Body Image Blog Titled: Unattainable Beauty
Guest Blog by: A. Tarasenko
Body Image – Unattainable Beauty – It’s a chicken-or-the-egg scenario: What comes first, our idea of what is beautiful or beauty itself driving our ideas? Does beauty even exist as its own entity or is it purely in the eye of the beholder? What happens when we are told what to behold as beautiful?
We all complain about how today’s images of ideal beauty are vastly different from reality, different enough for some people to starve themselves to death or go under the knife for life altering (potentially life ending) surgery. What convinces these people to adopt such a singular idea of beauty that they feel like they have no choice but to commit to a life of chasing conformity? These ideals cannot simply pop out of thin air, and there are no aliens in a parallel universe implanting pictures of supermodels into our advertising so millions of girls can eat lettuce the rest of their lives. So where does it all come from?
Our only visual records of the aesthetic of the past are what artists deemed necessary to put down on paper. If I had a nickel for every time I had a conversation with someone about how different the ideal body type was back then compared to now, I wouldn’t have to go to work tomorrow. The ideal woman had an accentuated waist, round hips, large breasts, and a symmetrical face with moist lips. The women all looked ready for action with sensuous plump bodies and the men ready to ravage or fight a lion, whichever came first. Back then it was mostly reproduction that drove our aesthetic, or very simply put… Sex.
Even in the renaissance, the demure down-turned face of the infinite Virgin Mary paintings had something coy behind the smile. But what happened to those curves, those soft fleshy women of yesteryear’s greatest masterpieces? Well let me point out that it wasn’t as much of a reality back than as we dream about, meaning that people didn’t run around naked, certainly never exposing that much flesh; and there was no such thing as advertising, a medium that would allow the mass distribution of images. The reality was that many women died prematurely because of the restraining, body altering corsets they had to wear. Those paintings we see now in museums were created more for the whims of their (usually male) patrons and thus defined their sexual tastes more than anything.
Then came the invention of media and the over-saturation of advertising in our media outlets. Today’s aesthetic is not really an aesthetic at all, but it is a product of the privatization of beauty. Any company who makes a “beautifying” product will try to sell it as something we cannot live without (makeup, fashion, plastic surgery). Thus they perpetuate the images of beauty they know are not attainable so we may hopefully be tricked into believing they are by using their products.
At the end of the day, no one can define what we are all supposed to look like and feel about our bodies. I can safely say that those of us who have been ignoring society’s pleas to buy into a singular idea of beauty may continue to do so at no detriment to themselves. For those who do fall into the trap, I hope they see sooner than later that instead of loving themselves like they should, they are just spending their time here on earth following trends that change in accordance with whatever companies are trying to sell them.