Archive for August, 2012

Coercion to Conversationa

August 31, 2012

Through reading Scheherazade Goes West, I have discovered that relationships are the most important form of education. The most vibrant and meaningful arena in human life is the relational arena: other people pervade our thoughts, help us make sense of our place in the world, and give our lives meaning. Our lives thrive or wither depending on the state of our relationship to God, to others, and to ourselves. Mernissi opens readers up to a deeper level of life by encouraging readers to stretch themselves beyond pursuing right relationships with those immediately around them to pursuing relationships with those who are usually considered “the other”. By unveiling a Muslim perspective of women, and a Muslim perspective of the Western perspective of women, Mernissi provides a strong case for pursuing dialogue across gender and culture boundaries.

In the first chapter of Mernissi’s book, she writes that “to learn from travel, one must train oneself to capture messages. ‘You must cultivate isti’dad, the stae of readiness'” (3). Mernissi is quickly compelled to cultivate readiness as she discovers differences between her own experience with harems and the Western perception of harems. She writes, “Westerners had their harem and I had mine, and the two had nothing in common” (14). As Mernissi struggles to learn how Westerners view the harem, she models the state of readiness and receiving. She listens to Western men and women with empathy and openness, even when their perspective is shocking to her. By traveling along this journey of understanding with her, I learned the insight that can come from such a state of openness.

As Mernissi better understands the Western harem, she sheds light on ways that my culture has demeaned women and shut out their perspective. As Mernissi watches a ballet of Scheherazade, she writes, “To my surpries, the ballet’s Scheherazade lacked the most powerful erotic weapon a woman has–her nutq, or capacity to think in words and penetrate a man’s brain by using carefully selected terms” (38). In sum, the Western Scheherazade is “skin-deep, cosmetic, and superficial” (74). Mernissi grows surprised at this skin-deep Western conception of sexuality, because it completely ignores an essential feminine feature: the intellect. Mernissi discovers that this conception of sexuality stems from one of the West’s most revered thinkers: Immanuel Kant. “Kant’s ideal woman was speechless.” She writes, “For not only does great knowledge wipe out a woman’s charm, according to Kant, but exhibiting such knowledge kills femininity altogether” (91). Basically, Mernissi discovers that men in Western society have stripped women of dignity for centuries, ignoring their intellect and reducing them to a body and face.

This perspective surprises Mernissi, because while certain Muslims throughout history certainly have repressed women, that repression stems from a recognition that women are a force to be reckoned with, not from a belief that women are mindless trophies. The Muslim description of Scheherazade sharply contrasts the Western view of her as a purely carnal seductress: “Scheherazade has to master three strategic skills:” Mernissi explains, “control over a vast store of information, the ability to clearly grasp the criminal’s mind, and the determination to act in cold blood” (47). In the East, Scheherazade is not only beautiful, but also clever. She’s a woman with a plan and the intellectual capacity to carry out the plan. Mernissi further unveils the Muslim view of women as powerful and intelligent human beings when she discusses Muslim miniatures. These miniatures often painted women in dialogue with men, showing that each sex was equal and capable of contributing in conversation. They also often portrayed women doing things Westerners perceive as masculine, such as hunting tigers. These miniatures reveal a high view of feminine capability in Islam.

Hearing Mernissi’s perspective on the harem, and in that way engaging in dialogue with someone of a different gender and culture, I’ve gained a better perspective on how I believe women should be treated. I believe that all people are made in the image of God, and that in Christ, all people become new creations, capable of new depths of love and creativity and God transforms them. Unfortunately, the church has often ignored women or people they considered as “other”. I believe this is the opposite perspective of Christ. God would have us listen and respect all people, realizing that as we learn from them, we learn about God, about others, and about ourselves. Mernissi’s book has further convinced me of the importance of conversation in discovering more about the world, and about how we can better live as divine children. Mernissi writes, “Civilization will flourish when men learn to have an intimate dialogue with those closest to them, the women who share their beds” (51). I agree with this statement fully, and would extend it. I believe we will flourish more as people the more we have intimate dialogue with those we share all spaces with, from work to school to neighborhoods. Conversation is often the key to flourishing.

