Can a Feminist love fillers? This was the question hotly debated by beauty and journalist luminaries at a timely CEW event. Our Creative Director Communications, Paul found the conversation illuminating, with the answer less important than the substantial caveat that accompanied it…
When journalist Claire Coleman kicked off a discussion about whether ‘a feminist can like fillers’ at the Ham Yard Hotel, she didn’t just open up a lively and engrossing debate, but also a Pandora’s Box of issues which got to the heart, soul and subcutaneous matter of 21st century society.
Coleman was joined on stage by seasoned journalists Bryony Gordon, Sarah Vine, Polly Vernon and ‘Aesthetic Practitioner’ Alison Telfer at the event, hosted by CEW and Allergan (makers of Botox and various fillers). She drove us all aboard a bus through the ism’s – ageism, sexism, feminism, racism, Darwinism, should-I-tell-my-friend-ism – which was also in its wider context a journey from cradle to grave.
"We wouldn't be so keenly aware of our changing appearance if we didn't feel that it was constantly being given marks out of ten by those around us."
The panel openly and honestly discussed their own personal and philosophical issues, which inevitably led to the subject of age. Society remains unforgiving when it comes to the simple effect on a woman’s skin of the days passing. And that leads to regular and often painful self-examination, facing the mirror in the morning and the fact that decline is inevitable. “Mother Nature wants you dead because she doesn’t want you eating food that young people could eat. You’ve reproduced, now bugger off” as Sarah Vine so incisively put it.
This state of mind was exaggerated by a recurring theme of the morning’s forum – the outspokenly judgmental nature of the world we live in. We wouldn’t be so keenly aware of our changing appearance if we didn’t feel that it was constantly being given marks out of ten by those around us.
In the workplace, this results in older women becoming ‘invisible’ and therefore overlooked for advancement or deemed surplus to requirement. While the metaphorical Judge’s bench is largely occupied by men in that environment, in the wider world it is women who sit most in judgment and exercise the harshest emotional punishment on other women. In 2017, this visual dissection doesn’t just affect those feeling the pull of gravity. Millennials and Gen Zs are judged in a Court of Social Media that sits every minute of the day. So far away from the days when you only saw yourself in a photograph once a year when you retrieved your holiday snaps from Boots.
So there are now two distinct motivations for the need for beauty treatments. The more traditional desire to stay looking the best you can whatever time (and life) decides to do to you and the newer prompt of being exposed to the eyes of a peer group the size of the planet on an hourly (or even more frequent) basis.
"The panel and room were equally unanimous on the following caveat. It is anti-feminist to lie about having 'work' done."
Whilst there are justifiable question marks over whether very young women should be pressurised into the early use of treatments, there was never any doubt about the unanimous answer to the question ‘can a feminist like fillers?’ Of course she bloody well can. It’s her choice. It may be a galaxy-sized over-simplification but isn’t that the point of feminism, to have the choice?
However the panel and room were equally unanimous on the following caveat. It is anti-feminist to lie about having the ‘work’ done. You look at another woman. She looks amazing. You ask her how she does it. She says ‘oh, just some great creams.’ You feel like shit. You use creams and you don’t look like that. It must be you. You’re not as good. You dread that next conversation with the mirror.
Quite simply, women who lie about beauty treatments hurt other women. Deception damages and deception persists. The taboo still holds sway. Among many women, there is still the need to hide the facts. Celebrities, role models to millions of young women, lie.
Alison Telfer, who runs an aesthetic treatment clinic, had countless stories of deception to tell; Wives who don’t tell husbands, mothers who don’t tell daughters. Sisters who don’t tell their own sister, even when they are both attending the same clinic!
Feminism has progressed from the days when the length of your armpit hair was a measure of your commitment to the cause. Having the choice to do what you want and look how you look and *not be judged for it* is the new flag at the top of the hill. Father Time, Mother Nature and human nature will continue to have something to say about that but it’s worth trying to claim it.
The CEW session was provocative, occasionally hilarious, consistently enlightening and ultimately inspiring. Maybe this lingered in my mind, but as the audience trooped out into an ugly wet Thursday morning in Soho, I couldn’t help thinking how beautiful everyone looked. However they did it.