Monday, April 28, 2008

Beauty Ideals

In other cultures the body of a woman who has borne children is not considered unattractive; in fact a woman who didn't have signs of childbearing on her body would be considered as a child herself. But unfortunately Western culture really drives home the exact opposite ideal, that of looking like you've not had the kids you've had - flat stomach, smooth skin, perky breasts... and even if we get empowered and stop buying into the popular culture that we're raised with, a lot of it is pretty deeply ingrained and it takes a lot of will to break free of it and experience really enjoying our bodies.

It seems that Western culture is determined to reduce women to nothing more than eye candy. The miracles her body can perform, such as childbearing and breastfeeding, are portrayed as evil curses that will "ruin" her body and reduce her attractiveness. So much time and money and energy are spent by the women in the US and elsewhere in the pursuit of a body that is in a lifelong state of "unmarred" and yet hyper-sexual youth... it is a continually growing industry. But all this does is reduce a woman to the status of object, a lovely doll who strives for conformity in her body and face. Any signs of experience or character or individuality are considered to be flaws that need to be fixed, hidden, or apologized for. Even very young girls begin to realize that their worth in society as attractive, successful females rests on forcing themselves into a mold of how they are supposed to look, an unrealistic ideal that even the most beautiful supermodels do not in reality attain. Our culture flows so deep in and around us that to combat this negative attitude is an uphill battle against a mud flow of resistance, both internal and external.

I think there is a lot of room for most women to learn to support each other in defining your OWN ideal, and striving for that, rather than trying to live up to some air-brushed, computer enhanced version of someone else's idea of what every woman should look like.

What if we are all beautiful? What if we are all amazing and powerful and gorgeous shining lights in this world, and believing anything else is a disservice to the Universe?


Kathy Collins said...

I feel more beautiful already! I feel more beautiful in my body but mostly in my innermost self. Thank you for writing this. If enough women and girls read articles such as these, perhaps one day they will all begin to see the inherent beauty they each possess.

Jan Andrea said...

You remind me of an amazing moment I had when I was, oh, 13 or 14? I was at the local swimming hole, feeling self-conscious in my bathing suit (being an overweight adolescent), watching the moms there playing with their kids. They were all different shapes, from the media-friendly to the curvy/bumpy that I am now. I looked from woman to woman and thought to myself, they are all beautiful! The curves and bumps were there because of and for the children they had borne. It gave me chills, honestly. I still have problems reconciling my own current form (curvy/bumpy/fat/whatever) but I know my body is strong and capable, whatever it looks like.