This post is part of the #WomenRockMoney Movement, a large group of female personal finance bloggers who have come together to inspire more women to learn about money. If you have money questions, or want support for your financial goals, learn more about how you can join us at the movement homepage. I hope to see you there!
I have considered myself a feminist for at least 8 years now. I was the kind of feminist who still donned makeup. Worked out and sometimes obsessively dieted. The kind of feminist who was at war with the patriarchy but also her own self worth. I was marching with women wearing my pink pussy hat. Yelling and voting and donating money.
It was important for me to feel strong and to push equality. At the same time I was participating in the subtle ways that reinforced my place as a woman who was just not quite good enough.
My day to day life did not include a rally of women. In fact, it was the opposite. The purchases and mindset I had, created a barrier for connection and a hole in my wallet.
Profit from Self Hatred
We currently live in a society that profits from divisiveness and self hatred on the individual woman. The world is structured to make money off of us. This is not just in the ever looming and insidious wage gap ladies, but actually with our own purchases on Amazon and Sephora.
Women will spend on average $15,000 on makeup in her lifetime. $3,770 on mascara alone according to a study done by Mint.com. So why are we, women, such easy prey for the advertising companies? Why do we obsess over appearance to the point of dropping money every month on items to ward off the possibility of being in our natural state.
Women’s worth early in civilized history was attributed to her virginity and soon to follow her conventional “beauty”. Literally her worth, since women were owned and used as a commodity. These ideals are so engrained in society that women are born into a world which has a consensus on what they should be concerned with and how to operate.
Did your neighbor buy his wife- most likely not- however the underlying structure of western society continues to place such high merit on women for their conventional beauty.
While our many insecurities are wrapped up in how we are conditioned as young girls, they are also heavily influenced by the amount of advertising we consume, which reinforces ideal and unattainable beauty standards. Ads are placed in our lives with an intent to “sweetly highlight” women’s insecurities about their overall appearance.
Women purchase more items related to appearance due to what is called compensatory consumption. This is a behavior in which individuals attempt to overcome the threat or fear of the advertised insecurity and they then purchase the product.
So while I am a feminist, I also think to myself, I have to look respectable. I have to be taken seriously and be put together. My mascara and cat eye will do this. It will avoid the stereotypes of being a frumpy feminist. A feminist who has “given up” on herself. I have fallen for the campaign.
Competition vs Comrades
The world is making money off your insecurities and works to make sure you are reminded of them. The continuation of the patriarchy and what determines women’s worth is furthered by us. That’s right. You and I and any woman who has ever decided to tell someone she is pretty before she is intelligent have firmly held the industry that profits from our own self hatred in place.
Remember those days in high school or college or maybe even yesterday over a glass of wine where you spat a little in the direction of another woman. Not literally spit, ew, but just a a little snarky comment about her appearance or her actions. This is called indirect aggression and all women have done this at some point.
The underlying goal of this indirect aggression is for self promotion (to feel more attractive). As Noam Sphencer states in Psychology Today, “…when women see being prized by men as their ultimate source of strength, worth and achievement they are compelled to battle for it.” We compete with other women for our own bolstering and in doing so we have swallowed the patriarchy and allowed profit from our own destruction.
We compete with other women for our own bolstering and in doing so we have swallowed the patriarchy and allowed profit from our own destruction.
For a brief moment throwing a dis at your co-worker or someone you follow on Instagram will make you feel better about yourself. The sad thing is, you didn’t see the other woman at all, but only a reflection of your own consuming insecurities that you felt needed to be temporarily erased.
It is this competitiveness that prevents women from rallying together on a daily basis. Women who work with other women without being indirectly aggressive are seen as heroes. Yet, we should ALL be doing this. We are comrades, not competition, and it is time to adopt the mantra her success is my success.
It is Important to See Other Women and Ourselves
Compensatory compensation and indirect aggression are neat and tidy ways to package and define our behavior towards each other. This does not account for the thing we all avoid talking about. Shame. The less we talk about it the more we have it.
This shame is rooted a disbelief of our worthiness. This is really where companies can rake in the almighty dollar.
Both men and women have instilled shame. This shame is rooted in a disbelief of our worthiness. This is really where companies can rake in the almighty dollar. To feel worthy it would mean we would have to be enough exactly where we are at. To fully believe that you are worthy of love, kindness and respect. Shame impedes this belief because it insists that we are not enough, that we are the mistake.
According to Brené Brown, who is a fantastic researcher, academic, speaker and author; vulnerability is the key. It is the well spring of both shame and joy. Vulnerability is what allows for human connection, that thing we all crave and scramble after. That thing that being thinner or fitter or prettier or richer will surely bring.
This is especially important for the relationship between women. In order for connection to happen we have to allow ourselves to be seen. Until this happens we cannot possibly see other women and therefore will remain in competition and not in comradery.
