Descriptions of beauty are thrown at us everyday in various and opposing views. While many people stay with the belief that beauty is internal, society’s view of beauty is propelled at us from every angle. Just turn on the television, open a magazine, or surf the web and you will find yourself bombarded by the idea that being sexy and being beautiful are synonyms. Critics argue that this view of beauty is causing our women and even some men to alter their bodies in damaging ways. While I agree that the way today’s society views is damaging and unrealistic, but I also do not believe this is a new occurrence. Throughout history various societies have caused their subjects to do damaging and dangerous things all for the sake of what they called beauty. Beauty has become superficial and a term that is dangerous and used as a weapon to control the mindsets of others.
The word beauty is described in the dictionary as “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.” (Merriam-Webster 2012). So why throughout history has the human race associated beauty with physical appearance? The ancient Mayans went to vast lengths to change their physical appearances. Mayan mothers flattened their children’s heads with boards and hung objects in front of their newborn’s eyes to make the baby’s eyes crossed (Frater 2009) Both of these things were highly desirable forms of Mayan beauty but caused serious physical damage to the body. Corsets in the Victorian era were used to mold a women’s body into the curvaceous form they desired. The sacrifice they paid for this look were broken ribs, fainting spells, and in extreme cases, kidney problems from having a corset to tight. Today across the world people still become ensnared in the trap of societal beauty. The Padang women in Burma stretch their necks with long brass coils to attain the long necks that their culture desires (Tao, 2012). The spirals
are started when a girl is around five or six and by the time they are adults they have around twenty brass rings that adorn their neck. The brass rings cause their collarbone to cave down and crush the vertebrae in their spines and their collarbones but the women refuse to take off the rings because it is what their culture views as beautiful. In American society numerous women and even men go under the knife to achieve the look they want through plastic surgery. For a substantial fee, one can change the shape of their nose, increase or decrease breast size, reshape a jawline, or even remove fat from unwanted areas. Less dramatic alterations are made on a daily bases through applying makeup, waxing away unwanted hair, and straightening or curling hair.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to live up to the beauty standards of society. Although I know that all the pictures of beautiful women the media throws at me are highly photo-shopped, it still hasn’t prevented me from trying to achieve the perfect body and stunning looks that I gaze upon. In ninth grade I became anorexic. As a slightly over weight kid I became self-conscious about how skinny all the “beautiful” girls were. Even though I witnessed the ones who had zero personality and others who were downright evil, I felt that personality was worthless because being beautiful was what really mattered. I read countless articles on how to lose weight and how many calories each item of food contained. The more weight I would lose, the more compliments I would get on how beautiful I had become. Fortunately I was able to get help before it caused too much damage in my life. It still has repercussions on my life though, even now I find myself thinking about how I could get my body to look like those that are featured in the magazines and television. Instead of starving myself I have taken to makeup to contour my average face to look more alluring. I don’t necessarily enjoy putting on makeup. It causes me to question if I’m actually beautiful or if I’m just putting on a mask trying to fit in to the masquerade. This doesn’t stop me from applying it to my face in an almost every morning ritual. The false hope that I’ll live up to those photo shopped beauties keeps me adding new products to my collection. I want to be that Cover girl I see on the commercials. If I put on my L’Oreal Paris mascara, maybe more people will notice my eyes and appreciate them. I forget to practice what I preach and
forget that my beauty is found within my personality and how I treat others. Instead I let myself worth be defined on how my physical features compare to models I see.
There will never be unified description of beauty and the opposing arguments will bicker between each other until the world ends. Media will be blamed for the destructiveness of beauty through their highly edited photos and almost anorexic models. We as people must not forget that it is not just the media to blame for the way beauty is morphed but also ourselves. We have a choice if we are going to follow blindly along or challenge our societies descriptions on beauty. Past societies had to have had brief thoughts about the pain they were putting their bodies through, but still chose to accept it instead of challenging the view. We allow our cultures to use beauty as a weapon against us if we keep following blindly after descriptions our society throws at us we will never be able to find the true beauty that lays just beneath the surface of our skin.
Merriam-Webster. (2012) Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/beauty?show=0&t=1354774384
J Frater. (2009, September 09). 10 facts about the Mayans. Retrieved from http://listverse.com/top-10-fascinating-facts-about-the-mayans/
Marky, C.N., & Markey, P.M. (2012). Emerging Adults’ responses to a media presentation of idealized female beauty: An examination of cosmetic surgery in reality television. Psychology Of Popular Media Culture,. 209-219 doi:10.1037/a0027869
Tao, Huai Sua. (2012, May 22). Long Neck Villages. Retrieved from http://www.ascensionatsea.net/Thailand/Thai_longnecks.htm