The issue of the ‘ideal woman’ is something I feel needs to be addressed. Regarding how the media loves to objectify women in the media, a deeper problem which needs to acknowledged is how the media makes the beauty of women universal – I have come to realize how serious this problem is, when in actuality, the image of beauty is completely subjective; what one may see as beautiful may be completely different from what another may see as beautiful, this is something that we all need to understand at the very least.
First, we must highlight what exactly is this idea, the ‘ideal woman’; Images in the media today project an unrealistic and even dangerous standard of feminine beauty that can have a powerful influence on the way women view themselves. From the perspective of the mass media, thinness is idealised and expected for women to be considered “attractive.” Images in advertisements, television, and music usually portray the “ideal woman” as tall, white, and thin, with a tubular body, and blonde hair.
It has become evident that the sociocultural standards of feminine beauty are presented in almost all forms of popular media, constantly barraging females with images that show what is considered to be the ideal body. Such standards of beauty are almost completely unachievable for most women; a majority of the models displayed by the mass media are well below what is considered healthy body weight. Mass media’s use of such unrealistic models sends an implicit message that in order for a woman to be considered beautiful, she must be unhealthy. The mindset that a person can never be “too rich or too thin” is all too prevalent in society, and it makes it difficult for females to achieve any level of contentment with their physical appearance – this is something I find to be a massive problem with respect to the media’s portrayal of women.
This leads to my next of the issue of colourism within this idea of the ‘ideal woman’. Too many industries thrive off women feeling bad about themselves and seeking ways to fix their “flaws,” (such as skin and hair) which women naturally perceive as a result of not measuring up to media standards for beautiful or even “average.” These studies show us that pretty much everyone feels bad. Too fat, too thin, too busty, not busty enough, too tall, too white, too dark. The mainstream beauty ideal is almost exclusively white, making it all the more unattainable for women of colour. Though beautiful women of color like Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Queen Latifah, Rihanna, Jennifer Hudson, Halle Berry and others have achieved a lot in American culture – media representations of these women have become increasingly “anglicized” or “whitewashed” over time, with lighter-colored, straighter hair, lighter makeup, colored contacts and often shrinking figures. The recent topic of Aamito Lagum, in which her black feature of her big lips received quite a lot of hate from the public, comments such as “nigger lips” were used – showing that certain features, particularly African ones, are seen as undesirable. But what I find so interesting, is that when other ethnic groups adopt this ‘big lip’ feature, it is generally seen as a desirable trait. Also, the nappy hair attribute that Africans have is seen as an undesirable trait (generally) as well. So many African women now want weave which is long, straight or curly – allowing them to gain this ‘ideal woman’ image. Of course, I understand that in some cases women do not do this intentionally wanting to look like the other ethnic group, but I could say this idea is very implicit and not always clear.
There is also this idea of the ‘ideal woman India’s obsession with fair skin is well documented: in 1978, Unilever launched Fair & Lovely cream, which has subsequently spawned numerous whitening face cleansers, shower gels and even vaginal washes that claim to lighten the surrounding skin. In 2010, India’s whitening-cream market was worth $432m, according to a report by market researchers ACNielsen, and was growing at 18% per year. Last year, Indians reportedly consumed 233 tonnes of skin-whitening products, spending more money on them than on Coca-Cola!
Cricket players and Bollywood stars endorse these products. But now the film star Nandita Das has taken a stance against the craze and given her support to the Dark is Beautiful campaign which challenges the belief that success and beauty are determined by skin colour. “I want people to be comfortable in their own skin and realise that there is more to life than skin colour,” she says, adding that an Indian paper had written “about my support for the campaign and then lightened the photo of me that went alongside it“, the irony.
Girls, do not let the media dictate what beauty is for you – it is completely impossible and unrealistic for there to be one! There is no point in hating any part of your body, that being your skin, size, hair etc. Why demoralise your unique traits when you can embrace them? Yes, no one can define what is beauty is, because everything about yourself can beautiful – some people may not see certain traits as beautiful, this is true but other people will most certainly see the beauty in your traits; beauty is completely subjective. Ashley Graham recently became the first Size-16 Model to Cover ‘Sports Illustrated’ Swimsuit Issue, boundaries have been broken – this proves that there is no set image of the ideal woman. Even so, why should you give a sh*t? As long as you accept your natural self and see it as a beautiful thing, then worrying about what the next guy thinks is irrelevant. Using the mass media as a standard for your life will only bring unsatisfaction with yourself and internal struggle – rise above the ideology that has mentally enslaved you.