She is perched at the top of a steep, concrete step, the curve of her calf accentuated by the strain of her pose. There are her legs, tan and endless; a flip of a sleek ponytail; the seductive pucker of her lips as she peeks over her shoulder and leers at the camera; the strip of her flat belly, framed by her tight black crop top and the Daisy Dukes clinging to her waist; then, finally, her perfect butt, like two crescent suns emerging from the clouds of denim.
I am almost salivating, wanting to shout, “Damn, look at her butt!” but I keep my thoughts to myself.
Beauty is pain, but does it have to be? Like most women, I am often mystified by the beauty of high heels, and when trying them on in front of the mirror, I’m gleeful at the appearance; heels do a particularly good job at showcasing a woman’s calf muscles.
However, after wearing high heels at a recent wedding for only an hour, I found myself detesting the towering height of the shoes. My feet were screaming in pain, and the blisters that followed weren’t so fun either. And the thought occurred to me: I cannot be the only one, right?
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” – Title IX, Education Amendment of 1972
In 1972, Title IX, one of the most pivotal pieces of legislation to pass in congress, changed the course of history for women in the world of sports.
We are constantly immersed in media and advertising; getting bombarded with messages even if we don’t want to. These messages often feature unrealistic beauty standards and try to convince us that we will not be happy unless we buy these products. This constant intake of messages and images has an effect on us and it is not for the better. These companies are just trying to make money and will do whatever it takes to do so. Below I have recreated popular ads that are often directed toward women to be more realistic.
John Berger in his famous television program Ways of Seeing said that, “Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object — and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.” This quote summarizes the problem of the male gaze and how it has influenced our culture. The intersection between the male gaze and the beauty industry has created a systemic expectation that women need to be beautiful in order to be successful, to have love, to have sex, and to be happy. This pits women against other women, men, and themselves, dividing them and alienating them. This is not about being confident, radiant, and beautiful on your own terms. Instead, this is about a systemic problem that women need solidarity with each other to overcome and destroy this expectation of beauty.
I was a little shaken after doing my last blog post, My Week With Makeup. It was really hard to see two pictures of me, side by side, where I looked completely different. When I looked at myself wearing makeup, I felt like I finally measured up to the other girls I see walking around campus, the girls who look flawless. I looked older wearing makeup, and certainly more put together. I have a younger sister who is seventeen, and whenever we meet new people, they assume that she is older. Why? She wears makeup, she actually curls or straightens her hair in the morning, she’s polished and flawless and put together and so people assume she is older.
When I was a little girl, all I wanted was to be a teenager. I pictured my future self as a popular cheerleader, a girl who had an endless stream of boyfriends, a gaggle of giggling girlfriends, and a closet full of fashionable clothes. As I got older, I realized that my fantasy wasn’t really me. When I was young, all I wanted to do was wear makeup, but my mom made a rule that I wasn’t allowed to wear it until I was in seventh grade. Through my sophomore year of high school, I experimented with makeup, but I never really felt comfortable wearing it. I wasn’t good at putting it on, and it just never really felt like me. Now, I’m in my sophomore year of college and I haven’t really worn makeup since my junior prom.