construct as much as the next woman. I have no place, no right and no authority on which to judge the choices of any woman anywhere. My choices are the result of the brainwashing I’ve undergone my entire life. Here in the West, that’s celebrated as personal freedom.

There are lots of reasons to be angry about the treatment of women in other countries, under other regimes and political or religious systems. Squawking over women’s lack of choices is hypocritical at best so long as we continue to be pummelled with messages about how to be prettier, fitter, sexier so long as we keep making dolls for our daughters that look like little anorexic prostitutes. We can’t keep offering our own women the choice between being being blow-up doll bitches or perfect Pinterest moms while condemning the choices of others. We need to think about this…

Moral authority? We don’t have it.

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Body Armor and Good Shoes

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Today I am dressed for work. Really dressed for work; black pencil skirt, lovely drapey blouse, suit jacket, neutral pumps (understated and professional with a good dash of sexy). My hair is short and styled, my makeup is appropriate and my accessories complement without distracting. Pearls, actually.

If you look a bit closer at the outfit, the shoes, the hair and the look you’ll see the hidden rivets. The seams where the metal  of the breastplate meets the tasset show the dents of the club hammer and the effort that went into its construction. Those good shoes… they’re really a modern sabaton; protection, baby.

Don’t think for a moment that I woke up this morning and decided to dress like this because heels feel awesome, because I love panty-hose. These earrings were chosen mindfully and the necklace too. My clothes are my armor.

There are things in my life right now that demand my full attention. My energy has to be rationed and my strength shored up. I am not up to the challenge in jeans and a t -shirt; I need something external to let me know I can handle what I must handle. I need to look in the mirror and see someone who is competent, strong, determined and certain. At the moment I’m none of those things, so for that, I need a disguise. I need a costume. I need armor.

A friend observed that often when women separate from their partners they begin to dress better than they used to. He seemed to believe it to be a peacock preening kind of thing; a desire to strut, to appear attractive. I’m offering another possible explanation; it’s fear. It’s fear, dressed up to look like courage. It’s armor.

Look at me… I look great. I look strong. I look like I know what I’m doing.

I’m a jelly fish. A jelly fish in really good shoes.