Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Beauty’ Category

“every day, every hour, every minute and every second, somewhere in the world, women – irrespective of race, colour or religion – are being subjected to violence and abuse”.

When I was just a child my father extended the hand of friendship to a woman he knew only slightly; a customer who regularly came into a shop he ran in Dublin. Suspecting that all was not entirely well he overcame his natural reticence and indicated to her that if she ever needed a friendly and sympathetic ear he would be willing to provide it.

Shortly afterwards, at 2am one morning, this woman arrived at our house with her three young children in tow. She had once again been beaten by her husband but now, for the first time, she had somewhere to turn. My parents asked no questions. They merely opened their home to this woman whose own family had disowned her for marrying a man who they believed was no good. Several of us vacated our beds and shared with our siblings to make room for these late night callers. The next morning they left with hardly a word but returned several times over the years until finally this woman mustered the courage to leave her abusive husband. What was extraordinary to me was the fact that this woman was a professional with a good income of her own and the financial if not emotional wherewithal to leave anytime she chose to. I have never forgotten her story.

We have probably all encountered the scourge of domestic violence, even if unwittingly. The veil of secrecy that still conceals this dysfunction in our society is to this day preventing women, and indeed many men, from seeking the help and support they so desperately need for themselves and their children. Today in the Irish Times Health Plus supplement I was given the opportunity to highlight some of the work being done by Women’s Aid and Avon here in Ireland and to specifically draw attention to an extraordinary poster exhibition taking place in the Lighthouse Cinema in Smithfield until December 10 2010. I’d be delighted if you followed the link and read my piece. For those interested in visiting the Lighthouse Cinema here is information on the poster exhibition, as compiled by Anthea McTeirnan in the Irish Times today.

“More than 400 posters highlighting the issue of violence against women, curated by former Garda Colm Dempsey, are on show at The Light House Cinema in Smithfield, Dublin. The exhibition is part of Women’s Aid “One in Five Women” 16 Days Campaign, which runs until December 10th.

Director of Women’s Aid, Margaret Martin, says the exhibition highlights the facts that “every day, every hour, every minute and every second, somewhere in the world, women – irrespective of race, colour or religion – are being subjected to violence and abuse”.

“In an era when we are overloaded with images, words and sounds, the powerful graphics in these posters can help us realise the enormity of living with someone who abuses you. For women who are experiencing abuse, they also reach out to show that help is available and they are not alone, that support is available.”

The free exhibition is open to the public and runs daily from 2pm-8pm. The Women’s Aid national freephone helpline is at 1800-341900. womensaid.ie

Read Full Post »

Hurrah! We’ve just had another annual tits ‘n ass fest previously known as Halloween, and it was like Kentucky Fried Chicken out there, with all those breasts and thighs.

French maids, slutty vampires, busty pirates, micro-minied milkmaids, pussy in boots, all available on a street near you, probably goosebumped but bobbing merrily, and not for apples I hasten to add.

Once upon a time – quite possibly in a book I read – a costume entailed a sheet with holes for eyes, or donning all the black layers in your wardrobe, lashing on black eyeliner, investing in a warty nose and working on your evil cackle.

But now the snout is out and the pout is in, ladies; yes, flesh is the new black, and the witches are bewitching.

Halloween pumpkins in Damariscotta, Maine: not the fashionable costume choice this year.

For next year, remember that small is the new big, and BIG is out, out, OUT, so don’t hit the town dressed as Princess Fiona, a pumpkin, or Ann Widdecombe.

For 2011’s festivities, you could be a dirty devil, a Playboy bunny, Wonderwoman (leaving people to wonder how you manage to pee wearing that Lycra one-piece) or cavewoman, you lucky little hussies, or a belly dancer (always practical in the far northern hemisphere) or perhaps a kitty cat, with a long tail, a body stocking and a happy helping of camel toe.

I believe Red Riding Hood was hot this year, but then she would be, wouldn’t she, in corset and fishnets? Whips were big too, but hemlines are very, very small.

According to The Times (Saturday, 30 October 2010), spending on Halloween has risen from £12 million a decade ago to £300 million this year. Asda alone has flogged 60 000 pairs of fangs, 42,000 vampire suits and 30,000 tubes of fake blood.

