The modern, Western women of today are, compared to all those who came before them, in equal measures affluent, educated and, ultimately, liberated, since women today have more money and power than they have ever had before.
Despite their supposed ‘liberation’ though, many of todays women are still unable to feel as free as they should. Whilst they might feel free from the physical constraints of their past- women today are not relegated to the cleaning cupboard or the kitchen, as they were as little as 50 years ago- something which women are still not free from today, some 50 years on, is the constraints of their mind, with today’s women being best weakened psychologically now that they are stronger materially.
Such psychological constraints experienced by women are, ultimately, ‘frivolous’ and ‘trivial’ by nature and thus, because of this, many women are ashamed to admit when they’re struggling, particularly when those struggles are related to their physical appearance- body, face, hair, clothes, etc.- things that really should not matter and yet, to so many women, really do matter…
Women are now asking questions about their place in their bodies that women a generation ago asked about their place in society, what with the ‘happy’ housewife as a representative for successful womanhood having been substituted for the gaunt fashion model (gaunt because, the weight of fashion models has plummeted to 23% below that of ordinary women). For 95% of women to get to the weight they see represented as the epitome of ‘beauty’ in the media by these ‘gaunt’ fashion models I write of, women must inflict upon themselves what is, essentially, a state of semi starvation. With scarily close parallels to the Holocaust and, I don’t make this comparison lightly, a vast number of emaciated bodies are being starved, as in the Holocaust, not by nature, but by men.
The promotion of such an unhealthy size in the media has, unsurprisingly, caused eating disorders to rise exponentially, with women, once again, being stripped of any sense of control they might’ve, albeit briefly, had, this time via what they eat (or rather, what they don’t eat) and, perhaps most pertinently, via what they weigh.
To blame for the influx of struggles the modern day woman experiences, is the ‘beauty myth.’ Whereas a century ago women could ‘slam the door’ on their doll’s house and, a generation ago, women could ‘turn their backs’ on the cleaning cupboard, where women are trapped today there is no door to slam. As such, women are slowly, mercilessly, being destroyed, both physically and psychologically and, instead of blossoming, they are withering. If women are to, finally, free themselves from the dead weight that has, once again, been made out of femaleness, it is not ballots or lobbyists or placards that women will need first, it is a new way to see…
A new way to see that, actually, the beauty myth is not about women and their appearance at all. It is, in fact, about men’s institutions and institutional power (it’s no coincidence that the idea of thin being the ‘superior’ body type came about when Western women received the vote- it simply served as another way of making women’s bodies into the prisons that their homes no longer were, their eating disorders keeping them preoccupied, preventing them from moving forward in the world), in the same way that its predecessor, the ‘Feminine Mystique’, wasn’t really about housework…
Just as the architects of the Feminine Mystique didn’t really believe that a floor in which you could see yourself in indicated a ‘cardinal virtue’ in women, by the same token, the beauty myth could not care less about a woman’s weight or hair or skin, all it wants is to lower their self-esteem/to make women feel more and more dissatisfied with themselves, so that they will keep buying the supposed ‘solutions’ to their perceived ‘problems.’
By simply dropping the ‘ideal weight’ to one stone below that of most women’s natural level, and redefining a woman’s womanly shape as, by definition, ‘too fat’, business men are in their element– women feel a deep sense of self-hatred, a reactionary psychology is perfected, and a major industry is born- kerching!
The self-hatred women feel, if you were in any doubt, can no longer be explained as a ‘private’ issue. If suddenly 60-80% of college women hate themselves to such an extent that they can no longer eat, it’s hard to believe that suddenly 60-80% of their families are dysfunctional. No, there is a disease in the air- its cause generated with intent– and young women are catching it as it trickles down from elitist schools and universities (where women are getting ‘too close’ to power and authority) to women of all social classes.
It can be concluded then that this is an issue which is evidently not happening within women- what women look like is not the problem/whether they choose to wear makeup or gain/lose weight is irrelevant, but towards women- what society tells women they ‘should’ look like, as per the narrative imposed on them by wider society, giving them no choice in the matter, is the problem.
To expand on the above point…
The problem with cosmetics exists only when women feel invisible or inadequate without them. The problem with working out exists only if women hate themselves when they don’t. These things are not destructive in themselves. We need them, not evicted from the female utopia, but redefined, so that women will no longer feel manipulated by the definition of ‘beauty’/so that women will be able to use their faces and clothes and bodies as simply one form of self-expression out of a full range of others.
To end with something to think about…
While we cannot directly affect the images fed to us, we can drain them of their power. Turning away from them, we can try to stay as conscious of what we take into our minds as we now are of what we take into our bodies. We can do this- we must do this- so that we will all come to realise that our bodies are not the problem, society is,
and so that,
the beauty myth will,