While I do believe that it’s a wonderful thing for women to realize that they are beautiful, and I think that the driving idea behind current changes in the way we think about beauty is a great one, I also think that it’s not the best one. It’s great that women of all shapes and sizes are beginning to see that they don’t have to fit within the “skinny” mold to be beautiful. I’m glad that this movement and new way of thinking is pushing women to love who they are, and that it’s pushing them to be confident in their own skin and not let someone else’s opinion of them bring them down. I’m happy that women are being pushed to recognize their own worth and their own beauty.
But here’s why I think that this beauty movement is not the solution to body image issues.
The current beauty movement maintains that a woman’s beauty is reliant on her outer appearance. She still must be esthetically pleasing in order to be beautiful, even though we have changed the type of body she is “allowed” to have in order to fit within this frame. For example, I never see women with acne portrayed as “beautiful.” I have only ever seen women with acne in commercials for getting rid of acne. I have never seen a woman who is morbidly obese portrayed as someone beautiful, nor have I ever seen someone who is completely emaciated portrayed as such.
Even in photos that are supposedly “celebrating diversity” the women that are in these photographs always seem to have very Caucasian facial features, but with differing skin tones (but never a woman who’s very black or very white), and range from maybe a size 6 to a size 12. Our perspective is still controlled by models who fit within certain parameters by way of the hip-waist-breast ratio. That ratio has just been made able to accommodate other women than the typical 5’9-5’11, 120 pound model with a 13 inch waist or whatever.
All we have done is moved from having one mold into having a few extras lying around that we whip out whenever people demand it. And it seems that most people are ok with that.
The focus is still almost completely outward. It’s still less based on inner qualities and almost completely focused on how much body fat a woman is “allowed” to have, while putting only the occasional spotlight on “inner beauty” or the fact that many women are beautiful without having extravagant outer appearances. We’ve just increased the number of acceptable body types. However, morbidly obese women are still largely unacceptable, as are very skinny women. Very black women are not represented, and neither are very white women. But this still isn’t really the problem.
So we’ve widened our range of acceptable body types, and still not addressed what beauty actually is, because this beauty movement maintains the same train of thought that got us into the “skinny is beautiful” mindset in the first place. This train of thought being that beauty is “in the eye of the beholder,” in that it (beauty) consists of what is seen with the naked eye.
As long as the focus is outward instead of inward, there will always be only a few body types represented in the media, because the media is entirely visual; there will always be some body type or other touted above the others and said to be the preferred other; there will always be ridiculously high sales of makeup and plastic surgery and high heels and fancy clothes and false eyelashes.
Until we can change the focus of our attractions, the rest will never follow.
Alena Rivas is a college student from Tucson, Arizona. She has been married since August, 2013. She and her husband don’t have kids yet, but they hope to once she graduates! Alena writes about life, love, loss, and God. She works to incorporate her own experiences in such a way as to inspire others and encourage people to think about things in new ways. If you like her writing and want to keep up with it better or just want to have access to her awesome witticisms that may not always end up in blog posts, you can find her on Facebook (facebook.com/authoralenarivas), Twitter (@MrsAlenaeous), and Google+ (Alena Rivas).