Society has always placed a great emphasis upon the importance of a woman’s appearance, and through that emphasis women have instinctively been taught to measure their self-worth in terms of the image they present, even more so than their intelligence. They have been given rigid and challenging standards to live up to, standards that are usually unrealistic, unattainable, and disheartening. Many women spend a large majority of their lives suffering trying to meet these standards. The ideal body image in this country today seems to be the long-haired 5’7”, 95 lb female found in every fashion magazine, every sitcom and every movie you will ever see. However, many women at 5’7” could starve themselves for their entire lives and die of malnutrition before they would reach 95lbs, and many women do.
Some women go to great lengths to improve their appearances, even at the risk of their health or discomfort. Women spend billions of dollars every year to have silicone put into their breasts, to get their noses reshaped, or to get the fat sucked out of their thighs. An important question to ask is why these things even matter. Why would you put your life at risk to enlarge your breasts? The answer to this question is that women today value a man’s approval so highly that to gain a man’s admiration they will do almost anything. Women spend large amounts of time every day painting their faces, so that they might look a little brighter, counting their calories, so that they might not reach a healthy weight, because society has taught them that healthy is fat.
Standards for a woman’s appearance were obviously set by men, for men. Women have been suffering since the beginning of time trying to please these men, fixing their hair every morning, wearing girdles, cooking for them, cleaning for them, etc. Apparently, according to history and fashion magazines, the only acceptable way to be a true woman, a woman who can gain the acceptance of a man, is to be perfect. For this reason, modern society has made a business out of a woman’s need for perfection. For instance, “airbrushing,” or “retouching”, a computer technique used in the photography industry to hide imperfections (such as pimples) has been added to all applications for student pictures. It is also used in fashion magazines to reshape the thighs of already near-perfect supermodels. The cosmetic industry is one of the most profitable in the world. A business has been made out of products to accent the eyes, the cheeks, and to hide “blemishes.” “Cellulite creams,” overpriced products claiming to reduce the appearance of fat have been added to the market, along with wrinkle creams and bikini waxes.
Despite the fact that society and the media have sent the message to today’s women that self-esteem should be based upon image, women have still made notable advances on the fashion front within the past century. Women no longer have to wear skirts or dresses every day, and pants have become suitable everyday attire. Short haircuts for women are now widely accepted and even fashionable. Women have come a long way, but still have a long way to go in terms of breaking down the common stereotype that says that the attractive woman has to be nearly perfect, and coming to an understanding that attractive comes in many shapes and sizes.
Word Count: 563