Where And How Did The ?beauty Myth? Originate? Essay, Research Paper
Where and how did the ?beauty myth? originate?
Women cannot find strong role models in today?s society without getting a false impression. Too often the role models are of women of unrealistic beauty. Take for instance the big screen: a bunch of long legged, skinny, women with flawless faces, voluptuous breasts, and not a spec of cellulite. All of the ?model? women in the media seem to have ?perfect lives?; their biggest catastrophe being where to put the indoor tennis court, or the indecisiveness of what to wear to the Golden Globe Awards . Finding role models on the glossy pages of magazines and posters has become even more prominent. Gazing at these ?role models? has become an act in which shapes the way women look and feel about themselves in today?s beauty conscious society. American women base their lives on a myth, a beauty myth, which impairs their self-image and distorts their views regarding their peers, unlike their male counterparts who are not affected by such a myth.
?Men look at Women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only the relations of men to women, but the relation of women to themselves.? Critic John Berger?s quote has been true now more than ever in regards to women?s self-image in Western culture. Men see male fashion models, but do not see them as role models, mearly as men displaying clothing fashions. They don?t depict the model of their own gender, because they simply don?t see them as someone whom they can look up to or use as a guideline, and certainly not as the model American male. Whereas, women see a female fashion model and immediately turn her into the guideline of what every American woman should look like. This, among many other places is the origin of the myth. In order for our culture to be kept male, males put women into the roles of ornamentation and are mere beauties in their eyes. No wonder women feel they need to live up to a certain expectations?or at least in the eye of the male.
America stereotypes women to fit the myth by suggesting that they either have beauty or intelligence, but cannot have both. An example of this is Katherine and Bianca in Taming of the Shrew . Katherine was depicted as being highly intelligent, yet physically unattractive. Bianca was viewed as a human art form, with not nearly as much brainpower as her sister, Kat. Bianca attracts men for her beauty and her sex appeal; whereas Katherine?s personality and intelligence is viewed as a barrier from being desirable to suitors. Blanch and Dorothy , in the Golden Girls , is yet another example of beauty being more desirable than brains. Two women, one is defined as the winner, and one as the loser in the beauty myth.
When women think about the myth, it is the models in women?s magazines that make them susceptible to the heroines of mass culture. The message delivered to women in these magazines tells us that we need to look like this, and shop here if we want to be a certain way. The message even reaches as far out to say that after reading this story, women can be better, more beautiful, starting now. It makes us want to throw away our old clothes, seek out a new job, buy every beauty product featured in the magazine, dump the boyfriend and tape the bathing suited beauty spokes model to the refrigerator. Magazines know exactly what they want, and just how to get it.
In order to keep its readers interested in the magazine, most magazines insist on a woman keeping her ?feminine quotient? high. This lure would insure magazines that women would not liberate themselves out of reading their material. Although magazines do reflect historical change, they need to be sure to support the social roles of the women who support it. Magazines are seemingly the most influential aides in helping women to change their social roles as well as deliver what society expects of them in return. In the 1950?s , when the majority of women were housewives, they looked to magazines as an escape. Advertising in women?s magazines, which targeted housewives, was a sure way to bring in the buck. Housewives were advertiser?s main customers, with ?get this done faster, cleaner, whiter, and brighter?, which indeed was very appealing to the housewife looking to minimize her workload. Articles that put women in a depressed mood, implying that they were overweight if they did not look a certain way, or telling them that pink eye shadow is everything in fashion today will direct their readers to the advertisements. After reading an article about how crucial juice is to a women?s good health and beauty, then seeing an advertisement from a juice company, she is more likely to buy that product based upon what you had just read. It seems like the perfect solution to all of women?s problems.
During the second wave of the women?s movement , clothing companies were disappointed to find that women just weren?t spending money on clothing anymore. Women were beginning to leave the homes and enter the workforce. Now, fashion magazines were having a hard time dictating to the women of America what should be on their backs. Clothes were of less interest. In 1969, Vogue , a popular women?s magazine today, offered a new approach- the ?nude look?. Which delivered the message to women that they must look great naked: skinny legs and arms, round hips, big breasts, wrinkle free and tight skin. From about 1968 to 1972, the number of diet-related articles rose 70 percent. With all of the diet articles placed in women?s magazines, it was suggested that women must be slim and fit.
Since feminists in the 1960?s were characterized as overweight, small breasted, unattractive, single women, they were thought of by ?the beautiful people? to just be jealous of what they do not have in the looks category. In 1969 , when there was a protest against the Miss America Pageant , coverage of this backlash focused in on numerous signs, two reading, THERE?S ONLY ONE THING WRONG WITH MISS AMERICA- SHE?S BEAUTIFUL and JELOUSY WILL GET YOU NOWHERE, Implying that feminists were complaining because billboard beauties have what they did not.
In 1965 Cosmopolitan magazine came out with the ?You can be your best and nothing is standing in your way? approach to better women?s quality of life. This magazine focused in on women?s sexual appetites, self-help, personal relationships and female ambitions, all in attempt at capturing its targeted audience?s attention. Above all, encouraging women that they could change overnight was surely influential, and captured an audience. Most women turned to magazines and took them seriously . Unlike novels, movies, the newspaper and television, women?s magazines were supposed to be written for women, by women. ?Women react so strongly to their inconsistencies since they probably recognize that the magazines? contradictions are their own.? Though magazines have popularized women?s movements ideas more than anything else, they still seem to be demoting women?s self esteems.
