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Byron Shire
March 7, 2021

Mandy Nolans Soap Box: Pretty Useless

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Mandy Nolans Soapbox

Why do I spend so much time getting ready? The other morning I put the alarm on at 5am so I could get up and wash and blow dry my hair. It takes half an hour, and I knew if I didn’t get up early to do it I wouldn’t have time later in the day.

I don’t know of any bloke who has ever got up half an hour early to do his hair. Or factored 15 minutes for makeup. Or lay in bed the night before trying to think of an outfit for the next day so he wouldn’t waste time working through potential outfits. I just can’t imagine my husband falling asleep thinking ‘I will wear my blue shorts tomorrow and my white t-shirt. Outfit sorted. Now I can sleep.’

I used to enjoy the thrill of playing dress-ups, of transforming how I look, but now I find I really resent it. Perhaps it’s because the before and after isn’t as dramatic or impressive as it once was – or it’s because it just seems so pointless. It’s such a colossal waste of time. I feel my efficiency and sleep dwindling just to maintain what everyone thinks Mandy looks like. And what Mandy looks like takes some effort. Mandy actually doesn’t look like that at all.

I’m not alone.

Women all around the country waste far too much of their lives constructing the temporary woman they plan to be for the day. Because let’s face it, it is temporary. We’re like Cinderella: At the stroke of midnight we disintegrate. The facade falls away and tomorrow we wake up and have to construct that woman all over again. Aren’t we enough? Are we that fricking hideous we have to hide behind makeup and bleach?

Women spend three times as much time on their personal grooming as men. Aussie women spend around $22 billion a year on grooming. Blokes fork out around $7 billion. In their lifetime, women will spend roughly 3,276 hours putting their makeup on, blow drying their hair, moisturising their bodies, shaping eyebrows, ripping off pubes. On the basis of an 8-hour day, that works out to more than 409 work days. That’s well more than a year spent on making sure we look good. Or at least what society deems as ‘presentable’.

I have tried to make my ‘getting ready’ time as short as possible. Not that long ago I went to work with my hair freshly washed but not blowdried. One of my male colleagues looked at me a little shocked and said, ‘Are you okay? You look a bit run down.’ No, not run down, mate. This is what I look like.

Studies have shown that men’s grooming time has no impact on their appearance but women lose approximately 3.4 per cent of their income in the process of making themselves ‘presentable’. So sadly, manufacturing how we look significantly erodes our income. Why? How can we ever become powerful when we spend so much time trying to look pretty?

And who even decided what pretty is anyway? Concepts of beauty are very much orchestrated by popular culture. If we weren’t constantly slammed with images of perfectly toned and tanned bodies, waxed twats, super-whitened teeth, smooth hair and smooth skin then would we care if our teeth were a bit yellow, our twat was a bit furry or our hair was frizzy? No-one, not even super models, actually look like super models. Even they get photoshopped, so what hope do the rest of us have?

It seems insane to try to achieve the highly processed ideal of female beauty when that ideal doesn’t naturally exist. It has to be orchestrated. And orchestration takes time. It certainly takes money. I mean who decided our foreheads should be unwrinkled? That we should have dolls’ eyelashes? Swollen top lips? Women get a bit defensive when you have conversations like this. They say, ‘It’s my choice’. I think that’s bullshit. Who would actually choose to lose thousands of empty hours just to look what society says is ‘good’!

When we talk about feminism, here is a pretty good example of where our lives and societal expectations aren’t equal. One woman whom I had this discussion with recently said something quite remarkable to me as she saw my perspective as threatening. She actually said, ‘Don’t take away my right to be beautiful’. Wow. Now that’s a classic slave mindset. It’s not a right – it’s a prison.

Maybe this concept of ‘beauty’ that we need so desperately to validate us is how we’ve managed to stay disempowered. It’s hard to be powerful, to be a captain of industry, to stand shoulder to shoulder with the blokes, when we’re in the stupid bathroom powdering our stupid noses. The anvil of ‘beauty’ has rendered us pretty… useless.

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  1. Ahh but when we have hairy armpits,legs,eyebrows and fizzy uncoloured hair with no makeup, we’re called feral! My motto is “if you don’t like how I look, don’t look!”

  2. At art school with no money or time for endless preening I only wore black, red, and white, no make up, cotton pants or jeans, I was just as vain as ever but it took less time and money.
    Vanity takes different forms we can be vain about our careers, our “clout “ in the business world or any other aspect of life we are a vain monkey species. I don’t expect to outlive my vanity.

  3. Given that most women primp, preen, fluff & bluff because of how other women (might) regard them there is a very simple solution to this 1st World (non) problem.


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