Supermarkets – those recognised purveyors of couture and good taste – sold more than two million costumes. PVC and polyester outfits lined the rails, each one an itsy-bitsy, flimsy fire hazard for a floozy.

In fact, Halloween sales have actually outstripped Valentine’s Day’s merry shopathon, and this time the men didn’t even need to try…
It’s a trick women somehow played on themselves, and a treat for all the well-covered fellas.
So now who’s the pumpkin?

Read Full Post »

In a recent episode of the greatest show on TV (Mad Men of course), Don Draper’s daughter Sally cut her long blonde hair one night when Don had left her with a babysitter. A furious Don sacked the hapless babysitter as soon as he clapped eyes on the resulting hair atrocity. His reaction was mild compared to that of his ex-wife Betty. She slapped little Sally hard across the face when she saw the damage done to her lovely golden tresses. And the poor child had only cut it to bob-length.

When I was slightly younger than Sally (about 7 I think), I nagged my mother for months to have my long fair hair cut short. She was extremely reluctant but eventually gave in to the pestering. The poor hairdresser was similarly reluctant and kept saying what a shame it was and asking if I was really sure about taking such a drastic step. I was, and with a single snip of the scissors the ponytail finally came off. My mother has kept it to this day.

Kate rocking the short hair look

I never regretted it. Over the years I made various half-hearted attempts to grow my hair but it never got much beyond shoulder length. It was always a relief to go back to the salon and emerge with a crop of some kind. Looks I have tried include slicked back like the women in the ‘Addicted to Love’ video in the eighties, a rockabilly style quiff and a full on Sinead O’Connor-esque scalping in the early nineties. I grew it before my wedding in 1996, only to scrape it all back off my face, Eva Peron style, for the day itself. In childhood I was sometimes mistaken for a boy, and had the so-called insult of ‘lesbian’ shouted at me occasionally when I was older. I was never remotely bothered; I never felt unfeminine just because I had short hair.

On Twitter a while ago, someone was bemoaning the fact that some women give up on longer hair as soon as they have children, and that it’s all part of ‘letting themselves go’. But in my view many women cling on to their long hair when they would look infinitely better with a chic crop. I can think of many celebrity women whose finest hour came when they had a radical haircut – Victoria Beckham, Emma Watson and Carey Mulligan spring to mind. And as for style icon Kate Moss; to me she never looked better than when she had her dirty blonde locks cut into a short (and brunette!) elfin style.

It is said that most men prefer long hair, but I doubt that’s the reason women grow it long. I don’t envy the work involved in maintaining long silky tresses – the endless blowdrying, conditioning, GHD-ing – so you must be doing it because you love it. Right?

Read Full Post »

As is probably the case for many women of my generation, my perception of the Avon cosmetics company was shaped by memories of the glamorous neighbour who called regularly and handed my mother enticingly packaged pots and tubes. She trailed in her wake a heady cloud of scent and left behind a glossy catalogue that was later poured over by my mum who diligently ticked tiny boxes in eager anticipation of her next delivery of frosted pink lipstick and royal blue eye shadow.

Growing up I gravitated towards the vibrant teen-baiting hues of the Rimmel stand in my local chemist. As I exchanged my pocket money for the glossy veneer of adulthood the Avon brand seemed irrelevant and soon disappeared from my mind entirely.

That remained the case for thirty years until earlier this week a tweet arrived directing me to the Clinton Global Initiative website. So what’s the connection between the two? Well, the Clinton Global Citizen Awards, established to recognize extraordinary individuals who have demonstrated visionary leadership in solving pressing global challenges, has honoured Andrea Jung, Chairman and CEO of Avon Products, for showing leadership in the corporate sector and for significantly improving the lives of women worldwide.

