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Dublin: 11°C Thursday 29 July 2021

Lambasting Kate over a few grey hairs isn't harmless – it shows the pressure women face

Kate Middleton is 33 years old, the mother of a toddler, and is currently pregnant… is anyone really shocked she has a grey hair or two?

Lorraine Courtney Freelance journalist

PREGNANT KATE MIDDLETON displayed a few stray grey hairs in front of a camera this week and the Daily Mail couldn’t wait to point this out to the rest of us. You see women, and especially famous women, are supposed to be perfectly beautiful all the time, even when seven months’ pregnant.

Meanwhile men can be a lot of things, and good looking is only one of them. And if he’s not good-looking? Well he can just settle on being interesting, rich, or good craic.

We’re locked into an eternal conversation about female celebrities’ bodies. We dissect their “curves”, their “thigh gap” – or absence of – we gossip about how little weight an actor gained during their pregnancy. We laugh at their bad hair days and hairy armpits. At the same time, we feel like our own bodies don’t fit, and obsess over other people’s stomachs. We totally accept the fashion ideal of skinniness, whiteness, blondeness as normal.

If you’re just normal looking nowadays, you feel ‘ugly’

Even though our world is full of normal and pretty women, the world we see – the world of television, films, magazines and websites – is packed full of women who are off-the-scale beauties, airbrushed to an otherworldly perfection. And right now, in the second decade of the 21st century, the situation grows ever more extreme. If you’re a woman, a huge proportion of your role models are beautiful. So if you’re just normal looking, you are always going to feel ugly.

According to a TODAY/AOL survey, time spent in front of a mirror preparing to face the world isn’t down to the woman enjoying piling on her makeup, it’s down to anxiety women feel about their appearance needing to be improved somehow or anyhow.

The survey found that women worry about their looks more than anything else – more than money, health, relationships, and even their professional success.

Like most women, I see through the cosmetic industry’s artifice and yet still fall prey to it. I’d always been determined not to give into it and resent the anti-ageing drive as a way of shaming women. But I have been so marketed to that when I gaze at my multiplying crow’s feet, I get a stab of real fear.

It’s an assault on women – why should we accept it?

We’re not just passive victims either. The media now peddles far too much anguish and distress. I’m not “anti” it, but I suppose for me the thing that is so distressing is this massive assault on women; like the assault on us to get smaller and smaller and smaller when we were trying to get bigger and take up more space economically, politically and intellectually and every which way.

We women spend an awful lot of time trying to meet standards we have nothing to do with setting and feeling bad when we can’t reach them – and then there’s the very complicated relationship between a woman’s appearance, self-loathing, and self-love. And mirrors still don’t come with Photoshop, no matter how many hours we spend staring at them.

Let’s remember that Kate is seven months’ pregnant and hair dye does carry potential chemical risks for her baby. It’s preposterous that we are highlighting her few grey hairs right now. The media – and particularly the female magazine market – have a responsibility here, but so do we all. We’re tired of looking at perfect bodies and fretting about celebrities who dare to leave their homes sans makeup. Now it’s time to show this by speaking out until they start taking the female agenda seriously.

Lorraine Courtney is a freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter @lorrainecath.

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About the author:

Lorraine Courtney  / Freelance journalist

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