" but I feel the pressure to be girly more here than in the US and I feel that the pressure starts early. "
This is the quote from a reader on my post Women, Media, and Power... or lack there of and I agree with it completely.
I had never considered myself unkempt before living in Rio de Janeiro. I arrived in Rio de Janeiro to women with perfectly manicured toes and nails as far as the eye could see. It was also about 3000 degrees out (which is what summer feels like to a newly arrived foreigner) and while I was considering shaving my head none of the Brazilian women were even sporting a ponytail!
I found myself in uncharted territories of girlization. There I was in plane black flip flops, jeans, a basic top, ponytail, no jewelry, and chipped nail polish. I'm surprised they even let me past customs.
People, I'm not even exaggerating this time around. The women of Rio de Janeiro take an extreme pride in their appearance. We are talking about at least bi-weekly manicures and pedicures, along with hair straightening procedures (and it is a procedure down here), waxing, gym, and styling. I'm guessing there are more steps that I haven't even heard of.
Hell, these ladies go to the gym looking good! I complained to Mr. Rant immediately when he suggested I purchases some Brazilian workout clothes. I mean seriously, I even have to look cute or hot at the gym?! Of course he was looking out for me and trying to help me blend in. Being the stubborn ass I am I refused the shopping trip and went to the gym in my raggedy old shorts and an oversized t-shirt. I couldn't have stuck out more if I was wearing pasties and body glitter.
To make matters worse, I have heard, more than a few times, men making comments about their spouse or girlfriend's body. Two occasions shocked me to the core. The first one was when a boyfriend mentioned and pointed out the additional cellulite on his girlfriend's butt and the second when a husband told the wife, at a full table, that he was watching what she was eating. As he explained to everyone who was listening, she was putting on too much weight during her pregnancy. Being pregnant myself, I mentioned that I had put on a ton. I do believe he was truly disgusted.
Of course those examples are to the extreme but sadly are quite common none-the-less. There is a special population here that has no problem judging others on something so little as chipped nail polish or not polishing your nails at all.
In the end, I did adapt to a mellower version of the Carioca woman. It does feel nice to be a bit more feminine. I love wearing the big dangly earrings and have a new sense of pride over clean and polished toenails (even though I am fairly bad at keeping them up in comparison). That being said, it isn't an image that defines me.
I refuse to believe that my most important goal is to always be "presentable." I actually find myself more comfortable in an old pair of flip flops, a ponytail, and comfy jeans... of which I have been teased about because they have holes in them.
And while I can appreciate discovering a sense of femininity in traditional terms, I am very glad that I didn't grow up with it being expected at such a young age. While all women everywhere have faced a certain amount of pressure, my youth in the US was fairly mellow in comparison to Brazil. Thank goodness I have little boys because I don't know if this former Tomboy would be able to handle the expectations of female beauty that they have here at such a young age.
What were your experiences with this? Do the girls in your country feel pressure to be beautiful or feminine?