The Cultural Gap

August 31, 2012

Waking up this morning was somewhat of a shock to my system. I instantaniously realized that I had less than 24 hours before departing on the trip of a life time. Several emotions came to the forefront of my mind, excitement at the fact that I will be across the world immersed in a foreign culture , and nervousness because of the fact that I know I will be challenged both intellectually, emotionally, and even spiritually. After finishing Fatema Mernissi’s insightful narrative, Scheherazade Goes West, I realized that aptly describing its narrative to others was a task that I couldn’t fully accomplish. How do you sum up centuries of tradition, culture, and ideas? What I did accomplish in attempting to explain the premise of the book, is back myself into a sort of corner. As I described what Mernissi wrote, I felt as if I was left with the question “…and then what?”. How do we, as members of Western society, convey her dilemma to those who caused it?

Throughout Scheherazade Goes West, Fatema Mernissi was both thrilled and anxious to embark on her intellectual journey, crossing cultural borders in order to delve into the minds of the Western world. She almost immediately realized that no matter how she feels like she was prepared to begin her journey, the cultural gap startled her. One challenge that   she faced was the fact that human nature consists of a certain pride that many believe they have it all figured out. Page 25 of Scheherazade is riddled with Mernissi’s reflections that alight upon her personal realization that “we Muslims know very little about Westerners as human beings,” and she “had skinned him of his humanism.” The main offense to which we are all guilty is the void that remains where love and respect has the ability flourish, but is opressed. She claims that “the most obvious form of barbarianism [is]: the lack of respect for the foreigner” (25).

The farther into the book I got, the more I began to associate myself with Mernissi. Just as she struggled with feeling out of place in Western settings, my nervous feelings related to the same thought. Will I stand out? Is everyone going to judge me?

I try to eradicate these feelings because again, I am on the verge of discovery. The cultural gap that stands between our cultures is more than surmountable on a personal level. The West has perceived Islamic females as suppressed and vulnerable. Vulnerable. Mernissi not only disproves the latter assumption, but obliterates it. Throughout the traditional stories she recounts in her narrative, strength and power is at a woman’s disposal while it is the male who falls prey to his own vulnerability. The intellect and knowledge that a woman in Islam possesses is what conquers men. This cross-genderal difference that Mernissi mentions is bridged by the understanding that respect and love is accomplished by shedding the assumption that one fully knows about the other because, “to love is to learn about crossing the line to meet the challenge of the difference” (175). Just as man and women are different, they compliment each other much like in Muslim culture where males dominate the public space and women the private. Women are valued equally to men in Islam and have even been given immense power in the stories of Scheherazade.

The issues remains, if this is true, than why does this horrendous gap remain between our cultures and what do we do about it? It comes down again to love and respect. Just as it is possible between genders, I believe that it is possible between cultures. One fact exists in both the East and West, “Falling in love is about crossing boundaries and taking risks” (174). Fatema Mernissi, though timid and confused about the misunderstanding between the cultures realizes that even as these cultures are immensely different, they cause us to appreciate our own. Mernissi, in crossing the boundaries to discover and understand another culture, has shown me that my upcoming experience will be my opportunity to travel into a foreign culture and bridge the gap.

 

Perspectives on Traveling, Strangers and Self-Confidence

August 30, 2012

Scheherazade Goes West was a great book to read before setting off on our amazing adventure. I am completely excited, but behind all my excitement I have also been extremely nervous. I have had the opportunity to travel internationally before but then it was to the British Isles, where the main language is english and the cultures are similar to our own. But to travel to Spain and especially Morocco the cultures are going to be completely different and I can’t speak that great of Spanish. Scheherazade Goes West helped prepare my mindset to travel into a drastically different culture, it began to change my view on cross cultural travel from the first page.

On the first page Mernissi uses a quote from her grandmother, Yasmina, that has directed her mindset when facing a culture or people that she does not understand; “To travel is the best way to learn and empower yourself. . . You must focus on the strangers you meet and try to understand them. The more you understand a stranger and the greater is your knowledge of yourself , the more power you will have”. (Mernissi 1) This quote thrills me, it is so powerful and so true. It is full of the expectation and sense of adventure that comes with traveling and learning. The idea of meeting strangers and seeing them as a gateway to learning is how Mernissi acts throughout her journey in understanding the Western harem. She is continually looking at every situation, even one such as shopping for a skirt, as a way to expand herself and learn more about people that she finds difficult to understand.

