25 April 2008
Do you want to loose weight? Are you tired of your wrinkles? Do you need a man? “If you read “this magazine” it will provide the answers to all you problems!” These are common tag lines printed and advertised in media today. Unfortunately, that is not true. Every day women are bombarded with images of what is considered the ideal beautiful woman: this woman is thin, white, and has blonde hair. Within the black community, lighter skin is perceived as more beautiful. Even in the early 1920’s and 1930’s when African American advertisements were limited, “the photos favored lighter skin and straightened hair (Walker 77).” Still these images of women are plastered all over and are used to sell anything from toothpaste to insurance. Nonetheless, the everyday woman is attacked with images of an unattainable beauty. This paper will discuss the beauty standards and argue that the feminist critique is a more realistic approach to accepting women’s beauty.
Women are the target of many advertisements in the media. Sadly, the representation is an unrealistic one because most women are naturally larger than models. But, it is important to dissect the beauty myth by starting at the root. The purpose of the beauty industry is not to promote healthy body images, but instead to make money. The beauty industry is over a 100 billion dollar and continues to grow every year (Kilbourne). The average American will spend hours and hours watching television or reading magazines. During this extended period of time, there minds are infiltrated with altered
images of women and beauty. Thus, the media presents an unattainable body image as a means to sell beauty products. If a woman is insecure about her skin and weight then she will most likely go to the store and buy something to correct that.
In “The Face of Love” by Ellen Lambert she talks about beauty in literature, more specifically, Victorian literature. Although her topic does not directly relate to modern media, she mentions many points that are valid to the argument. She suggests that women should teach their daughters to enjoy their beauty because their daughters are expressions of them (Lambert 30). She also points out that women “see beauty in its dehumanizing aspect, because that tradition has such a long history in Western culture” (Lambert 30). This statement acknowledges that the beauty myth has been warped for many years and will not change until women acknowledge the prevalent factors. Another issue she mentions is that women to pay more attention to the “male gaze.” This term defines male attention on women, but it identifies the fact that beauty is identified through a male lens. Lambert encourages women to enjoy being looked at and caring for their bodies, but do not let the “male gaze” interfere with their acceptance of their entire female body.
Lamberts ideal supports Abra Chernik’s position in “The Body Politic” which encourages young feminist to accept their bodies unconditionally. Also, that acceptance should be at the top of their political agenda. Chernik states: “we must claim our bodies as our own to love and honor in their infinite shapes and sizes. Fat, thin, soft, hard, puckered, smooth, our bodies are our homes.” This statement is so powerful because it encompasses all types of bodies and “imperfections” that women have, but directs women to accept their “homes” which is their body.
I strongly agree with the feminist critique of beauty, but as a young woman myself I understand that it is easy to fall victim to an unrealistic perception of beauty. That is why I feel it is not only important to have a strong self appreciation of your body but, even more important to have a circle of friends who agree with your definition of beauty. These friends will serve as reinforcement for your ideals and will make it easier to stay strong when you feel like you want to give into the pressures to conform. Thus, the feminist approach to beauty should be the ultimate methodology in defining women’s beauty because it is all inclusive in acceptance. To a feminist, a woman is beautiful because she loves herself and nourishes her mind and body at the same time: this should be the definition of beauty for all.
Kilbourne, Jean. "Beauty...and the Beast of Advertising." Center for Media Literacy. 2007. 22 Apr. 2008
Lambert, Ellen Z. The Face of Love. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon P Books, 1995. 1-236.
Walker, Susannah. Style and Status: Selling Beauty to African American Women, 1920-1975. Lexington, Kentucky: The UP of Kentucky, 2007. 1-237.