The beauty regime for women in Western society is intrinsically entwined with a woman’s “level” of femininity. It’s rare nowadays to see any female without some form of makeup, and those that go au naturel are often branded as boring or plain, as if our self-worth — and self acceptance, for that matter — should come from a tube of mascara.
With the rise of celebrity culture and the working woman, products and advertising gimmicks have adapted to the busy mom lifestyle by emphasizing concepts like “mastery” and “control,” according to Susan Bordo, as if these products will bring solace to a chaotic life. The increasingly out-of-reach ideals of a thin, toned body and effortlessly put-together beauty perpetrated by the media are escalating women’s dependence on cosmetic products.
The notion that there is always excess hair, better shapes and sleeker styles reinforces the impracticality of these beauty ideals, breeding low self-esteem and poor body image in many women. Advertisers capitalize on cyclical aspirations by indoctrinating self-deprecation in women, because a dissatisfied market is a profitable market. By keeping half the population insatiable, advertisers are able to sell their products by claiming the newer, better, stronger formula will fill the gap of discontent and finally lead to their satisfaction.
The path to self-acceptance is treacherous and often in vain, as women tend to cling to negative rhetoric. Although Tyra Banks, for instance, has had several makeup-free episodes, it takes
much more than a bare-faced celebrity to rid generations of women from self-loathing. Tyra’s message of self-approval is lost to a skewed reality: as much as we are aware and understand the prevalence of airbrushing touch-ups, these facts are rarely enough to validate our own beauty.
Similarly, while Dove can attempt to convince us to accept the pro-age movement with its “Real Beauty” campaigns using average women as models, as consumers, we still judge the bodies of the “real women” in the ads. The wrinkly, curvaceous, flabby and pale bodies are such a foreign sight in the media that the airbrushed images of thin models and celebrities are actually preferable because of their familiarity. It’s difficult to grasp that the average women deserves to appear on television, because the already slim, young, happy and confident women in the anti-cellulite commercial, for example, captures our attention to make us think that this is our ideal.
Even in recognizing the “real” women on the Tyra Show and in the Dove commercials, North American culture seems to be afraid of what would happen if all women were sure of themselves, making it difficult to guarantee whether all women will be able to fully accept themselves in the near future. The beauty industry is worth $160 billion dollars worldwide and to ensure the same profits in years to come, advertisers will undoubtedly continue to negatively influence subsequent generations’ self esteem through the constant portrayal of unrealistic ideals.
While the future is unclear, we can start out small. Be brave and try going makeup free. Maintaining confidence without the lipstick is the only way to reclaim our beauty from the beauty industry.
Bordo, Susan, “Hunger as Ideology” from Unbearable Weight. Pages 99-133.
The remnants of chivalry still linger today, especially in the dating world.