Yasmina views the opportunity for understanding that is available in strangers and traveling so well without having had the freedom to travel. This is probably because she longed to travel and learn. For me, when I am in the middle of something, like traveling, I get so overwhelmed and would not normally view a stranger in any other way than a nameless face that I did not understand and continue on my way. Yasmina, never having the experience, but longing for it is able to see what I  would be too preoccupied and overwhelmed to understand. I very likely would pass on a conversation with a stranger, not knowing what new understanding I would be missing. This, I have decided to make a goal for our trip, to embrace Yasmina’s quote, to engage in conversations with an expectation of gaining knowledge and insight, and never pass by a chance to meet someone new.

In the last chapter of the book Mernissi was able to connect with us women of the Western Harem. Her self-confidence was torn away when shopping for a skirt and told that her hips were too wide and that there were no skirts in the store that would fit her. When Mernissi discusses self-confidence I loved the truth in how she viewed it; ” I realized early on that self-confidence is not a tangible and stable thing like a silver bracelet that never changes over the years. Self-confidence is like a tiny fragile light, which goes off and on. You have to replenish it constantly”. (Mernissi 211)

Mernissi is a college professor, and an internationally published author, both of which seem the characteristics of a an extremely self-confident woman. All that it took to make her doubt herself was a skirt. She says that self-confidence is like a “tiny fragile light which goes off and on” (Mernissi 211), we all have that one thing that makes us doubt ourselves, that turns it off. For me it is shopping for jeans. Without fail when I go jeans shopping it makes me feel horrible about myself and that is the trap of the Western Harem that Mernissi found. The clothes manufacturers create clothes where the “norm” is not the average size of the buyer, instead they force us to feel that we are the wrong and must change ourselves to better fit their idea of what size we should be. Catch me on a normal day and I will be feeling pretty good about myself, but when it takes trying on seven pairs of jeans to find one, mabey two pairs that fit well, my self-confidence is temporarily shattered. The Western Harem works by throwing off our self-confidence it makes us doubt ourselves and who we are. I am not just talking about jeans and clothes, but open up a magazine or turn on the TV and there is a bombardment of advertisements on how to “fix” our bodies. It is hard to become and stay strong, self-confident women when every direction we turn we are told that some part of ourselves is inadequate.

Mernissi builds up her self-confidence by telling herself, as well as her mother, who continually pointed our her flaws, that Allah made her this way, so “how could he be so wrong”. (Mernissi 211) I found this inspiring and wonderful, but even with this fantastic view, Western women receive very little to replenish our self-confidence compared to the onslaught of negative views our society places on us.

The Western Harem

August 30, 2012

I found Fatema Mernissi’s book Scheherazade Goes West fascinating because I learned dozens of new things from her comparison of feminist beauty in the East and the West.  The most significant piece of information I took from her work was simply how little we really know about cultures outside our own until we take the time to study it and immerse ourselves in it. Scheherazade Goes West made me feel truly blessed to have the opportunity to travel to Morocco, especially because Mernissi placed such a strong emphasis on travel and learning from foreigners. Mernissi states “travel helps you to figure out who you are and how your own culture controls you” (91). I discovered numerous ways that my culture has controlled me, creating false truths about the East, simply from reading Scheherazade Goes West. Therefore, I cannot wait to discover the reality of Eastern culture through experiencing Morocco first hand.

Beyond realizing and accepting how very little I know about culture in the East, Mernissi’s book shed new light onto how Western women have also been forced into a sort of harem by men and “the male gaze.” Before examining the ideas and evidence in Scheherazade Goes West I believed that all men, regardless of their global location, objectified women for the same reasons. However, Mernissi points out that “the second distinctive feature of the Western harem: Intellectual exchange with women is an obstacle to erotic pleasure” (26). This concept is repeated through Western artwork as well, which display vulnerable and passive harem women. Jacques tells Mernissi, “In my harem, I prefer my women to be totally nude, just like Ingres’s Grande Odalisque…Nude and silent—these are the two key qualities of my harem women” (106).  Mernissi acknowledges that harem paintings in the East depict a much different type of women.

Similarly to their miniature paintings, the tales of famous Eastern women describe strong, active and intelligent women. In fact these women, such as Tawaddud, rely on their intelligence and are praised by men for it; unlike women in the West, where men seem to want a women “with a paralyzed brain” (95). Mernissi quotes Kant’s words on educated women, “Laborious learning, even if a woman should greatly succeed in it, destroys the merits that are proper to her sex, and because of their rarity they can make her an object of cold admiration; but at the same time they will weaken the charms with which she exercises her great power over the other sex” (90). Kant’s ideas, which reflects the views of the Western world about femininity force women to choose between being beautiful and intelligent.

