From an early age, I was programmed to think and believe that a woman had to look good to be relevant and taken seriously in society and by society. The messaging was very clear to me, regardless whether a woman even planned to be in the public eye or not, most of her focus should be devoted to her looks. In short, she ought to spend most of her hard-earned money on all the external things considered to make people look beautiful, instead of saving up and investing. (I didn’t even know that saving and investing was a thing!!!)
For years, I excessively spent on beauty products and beauty treatments, without any regard for the costs. I still get distracted and pulled into believing that my skin will be forever glowing and flawless, if I use just this one, magical product. Unfortunately, this is not how it works. I bet that most of us are aware of the marketing messaging by now, but the pressure to please society is often too overwhelming to quit cold turkey.
Advertisers know that women are willing to spend limitlessly on beauty products, so they feel no remorse asking women to throw away money on expensive products that may or may not work.
When I was much younger and still subscribed to the notion of buying women’s magazines (I don’t do it any more, too much fluff and advertising for my liking), each time I opened a newspaper or a magazine (nowadays mostly blogs), ads cleverly disguised as insightful, helpful articles were there to make sure I was going to feel insufficient enough to go out and shop, preferably for the brand the “article” recommended.
Hardly any women’s magazines back then (maybe it has changed now, but I have my doubts) talked about investments, retirement and financial independence, all fundamental pillars of everyone’s life. No, no, no, it was all looks, designer clothing, advice from the stars (DUH!) and everything and anything to make sure a woman reading that magazine was aiming at perfection.
Many years ago, I made a film with an actress who wasn’t size 0. To my greatest surprise, the guys from the post-production house (they did the editing and sound and music post-production) couldn’t understand my choice, because, according to them, she wasn’t visually pleasing enough. I never even thought of her as a “pleasing element” of the film; she was an actress hired to portray a character; that was her only job, not to please some dudes she didn’t know.
But unfortunately, just like many other women, she was just reduced to an eye-pleaser. In the film business it happens all the time. Just look at the actresses and the pressure they face to stay forever young and skinny if they want to remain employable.
Everyone needs financial literacy, including women. They are often forced to stay in abusive relationships out of fear for their livelihood, the fear that their kids will be taken away from them, or are expected to accept jobs that pay less than what their male colleagues earn.
Financial literacy leads to financial awareness, leading to financial independence, and with financial independence so many possibilities and opportunities open. Regrettably, the pressure on women to look acceptable means that many of us, instead of thinking about financial independence, investments and retirement, focus on visually satisfying people we don’t know or care for.
The cultural standards of judging women by their looks shouldn’t even be an issue in 2021, but unfortunately, it still is. The most extreme body shaming and bullying cases come from media (mainstream media + social media), who constantly judge celebrities, A-lister creatives and everyone else in the public eye (politicians, scientists, writers, entrepreneurs), conforming to the universal standard of beauty.
This perpetual abuse sends the same message to young women; that to be relevant in modern society, you need to look good (which in turn means that you need to spend money on clothing, beauty treatments, spa etc.) above anything else. That messaging aims at keeping women dependent or/and in poverty.
Women need to learn how to invest to avoid debt, and, if necessary, to be able to walk away from an abusive relationship or avoid sliding into poverty. We need to break the pattern that keeps generation upon generation of women dependent and financially insufficient. Getting out of this crazy train isn’t easy nor straightforward. It takes time to build the inner strength to say “no” to all that hyped up cultural one-time beauty fixes, new fashion trends and focus on financial literacy and building a plan for financial independence first instead.
Last year, I decided not to buy any clothes for myself, which was the most refreshing experience. You cannot imagine the joy and pride I felt at the end of the year. In reality, I didn’t buy anything just because I didn’t need anything.
In the past, I emptied my wardrobe at least twice a year to give perfect, mostly unworn clothes to the charity, only to replace them with new items, which by the end of yet another year would end up in a charity again. The amount of energy and money spent on that pointless activity is something I’ll never get back. I should have watched a good movie, read a book or go travelling instead. But I believed that a women’s worth wasn’t measured by her achievements but by the way she looks.
In 2021, apart from chasing sustainability and a sustainable lifestyle, I’ve decided to seriously cut down on my beauty spending. The amount of money I’ve been spending on beauty products and treatments I see as obscene now, and that has to end, and I need to shift towards a more sustainable way of creating my beauty regime.
For all you lovely ladies out there, don’t get caught up in the sexist thinking that your value should be based on how your look, what kind/type of clothes you wear or what kind of car you drive. If you have a monthly surplus of money, invest it in your future; don’t give it away to the shopping centre or Amazon.
Small, consistent changes in how you manage your money could be your way into early retirement, self-sufficiency and independence form places and people that aren’t good for you any longer.
According to recent research from Scottish Widows, women need to work 37 years longer to reach the same retirement parity. To find out more check out this The Guardian article that personally freaked me out.