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13th Jul 2016

Dear Jennifer (and all women)

Cassie Delaney

This week I was having dinner with two friends who happen to be two of the most successful and beautiful women I know.

As it usually does with female friends, conversation quickly turned to clothes and from clothes to bodies and from bodies to general self-loathing.

We each participated.

I hate my tummy, always have. I’m not a fan of my teeth either and am willing one day to fork over a lot of money to change them. They each hated their arms, my house mate hates her nose, my mom hates her neck and I’ve never met someone who had something positive to say about their thighs.

I’m not overstating these two friends. They’re each stunning in their own right, and intimidatingly successful. One has a job that hundreds would covet and has risen through the ranks of her career at an unprecedented speed. The other is fronting a massive national campaign that has received global attention.

And we sat there, talking about arms.

Today Jennifer Aniston articulated the subconscious agreement all women enter into. The ‘agreement’ is an unwritten standard of expectations for all women. Women must be skinny, quiet, dainty, successful but not overly successful, they must get married, have children and then bounce back to being skinny.

We enforce these expectations on each other. We wonder why our single friends are single, we wonder when our loved up friends will get married and we ask when our married friends will have children.

We enforce these expectations on ourselves. We strive for thigh gaps, longer legs, flatter tummys and of course, toned arms.

Throughout my career I’ve met and interviewed dozens of incredible women. Beautiful women, women I admire and women who’s success I try to emanate. I remember snippets of most of these interviews but the most poignant moment I had was when speaking to a survivor of an eating disorder. She was talking about her girlfriend and spoke passionately about what she admired most in her, gushing over her kindness, her intelligence and her wit. She was a confident speaker, but when I asked her why she admired those traits in a partner but hated herself purely on physical attributes, she was speechless.

In fairness, it’s a question I can’t answer either.

Beauty is a double-edged sword – what we admire in others is rarely what we strive for in ourselves.

Aniston called for an end to this subconscious agreement, she pleas for a conscious attempt to re-evaluate beauty and to change the currency through which we value a woman’s worth.

She want’s to change the record and so do we.

Of course, it’s easy to buy into the agreement. We’ve got a lot of work to do to change things. We’re surrounded by unrealistic standards of beauty, we’ve evolved to be voyeuristic and we’re guilty of speculating.

But Jesus we’ve got to be sounder to each other and ourselves. We need to be a sisterhood.

I need to tell my friends that they have fucking great arms. That I’m amazed at each of them and that it astounds me what they’re capable of.

I need to say sorry to Jennifer Aniston for caring that she might be pregnant and say that generally she’s just a total badass and I fucking loved Cake.

I want a flatter tummy but I also want to be a better woman, a better friend, and a smarter journalist. I want to write for the women I admire, write about the women I admire and radiate support.

So thanks Jen, sign me up for the new agreement.