Through her interaction with Western men and culture, Mernissi discovers that men in the East are attracted to an entirely different type of woman than men in the West (generally speaking). Men in the East trap women in harems because they realize that they are intelligent and potentially dangerous; these men are aware that the women are capable of disturbing the culture and economy. However, it seems that in the West men desire a women who is somewhat brainless. They have created a particular image of what makes a woman beautiful, and intelligence is not a part of that image. Mernissi concludes that men in both cultures, the East and the West, have trapped women in harems, so to speak, but in different ways and for different reason.

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I thoroughly enjoyed how Mernissi concluded her work by retelling her shopping experience in New York City. As a Western woman, I’m used to being told that to be beautiful is to be thin. But it never really occurred to me that physical beauty is of less importance in other parts of the world, because it is so essential in the world I’ve grown up in. Before going shopping in New York, Mernissi wasn’t aware that she wasn’t the ideal size, or that her weight could make her less attractive to people. She told the saleswomen, “I come from a country where there is no size for women’s clothes” (212). But here in the West, women are more than aware of their size and weight everyday. I thought to myself that it must be very freeing not to have to worry about what size of clothing you wear, not having to spend hundreds of dollars on make-up, and not feeling that it is necessary to spend most of the morning trying to make yourself look appealing. While I feel that our society has moved past Kant’s idea, that the idea women is silent and uneducated, I do see how Western women are still forced to subscribe to certain ideas of what makes them beautiful. Mernissi says it perfectly, “the threat [her words] implied was so cruel that I realized for the first time that maybe ‘size 6’ is a more violent restriction imposed on women than is the Muslim veil” (213). In some respects, women in the East are freer than women in the West because the male gaze has put Western women in an invisible harem, without physical barriers but nevertheless very oppressive.

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Beauty is the Beast: Women in a Western Harem

August 27, 2012

           In less than one week I will be in the air on my way to Spain and Morocco. I can not believe that this trip is finally about to happen. Though I have been to other parts of the world such as Norway, England, Mexico, Argentina, and Thailand, I feel as though this trip (especially the two weeks in Morocco) will be one of the biggest culture shocks that I will have ever encountered in my life (so far). I have been raised in a Western culture with only a few instances of seeing a different way of life. I am excited to submerge myself into a different culture but with this also comes many anxieties and fears. One way that I was able to understand the culture that I am about to go into is by reading Scheherazade Goes West by Fatema Mernissi. This book discussed the differences and misconceptions that the West had about the East and visa versa.

          Scheherazade Goes West primarily focuses on the true Eastern harem compared to the false views in which many Westerner’s see the harem. She looks at the history of the tales of Scheherazade in The One Thousand and One Nights as well as its flawed translations for the Western and Christian public. She also looks at other cultural influences in the West such as ballet, fashion, and artists which depicted the East and its harems as foreign and erotic lands where men imprisoned women for their own sexual pleasure and which are still stuck in the past. She looks at many paintings by French artists such as Turkish Bath by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres which depicts many nude odalisques (slave women in a harem) relaxing sensually in a bath. This is almost comical for Mernissi who knows that this sort of sensuality would never be found in a Muslim bath house. These women are frozen in this false Eastern Harem for all time. However, she makes an interesting observation in the last chapter of her book: Western women are frozen in their own, equally captive, harem.

             When Fatema is shopping for a skirt in New York City, she is humiliated when she is told that she is simply too big to find any clothes in the particular department store she was shopping at. She is used to making her own clothes back home in Morocco and confesses that she doesn’t even know what size she is. The clerk goes on to explain that sizes 4 and 6 are the norm and that she needed a 14 or 16. Mernissi then notices that the clerk is in her late 50’s (the same age as herself) but looks more like a teenager to due her thin physique, stylish clothes, and excessive amount of makeup. She then comes to the realization that men in the East use space to trap women whereas men in the West uses time to trap women. In the East, men exclude women from the public area to show their dominance whereas Western men create difficult standards of beauty to exclude women. The clerk, though she was in her upper fifties, looked like she was in her teens or twenties due to the fact that she was required to be a size 6 or lower to keep her job. When the ideal image of beauty is thin and young, it causes mature and heavy-set women to be cast out. She concludes that the youthful view of beauty in the West is similar to the extremist Muslim countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia who force women to veil. Though both of these systems restrict women, she personally feels that telling women that being size 6 is the only way they will be seen as beautiful is more restrictive than forcing women to veil in public. One of her final thoughts is what it would be like if these extreme countries switched from forcing women to veil to forcing women to stay a size 6 or under and she thanks Allah for not letting her live in the “tyranny of the ‘size 6 harem'” (219).