There are two distinct strands to the work that Avon undertakes to empower and aid women globally. Firstly, as part of its core business, the company provides earning opportunities to more than 6.2 million independent Avon Sales Representatives worldwide. Thus the potential to secure an independently earned income is realised by women who would otherwise sink into poverty. Secondly, the Avon Foundation for Women, founded in 1955, has emerged as the leading corporate philanthropy organisation for women globally. Who knew?

the Avon Foundation, founded in 1955, has emerged as the leading corporate philanthropy organisation for women globally

The Foundation has adopted the dual mission of supporting research aimed at eradicating breast cancer and of tackling domestic and gender violence directed against women. Last year more than $725 million (€540 million) was raised and directed towards grassroots programs in more than 50 countries. According to the Avon website, funds raised to fight breast cancer are directed towards improving “awareness and education; screening and diagnosis; access to treatment; support services; and scientific research”. The beneficiaries of the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade “range from leading cancer research and clinical centers to community-based, non-profit breast health education programs”.

In 2004 the Avon Foundation launched “Speak Out Against Domestic Violence” to raise awareness and funds and, crucially, to advocate for the more effective implementation of laws aimed at curbing violence towards women.  Last year Avon awarded more than $12 million (€8.9 million) to domestic violence organizations to help fund awareness, education, direct services and prevention programs.

It seems that there is more than meets the eye to this “lipstick, powder & paint” and the current product range is pretty funky too. Is anyone else amazed to learn of the philanthropic achievements of Avon?

Read Full Post »

Self esteem can be a fragile thing. While some people have a strong, inbuilt sense of self-confidence and self-worth, others struggle to see the true beauty in themselves, unable to see the good, and instead focusing on the negative. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but sometimes all that is beholden is a messed-up, backwards, magic-mirror image.

Women who may to the outside viewer appear to ‘have it all’ (that loathed phrase beloved of lady-mags) can in fact feel as though they have nothing, are nothing, and all because they are fixated on what they dislike about themselves – be it a physical or emotional aspect of their self.

One woman who is on a crusade to promote a positive self-image amongst people worldwide is Caitlin Boyle, an American food and fitness blogger. One day in 2009, while feeling utterly down in the dumps about herself, she had a lightbulb moment: why not do something that would make not only herself feel better, but other people too? So she scribbled an affirmation on a post-it-note, stuck it to a mirror, and with that, a movement was born.

Operation Beautiful became an almost overnight success, with Caitlin receiving email after email from women who had stuck post-it notes in offices, on toilet doors, at traffic lights, inside magazines and on scales. Women told her that Operation Beautiful helped them feel more beautiful – inside and out.

As a follower of Caitlin’s blog for the past two years, I was intrigued by the concept of Operation Beautiful. Reading health blogs changed my attitude to myself and my health in an overwhelmingly positive way (even motivating me to start my own food blog) and I loved that Operation Beautiful harnesses the goodwill and positivity of strangers to help others.

For me, the ‘beautiful‘ in the name doesn’t mean being classically beautiful on the outside – it means the inner beauty and spirit that radiates from those who are truly happy in their own skin.

Operation Beautiful started off as one post-it note, turned into a website, and was released as a book two months ago. Wanting to know more, I got in touch with Caitlin (pictured below) and asked her some questions about Operation Beautiful.

Hi Caitlin, for those not familiar with the concept, what is Operation Beautiful, and what inspired you to start it?

Operation Beautiful involves posting random notes in public places for other people to find.  These notes typically encourage a positive body image or outlook and include phrases like “You are beautiful inside and out” or “Scales measure weight, not worth.” I was inspired to start Operation Beautiful after having a really bad day; I wanted to do something small and simple for someone else to make me feel better!


Were you surprised at how quickly Operation Beautiful became popular?

The idea definitely went viral. I was surprised at first, but in hindsight, I see why it’s been so successful.  We need this type of positive messaging in society, and Operation Beautiful is simple, quick, and effective – both for the note poster and the finder!

Why do you think a note from a stranger can have a positive impact on a person’s self- esteem?

I think it makes people smile when they realize how much goodness there is in the world.  The idea that someone would do this for a stranger is so uplifting.  Also, people place these notes in locations where negative self-talk often occurs, such as the bathroom mirror, the scale, or the changing room at the gym.

What’s your favourite Operation Beautiful note story?

My favorite story is Vit’s.  A teenager in Canada, Vit was in a treatment center for severe anorexia.  Her doctors were concerned that it was going to eventually kill her.  She slipped into the bathroom to throw up her lunch and found an Operation Beautiful note on the stall.  The simple message – “You are good enough the way you are” – made her pause and reconsider her destructive behavior.  She followed up with me a few months later and said she was out of the hospital and healthier than ever.  Vit knew a stranger posted the note, but she felt like the timing was a message from God.

