How many times have you heard this word to describe some fabulous and possibly iconic female who we are all encouraged to aspire to?
I have heard many people described as ‘effortless’ over the years. Almost exclusively female, always glamorous and beautiful and held up as role model types...I am talking about Marylen Munroe, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Julia Roberts, Emma Watson, Beyoncé, the Dutches of Cambridge, the list goes on. Often described as ‘an effortless beauty’ or ‘effortlessly glamorous’ or ‘with effortless magnetism,’ that sort of thing.
Now, I am not suggesting that these women are not fitting of the adjectives used to describe them. Beautiful, glamorous, successful and charismatic these women may be (or have been), the word I take to task, is; ‘effortless.’ Are these things really effortless? Really? Because I would argue, that a person who wears Channel No.5 to bed, is making way more effort then is nessacery. I mean, I often forget to put perfume on for work, let alone bed, and it’s unlikely to be such an expensive perfume at that.
Why do we hold up ‘effortless’ as something to aspire to anyway? As I get older, I am learning that anything worth doing, or worth having, takes effort. So why do we suggest that effortless is such a positive thing?
I remember, growing up, feeling like it was very (very, like, very very) uncool to look like you had put any sort of effort in. A bright read face or a bit of sweat would cause the school nasties to throw a few insults your way. The super cool people at school, of course, never broke a sweat or turned bright pink. They always seemingly finished homework in about 15 seconds flat and never had to ask for help or jut got stuck. They always were amazing at art or dance or music, and never had to practice to improve or spend extra time perfecting things-it was always, effortless, and if you were the person putting in extra effort there was a degree of sniggering or somehow looking down on you. Of course, I realise in hindsight that these people must have been practicing somehow, they just never mentioned it so no one ever knew, because that would change their status.
Needless to say, I was not one of those super cool people. I had to work, hard, to be good at anything, and sometimes, genuinely, I did that extra hard work in secret too, because it was better then admiting you had to really work at it to be successful at something.
I don’t know, but I suspect this may be a female thing. Growing up, I feel like the boys were ok to try hard. In fact, the muddier or sweatier the boys got playing sports, it seamed, the more others admired them. I don’t know about academically, but certainly when it came to sports it was totally cool, applauded even, for the boys to put proper effort in. Not so with the girls-a sweaty girl is not a cool girl. The poised, perfectly turned out, calm, unflapable, effortless girls were the cool ones, the admirable ones.
Maybe the reverse is true for boys, maybe it would be ‘uncool’ for boys to put in the effort academically, and maybe that is part of the achievement gap we sometimes see in schools between boys and girls, but I’m not sure. I am a female, so I can’t speak for what it is like to grow up male.
My experience is what I can speak of, and as such, I wonder why we do this? I do not think my experience of this is unique, so why do we, culturally, feed this idea, that women, and therefore girls, are supposed to be these effortless beings? That to be seen to put in lots of effort makes women less capable?
One of the very hardest things about starting this health and fitness journey I have been on, is getting over the idea of people seeing how slow I run, how out or breath I get, how sweaty and red and blotchy I get. Being out in public even, with no make up, having pictures taken in leggings, with fat bouncing around, running slower then most and really having to work really hard to do even that...all these mortifying things have been harder to get my head around due to the fact that, to be a ‘proper’ (for want of a better word) female, I am supposed to be ‘effortless’ in all I do.
I am having to force myself into changing this attitude, and I didn’t think it was that engrained in me. I’m not afraid of hard work, I’m just not supposed to let anyone see me doing it.
Well I’m calling this nonsense out. Do we really think that these women we call ‘effortless’ got to look or dress or act how they do with no effort? Do we really believe that when we watch things like the Oscars or the Baftas, these talented red carpet women put no effort into how they look, or how they work to earn these awards? Do we really believe these women are effortless, as they are so often described in these instances? Of course they are not! Quite the reverse, I suspect.
So, I will continue to admire women who are admirable, be inspired by insperational people, but I will no longer buy into the label of ‘effortless.’ These women are fabulous and they put in lots of effort...or, these women are fabulous because they put in the effort...that’s more like it!