The Most Obvious Form of Barbarism

August 27, 2012

Two years from now, I will be able to say, “I spent a month in Spain and Morocco.” I will also have an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education in hand. Each day, my professors open my mind to new perspectives and shed light on histories that I never knew existed. It is through these professors that I’ve formed my own teaching philosophy: a goal of sorts. In my classroom, students will learn about cultures outside of their own. Through this, my hope is to aid in forming a generation of people who will respect one another by means of understanding.

Five days from now, I’ll be on a plane heading to a part of the world I never thought I’d get to explore. To prepare for this trip abroad, I read Fatema Mernissi’s Scheherazade Goes West. It was as early as chapter two of the book that I was able to draw a connection between my trip abroad and my future as an educator. Mernissi, a Muslim woman, states, “…[W]e Muslims know very little about Westerners as human beings, as bundles of contradictory hopes and yearning, unfulfilled dreams. If we could see Westerners as vulnerable, we would feel closer to them” (Mernissi 25). She admitted in the following sentences that Westerners have been somewhat dehumanized by Muslims and that prevents them from becoming close to each other. It isn’t because Muslims are arrogant, but simply because they think they already fully understand Westerners, seeing as their lives are so heavily influenced by the West (24). It’s just like the West has a collective view of Muslims. How petty of us all, to judge what we don’t really understand.

Later in the book, Mernissi goes to Paris. She dines at a French restaurant with her editor, Christiane, and finds it to be as pretentious as she’d been warned. She recalls, “As I entered the restaurant, I felt as if I were stepping into a very exclusive French household whose rituals I was likely to violate, just because I came from another culture” (181). Mernissi did not feel welcomed by the aristocrats seated around her at all. In fact, she was belittled by them and assumed inferior based on her outward appearances. To those French aristocrats, there was absolutely no fathomable way that this Moroccan woman could ever fit into their high society. When Christiane walked in, however, the people greeted her with looks of admiration. Why? Because Mernissi wore bangles and colors as opposed to her more refined French colleague? Again, the idea of judging what we don’t understand comes full circle. This is the type of thing I want to prevent in my future classroom.

These quotes tie together the essential ideas of Mernissi because her whole book is about discovering why two opposing cultures have contrasting views on women. To do this, she had to immerse herself in a culture that she thought she already understood. She discovered early on that “the most obvious form of barbarism [is] the lack of respect for the foreigner” (25). Respect is the first step to understanding; how I wish the rest of the world could realize this.

Crossing the Boundry into a New Culture

August 27, 2012

I have always loved to travel. From the time I was 7 years old and my family moved half way around the world to Nairobi, Kenya, I have enjoyed the experience of coming in contact with a life style completely different from my own. There is something deeply satisfying about getting out of your comfort zone and embracing and emerging yourself in completely new surroundings. Some of my best experiences and memories I have are from traveling, so when the opportunity to go on a trip to Spain and Morocco arose I knew I wanted to go. I have never been to a country with a culture quite like the one I am about to experience and am thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of the daily life in Morocco. While preparing for my trip this summer I read Scheherazade Goes West. I knew I would enjoy the book when on the first page it said, “To travel is the best way to learn and empower yourself” (Mernissi 1). This quote so elegantly summarized why traveling is such a deep and profound experience. When you are in a completely new culture and everything around you is unfamiliar you learn things about yourself. You come to realize just how much your home culture shapes who you are and how much of the world you do not understand and have not experienced. Not only do you learn about the culture you are immersed in but your own life and culture at home.  Mernissi knows from her own travel that you can learn a lot about your life by seeing how others live. While she is on her book tour she is able to make observations about how the west perceives harems and daily life in Morocco. While speaking with people from a variety of backgrounds she comes to realizations about her own culture and how every culture has their own personal harem.

