Tuesday, March 4, 2008

challenging the boys' club

I spent my afternoon at a snazzy salon, and was wonderfully reminded of just how much women are challenging traditional power-brokers and avenues of privilege.

As I enjoyed foot exfoliation and a cherry-red polish that could brighten any mood, I began to talk to an older woman across from me whom I would come to learn is a regular, and has been since the 60's.

While she waited for her nails to dry, she told me of her days working in the White House, the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, and of her adventures in the State Department--which took her to 40 countries around the world, a few in which she lived (Peru, Brussels, Costa Rica...). While she is formally retired, she now spends her days active in community work.

And then it hit me. This is the "boys' club" for women. Most powerful women, even with minimum levels of culturally sanctioned femininity, have groomed eyebrows and nails (just because they are nude does not mean they are not regularly manicured), sport expensive haircuts, and likely receive various skin and body treatments.

What does this mean? Powerful women with cash to spare and an appearance to maintain are in pricey salons schmoozing in between a cut and blow, after brows and before nails, and during whatever other interim period.

And no, I am not trying to suggest that all powerful, rich women are bleach-blond with long, Barbie-corvette-pink nails--but the truth of the matter is, that graceful brown shade on that woman in her late 40s? It has probably been chemically rejuvenated. For all the intense heat some heads incur from daily blowing/flat-ironing/whatever, that smooth shine is likely the result of extra-curricular conditioning and a gifted scissor. And as mentioned earlier, those short, perfectly rounded and "natural" nails have likely had their cuticles trimmed to say the least. Those thick, gorgeous eyebrows? Please--they've been cleaned.

What I'm saying is that if we as women regulate and alter our bodies to varying degrees on a continuous basis, we must and have begun to seize the opportunity to create networks and garner power among one another. The numbers of successful women are rising--and the more expensive the salon, the better.

Of course, this "women's club" has retained the crucial element of the "boys' club" that, aside from sexism, has preserved it as an elitist social hub--and that is class privilege.

Yes, powerful women may have a viable avenue to meet and mingle with other powerful women, but there are socio-economic dimensions to who is grooming what, how often, and where. And class, my friends, continues to divide women in ways that truly impede the movement.