Why do you think so many women struggle with self-esteem issues?

There is a lot of negative messaging in our society.  The biggest mistake we make is beating ourselves up for not looking like models or celebrities.  99% of images in magazines are photoshopped in some way.  It’s time we stop emulating or striving for a type of perfection that doesn’t even exist in the real world.  It’s OK to look like a human!

Your other blog, Healthy Tipping Point, is hugely successful – what drew you to blogging in the first place? What do you think makes Healthy Tipping Point so successful?

I had been a healthy living blog reader for about a year before I joined the community with my own blog.  I loved the sense of community between bloggers and readers and wanted to participate on a bigger scale. I think HTP is successful because I’m upbeat, relatable, and keep it real.  Plus, my fun recipes are simple!

Blogging has become a phenomenon, and blogs have given women a new space where they can express themselves in their own way. What do you love about blogging – and has it changed your life?

I wrote a post about this subject before. Check it out: http://www.healthytippingpoint.com/2010/08/blogging-changed-my-life.html

What keeps your spirits up and helps you feel good about yourself?

I really love running.  Training for races helps me stay motivated and positive.

I believe that many Operation Beautiful readers and participants have said the movement has changed their life. How does that make you feel?

It feels amazing to know that I am part of something so much bigger than myself.  The site wouldn’t exist without all these wonderful people who want to make the world a better place.  It’s awesome to be the one who gets to write about it everyday.

What has the press tour for Operation Beautiful, the book, been like – any highlights?

The highlight of my press tour was being on The Today Show [click for video link]. I was so excited to get to talk to millions about Operation Beautiful and the response has been so positive.

How did you find the transition from blogger to writer – was it always your intention to write a book? When did you decide to write a book about Operation Beautiful?

No! I never thought one post-it would become a website and a book.  I think it’s the natural progression of the site though because the book gives more details on how to lead a truly positive and healthy life – the Operation Beautiful lifestyle, if you will!

What’s next for Operation Beautiful?

I hope the site and book can really change the way we see ourselves and redefine what beautiful is about.

Do you have any more books in the pipeline?

Maybe 🙂 Wait and see!

Readers, what do you think of this initiative?

Read Full Post »

Daring to be Different

When I lived in London in the early nineties, young single people who had yet to jump onto the property ladder often shared flats with strangers. Naturally, this was a hit-and-miss affair. When one of my less successful flatshares ended in a full-on, door-slamming row over the arrangement of personal belongings on a shelf (I know, I know), I found myself looking for a new flat-mate.

Amelia was one of the people I ‘interviewed’ and we hit it off straight away. She was a very direct, down to earth and funny northern lass who shared my love of Corrie’s Reg Holdsworth. She quickly became a good friend and confidante.

Amelia was also a very attractive woman who had an incredible effect on men. She was tall and toned with an enviable hourglass figure (we’re in Joan Holloway from Mad Men territory here). Combined with her natural self-confidence and world-class flirting skills, this meant that most men who met her were instantly smitten.  She loved men, and sex, and if she wanted a particular man, she usually got him. The problem for the hapless men concerned was that she often became bored after a short time and moved on.

Well, talk about a trail of broken hearts. In those days before the mobile became ubiquitous, I soon got used to fielding calls from her discarded conquests.

Amelia had one other notable attribute, which, in hindsight, strikes me as almost incredible. She never removed any of her body hair.

Yes, Amelia was a stranger to the razor and the smelly depilatory cream. She never endured torture by wax strips. She happily wore vest tops and strappy dresses and wasn’t remotely bothered who saw her underarm or leg hair. When I asked her about this, she said she was doing it as a feminist statement. She was happy with the way she looked and, as a strong woman and a proud feminist who had read widely on the subject, didn’t see why she should remove her hair just to please men. She had a picture of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo on her bedroom wall, an artist whose self portraits usually depict her sporting a moustache and single eyebrow.

