Tag Archives: fashion

muliebrity


muliebrity n. womanly qualities; womanhood

 

 

Muliebrity

by Sujata Bhatt

I have thought so much about the girl

who gathered cow-dung in a wide, round basket

along the main road passing by our house

and the Radhavallabh temple in Maninagar.

I have thought so much about the way she                                             5

moved her hands and her waist

and the smell of cow-dung and road-dust and wet canna lilies,

the smell of monkey breath and freshly washed clothes

and the dust from crows’ wings which smells different –

and again the smell of cow-dung as the girl scoops                             10

it up, all these smells surrounding me separately

and simultaneously – I have thought so much

but have been unwilling to use her for a metaphor,

for a nice image – but most of all unwilling

to forget her or to explain to anyone the greatness                                15

and the power glistening through her cheekbones

each time she found a particularly promising

mound of dung –

Many times when I begin these posts I will use a Google search to get myself motivated or to generate some ideas. I had never read this poet before today, but I can say that this poem captures the full meaning of the word. When I chose the word, I started thinking about what makes a woman “womanly” – outside of physical appearances and the ability to bear children. Is there a grace that women possess simply because they are just women? What exactly makes a woman “womanly”?

 There is a huge difference between being pretty, pink and girly and being womanly – and it has nothing to do with body weight. I find it interesting that our society labels clothing for females above a size 12 a woman – and everything under her as juniors or misses. As if having a larger ass means you are more mature and matronly. However, it raises an interesting point about the relationship between female anatomy and this idea of womanhood. Larger breasts and hips used to be what defined beauty. A young lady was deemed a woman once she passed out of puberty and developed the trademarks of her sex. Even until the 1950’s, “t & a” were essential to being considered the height of womanly beauty. Today there is no doubting that the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren were women – not girls. I’m not going to make the analogy to our current societal predilections of beauty – you already know what there is to say about that. I just think it’s a little sad that the feminist movement is most likely to blame for this drastic change.

I drive around with my son a lot and I see these bumper stickers everywhere that say “Save the Tatas.” I know breast cancer is a devastating disease and one that I might have to face in my lifetime if statistics say anything, but these bumper stickers offend me. It’s like having a bumper sticker on my car for testicular cancer that says “Save the Sacks” or “Don’t Bust My Balls.” I doubt the man with testicular cancer would find it funny. It’s not that I think that breasts have super powers, but God did give them to only women so we should probably honor them. We have Playboy, the plastic surgery industry and Victoria’s Secret to exploit them already. Can we please not degrade them further by calling them “tatas” on the same vehicles we shuttle around the future of women of America in?

There is something more to womanhood than boobs, though. A certain grace  (regardless of how clumsy they are) that women possess in their movements, actions and auras. Maybe it’s in our eyes or the sway of our walk or the fact that we can give birth to a child. I’m not quite sure there’s any way to pin exactly what it is down, and I think that it’s better that way. We need to keep it secret so no one exploits it and gives it a goofy name.

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vainglory


vainglory n. excessive vanity

A few months ago I was watching an absolutely horrible show entitled “Wife Swap.” The premise of the show is to take 2 families at completely opposite ends of the economic spectrum and switch wives for a week. For the first week, the “new” wife had to follow the usual house rules of the home she is temporarily visiting. Then the next week, the family had to live by the visiting wife’s rules. This particular episode featured a mother who was a self help guru and had a series of books and lectures on how to “Be Your Best You.” This included dressing well, eating all organic food, wearing make up and being overly friendly. During the episode she gave a lecture at a homeless shelter and tried to sell her book to people who didn’t have any money. The much less affluent family she was staying with was appalled.

The question is where to draw the line on “Being Your Best You.” What does that mean? Isn’t the phrase somewhat narcissistic in itself?

To clarify my thoughts I looked up the story of Narcissus which I remembered the basic plot of but not all of the details. I stumbled upon an excerpt from Milton’s Paradise Lost that captures the mythology beautifully:

“That day I oft remember when from sleep
       I first awaked, and found myself reposed
       Under a shade on flowers, much wondering where
       And what I was, whence thither brought, and how
       Not distant far from thence a murmuring sound
       Of waters issued from a cave, and spread
       Into a liquid plain, then stood unmoved
       Pure as the expanse of heaven; I tither went
       With unexperienced thought, and laid me down
       On the green bank, to look into the clear
       Smooth lake that to me seemed another sky.
       As I bent down to look, just opposite
       A shape within the watery gleam appeared,
       Bending to look on me. I started back;
       It started back; but pleased I soon returned,
       Pleased it returned as soon with answering looks
       Of sympathy and love. There had I fixed
       Mine eyes till now, and pined with vain desire,
       Had not a voice thus warned me: ‘What thou seest,
       What there thou seest, fair creature, is thyself;” etc.
                                              Paradise Lost, Book IV.

Every morning when I awake, I look in the mirror. Most days I am somewhat apathetic to my appearance. Other days, I hate what I see. Rarely am I pleased. Now that I think about it, I look at my reflection a lot during the average day. Not even because I am trying to. There are just mirrors everywhere – windows, puddles, etc. I am sure if you think about it, you are looking at yourself a lot too.

The world would be much better without mirrors. Imagine that you had a rare opportunity to look at yourself – perhaps once a week. Imagine how much less time you would spend on yourself and what you might do with that time. If Narcissus had not been able to stare into the water, perhaps he would have fallen in love with someone other than himself. Perhaps we would all stop trying to “Be Our Best Us” through physical appearances. Perhaps we could use other people as mirrors.

Other people can reflect us. Our families and children. If we focus on using people as our mirrors then our reflections are our actions and not just a facade that people see. Think of how different “Being Your Best You” would be if all you had were other people to be your mirror and you theirs. You would most likely be a nicer, respectable person. Or the opposite – if you’re an asshole, you would get it thrown right back at you.

It scares me to think that we live in a world of vainglorious people. I fear that vanity is the default for the vast majority whereas it used to be a deplorable trait. Yet another modern dilemma. I wonder if things will level out as the years go by…

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redingote


redingote n. a woman’s long coat with a cutaway or contrasting front

keeping this short today…lots on my mind and i don’t feel like writing. here are a bunch of redingotes.

 

 

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