Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it
The view from my house rn
Slaves to Beauty
Slaves to Beauty
Women have always been known to dedicate a lot of their time to beauty. Those who are devoted to their appearance most often believe that beauty brings power, popularity, and success. Women believe this, because they grow up reading magazines that picture beautiful women in successful environments; not to mention they idolize popular celebrities, who are often airbrushed, as role models. But the recent generations of women aren’t the only people to feel the chains of good looks; women all over the world and throughout history have struggled to conform to the ideals of beauty. For many women, success in life can only be achieved through attractiveness; therefore women become willing to sacrifice their bodies to achieve what society deems “beautiful”.
Concern with appearance is not just an characteristic of modern culture. Every period of history has had its own standards of what is attractive has its own distinctive concept of the ideal physical attributes. In the 19th Century being beautiful meant wearing a corset, causing breathing and digestive problems. Now we try to “diet and exercise ourselves into the fashionable shape, often with even more serious consequences.” The most difficult part about changing ones body for beauty is that alterations may cause the person to be considered ugly in another country.
In Ethiopia, the women of the Karo tribe wear scars on their stomachs meant to attract a husband. In Mauritania “being skinny is definitely not a sign of beauty”. Through a feeding tube, young girls are being force fed in order to fatten them up to be marriageable. Korean women are getting surgeries for permanent smiles. In Venezuela, breast augmentation is so widespread that it’s now a popular coming-of-age gift for quinceañeras (15th-birthday celebrations). Around the world, women continue to go to extreme measures in pursuit of “beauty.” The irony is that what’s considered “beautiful” or desirable in one culture is often the exact opposite in another.
Skin color, for instance, has different ideals of perfection. In the West, women expose their skin to harmful radiation and buy self-tanning products in pursuit of skin that’s “sun-kissed” and glowing. About a million people use tanning beds each day in the U.S., nearly 70 percent of them are young women ages 16 to 29. The market for sunless tanning products is big business, too, with one industry report estimating annual revenue in 2011 at $516 million. But for all this money and effort, this very same shade of skin would be undesirable in African, Asian, and Latin cultures.
As the tanning industry caters to Western ideas of beauty, there’s a flourishing business for making skin lighter in the rest of the world. In India alone, sales of skin-whitening creams are estimated at $400 million. These products are modern-day snake oils, which are mostly natural, but in some cases they can be toxic products that have led to serious, long-term damage and even death. This prize of “white skin” is directly related to a higher social status and the legacy of slavery around the world. When Nina Davuluri was crowned Miss America in mid-September of 2013, commentators immediately noted that she would never have won the Miss India contest because, among other reasons, her skin was “too dark”.
Chinese-American TV personality Julie Chen recently revealed she had plastic surgery to make her eyes look less “Asian” to advance her career. Chen claimed she had the surgery to give her “double eyelids” because a news director described her “Asian eyes” as “small” and “heavy” and told her that they made her look “disinterested” and “bored” during on-air interviews. Many girls in America purposely draw their eyeliner in the “cat’s eye” style to make them look more almond shaped. So while white women in America may be using eyeliner and eye shadow to create “Asian” eyes, Julie Chen and countless other women consider their all-natural “Asian” eyes a disadvantage and are going under the knife to get rid of them.
Women do not create these ideal for beauty on their own. In capitalism, real control lies with the fashion, beauty, and sex industries, which are responsible for creating basically the all female images in society. These standards for women are products of a system which is based on the selling of merchandise to make a profit and on regulated inequality. Sex sells; so does manipulating and artificially maintaining socially constructed models of what the ‘ideal’ woman should look like. These are pervasive images that women absorb and internalize, often subconsciously. But they most often bear little resemblance to ‘real’ women, causing anxieties and insecurities, undermining women’s self-esteem, and contradicting many of the positive developments that have affected women’s lives.
The global beauty industry, which includes make-up, skin and hair care, fragrances, cosmetic surgery, health clubs and diet products, is estimated to be worth $160 billion a year. Six multinational companies control 80% of US make-up products, while eight corporations control 70% of the skin care market. Americans spend more annually on beauty than they do on education. Beauty is most definitely big business.
The beauty industry directly contributes to a society where only 1% of young women feel ‘completely happy’ with the shape of their body, where 54% of ten to fourteen year olds are worried about being fat, and girls as young as seven are dieting. The images they promote don’t necessarily cause eating disorders but they are a contributing factor and one that can delay recovery and encourage relapse.
The way that women are represented by the beauty industry strengthens and promotes the notion that how women look is more important than what they think or do. In one survey carried out in 2001, two-thirds of women thought that their lives would improve considerably if they were happy with their body. Thinness was equated with attracting men, being sexy, and achieving career success. Two-thirds said that they would consider cosmetic surgery to improve their self-image.
Over the centuries, women have mauled and manipulated just about every part of their body that did not fit into the cookie-cutter ideal of a particular era’s epitome of beauty and perfection. Women have suffered, sacrificed and punished themselves under the oppression of beauty. During the Renaissance, well-born European women plucked out hairs, one by one, from their natural hairline all the way back to the crowns of their heads, to give them the high rounded foreheads thought to be beautiful at the time. Those who didn’t want to resort to plucking used solutions of vinegar mixed with cat dung or quick-lime. The latter often removed some of the skin as well as the hair.
During the Elizabethan age many women, in search of porcelain like skin, whitened their faces using ceruse (a potentially lethal combination of vinegar and lead). Queen Elizabeth herself used ceruse so consistently that it eventually ate pits into her skin, causing her to pile the ceruse on thicker in hopes of disguising her increasing imperfections. This in turn, led to more corrosion. The Queen’s face was ultimately so damaged that she ordered all mirrors banned from the castle.