Frida Kahlo, hairy heroine

Part of me envied her self-assurance, but I was never brave enough to emulate her. One of the reasons is that I am a much hairier person than Amelia. While she possessed light coloured, fine body hair, mine is thick and dark. If I didn’t regularly wield the tweezers I would soon resemble the long-lost, mono-browed sister of Liam and Noel Gallagher. If not kept in check, my legs would appear almost as hirsute as those of the average man. So I reluctantly get busy with the razor.

Actually, if I’m being honest, in the winter I do let things go a bit, knowing that I can hide away under long-sleeved tops, trousers and thick tights. Whenever I’m compelled to go through the deforestation routine (If I’m about to go swimming for example) I feel quite resentful of the whole business. Also, being very shortsighted, I always miss a few bits in the shower.

These days, even that would be seen by some as a radical admission of female slovenliness. In the years since I lived with Amelia, the notion has taken hold that women who fail to remove every stray hair from their bodies on an almost daily basis are somehow unfeminine, or even unhygienic. I have heard young men discussing the undesirability of girls who fail to keep their lady gardens closely trimmed. Radical waxing seems to have become the norm for the bikini area, to the extent that the complete removal of all body hair is not unusual. But the idea that women should want to make themselves look like pre-pubescent girls has always struck me as bizarre and, actually, a bit creepy.

I know that nowadays men also feel pressure to keep unruly eyebrows in trim or to do something about excessively hairy backs. But there is never any suggestion that their underarm hair is ‘dirty’, despite the fact that they sweat a lot more than women. I’ll never forget the furore caused by Julia Roberts when she dared to flash a bit of underarm hair at a film premiere (I think there was a similar incident involving – gasp! – a glimpse of female leg hair on the red carpet at this year’s Oscars). The whole thing struck me as completely ridiculous, but I think I was in the minority.

No doubt I will keep buying the razors and wax strips. But sometimes I just wish we could all be a bit more like Amelia.

Read Full Post »

A plan is afoot  to plasterLondon buses with adverts urging the Pope to ordain women priests. It’s an interesting angle for the English to approach the pontiffs visit with, almost as if there weren’t more pressing matters with which to confront him. Then again, it would be too rude to embarrass him with messy issues like the concealment of child sex abuse by priests and the hierarchy, or their refusal to endorse the use of life saving condoms in Africa.

It’s safe to say that organised religions in general have not furthered the cause of women’s equality and emancipation.

But Buddhism has long been held as being the acceptable religion by many left leaning liberals, who would also count themselves in favour of gender equality.

It is therefore a bit depressing to note the Dalai Lama’s recent comments about the possibility of a woman succeeding him.

He begins well enough.

“The purpose of the incarnation is to serve people about dharma (faith). If the circumstances are such, female form is more useful, then why not?”

Unfortunately he then lets himself and all of man and woman-kind down with,

“And I also mentioned in case Dalai Lama’s incarnation one female comes then must be very attractive female. So the very reason, you see more influence to others, an ugly female then may not much effective,”

Oh dear.

Was he joking? He has been known to get a bit giggly at times. Perhaps he just liked the idea of coming back as an attractive woman, presumably so he could spend the day touching his own breasts and looking in the mirror?

Even more depressingly, when this comment was posted on Facebook by the smart and funny Michael Nugent, of Ireland’s atheist society, another man (we will leave him unnamed, less he become the anti-feminist equivalent of the cat bin lady), responded with:

Well, to be fair, what he said was that an attractive woman would influence more people than an unattractive woman, so that is just being realistic.

When challenged he went on to say,

you are talking about what the world should be like, and I was talking about what it is like. Just because we “find a thought depressing” doesn’t mean it can’t be true. Wow, sound familiar? We atheists are telling people that every five minutes… Anyway, I was certainly surprised that the Dalai lama said that and thought it was shockingly rude, but rude is not the same as false. I guess his culture doesn’t have the same taboos about the same impolite-but-true statements that ours does.

So I suppose religion isn’t equality’s only foe. A total lack of belief in achieving it in our lifetime is hampering all our aspirations for equal pay and status. A recent poll by the Guardian newspaper found women in the UK could not expect equal pay till about 2067.

But never mind. If you are a Buddhist believer and live a good life perhaps you will be lucky enough to come back as a dung beetle in your next life.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »