Wonder Women: Chapter 4

March 5, 2014 | NeW

Many modern day women equate their standard of beauty to that of celebrities and cover girls, those who are pampered constantly by hair and make up crews and not to mention have the luxury of airbrush and Photoshop.  The media’s depiction of female physiques insinuates that women’s bodies can be shaped and altered in accordance with society’s vision of physical beauty. For many women, their body, aside from their intelligence, abilities, and talents, defines them.

Better body, we repeat and pray, better me.” (86)

Bodily perfection is attained through various tactics that entail sums of money and repetition. Dieting is often one-avenue women take to “fix” their bodies.  For some dieting may initially be a quest for health, however for many more it often transforms into addiction and a means to a more beautiful bodily appearance. Eating disorders also allow some women to attain bodily perfection.  Spar focuses on anorexia, defined as the “irrational fear of gaining weight” (90).  She provides three theories on why women choose to starve themselves.  First, the development of breasts, widened hips, and a rounder bodice commencing at the onset of puberty causes young girls to feel uncomfortable with themselves and prompts them to “fix it” by starving themselves.  Second, the media’s depiction of bodily perfection implies that while young women may not be able to control their eye shape or hair, they sure can control their pant size and weight.  Third, the disease is easy, all they have to do is abstain, which gives most girls a feeling of control over their lives. Cosmetic surgery also plays a role in women’s quest for bodily perfection. Psychologists claim Botox, liposuction, breast enhancements, and other forms of plastic surgery may solve women’s inferiority issues. Women are working tirelessly to achieve their beauty goals and when they fall short of their goals as many women do at some point, their encouragement is to try, try again.  Consider this: have you ever seen an ugly Disney princess, regular sized cover girl, or more than one or two movies when the hefty girl wins the guy? Naomi Wolf, a feminist scholar and author of The Beauty Myth argues that men and not solely the media are to blame for women’s obsession with beauty.  During the Industrial Revolution, males began working factory jobs, while women stayed home and attended to household duties.  Throughout this era women’s magazine advertisements and media revolved around keeping a clean, spic and span home complete with air fresheners, polished floors, and laundry detergents.  However, with the onset of the feminist movement women transitioned from the home to the workplace, and advertisements and media replaced household products with beauty products, encouraging women to perfect their bodies and no longer their kitchens. Spar concludes with her opinion about women’s reasoning for the quest for beauty,

“…But look at any woman serving in Congress.  Or working for a major law firm.  Or running a foundation.  Everyone has their hair done, and their nails done, and their bodies in reasonably fit condition.  It can’t just be that the men and the media are doing this to us.  We’re doing it to ourselves.” (98)

She advises women to draw a clear distinction between perfection and beauty,

“Because perfection- the stuff of ads, the driver of obsession- is both impossible to define and excruciating to obtain….It is the seduction of overpriced creams and serial cosmetic surgery…Beauty, by comparison, is ever-present and multi-faceted.  It comes, as scores of feminist theorists have argued, in all shapes and sizes, in all colors and across all age.  Unlike perfection, beauty is frequently attained, even if- and perhaps precisely because- its definition varies across time and place and preference.” (101)


Discussion Questions:

1)   Do you view beauty as something to be obtained and worked towards or as genetics, a physique and appearance you were born with? 2)   Have you ever considered or taken part in dieting or cosmetic surgery?  If so, what prompted you to do so and what were the results? 3)   Who or what defines your version of beauty?  Do males and the media have an influence upon you, or are you setting beauty standards for yourself?

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