Feminine and Free

Congratulations Huffington Post on launching HuffPost Women. I read Arianna's comments with interest.

Women struggle with who they are on a continual basis. Plastic surgery has increased nearly 30 per cent over the last decade in children and teens. Up to 50 per cent of women are on a diet at any given time, and the pressure to be thin and look a stereotypical way is crushing. I see it in a few of my friends who are actresses, they not only have to stay thin, they have to look young.

Portia De Rossi's book Unbearable Lightness is a heartbreaking and candid account of her struggle with bulimia and anorexia, it darn near killed her, and most women I know have a friend who has suffered from the same disease. Raising three girls, I see how they are being marketed to, how the clothing, the makeup, and the celebrity culture begin to influence them younger and younger. It is a challenge and sometimes a struggle to keep the culture at bay long enough for them to develop their own healthy self-love for their bodies and their minds.

At times I feel like a warrior mother, vigilantly fighting commercials, Facebook, magazines, and advertisers at every turn. It is hard to be a girl today and not get some incredibly strong ideas on what a girl should look like, what a woman must be. Pretty, and thin, well dressed, and sexy. There are images of these women everywhere, and it is not just us women who are assaulted by these images, it is our little girls.

Like most 40-something women I take issue with 14-year-old models dressed up in plunging necklines and wearing stilettos heals. As these beautiful young girls pretend to be women, we women buy these clothes, or perfumes, or purses, so we can feel sexy and young, I can't help but ask myself, does anybody else think this is crazy! Crazy that the fashion industry relies on young girls to sell products meant for women, crazy that women think they need to look like these young girls, crazy that our young girls see these images as the ideal.

Women have made huge gains in the past 30 years. In Canada, women's salaries are catching up to men's, we have government policies in place to support women's maternity leave, and women are not only starting their own businesses they are successfully getting loans from the banks. And yet, when it comes to women feeling good about themselves, I can't help feeling we have gone backward.

There is more pressure than ever before to be some perfect version of feminine. Thin, but fit. Toned but muscular. Smart but not smart enough to threaten your man. This impossible and ever moving target, affects most women I know and how they feel about themselves as women. Most women I know complain about not being thin enough, or fit enough or a good enough mother, or committed enough to their career or a good enough caregiver to their parents. The pressure is endless and relentless and it is time we acknowledge what is being done to us, and what we are doing to ourselves.

Just as history inspires us with the stories of men and women who have stood up and said enough, I believe we need to take a stand. Women need to take a stand and redefine what it means to be a woman. Women need to ask for responsible marketing to their children, women need to tell the publishers of magazines, the editors of papers that they want to see and hear from more real women, women with ideas, and spirit, and bodies that are perfect just the way they are.