The 'Perfect' Woman
When i first picked up the book ‘Beauty Myth: How images of beauty are used against women’ by Naomi Wolf, i wasn’t expecting to repent.
Oppression against women... not me! How can that ever be?
Not with my belief that women are on par with men in terms of intelligence and its many forms.... or my conviction that women are presentable in the public sphere and that they make good in society. I pitch for equality and meritocracy for all genders. I am definitely for women, not against women.
Even before i read the book, i made it a point not to comment on how someone looks unless she/he is looking ‘good’. If i can’t say anything pleasant, i don’t say anything at all. I find people who go ‘hey, you have dark eye rings/pimples/wrinkles’ or ‘you are getting really big-sized/fat/a tummy huh?’ particularly agitating. The rule of thumb is simple: if whatever you want to say makes your friend feel bad and it ain't gonna help, shut up. If you think you are informing her of something she doesn’t know... guess what? Not a chance. She has probably scrutinized herself in the glass 1000 times. All you had was a perfunctory glance.
However, this doesn’t mean that i am blind to ‘imperfect features’ of the human body. When i see any person on the street, i scan and conclude her ‘beauty’ in seconds. The process is so quick, it doesn’t require conscious processing. But ask me what i like about her, i can tell you. Ask me how i think she will look ‘better’, i can tell you too. I never thought of this as oppression of women. It was, i thought, an 'objective' and 'natural' cognitive processing of stimulus.
The person whom i scrutinized the most is... me. Whenever i peer into the glass, the automatic checklist runs and churns out its report in seconds. Taking cues from models in magazines, television commercials and on the run way how every part of my body should look before it can be considered ‘beautiful’, i know exactly where i ‘fall short’. This disintegration of the body takes place every day. It has become so routine, i am inured to such self-deprecation.
Then i discovered something worse- i am part of the mold that oppresses women.
The mold that expects women to look a certain way, to fit an ideal. The mold prescribed by magazines, television commercials and run way models. Out of the mold, they say you ain’t beautiful'. You are an out-cast, one of the ‘fuglies’ [read: fucking ugly people].
'The beauty myth tells a story: the quality called "beauty" objectively and universally exists.'
But is there an objective benchmark of beauty?
I thought so. How can there not be an objective benchmark of beauty when we have beauty pageants? Sure i have heard of the long-necked tribes and other unusual standards of beauty like droopy boobs, but most of the urban cities down history should have similar ideals... or didn't they? Turned out that beauty ideals changed throughout history. In the Victorian era, fleshy women were preferred. In the Heian period, women with big boobs were not particularly desired.
'Beauty' is artificially created by human beings.
There is no objective benchmark of 'beauty'.
All the products that exist out there, promising to make us thinner, sexier and more lovable. The heavily digitally enhanced images of inhuman women filled the ads, telling you 'be like me'.
But these products don’t make women lovable. Most people don't fall in love with stick-thin women; studies show that men's ideal weight for women is higher than women's own ideal. Everyday, real people fall in love with real women.- women of all shapes and sizes. These products don't make you sexier either. Most women never get an orgasm out of sexual intercourse. Many women don’t even know what a g-spot is, let alone explore it. If the truth be known, we don’t need a skinny body, sparkling perfect white teeth, great hair or fair, hairless and flawless skin in order to have great sexual pleasure. Our libido works just fine. Bombarded with hundreds of ads daily, we were sold a lie... that without all these products to be a certain thinness etc, we cannot find love and experience great sex.
The current level of thinness considered fashionable is not 'beautiful'.
Most women ain't made to be that thin and typically such thinness ain't sustainable without continual 'intervention'. So if women would hate their flesh and crave such unnatural thinness, then any 'treatment' is going to be lucrative indeed. The cosmetic surgery industry works in a similar manner. The low self-esteem of women results in healthy bodies being cut open, as if diseased. Keeping women in self-hatred drives these industries. Any 'love your body' campaign will tell you the astounding numbers of young teens wishing they can nip/tuck/cut parts of themselves. What can we expect when we expose all of them to altered inhuman images and claim that this is what desirable, successful women should look like?
After enhancing my awareness of how i am oppressing other women, i decided on a few things:
1. I will no longer judge a person's beauty as if there is an objective benchmark out there. While i may not help the rapid scanning and evaluations made subconsciously, i will remember that such judgments originate from a set of markers driven by profit.
2. If we think that nature is beautiful, then women are made beautiful. If we think nature has variety, then the variety of shapes and sizes that women come in is beautiful.
Does that mean i think we should all go all-natural e.g. makeup is sin?
There isn't a problem with makeup. The problem appears when you think you look ugly without it and that you need it in order to look remotely presentable. The oppression comes when women are expected to wear makeup in order to participate at the workplace. When women hate themselves without makeup, that's trouble.
... so i repented.
And hey, you are beautiful.
[Sorry guys, you are next on the products manufacturers’ list of victims. You are expected to be buff, tanned, having that perfect smile and impeccable hair/skin. Without that, you risk being an ‘ugly old foggy with an unattractive paunch’.]
'Beauty Myth' puts forth several hypotheses. Its author, Naomi Wolf, put forth compelling examples that will tickle your mind. While i take portions of it with a pinch of skepticism, i found it refreshing. The topics covered by the book go far beyond what i discussed. A highly recommended read.