I Am Still Here
Paying more attention to looks than men is often a performance of femininity, since it stems from the notion that women's value lies in their appearance. Our gender is performative and definitely culturally formed.
As we conform to this act — this role playing — we also embody the title and the value our gender has. Seeing my mother while growing up, I became very aware of the insecurities we as women have and how they’re increasing as we age. Now at 63 years old, my mother feels she has to be more conservative than ever before. The beliefs she has about being a woman are tightly connected to the age and the time she lived her youth in.
SM: How do you feel in your body at your age?
Ljubov: I’m 63 years old. I do think my body is nice for my age. I like to look in the mirror and put myself nice and go out to be seen. It feels nice. But on bad days I do reflect on my body not being beautiful enough. I think I have too many wrinkles. Wrinkles on men are acceptable, but women don’t have the freedom. I am aware that I think like this, but it’s difficult to change these beliefs.
I would love to be a woman who wouldn’t care how they look, or how people depict me. But that is not true. I think about it all the time.
SM: How has your childhood affected your way of seeing yourself?
Ljubov: My mother and sister were women who did put effort in their looks and I do remember seeing them looking into the mirror a lot. And I see myself becoming similar as well.
But it was something that was definitely a norm, and now you can have the option to do differently.
Now theres a lot more women not wearing makeup. I could not do it, since I still do believe a woman needs to look good and fresh and makeup does just that.
SM: Do you think women and men are capable to do the same things in our society?
Ljubov: I think its both. Work-wise, I do think there’s jobs that only men can do — like physical work. But family and domestic issues are for both sexes.
SM: Do you think it could or should be changed to make it more equal?
Ljubov: No. And why should it? It’s how it is. We are different from each other and I don’t see no reason to change it.
SM: When does a woman lose their beauty?
Ljubov: Growing up you have to put more effort in looking good, just because of the fact that you are young. Just being young makes you look beautiful. But if you have been blessed with a strong facial features, you can look beautiful at an older age too. I believe the face is more important than the body, because the body you can hide.
Beauty is always the most important thing. Life will be easier for you.
Photography by Sonya Mantere.
Sonya Mantere is a visual artist from Finland, currently based in the Netherlands. I am still here is the visual storytelling of her mother’s relationship with her beauty, her body, and the perceptions of aging.