Amidst the packing and excitement of preparing for a trip abroad I have also had time to get nervous and worry about what exactly I will encounter while in Spain and Morocco. The book makes clear the cultural gap between the Arab world and my own American world. While the idea of experiencing a culture completely different from my own excites me it also terrifies me. I know that I will not have the simple familiar things that I have at home. No Starbucks around the corner or the convenience of speaking the same language as everyone around me. So when I read Fatema Mernissis remark that “travel is not about fun but about learning, about crossing boundaries and mastering the fear of strangers, about making the effort to understand other cultures and thereby empowering yourself. Travel helps you figure out who you are and how your own culture controls you” (90), I was greatly encouraged. This quote reminded me that at times the trip will be hectic and exhausting; however, it is not all about having fun. While traveling I learn about the world and even myself. In those times that I feel completely overwhelmed and out of place I know that it is all part of the experience and of learning about and embracing a new culture. I greatly enjoyed how Mernissi talked about how much of one’s culture shapes how they view the World and while studying abroad I hope to be able to understand another cultures background and what makes them see the world the way they do. While Mernissi’s book was just a first step in my experience I believe it has helped prepare me for these next few weeks abroad.

 

  

A New Perspective: Intelligence and Beauty

August 27, 2012

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Over the last few months I have been dreaming and thinking about this upcoming adventure to Spain and Morocco. It will be my first time traveling internationally, I have tons of borrowed expectations from others, but still I have no idea what to expect. I started to think about the academic side of the trip and felt a bit overwhelmed. I have never been the best at grammar or writing in general, so eight credits in a writing class felt a little intimidating. Sometimes I feel as if my knowledge is not as deep as others, at times I feel inadequate. However, reading Fatema Mernissi’s book Scheherazade Goes West, a small quote changed my perspective, Mernissi at this point is speaking of the fact that she had never read Immanuel Kant’s work: “Since I never lie in order to hide my ignorance, because to do so is to miss a fantastic opportunity for learning, I confessed bravely that I have never read him” (89). The way that Mernissi looks at ignorance as the chance to know is beautiful. All that we don’t know, we are able to learn, each new piece of information has the power to change our mindsets, attitudes and outlook on life!  Learning is in fact a fantastic opportunity, a gift indeed. I have turned my feelings of being inadequate, into a position of open arms-ready to receive the gift of learning. I am prepared to soak in facts, knowledge, history and perspectives, in order to widen and expand my world view.

The entire concept of Scheherzade Goes West and Mernissi’s in depth study of the harem in the East versus the West was quite fascinating. The final chapter, Size 6: The Western Woman’s Harem, wrapped up the book so nicely and at the same time left your jaw dropping to the floor from all that she uncovers. She proposes that the Muslim veiling when forced as a political statement is equal to the standard of “size 6” for women in western culture-both are imposed restrictions. Mernissi suggests that the western man is in charge of time and light, and he has declared that to be young is to be beautiful. This western idea enforces Immanuel Kant’s view on women “to be beautiful women have to appear childish and brainless. When a woman looks mature and self assertive, or allows her hips to expand, she is condemned as ugly. Thus the walls of the European Harem separate youthful beauty from ugly maturity”. (214) This idea that youthfulness is the definition of beauty is terribly limiting and just plain wrong. In this way western men are “veiling” mature, older women in “shrouds of ugliness” (214).

Reading the final chapter made me think about the cosmetic industry and how much the idea that “youthfulness equals beauty” is imbedded deep within its DNA. There are thousands of products on the market that promise renewed skin, the look of youth and for wrinkles to disappear. Each and every one of these products support the ideal that youth is beauty and vice versa. This beauty ideal is unrealistic and so restricting, it states that one is only able to find beauty within the certain mold that the western man has created. Once again I believe this is wrong, there is so much beauty to find in a mature woman’s wisdom, her wide hips which gave way to life and the lines and wrinkles that lie on her face.

So why do women try to erase these lines and wrinkles with crèmes, serums and even to the extreme with surgery? These products promise to take ones face back to the time of their youth, when they once felt beautiful. But I say that there is tremendous beauty within those wrinkles. The lines around your mouth tell the story of all the times there was joy and laughter in your life. The sunspots whisper of the sweet rays of sun that kissed your face every summer. Faint lines encasing each eye speak of the emotions and expressions you exhibited day in and day out. The wrinkles, the lines, the spots are all trying to tell of the adventures, laughing, crying and the life that you have lived. The ideal of youthfulness has warped the definition of beauty. It has caused the western women to try and fit into the size 6 mold while her face is trying to proudly proclaim the life she has lived, while she is focused on erasing it. Now it is up to women, are we going to take this beauty standard and try to continuously run back into the days of youth? Or are we going to take a stand and proclaim that there is beauty in each stage of life and act, consume and live in a manner that supports that statement?