I want perfection/From my reflection

It would certainly be true to say that the majority of women suffer from some form of low self confidence when it comes to physical appearance. Women constantly put down their own looks to friends and yet consistently see the positive in others. Many contemporary figures, most notably Gok Wan, have latched onto this problem and used it in popular culture, does this pressure women further and is low body image used as a marketing tool, or is low body image an instigating problem in today’s society?

Women seem to be judged solely on how attractive they are, recently the Arlene Philips vs. Alesha Dixon debate has demonstrated how women seem to have a much shorter window of beauty than men. Alesha now sits on a panel with two middle aged men and one pensioner, while Strictly Come Dancing is presented by youthful Tess Daly and “doddery” Bruce Forsyth. It could be argued that Forsyth has charisma and personality, but we must then ask why women aren’t judged on these criteria.

When Hillary Clinton ran for president in the 2008 American presidential elections she was most frequently critised for her hair style, dress sense and attention to grooming than for her politics. Indeed she famously said “If I want to knock a story off the front page, I just change my hairstyle,” in England  Jacqui Smith was berated for showing too much clevage . Where was politics in this?

From birth women and men are treated differently, girls are stereotypically dressed in pink and told “isn’t she pretty?” and boys are dressed in blue and qualities such as strength, intelligence and maturity are highlighted. If we look at recent advertising, the media definitely picks up on body consciousness, does this make people feel inadequate to pressure them into spending money fixing non existent problems? Or are they latching onto real issues? The ‘Dove Campaign for Real Beauty’ is studied in Media courses throughout the UK, this was supposedly the first advertising campaign that used ‘real’ women and attempted to show different body shapes and sizes . What a lot of people now know is that the photos were still edited and what very few people know, is that this Dove campaign was produced by the company Unilever who also produced the infamous Lynx adverts, some of which were banned .

Society has always differed in expectations of beauty, Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Spencer have been replaced throughout the nineties and noughties with sexualised images of women. Page Three and the Daily Star along with ‘Lads Mags’ and increasingly provocative TV shows and films have contributed to the mainstreaming of pornography.

If a pin up photo from the fifties was compared to a modern version, the pin up would have a beautiful body and face, but still have natural faults and imperfections. All of these elements perhaps contribute to a heightening of female self expectation.

Interestingly, the Oriental counties have been stated as the only countries where the ideal form of beauty reflects the natural body shape of women. Slim and boyish has stereotypically been the ideal and oriental women are famously slim and boyish. Although in recent years there seems to have been a push for larger breasts and the demand for longer legs cannot be ignored. The process in leg lengthening is a protracted and extremely painful process.
Back to the UK, a thin body is considered a beautiful one, although large breasts are continually coveted. A man’s opinion (when questioned in relation to this piece) was that curvy figures are preferred. This flimsily suggests, when all context is taken into account, that women’s low body image is perhaps not necessarily to do with trying to be attractive to men. And we must consider that this man was probably questioned under duress.
The fact remains that women perpetually undermine themselves through devaluating comments and negative remarks, while men interestingly appear to do the reverse. The role of the media, pushy advertising and lack of female role models, not judged purely on their appearance, are factors that could all contribute to women’s self depreciation. Cockiness and arrogance are not valued qualities in society, but a little bit of confidence would go a long way.

Very few women would expect Mr. Universe in their bedroom and perhaps it’s not too optimistic to suggest that men might be just as realistic. Gok Wan continually tries to show women that confidence is key to looking good, and it would be true to say that the friends we consider the most beautiful are the smiley, happy and friendly ones.

Do you agree? Are women too harsh on themselves? Let us know your thoughts :)


Unknown said...

I lovveedd this blog :)
It was awesome :)

Maria Fallon said...

Thank you Sophie! Lucy is a really good writer and we were REALLY excited about this :)