When I turn on the television, click on social media, open up any entertainment magazine or really any magazine targeted to women, I find an obnoxious message everywhere. Even when it’s not obvious, the message is saturated into most pages, commercials, scripts. The freaking message is everywhere- invisibility is coming. It’s chasing you down and you have to be faster, smarter, and luckier than the dreaded curse of a less than perfect appearance.
Advertising campaigns designed to strike fear into women’s hearts have become the norm. The products- face creams, injections, cellulite creams, superbras, super butt enhancing pads, pills to make butts smaller, spandex to hold it all in, and so much more all beg for our hard earned money. My current least favorite ad is for an anti wrinkle cream that depicts a middle aged woman walking through her daily routine seemingly invisible to the people around her. But magically, after she uses the anti wrinkle cream, somehow, people are able to detect her presence. She’s shown laughing and smiling and having a great time since the world is no longer oblivious to her previously aged appearance.
Companies are banking that clients will pay a ridiculous amount of money to not become invisible, unimportant, and unnecessary. They want each and every woman that sees their product to wonder “what if I’m the last to be noticed?” They want women to wonder what happens when they are too old to be a mainstream television show character, too old to be a typical romance novel heroine but still too young to be the wise old woman depicted in a rocking chair that gets a decent monologue somewhere in the script (unless the old woman is being portrayed as stupid or senile- and don’t even get me started on how messed up that kind of stereotype is!). These advertisers want women to fear becoming irrelevant.
Product advertisers going the fear campaign route would have women believe we are in critical danger of fading to invisibility or irrelevance if we’re less than whatever version of young, shiny, and perfect is trendy these days. They’d have us believe we need their products to breathe life back into our brittle aging bones, or to slim us down or increase our bra size. Maybe this goes without saying, maybe sometimes we forget or wonder, and definitely the sh*tty advertisers need to hear this truth- A woman of any age can command an audience to listen without the aid of obligatory cleavage showing through a super sexy button down shirt. The knowledge and experience I’ve gained through years of learning, of hard won successes, failures, crushing blows, and moments of absolute joy has added steel to my spine and substance to my ideas. That has to be enough.
I like clothes and fashion. I get the grey streaks colored out of my hair. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look your personal best but I refuse to shrink back into myself, apologizing because I’m not “new car” perfect and that I don’t shine with the innocent naivety that strokes egos. But maybe I have become invisible in a different way. A better way. I’ve learned to listen because I don’t need to prove myself at every turn or be seen looking cute to be valid. I can walk through a crowd without turning coyly to see whose eyes are following me. Who’s drooling over me doesn’t matter. Who’s listening to my plans, my ideas, does. I will go on about my life, unapologetic for my refusal to throw on a ton of makeup and increase my less than generous sized breasts.
I don’t need to beg to be seen as relevant. I’m already relevant and I don’t need to be airbrushed to a smooth shine to have a substantial thought. I don’t need to be a specific size to be desirable. Experience is desirable, for those smart enough and secure enough to seek it out. I’ll smile when I’m underestimated because it gives me leverage, and I won’t apologize for not being an airbrushed model of moldability and perfection.
We need to make it clear to advertisers that our fear is not a commodity. We could chase perfection forever but why? Why not stand together and support each other instead? We could fight nature and time and go down kicking and screaming or we could live in the moment and keep our heads up as we go on about our days as beautiful, wonderful, complex, kind, and visible women.