"Exhibiting You" - Story

The Burden of Beauty

By: Wiley, Women in US
Other authors: Aimee, Julie
Submitted: 05/27/2010

Contextual Explanation
By Aimee and Julie

What is beauty and how has it affected the interactions people have with one another? Can women be viewed as anything else but “the beauty”?

As stated by our history teacher, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. In the American Society, women are criticized based upon how they look because stereotypes shape their perceptions of what’s “beautiful” and what’s “ugly.” Society creates a beauty standard such that if you don’t fit the criteria you’re thrown aside and labeled as an outsider. For instance, in the 1800s daintiness, paleness, and femininity were valued. Women squeezed themselves into corsets, a trend between the 19th and 20th centuries, and would even go to the extremes of drinking vinegar and shutting themselves up in their room to make their skin appear paler. During the early 1900s, women reverted to more natural looking makeup, and emphasized having wavy and curled hair in order to look more “beautiful.” In the 1930s, women even went through a period of shaved eyebrows and thick red lipstick covered lips. We can definitely see some trends that have rolled into the 21st century.

The list of qualities that make a “beautiful woman” has dramatically expanded and changed since the 1800s. After looking through photographs of women in the media, we can conclude that modern society’s idea of a beautiful woman is slender and dainty, has perfect skin, silky hair, a symmetric face, straight sparkling white teeth, big eyes, and long legs. Society offers women two choices: either meet the beauty standard by changing who you are, or ignore the beauty standard and be positive about your body image. Nowadays, many women will alter any part of their bodies in order to become “naturally beautiful” through liposuction, botox, and plastic surgery. For those who cannot afford any of these options, they often turn to something as simple as makeup or starving themselves.

Sometimes women who fit the beauty standard have more opportunities than women who don’t. Studies show that applicants who meet the beauty standard have a better chance of landing jobs, and of receiving higher salaries. In court, attractive people are found guilty less often, and when found guilty they receive less severe sentences. Perhaps they’re more likely to find a husband or land a position on the cheerleading squad. As we’ve seen in countless stereotypical high school movies such as John Tucker Must Die, only the girls who meet the beauty standard make the team. The girls who don’t make the team and don’t’ meet the beauty standard are ostracized by other students and are “invisible.” This is evident not only in movies, but also in some popular television shows such as Family Guy. On the downside, those who meet the beauty standard are not recognized for anything other than their appearance. At first glance, they might be stereotyped as sluts or queen bees.

Media perpetuates the idea that beautiful women are only beautiful and not “smart.” Thus, society forces women to choose between having a brain and having a hot body; they can’t have both. However as we see in reality, women can be beautiful and smart at the same time. Imagine you were born beautiful according to society’s standards and have a 4.0 GPA. You want to participate in the academic decathlon but people don’t take you seriously. As a result of society’s expectations, some young girls born naturally beautiful are hesitant to display their intelligence in fear of what their peers might think of them. Even if a naturally beautiful girl lands a high position in a well-paid job because of her credentials, people might accuse her of sleeping with the boss to get to the top.

In modern American society, both those who do not meet the beauty standard and who are born with all the qualities of the beauty standard are trapped by society’s grasp. They are expected to follow the stereotypes they represent in order to uphold the social hierarchy. Those who fail to comply with society’s expectations are criticized for being different. Through our experience working on this project, we’ve learned that although society has its own standard of beauty, it’s psychologically and physically important that each individual takes into account inner beauty because beauty, in our opinion, is skin deep. It’s necessary that we create a new beauty standard, one that emphasizes “natural beauty,” a healthy body, and personality, for future generations to come.

Works Cited
Fashion-Era.com, Pauline Weston Thomas for. "Make-up History Cosmetics before 1950." Fashion History Costume Trends and Eras, Trends Victorians - Haute Couture. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2010. .
"Mirror, mirror - A summary of research findings on body image." Social Research - Social Trends Analysis. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2010. .

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