Even though I have known that the ideology of “beauty” is a construct since a young age, I still suffer low self-esteem regarding my appearance from time to time. This results in guilt, as I felt as if I was not holding true to my beliefs. I am very passionate about body image and have always tried to influence others on how to view their body in a positive manner. Not depicting any mainstream beauty standards is partially the reason why I looked at the idea of “beauty” in a critical manner.
The idea of beauty is mainly targeted towards women, and I am not against body positivity for men, but it is important to realize that in societies where patriarchal values are present such as Canada and America, it is women who are told to be beautiful for the pleasure of men. Girls grow up seeing TVs, magazines telling them how to look; “white, tall, thin, large breasts.” We grow up in a world feeling like how we look is the most important part of our lives. Why? Because somehow. our natural state of how we look is not acceptable. “We need more radiant skin, more lustrous hair, a flatter belly, a tinier waist.” In grade six, 36 percent of girls in Canada say they are self-confident, but by grade 10 this has plummeted to only 14 percent. To put that in a different perspective, in grade six, 64% of girls are not self-confident and by grade 10 that number increases to 86%. This is simply horrifying.
As said by Gail Dines, “If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business.”
I have wondered why at times I haven’t felt content with how I look, despite being aware of these facts. Recently I figured it out: we live our lives surrounded by the expectation of beauty. When we turn on our TV or flip through a magazine, all we see are “beautiful” women, many times telling us how to get to where they are — what kinds of workouts to do, what to eat, what to wear for your body shape, what products to use etc. It is because we live in a world where we are forced to hate our bodies by conforming to unattainable beauty standards.
While I try to encourage others to join me in on a conversation about “what is beauty?” I am trying to unlearn a lot of things I have been taught as well.
To all the women out there, you are beautiful just the way you are and help women around you realize that they are too! You deserve to conquer life and turn your dreams into reality.
Photo: Eylül Aslan