Why is it that women hunger to turn the pages of something that makes them feel so bad? Women believe that the women featured in the magazines are the models of what a male finds attractive. If all of the women in Elle are skinny blondes with green eyes, then the woman looking at the magazine instantly believes that image is what most males find attractive. In reality, that?s what the advertisers want the reader to find attractive. If women believe skinny is the only way to go, they are going to buy their product that ?promises a slim new you?. Every picture of a tan skinned, large build, and light colored hair guy isn?t what all women find attractive. Men are just the same when it comes to women. The pictures in the magazines do not dictate what every male finds desirable.
When women read the articles and see the pictures, they don?t analyze the pictures as being a way for advertisers to lure their readers. Instead they take the pictures as advice or view them as role models. Women view magazines because they withhold suggestions from their generation. Unlike what their mother?s have told them, what magazines have to say would logically have to be more accurate because it is aimed at their generation, not their mother?s. Anything that is told to a woman regarding fashion and beauty is disregarded immediately if it isn?t from someone from their generation; otherwise it would be viewed as outdated.
Magazines are like clubs because they bring people with the same interests together. They may not be in the same place, at the same time, but they are all reading the same articles and reacting to them similarly. Women read the magazines and unfortunately cannot put the magazine down without taking along the pleasure and the pain. Magazines appear to know how to help, from ?ten steps to a better financial future?, to listing techniques on plucking eyebrows. Unfortunately women take away much more with them than anticipated. Since no one knows anybody personally who looks like the BEBE model, it is hard to identify with the woman on the glossy page in an impersonal manor . Unlike men, who are in a certain group and club based upon their interests or a common goal, women tend to either dismiss someone who looks less of them, or resent someone if she looks too good. If another woman is good looking, then she may be unapproachable, unless they already know that the two of them are friends. Women have been taught to compete for men through beauty rather than through personal integrity.
Why is it that the face being gazed upon in this month?s Elle magazine is ?the face?? It is not because that is the only beautiful woman, and only women who look like her are beautiful. It is the mere fact that all types of women are reading this magazine, and they are all looking at the same face in awe, but most importantly, in unison. They are being united as image-conscious women through this one picture, among many others. They are joined together by jealousy and envy. Advertisers know they can dupe customers by making them feel that they are a part of something. If a woman buys Clarins , she is going to ?join millions of women worldwide?. While magazines take a step forward at abolishing this beauty myth, they must also take a step back to save advertising. If they feature an article on how to diet most efficiently, they must also execute an article on obesity. Unfortunately, a magazine?s profit does not come from the cover price, so they must feature articles in the magazines that would be complementary to the advertisers. An advertiser would not want to keep an ad for Slim Fast in a magazine that gives all the horrors about anorexia and eating disorders. That will not make the advertisers any money. Unfortunately, profit is the driving factor in today?s capitalistic society. Magazines have always been under the pressure of their advertisers, yet now they have to meet new, higher demands of the companies that pay their bills. Many companies have to edit for their advertisers, going as far as accepting numerous amounts of money not to run certain articles in specific issues that contain their ad. These acts not only abolish the reader?s trust of the magazine, but they also prove that the advertiser?s dollar is more important than freedom of the press. A magazine is not going to accurately compare beauty products if one of it?s largest clients is Lancome . Sadly enough, identifying what is accurate information from advertisement promotion is not a forte of the average American woman.
Another form of censorship exists between the pages of many magazines: deliberately abolishing all elderly women from the pictorials of their pages. By all costs, magazines don?t want aging women in their pictures. If, by chance, an older woman has to be used, the editors call in a graphic design artist to airbrush the flaws. This is where most women assume that only the young can be and are beautiful. The companies that promote beauty: makeup companies, clothing manufacturers, hair products, all refer to their models as ?girls?, even though most of them are adults. ?Girls? happens to be an industry term, however, heard by the wrong ears, this term is deceiving. A young adolescent girl would not want to grow up into the adults around her; they are not beautiful like the models. Girls figure that if they remain skinny at this young age, they will surely grow up and receive fame, fortune and happiness.
The beauty myth has spread like a rumor, and most women believe it to be entirely true. Most women look nothing like they think they should look. Women on television and in fashion magazines make up the minority. Many models admit to having an eating disorder, which unfortunately is tolerated in the modeling industry. Industry leaders believe that the image or a rail-thin model is absolutely necessary to maintain. Fashion designers and editors at prestigious fashion magazines insist that the average woman wants to look at images at impossible skinny models, which has found to be false24.
This myth has been almost impossible to change because it is not like fighting a war or changing the bed linens. This is an idea that goes on inside the minds of women and girls. Beauty, when imagined in an open way, can be a healing force in people?s lives. It does not have to hurt. The great philosopher Plato viewed beauty as ?eternal? as well as ?permanent?. In modern America, our culture promises just the opposite. In modern America, beauty is thought of to be something we must grasp tightly; for beauty can leave us at any time or can be stolen from right under us. It is not until women get this preconceived notion out of their head?s that there is no such thing as the model woman, the ?beauty myth? will remain to distort women?s views of their self image.