Men, both straight and gay, have been dictating to society what are the acceptable and standards of beauty for women for… forever is probably appropriate.
Since the advent of print and televised media, Anglo Saxon/European looking women have been the prevailing standard of beauty. There have been some variations with slightly olive complexioned Italian, Spanish and Latin women replacing paler complexions, but the overall look of fairly thin, long, straight hair and Anglo or European features has been the standard for some time now. These standards have been difficult on the vast majority of the world’s population who, for obvious reasons, can never fit into that subjective and manufactured standard of beauty. For Women of Color, the obstacles have been more obvious and burdensome.
It is totally unfair that women are judged on their appearances, comparative to men. Women, especially on television or in the entertainment industry are expected to be beautiful at all times, not gain too much weight and of course never age. As technology has evolved, it is not only the rich and famous who feel pressured to succumb to the societal pressures women feel to please others.
Social media innovations such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have allowed the average person the same platform to be seen and heard as a Kardashian. Those platforms have also allowed for greater scrutiny and judgment based on the most superficial and biased standards. Unfortunately this scrutiny toward women comes not only from men but other women as well.
“Regular” women now have the opportunities to seek fame and in some cases fortune, without having to take the previous routes of going to Los Angeles, New York or Miami to be discovered. A smartphone from anywhere in the world, can be used in the pursuit of garnering followers, likes, fans and inevitably haters.
Supermodels and actresses have glam squads and professional photographers. Even with those resources it is still well known that most print media photoshop and airbrush their model and actress pictorials. So what’s a regular person to do? Keep up with the Kardashians of course… so breast and butt augmentation are the new norm… hair extensions, weaves and wigs, are standard fair… botox, lip injections and… fill in any number of blanks. And after all of that social media and smart phones still allow filters to essentially photoshop like the pros.
So now more women have more opportunity to have a wide world audience of adulators. What’s real and authentic is less sacred than garnered likes and followers. So is it fair to judge those that put themselves out there?… No, judging is never okay, but it is done everyday and the pressure is more extreme than ever to compete with what women think that followers/fans will want to see. Women are pressured to be perfect. If imperfect, they are criticized. If too perfect or “fake” they are criticized.
Its a slippery slope for those that are actually seeking adulation. For those without an actual agenda, it must be disconcerting to see how free people are in passing judgment (good and/or bad) on the way women look. Specific body parts and features are so heavily scrutinized that it is easy to understand how even the most confident woman could develop body issues. Somehow thousand of likes and comments can be overshadowed by a few strong negative comments.
I am included amongst those, that even if not judgmental, is quite opinionated when it comes to the topic of women and beauty. I call it a healthy appreciation for the beauty of women, but the subjectivity and the standards have not been lost on me since I left my teens. The talk/controversy surrounding the song and video for Kendrick Lamar’s single, “Humble”, made me take greater stock of the unenviable position women are in as prized for their beauty, but constantly judged and criticized for the superficiality of their appearance.
Amongst close friends I have weighed in on the real versus fake discussions when it comes to women. I am an appreciator of natural beauty, and all the flaws and imperfections that a woman’s natural state brings. I am not a fan of enhancements and plastic surgery, but am more careful than ever to make sure that those opinions (until now) have stayed private. My opinions remain varied, but I really make sure to keep any semblance of judgment in check when it comes to women, their bodies, hair and fashion choices.
I used to allow my aversion to breast enhancements known to friends, but a chance encounter with a breast cancer survivor who received implants after a double mastectomy made me slow my role in being so opinionated upon realizing that every woman has a back story for why she may choose to alter or accentuate her appearance in any way. As a man I can look and appreciate and even have an opinion, but I have become more cognizant of the audience that is privy to my viewpoints and making sure that my opinions are more muted and non-judgment is clearly understood.
I think that is why Kendrick’s song and video struck a cord. “I’m so *icon sick and tired of the Photoshop. Show me something natural like afro on Richard Pryor. Show me something’ natural like ass with some stretch marks.” It was his opinion. Was he being judgmental?… Most of us do not know him well enough to make that claim. The public forum he has with a hit song and video leaves it up to interpretation. Some will absolutely agree, some will have issue.
Men and women will always have opinions on the beauty and appearance of other women. The mystique of women and their beauty have been the cause of the clash of empire’s, the source of man’s ambition and drive and the muse behind the greatest love ballads ever written. Yet, we must understand that our opinions should never be judgmental. Women are already subjected to manufactured standards of beauty and the the pressure on them to please others is more significant than any of us men could ever imagine. It is important that we never lose sight of that fact before we dive into scrutinizing the appearance of others.
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