Drawn from My Life as a Woman
January 2, 2019 12:29 PM   Subscribe

"[O]ne of the first things I had to learn as a girl was how to conform to expectations imposed on me in order to live in safety, and most of these expectations centered around my feminine appeal." It turned out to be a lifelong lesson. Fit modeling, makeup (and lack of it), mortality, conformity, femininity: writer and cartoonist Carolita Johnson catalogues her efforts to maintain her appearance from about 1970 to 2018 in her personal illustrated essay for Longreads, "A Woman's Work: The Outside Story."
posted by MonkeyToes (7 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
This was fantastic, as were the other 2 "A Woman's Work" pieces by her linked at the bottom of that essay. Thanks for posting.
posted by soundguy99 at 2:08 PM on January 2, 2019

By the age of 18, I knew, without yet pinning it down as a sociological observation, that being a woman meant spending a major part of my time and income on the upkeep and outward appearance of my body. The minimum requirement was making sure it didn’t smell or look unkempt. The ideal was to look simultaneously young, clean, fresh, soft, nubile, sexy, and magical, at all times (and for as long as possible as I aged). But not so much so that I could be ridiculed as vain, or be blamed for being raped.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:18 PM on January 2, 2019 [19 favorites]

Every woman should be able to claim makeup, hair care, feminine products, etc. as business expenses. It would be our giant collective raspberry to the IRS and the patriarchy.
posted by narancia at 2:37 PM on January 2, 2019 [15 favorites]

Oh my god, her earlier story about caring for her partner until he died, and what it cost her, and how that is just expected of women but not men and how little she was left with...yikes. That...that one hit a little close to home.

I am socialist if only because only after the revolution will women stop having to make up for the lack of societal safety nets by making nets out of themselves, their hopes, dreams, and resources.

Or maybe it's them refusing to do it anymore that will bring the revolution. I'm good either way. I think a lot of men are going to have a hard time with it, though.
posted by emjaybee at 5:56 PM on January 2, 2019 [12 favorites]

I appreciated the whole piece. This part made me laugh:

hey, maybe you’ve earned the right to be smug if your pelvic floor is toned at any age. Shine on! Maybe that’s what the Mona Lisa is smiling about.
posted by Emmy Rae at 7:34 PM on January 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh this is the same cartoonist that took care of a much older man (who she references in the article) who left her nothing when he died. Reading this, it makes more sense why she did so.

*Which isn't an insult, more a confirmation of the toxic conditioning of women mentioned therein that we've all been chained by.
posted by Young Kullervo at 8:26 AM on January 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

This so resonated with me. For most of my life I was told that I was pretty/attractive etc, and I recently came to the realization that my appearance is what has defined me. That I did not have any other talents. Now, in my early 50s, having given up dating and relationships, I have stopped with the makeup, hair and shaving. While there is something quite freeing about it, I still have an underlying anxiety when I go out to meet friends or socialize. So I put on makeup and pay attention to my hair and clothing. Old habits die hard, indeed.

Thanks for the great post!
posted by sundrop at 7:39 AM on January 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

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