Your Body

What’s The Deal With Ideal Beauty?

By October 15, 2015 0

Beauty can be stressful in a woman’s life. We are fed information about this “ideal beauty” that women strive for. But what is this ideal beauty people seem to be talking about? The standard of beauty changes constantly and society only has a small amount of time to catch up with these changes.

Beauty is in the same category as consumerism. If it weren’t for the advertising of products and the forcing of only having specific sizes and cuts, there wouldn’t be as much focus on appearance. Gender studies professor Joan Jacobs Brumberg states, “This elaboration of the ideal beauty raised expectations about what adolescent girls should look like. It also required them to put even more energy and resources into their body projects, beginning at an earlier age.”

As early as 1913, clothing products were forcing young girls and women to think about their shapes and sizes when they only had certain types of stitching to fit the body. With a limited amount of sizes to choose from, the maintenance of women’s bodies began to become more prevalent, whether it was going on a diet to fit a dress or doing chest exercises to create a larger bust line. When advertisers saw this new trend, they immediately began focusing all their attention on female insecurities or as Brumberg puts it, “The bodies of adolescent girls had the potential to deliver considerable profit.”

With this profit, there needed to be an appealing storyline behind it. Women and girls needed to have that desire to go out and buy these products; to become more attractive, more beautiful, more feminine and sexier. Organizations fed off of this desire and correlated these products with sexuality. That is why we see young girls today who wear bikinis to the beach or try to become the female characters on television that are known for being skinny, long-haired, and soft-skinned. As children we didn’t know any better: fantasy was reality.

“We learned that our value is in our sex appeal, that our worth is in our size-2 jeans. We were all raised to believe that, for women, thin, and pretty are synonymous and if you’re neither you may as well not exist. Brains are irrelevant. Beauty reigns supreme.” – Marni Grossman

A clear-cut example of control over women: women who endure genital mutilation have no control over both their sexuality and bodies. Those who accept this practice don’t see the harm and hurt these women go through. They try to justify this procedure so women can’t run off and commit adultery. Why don’t the men have a similar process so they don’t do the same thing? Removing a woman’s pleasure and comfort is seen as “A badge of honor—one that grants women a place in society,” says Abby Haglage in her article on West Africa FGM (female genital mutilation).

In the age of print, women have grown up with images and discourse that define these representations of meaning. But this idea of beauty changes in different regions of the world. For example, the West strives to be skinny and tan, while East Asians want to be fair-skinned and wide-eyed. What is seen as beautiful completely depends on the culture.

But who controls this idea of beauty? Who made it so that women are controlled by their appearance?

Professor Minh-Ha T. Pham suggests that “If fashion has been used to introduce new ways of expressing womanhood, it also has been a tether that keeps women’s social, economic and political opportunities permanently attached to their appearances.”

These images and ideas that are being sold to women across the world manipulate our perspectives on what beauty is. The value of beauty is determined by the representation that is relayed to us on a daily basis. The social issue of controlling women through their bodies needs to be addressed, although it will be difficult to change since consumerism is extremely powerful, especially in the Western world.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to strive to be the best you can, both physically and intellectually. But it is wrong not to look at yourself and be content with what you see in the mirror.