In the past, women also inadvertently risked blindness in their quest for beauty. The ancient Egyptians, Romans and Persians tried to make their eyes glitter by using drops of antimony sulfide. The drops often dried up the tear ducts, and eventually ruined their vision. In the 16th and 17th centuries, women used eye drops made of lethal nightshade to dilate their pupils. While it had the desired effect of making their eyes look dewy, interested, and excited. But the drops also robbed them of the normal pupil-shrinking reflect that keeps bright light away from the delicate retina. Modern experts believe that by continually dilating their pupils, these women might have predisposed themselves to the potentially blinding condition of glaucoma.
In the late 1950’s, women began injecting plumping substances, such as silicone, collagen, paraffin, or fat taken from their hips and butts, directly into their breasts. However, the enthusiasm for these methods luckily diminished when it was discovered that paraffin or silicone injected directly, tended to migrate to other parts of the body, causing cysts and necrosis of the skin. Yet, even now, breast augmentation surgery is still going strong today. It is the 2nd most frequently requested cosmetic surgery.
In China, right up until World War II, upper-class girls had their feet bound. This crippled them for life but ensured the three or four inch long feet that were prized as exquisitely feminine. Beginning at about the age of five, a girl’s foot was virtually folded in two and a 10 foot long bandage was wrapped tightly around it to force the toes down toward the heel as far as possible. The child could not move without doubling over into a clumsy, and largely unsuccessful effort, to walk without putting any weight on her feet. Many women put up with the agony of this procedure convinced that no one would want to marry a woman with “big feet.”
Just as painful as stunting the worth of one part of the body is exaggerating the growth of another, a practice that has been widespread in Asia and Africa. In central Africa, the Mangbetu tightly wrapped the heads of female infants in pieces of giraffe hide, to attain the elongated cone shaped heads. This was taken to be a sign of beauty and intelligence. Many African tribes have inserted plates into young women’s lips to enlarge them, or weigh down their earlobes with heavy hoops so that the lobes eventually brush the shoulders.
Among the Padaung people of Burma, the ideal of female beauty was a greatly elongated neck, preferably 15 inches or more. This was accomplished by fitting girls with a series of brass neck rings. At a very young age, girls began with five rings, by the time they were full grown, they were wearying as many as 24. Even today, Burmese refugees in northern Thailand continue to stretch their daughters’ necks.
Again, corsets have existed for centuries. Plenty of stories are recorded of women being so tightly laced that they fainted, and in addition there are stories of women having ribs removed surgically so that their corsets could be fastened even tighter. Apparently the idea was that a girl’s waist measurements before she was married and had children should be the same as her age in years. During the 1950’s corsets and girdles became the essential underwear of all well-dressed women. They were used to press, lift, pull, and support the body in “all the right places” to give a smooth, flat figure. In spite of their discomfort, advertisements of these garments promised women a better and happier life.
Today, women continue to engage in extreme measures to achieve the beauty ideal. In addition to contributing to the booming cosmetic, diet, exercise, and fashion industry, more and more women are having surgical procedures to obtain that perfect look. In the past, liposuction and breast augmentation were the most sought after procedures. Today women are getting face, neck and eyelid lifts, nose reshaping, chin augmentations, brow lifts, thigh lifts, and tummy tucks. Some go so far as to have injections of fat to have shapelier butts and calves. Others have even had their toes removed to be able to wear ultra pointed shoes.
All of these procedures have potentially devastating health consequences. So why have so many women throughout history and all over the world opted to mutilate their bodies in such ways? As second class citizens women have to fight for what little success is available to them and sadly, beauty gives them an advantage. Whether trying to find a rich husband or becoming a CEO at a million dollar company, beautiful women are more likely to succeed.
Society has been proven to favor the beautiful. Better-looking people experience startling but undeniable benefits in all aspects of life. Researchers at the London School of Economics studied 52,000 people in the U.K. and U.S., and their results were conclusive: attractive men have IQs 13.6 points above average, while attractive women score 11.4 points higher. “Physical attractiveness is significantly positively associated with general intelligence,” said the lead researcher, Satoshi Kanazawa. This correlation most likely has to do with discriminatory parents and teachers. Cute babies get more love and affection from relatives and strangers so they grow up with more self confidence. Then in school, the more attractive kids get called on more and are favored by teachers.
In the book Beauty Pays, noted economist Daniel Hamermesh shows that the attractive are more likely to be employed, receive more substantial pay, obtain more loan approvals, negotiate loans with better terms, and have more handsome and highly educated spouses. According to his research, good-looking workers on average earn a total of $230,000 more than those with below-average looks, while good-looking professors get higher ratings from their students, and good-looking politicians win out over ugly ones. With such pressure on being attractive to be successful, it is no wonder that women drastically change their bodies.
Who decides and defines the beauty standard? Why do we let them define us? What would happen if women rebelled against the tyranny of beauty and we came up with our own standard? What if it were a standard we could all achieve without having to manipulate a body part or put our lives in danger? What if we’re already beautiful, but can’t see it because we’re blinded by all the lies that corporations tell us? What if we decided to see the good and the beautiful in all of us instead of competing for some arbitrary standard set by someone trying to make money? Women must join and fight, or continue to die in the quest for “beauty”.
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So to get to 51% of the electorate the Republicans are going to have to pull some votes from previously offended demographics.
the greatest part of yesterdays episode. now wheres the womens part?
She kills it every single time on that show. Every. Single. Time.
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