Glossy Covers: Yumi Stynes for Sunday Life

Glossy Covers: Yumi Stynes for Sunday Life (+ notes on feminism, mediocrity & faith)

Isn't this just gorgeous? Radiant? Inviting? Following on The Circle's Chrissie Swan's Logies win, her fellow host (co-host? co-panellist? co-presenter? co-couchist?) Yumi Stynes [and, talking point, her defiantly grey streak of hair] covers Sunday Life magazine (dress by Jonathan Saunders from Belinda, styled by Emily Ward).

The cover feature, 'At what age are women happiest?' by Kate Gibbs, focuses on women in the spotlight in their prime ("that perfect moment in our lives - when the dark clouds peel back and we find love, happiness and success and are at our absolute best") – namely, Stynes, 35, celebri-chef Margaret Fulton, 86, At The Movies film critic Margaret Pomeranz, 66, model Nicole Trunfio, 25, fashion designer Fleur Wood, 37, and Network 10 newsreader Sandra Sully, 46.

Wood says, "I have seen women who wear incredible designer clothes lack any kind of beauty. It's not about where you shop or what your skin is like. It's about being yourself and having your own sense of style and grace. Margaret Pomeranz is a perfect example of that kind of beauty... I think happiness came from being of service to other people."

A diverse and interesting group of media women, them all, their stories remind us that there is no one path for women, and we all face hurdles: divorce, juggling career and children, coming to grips with ageing, ill health, the "uncomfortable shackles of youth and insecurity"...

Stynes says she reached a turning point at 30, when she says she decided, "'I'm not going to whinge about the fact that I'm fat, I'm going to go to the gym. I'm not going to complain about my career, I'm going to see what I can do that I really enjoy.' There is longevity to the idea that you can improve things, but it has to start with you... As soon as I got out of that relationship [with the father of her two children], when I was about 32, I suddenly felt my whole world open up. I no longer had him to blame for feeling shit. I took responsibility and suddenly there was hope and optimism... When I'm 40, I hope I don't gallop head first into middle age. I've seen it in friends. It's like they want to spread, they want a fat gut and to dress in fisherman's pants. I think that is a choice. You can be that doughy, passive, TV-watching, junk-food-eating person, or you can choose not to be."

After reading the feature, more particularly Stynes' comments, I'm left with an unsettled feeling. Can we ever be fully in control of our lives? What if illness prevents us from exercising to maintain that ideal physique? Or we lose the jobs in which we've become so heavily invested? Or our children grow up and decide that, hey, that divorce sucked? Or the marriage doesn't go quite according to plan? Or you realise that the world isn't such an idyllic place for women to be?

Sandra Sully somewhat appeases my angst with her perspective: "There is no section of your life that is quarantined," she says. "You may have found love or feel very healthy, and some things gain more importance at different stages of your life. But I can't hang my hat on, 'My job is great, I've never been happier', or, 'I'm in love, I've never felt better'. I'm alive and I'm where I'm at through tumult and adversity. Balance is a catchphrase that is unfair to women. I hate the pressure women feel, that they have to be in love, be beautiful, have a family and a career. We're fighting too many battles just to be perceived as successful."

In her most recent column, 'Fighting for the right to be equally mediocre', which examines the place of women in the world of literature, Leslie Cannold writes, "Like all the women I discovered through books, I learnt from their carelessness, their ignorance, their fear, their courage, their powerlessness and their cruelty. This fact may explain the source of my allegiance to a feminism that's aim is not just to give women the chance to shine but also to be mediocre. To my mind women shouldn't need to prove they're better than men to deserve their fair share of life's opportunities - that they're human and it's only fair, should be enough... fictional females don't need to be good or virtuous or admirable to be entitled to half of the space in stories our culture tells about itself to itself. All they need is to be visible."

This, to me, all presents a quite depressing, sullied, albeit realistic reflection, of women of where women are at. Need it be that way? Need we settle for this? Do we lie down and go to sleep like Beauty? Who or what is to awake us from this slumber, induced by life's hardships? Shouldn't we keep a sister from falling as well as helping her up when she stumbles? Perhaps what's needed less is a feminist revolution, more a spiritual one?

"We need to enlarge our perception of femininity," writes Elissa Macpherson, a writer who supports a Christian volunteer group that ministers to orphans and slum children. "We need to challenge ideas about how a woman should behave and the limitations that come with that. We need to learn from fierce women like Jael (Judges 4:17-22). Her only job seemed to be providing food and a clean bed. She was a woman who was dangerously underestimated because she was a woman. This was a woman not afraid to smack a tent peg through her enemy's head. We need to present models of women who served God with aggression, leadership, outspokenness, strength and ingenuity...

We [Christians] are called not to conform to the standards of this world. Revolutionaries reject both the sexual commodity model of Lady-goo-goo-ga-ga and the mother-madonna-domestic-goddess prototypes. But neither do dangerous daughters conform to plastic icons of religious womanhood. The woman of God doesn't need a spiritual finishing school churning out passive church woman clones. She needs to know how to wield the sword of truth. She needs to be equipped to take to the battlefields of hell, knowing suffering and sacrifice is part of the deal...

We live in a time that rejects the premise that we are made in the image of God. Instead, gods are made in our own image. We create a God to reflect our values, our perceptions, our prejudices and our experiences. We construct a God that serves us. This is the god of our psyches; Oprah style. These are tame gods, a domesticated construct we keep on a leash. This god keeps us comfortable and in control...

Encounters with the one true God are exhilaratingly dangerous. God overturns our delusions that we are in control; our foolish demands that God answers to us. When we begin to grasp the might and majesty of God, we develop a fearless faith... There is no greater revolutionary for the Kingdom of God than the one who has nothing to lose because she has already surrendered it all. A dangerous daughter knows who she is in Christ; she has answered the call on her life with conviction. She rejects the limits imposed by standards of the world. She can stand boldly and repeat, 'I am free'!"

As Ellen-Maree writes in 'Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad bin Laden Wolf', "Fairy tales are more than true — not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten." And the same can be said for the Bible.

Now, that's a fearless feminism I'd like to sign up for.

Girl With a Satchel


Anonymous said...

I think it's interesting that you felt a bit unsettled by Yumi's comments. I like the idea - that we not blame our 'not doing things' on someone or an age we're at etc etc. But I don't like this idea that we will ever reach a perfect age or once we make 'one' decision we reach this halcyon time where all our goals are met.
Life is one big long crazy ride and full of ups and downs - and that's the beauty. And for many many people - some extremely successful - the biggest times of learning and growth came when things weren't 'good' in a material/worldly way.
I also don't agree that we can control everything -yes you do your best but as someone who lost a number of relatives very very suddenly (and has therefore 'lost' almost 19 months to a very weird time of grief), sometimes you've just got to go with it. It's not like I can go around all guns blazing putting on my best face to the world.
Maybe this is why i prefer stories of real women who succeed despite/through/because of their humanity and failures. I find it more comforting and real...There was a beautiful story in the Saturday Herald Sun written by a guy who lost his mother suddenly and i found myself really beautifully inspired that he was cooking himself meals and having happy celebrations a couple of years on. he managed to be happy again! That's real achievement to me. Maybe my perspective of 'success' is different to others'!