Challenging Women’s Beauty Standards in America
Beauty standards need to be abolished.
Americans are obsessed with the youthful woman. The woman who’s glowing and polished, hairless, and flawless. Too often, what it takes to achieve this physical stature is largely overlooked. Women will end up cutting themselves in sensitive places to please another. They will suffer through while every single pubic hair is ripped from their skin in order to avoid negative labels like “bushy” that brand them undesirable. They will tweeze and shave every “excess” hair that isn’t confined to the top of their head or the “structure” of their brow. They will bare the uncomfortable itch of the regrowth. This isn’t a pretty topic of discussion, but these aren’t one time occurrences. Every time the hair becomes visible, the pressure to get back to waxing and hacking away at it again gnaws at the woman’s psyche. And then they learn what nobody tells you… all that hair is going to grow back thicker.
Beauty standards obviously don’t start or stop with body hair. Women are made to feel insecure if they carry too much weight, and just as bad if they carry too little. Skinny and fat are both pejoratives that have the power to disarm anyone the words are aimed at. With the rise of technology, we are constantly bombarded with images that set the standard for beauty. Not only is that standard of European descent, with sharply angled faces, perfect symmetry, and light skin, but it is not inclusive of reality. Behind every image of a woman on a magazine cover is a team of hair stylists, clothing stylists, creative directors, lighting assistants, makeup artists, and someone behind a computer slimming down this body feature and accentuating another. There are no warning labels saying that this woman’s image is entirely manufactured. There’s nothing that says that all of this “beauty” is a facade.
I know, I know. “Just love yourself. Love yourself as you are.” What nobody explains is how to love yourself as you are when you are not what’s loved by the world we live in. “Love yourself! Make it big! (But you’ll never make it big here.) You can be beautiful to you, but you’ll never be beautiful to us.” Look at the crap above. That woman is engineered!
The issue is not just about the beauty standard for women, but it’s also about the double standard for men and the idea of gender roles. “Oh no, you can’t have hair there because that’s only for men.” What is NOT only for men?! “You’re a lady, you need to shave those legs.” We are not barbies. We are not made of plastic where the hair follicles are strategically poked into the skull. The majority of women do not have bodies that are representative of the perfectly imagined woman based on a man’s perception of sexuality.
Women will subject themselves to physical pain just to meet the youthful – and unrealistic – beauty standards set by society.
Women are dismissed for being overweight. They’re stigmatized by having to shop in the “plus size” section. They’re ashamed to try on clothes in a boutique because they know that they won’t fit into the largest size available and don’t want to experience the shame that follows. Let’s not even talk about the body image issues women experience after giving birth. Stretch marks, wider hips, thicker thighs, less perky breasts. In a stand up comedy skit, Katt Williams shunned the idea that stretch marks are a negative feature, “if you got stretch marks it means one of two things, either your ass was small and got big, or your ass was big and got small. Either way we f****in, either way.”
Women have the tendency to obsess over their body image because they’re constantly bombarded with the “perfect” body image. How often are heavier women featured on magazine covers? How often are larger people featured in movies and television shows? More are seen as of late, but the stigma associated with anything less than perfect still exists. For goodness sake, women are still earning less than men for doing the same job. Some of us pile makeup on our faces so that can feel “ready” and “presentable” and be in our best state. I willfully admit that I am one of those people. The
So screw your beauty standards, America!
Fight the good fight, girls.
Love and light,