Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Real Power of Women

Vogue magazine cover, May 1917 Español: Portad...
Vogue magazine cover, May 1917 Español: Portada de la revista Vogue correspondiente a Mayo de 1917 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
magazine vogue Español: logo de la revista Vogue
magazine vogue Español: logo de la revista Vogue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
العربية: لبوة بالقرب من نزل أوكونجيما، ناميبيا...
العربية: لبوة بالقرب من نزل أوكونجيما، ناميبيا English: Lioness at Okonjima Lodge, Namibia Français : Lionne. Okonjima Lodge (Namibie). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Real Power of Women

One of the statistics mentioned how girls feel after flipping through a fashion magazine for 3 minutes.  This is something I wanted to write about when I was living in New York in 2009.  My own personal realization was that every time I flipped through those "cheesy Magazines" as I call them, I found myself feeling almost this odd sense of guilt, self loathing, even "Yucky", dumber for having done the mag review at all.

I wanted then to challenge my Monkey readers to give up the US Weekly, the People Mags, the In Touch and more.  I never stopped thinking about it and now seemed to be a perfect time.

On one hand, I understand that there is a legitimate place for Fashion (and the magazines) - it is a hobby of mine - I did found and run a successful accessories business a few years back.  I took meetings with the very editors of the magazines I have issues with.  Maybe there is a bit of hypocrisy in my business dealings, but not necessarily.  I had a business model that very intentionally tried to differentiate myself from the fashion lines that exploit and celebrate undernourishment and low self esteem.

For my very first accessory line that was sold commercially, I used everyday women (friends of mine who had helped me with my business) of every shape and size as my models.  My company's motto was to "love yourself for the beauty you possess," which obviously was meant to celebrate the individual and all that made them beautiful from within.
So, while I realize there is a downside to fashion and tabloid magazines, I was attempting to take a positive and legitimate angle in a commercial accessory business.  I think people liked the messages I was sending and the public has an appetite for more of that in media.  

Do I believe there are legitimate reasons for having Fashion magazines. Yes, I do.  (I'm not sure about the tabloid magazines, even though I do buy them when I travel to kill time.) 

I think Fashion is an art form, including accessories which was what I designed.  I look through magazines for inspiration not just for what I might wear, but for how I might decorate my home - and not to appease anyone else, but to give me a sense of visual pleasure that actually relaxes me.  

I love looking at magazines and seeing someone "relatable" wearing a beautiful gown that I know must have taken hours to hand make, or a piece of jewelry that was so meticulously done it really takes intelligence and engineering talent as well as a designer's eye.  Do I enjoy some of the entertainment value as well, like coverage of the gowns from the Oscars? Yes.  I like to watch movies, like most people, and there is a mindless entertainment in seeing the fashions people wear on the red carpet.  Do I take it seriously or think it is important on a world stage? No.  But, again, easy for an adult to differentiate, less for a teen or a kid.

Like what I did with my company, there are companies using ads to attempt to capture the audience of "real" women and boost esteem, like Dove.  I LOVE that.  I will buy products that endorse positive messages.  It is not realistic to completely abandon all media or advertising, because we live in an age where information is exchanged at the speed of light and frankly, that genie is out of the bottle.  Images can't be taken back.  

What we can do as women is choose to buy products that endorse positive messages.  To purchase magazines or books that have positive articles (believe it or not, there is an entity working on just that called Positive Impact Magazine, they are in infancy stages, but I recommend checking them out).  

Even better, we can simply TALK to our daughters about what they can achieve and why they should ignore what bombards them in a negative way.  There is so much power in the simple act of communication - and even more - in leading that charge by practicing what you preach with your child.  That means mommy shouldn't be talking about starving to fit into a dress for the next society event in front of her daughter.  If your teen really wants to look at a certain magazine, why not go through it with them, and discuss the parts that don't send a good message, and why she should analyze it and not follow negative paths.

Am I a hypocrite for occasionally looking at those magazine - ranging from People to Vogue to InStyle?  Maybe, maybe not.  I do see the true down side, I have experienced it, but I also do see certain legitimate publications for fashion companies.  

Do I think that all of us as women need to take more responsibility for what is put out there by the media?  Yes.  I think that many of these industries are propelled by the dollars that come from mommy, wifey or single woman, and we should be louder about what we "want" to see.  More opinionated and less about what we watch, buy, who we emulate.  

Monkey reader Arthur pointed out that possibly women are as much or more to blame about how women are treated in the media a la Ashley Judd.  I tend to agree.  Women have so much more power than they think.  

 Women have been trained to keep one another down by competing instead of supporting and propping one another up.  I think that is the wrong approach.  I in no way advocate the idea of ignoring, or dismissing male leadership or male run entities, It's just that I think with a little more female leadership, more change could happen, more communicating could happen, more lifting one another up.  

We don't need to compete, we need to help promote one another for the true value we have as women.  Think about it.  In a family dynamic, even where the mom is a stay at home, she really does "run" the household.  The moms I know who work and are mothers do an obscene amount more on the domestic front even when they contribute equally financially. 

The point here?  There is nothing women can't accomplish.  I do think that one reason so few women go into leadership roles in any arena is because when the baby making years happen, if they financially "can" they feel the need to be home.  I respect that.  I don't engage in that battle of stay at home mommies vs. working mommies.  I think we all have way more in common than we realize and it's time to bridge that gap.   

Sometimes stay at home moms feel lost when kiddo is older and goes to school and forgets the value that she really has.  She feels like "just a mom," but she has lost touch with her power and knowledge that she really does have ability to do more (if she wants, because being a mom is for sure the hardest job EVER). There is so much that can be contributed to in their community, schools, or even business.  

Some of the mom friends I have who probably feel they have the least to offer on the business or even charity front are the sleeping giants that I personally see have the most to offer, they just forget about it, are told they don't have what it takes.  So, the messages that start so young, only re-up as one becomes a mom.  I say it's time to call b.s. on this whole thing.

I say this to my women readers because it needs to be said to them, not because I don't feel it for the men too.  

Women, female teens, children, there is literally nothing you can't accomplish if you really want to.  

You will not feel better because you are a size 2 and look like a magazine model, but you will feel pretty darn good if you contribute to the betterment of the world in some small or great way.  It could be through work, volunteer, simply focusing on raising well adjusted kids.  Whatever it is that moves you inside, focus on that.  

I'm not saying you should let your body and face go to pot, I'm just saying, don't let the superficial things be the ones that drive you because those things will never truly fulfill you.  

And now, while I am practicing law again as a sole practitioner, I have the additional goal of forming a small business partnership exclusively of women.  We would be the CEO, CFO and COO's of this prospective company.  It is my dream.  Have a female run company, be able to be capitalists, but give back, send a message to other women, and especially to young girls out there who have a lot of big decisions to make in their lives about who they are going to be.  Never let anyone hold you back from your dreams.  Even if it's family.  Learn to ignore the nay sayers when your gut is telling you otherwise.

And with that ramble, I bid you adieu.  I would love to hear what you think.  

I admit to being far from perfect on all of the above, but I am proud to be part of the conversation and to TRY to be a voice in this arena and TRY to lift up my female friends and my daughter and her little friends as they grow up.....

And, to plug my former motto from Cameron Nicole Designs just one more time, ladies, love yourself for the beauty you possess.




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