I know. This is scary as hell. I have had many walls up for a long time. It is a survival mode. It allowed me to be brave and an activist, but not courageous.
It was only when I started being vulnerable with my friends and more recently in my writing that I started to build something. A sense of worthiness. This very post asked me to vulnerable. Profit from self hatred was easy, but I knew I had to admit to my own engagement in the very things that keep women separate on the daily basis. I cringed at this. I cringed at stating that my money went to enforcing patriarchal ideals.
That I have been in competition with women my entire life. That I have whispered and complimented all in the same breath.
Most cringe worthy is that I have been in competition with women my entire life. That I have whispered and complimented all in the same breath. And to also admit that being vulnerable is one of the hardest things for me to do. It has also never been more necessary for myself in order to see, truly see other women around me and rally everyday.
My Pledge to Women
This post is written in correlation with the #WomenRockMoney movement to celebrate International Women’s Day. My writing did not give you a easily applicable budget sheet or a list of 5 strategies for finances. I did not share my success or struggles with money management.
Instead I wanted to ask for the hardest change of all. For women to focus on self worth. For women to feel worthy. For women to be vulnerable. For us to see ourselves. To not spend money out of a fear for what we may become. Instead to direct our purchases from a place of vulnerability and worthiness.
Today I still don my makeup, work out and occasionally freak out about eating two cookies in a row. I purchase mascara when I run out and feel a sense of passion to be politically active for Women. I also see myself. I see women. My sister and my friend. I see the woman at the cash register. I see them and connect with them instead of the ideals.
I see you friend. This year I pledge to rally together every single day. What is your goal for yourself? Tweet it out and use the hashtag #WomenRockMoney.
For more posts from women who are currently rallying together to give their best advice don’t forget to head over to the #WomenRockMoney Movement home page.
Hey Bethany, I love this post.
Agree wholeheartedly that women need to support each other, especially against the patriarchy. Given we are 50% of the population we are not all alike, yet we all lose due to societies attitudes.
I also want to encourage more women to say no to the beauty tax, and judge women by the same standards as men.
It is such a compliment to hear this. Thank you! Yes, Adventure Rich mentioned the beauty tax as well and I think there could be a whole conversation only on this in terms of how it effects our finances.
Oh wow, I think you hit a few core points here. Between the marketing targeted at women, the women’s tax (more expensive versions of the same item… razors, etc), the constant pitting women vs women… it can be incredibly hard to move forward and find a sense of ownership as a woman and fellowship with other women. Let’s get in each other’s corner! ~Mrs. AR
Thank you! YES! I did not even include the pink tax, but that is another great point.
I am thinking this needs to be a new hashtag #ImInYourCorner
This is absolutely beautiful, Bethany. And without recognizing the remnants that still exist in our system from a time when women were literally commodities, we can’t actually affect any real and lasting change.
Thank you so much. I agree, we must acknowledge before we can grow and change.
This post honestly got me a little choked up. We are women, hear us ROAR ❤️
Awww! That makes me teary.Thank you. <3
Wonderful and inspiring writing Bethany! Cheers to a world where women lift each other up!
Thank you! Cheers!
This article is interesting but I have to disagree with several points.
Buying makeup is not obsession over appearance or self-hatred (and you say you wear makeup too). Men will spend ridiculous sums of money to impress women and that’s not considered self-hatred. Jonathan Edwards got $400 haircuts – not self hatred. Makeup: it’s art, it’s fun, it’s self-care. Changing your appearance, your self can mean you have high self esteem. It seems like you’re doing the thing you said not to do here – casting shade at other women. Nothing wrong with makeup!
Women can definitely be in competition and that’s ok. If another woman gets a job and I’m unemployed, that’s not a win for me. Oftentimes there may be quotas that limit minorities or women from rising and that’s not the other woman’s fault but it doesn’t help me just because another woman advances.
Also it’s ok to tell a woman she’s pretty instead of saying she’s intelligent. If we were to say that every woman is intelligent, then it takes the meaning out of intelligence. Some women are unintelligent and that’s ok. Being intelligent is not necessarily better than being pretty.
I used makeup as an example of the funds that women will dispense on appearance in their lifetime. This was to highlight to profit of industries off insecurities. While makeup itself is not the problem the way we talk about beauty and advertise products is. The is where the compensatory compensation comes in. In comparison with men, women will spend more on appearance. For more stats on this, start here. I by no means am casting judgement towards makeup buying or makeup wearing as I wear it myself. For my thoughts on this specifically I have written a previous post that also links out to some awesome rebuttals to the judgement of makeup. You can read this post here.
In terms of competition and the way we talk to other women including compliments I fundamentally disagree and am not sure I will change your mind here. However, I am hopeful that women will look to speak and care for each other in a manner that uplifts. That appearance is not the first compliment to fly out of the mouth because this remains surface level. This post is about digging deeper and beyond that. It is about a sisterhood and how to be a part of it.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts coming from a totally different perspective.