What physical qualities deem a person beautiful? Beauty is rumored to be subjective; but is it really, with the ubiquitous bombardment of ads in modern America? No longer limited to billboards or magazines, insidious marketing schemes remain notoriously lopsided when it comes to women, race, age, and weight. Although marketing trends have pivoted towards multi-ethnicity, they remain sluggish in most mainstream magazines and online advertisements. Next time you are in the grocery store thumb through a Family Circle or Yoga Journal or randomly peruse various publications. Thin women, regardless of race, continue to dominate photoshoots while obesity trends for children continue to rise. How then, does all of this impact the way, we as women and girls, view beauty?
How often is a woman touted as beautiful because she is witty, intelligent, or incredibly wise? . If we are going to attempt to level the playing field in terms of defining beauty through a more multiplicity, we need to stop homogenizing. The 1950’s should be behind us. America is an ideal country, to expose female beauty in all of its rawest forms setting up fertile ground for focusing on character development rather than trying to shoehorn femininity into a societal trend.
I recently watched an interesting short, A Conversation with Black Women on Race, which had a common thread strewn into each discussion; that of not being seen and/or not being seen as beautiful. As I listened I was reminded of a graduate research paper I wrote: The Lack of Black Heroes in Children’s Literature, which I wrote twenty years ago. Not much has changed. I was also reminded of a time, when I lived on the east coast as a teenager and worked part-time at a women’s clothing shop—I was the only Caucasian employee. I recall my self-hatred for the lack of pigment in my skin; I thought how beautiful the African American and Latina women were that I worked with. It occurred to me later, that surroundings have a powerful impact on perception. Unfortunately, the adage that “beauty is only skin deep” is not the display most women, especially women of color, see.
For the record, I am not suggesting we obliterate the beauty industry (nobody is taking my Maybeline mascara from me); what I am purposing is that we expand our focus and in particular when it comes to women. Men, can be pudgy, bald, grey, idiotic and still be splashed across front pages or heralded ad nauseam.
Women bear the stigma that kindness or brilliance is secondary to physical beauty. Looks matter. According to a recent study at Zhejiang University in China “lookism creates inequalities comparable to those created by racism, sexism, and background.” The article reiterated, what innately most of us have known, that physically beautiful people get away with bad behavior and vice versa are able to finagle their wants and needs more easily. This would not be as prevalent if marketing priorities were not as aligned with the façade of beauty.
In these turbulent uncertain times, what if we revered peacemaking attributes that may help to reverse the world’s inequities? If women of all color, shapes, and ages were displayed from the rafters of every social media and advertising, would this impact a women’s vision of herself.? If we create a culture in America, where women are brought to wisdom’s table not merely to look at or objectify, but rather to contribute to conflict resolution, since as far as I can see, men have botched the job on a fairly consistent basis. Give females the respect and laude to make real effective change. Take the attention off the faces and bodies of women and put them at the tables discussing, national and international security.
Without consciousness we circumvent the fact that women, historically, have been the pursuers of peace, yet they continue to remain virtually invisible at the international roundtables. I believe that one reason is young girls, from a young age, are taught to focus on outer appearance rather than exploring their inner strengths of knowledge and insight. Again, not that wanting to “look pretty” is a terrible character flaw, but the pervasive obsession with outer beauty has mushroomed into a cloud of Pink. Women, deserve equal expectation that their bra or butt size is not paramount to their prowess. We don’t ask men what their penis size is and then if too small disqualify their merit.
Women, let’s begin to recognize that lasting beauty does come from deep within and if fostered, can be an influential force to resolutions around the globe. Let’s together, spend less time and finances on the fraudulent business of beauty and more on finding our commonality and inner strengths.