Grappling with vanity in a pre-apocalypse world
plus an elegant argument for abolishing leaf blowers
I had to do a photoshoot this week.
There was hair and makeup, smoke and mirrors. In the coming weeks, I will have to share these carefully styled and curated images for an upcoming project on my socials. It’s the deal of things.
It’s all surfaced an ongoing tension: Should a woman in 2021 be posting “good”, consciously flattering pictures of herself? Where does “having to play to the system” stop and gross narcissism begin? At what point should we f*ck off the system? At 48?
I struggle with finding the sweet spot. I’m on social media to push social change messages. But I know that sprinkling my feed with images of myself brings humanity and keeps up engagement. I know that images in which I look “good” – eyes bright, great light, sleep the night before, etc. - keep folk coming back to my feed (whereby they’ll, soon enough, get hit with my social change messages).
Is it all a bit like the chef who ties on the apron, the actor who puts on a persona, to do their job? Not quite. I am, of course, perpetuating the feminine-as-object-for-the-male-gaze cycle every time I plant a picture of myself with a Valencia filter and a flattering angle that doesn’t highlight that my mouth is starting to droop like my mother’s. (I draw lines at face-fixing apps and, um, facial work generally.)
This is granular (awkward stuff very often has to be reduced to the gritty and intimate) but I often plant photos of myself to watch the reaction from others and from myself. I force myself to sit in abject discomfort with my “coy” vanity…and try to understand it all.
It is with some relief, that these days, I can say these vain experimental posts now get fewer likes than my social change ones.
Other things I wrestle with (you might too?):
I tell myself that wearing the same clothes repeatedly in said vain posts pushes a progressive message, ditto posting pictures of myself hiking. But - to be awkwardly honest - I do ensure I post shots where my arms drape in such a way to make my thighs not look so wide. And I humble-brag about the fact I own one pair of green shorts. Oh, the cringe…
I observe young women like Abbie Chatfield (I adore that she exists and does what she does, pushing all kinds of edges) “owning it” on socials. I watched Gen Y before her do the same when I was editor of Cosmopolitan. These younger generations do a full-throttle “owning” of female sexual posturing, in reaction, I’m postulating, to an awareness of the feminine-as-object bind previous generations have been held to. Which makes me nervous. Leaving aside that current sexualised fashions veer to the physically restricting and very tired hyper-fertility ideals, full-throttle anything don’t generally have longevity nor allow for complexities and subtle and subjective, emotional experiences.
It can be all “making a point” and not enough knowingness.
A similar train of thought: I also observe a lot of women in their 40s and 50s doing similarly brash, “owning it” social media-ing. They set up a light ring and then do crazed makeup and fashion demos, as well as some super weird sexualized dancing for their “community”.
Is there a sociological spin?
Yeah. I just thought of one. Academics document that this sexualising emerges in times of economic opulence. Post WW2, hair went big and blonde, curves went mad…and women were relegated to the domestic sphere, behind picket fences and valium hazes. The same played out during the capitalist ‘80s. In contrast, during the Great Depression between the world wars, women wore pants and straight-up-and-down flapper garb, cut their hair short, flooded the workforce and fought for the female vote. Ditto in the ‘90s during the “depression we had to have”. We wore grunge, quick-unpicked branded logos off our op-shop finds, and beat the boys at maths and science.
In lean, tricky times, women desexualize and get mouthy.
We are in a time of huge flux, the pendulum hovering in the direction of economic collapse, or at least adjustment. Also, the world needs the female voice more than ever. Will the flux be worn on our bodies again? Will we, subsequently, get awkward and granular with selfies and blow up the whole thing? Will we desexualize to voice up…or will we do both?
I’m keen to watch it all.
We all hate leaf-blowers, yes?
here’s the cranky climate argument on the bloody things
The New York Times this week reminds us that lawns and lawn “care” are an environmental disaster, but that the “leaf blower exists in a category of environmental hell all of its own”.
“A two-stroke gasoline-powered leaf blower spewed out more pollution than a 6,200-pound Ford F-150 SVT Raptor pickup truck….’hydrocarbon emissions from a half-hour of yard work with the two-stroke leaf blower are about the same as a 3,900-mile drive from Texas to Alaska in a Raptor.’”
More than 100 cities across the country have already passed regulations to ban or restrict gas-powered leaf blowers.
Rich people: Stop Shopping! (#923874)
an extra layer of cringe from last week’s Everything Shortage overview
There is a supply issue going down globally post-Covid.
It was in fact the wealthy who stayed home during the pandemic, who saved money and are now spending a whopping $2.3 trillion in extra cash on the discretionary stuff, designer handbags, fine champagne, new cars and teeth whiteners.
Whiiiiiich is what is now holding up shipping containers and holding up medical supplies and food for lunches at American public schools. Which of course - sigh - is impacting the disadvantaged the most.
Holy mother of God, it works!
a rubbish collector rig called Jenny can *actually* scoop up 90% of Great Pacific Garbage Patch. For real.
During the week, some good news came in: Dutch entrepreneur Boyan Slat has successfully designed and tested a waterborne rubbish collector to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Ocean Cleanup rig, called System 002 (named ‘Jenny’), has been in testing since 2013 to see if it can hack the colossal task of cleaning up our oceans. Jenny just passed the goddamn test with flying colours, successfully netting 9,000 kilograms in her first trial.
At this rate, it is estimated that if 10 Jennys were deployed to the five major oceans, half the plastic would be gone in five years, and 90% removed by 2040.
My advice, as always, don’t get distracted or muddled by “mop up” fixes. They don’t fix the original problem, which is our bloody hyper-consumption in the first place.
Cook zero-waste: 30% off Simplicious Flow
a COP26 special for you
The SINGLE most EFFECTIVE change we can make as consumers to reduce CO2, is to halve our food waste. According to Project Drawdown, it ranks #3 of all C02 cutting practices. I was surprised to learn this, too.
If food waste was a country it would be the third-largest producer of CO2, after China and the US.
Chucking your food in landfills causes the release of methane which is 80 times more potent than CO2 in producing GHGs.
With the most important climate conference in history about to kick off in Glasgow, I’m offering 30% off my huge zero-waste e-cookbook, Simplicious Flow.
You can buy your copy here.
To wrap , I just want to plant it in front of you again that I’m touring with Live Nation in February and March 2022. Yep, it’s the fourth date change. Yep, I’m still pumped. Yep, I would love you to buy tickets and tell friends. I’ll be on stage just ahead of the Australian Federal election and I’ll be riffing wildly….see you there?
I’m now off to pack for a week-long trip out bush. Me, my tent and I.