At Studio10 we talk a lot about what it means to be female in our society. We talk about ageing, about our refusal to adhere to stereotypical thinking, and about the abundance of opportunity that is available to us in midlife and beyond. But something we don’t talk about is a lack of freedom for women – largely because our liberty to do as we please, when we please and how we please might be questioned sometimes, but it is never taken away from us.
When I read recently that in the latest infringement of freedom for Afghan women the Taliban has now ordered all hair and beauty salons to close, it genuinely made me weep. Yet another violation of their basic rights, among other outrageous breaches that have seen all teenage girls and women banned from classrooms, parks and gyms.
Talking about closing the beauty salons in an article for the BBC News online, an Afghan woman speaking anonymously said: “… by this decision, they are now depriving women from serving other women.”
While the beauty industry has started catering more for men over the last decade or so, it still remains mostly a female arena – run largely by women, for women. Physically we know that skincare is vital, as is hair care and other beauty treatments, but there is extensive research and anecdotal evidence to support the idea that it is also an intrinsic part of our emotional wellbeing and self-esteem.
Beauty rituals can change the way we look, but when we take them outside our homes, the simplicity of human contact, getting together with other women and likeminded intentions, we know that it can also change the way we feel. A community spirit, sharing skills and ideas that bring us together with a united aim – to feel good inside and out. It saddens me to think that such simple pleasures for the mental wellbeing of these women have been taken away.
According to the BBC article: “The Taliban government has not explained what prompted the ban, or what alternatives, if any, would be available to women …” Of course we cannot change things for these women living in a regime that appears to be “trying to eliminate women at every level of public life”, but we can take a good look at daily life in our society and realise that while we continue to fight the female issues that are important to us, our basic rights all still remain open to us.
We have our voices and the various platforms on which to speak out against ageism, sexism and gender inequality. When I see what’s happening in Afghanistan, we should treasure these freedoms. We should treasure the fact that at any point we can walk into a beauty salon and enjoy the luxury of treatments that nurture us as women. It also makes me realise that while we have the freedom of midlife choice ahead of us, what’s important is not the choices we may or may not make now, it’s the fact that we have them.