Take collective responsibility for beauty standards

Thanks to the transparency of social media, it is easy to observe an increase in our culture’s obsession with beauty. A casual scroll on Tiktok or Instagram can include not only a slew of heavily filtered and edited photos and videos, but also content created by those who want to share their before-and-afters of current beauty trends, from casual routines such as ” slugging” to more extreme measures such as laser facials and plastic surgeries.

The latter has recently grown in popularity, with plastic surgeons reporting performing 600 more procedures in 2021 than in 2020: a 40% increase. The most popular are “non-invasive” procedures, namely Botox and facial fillers. From 2000 to 2020, the number of annual Botox injections increased by almost 459%. This, along with lip and face filling, is now a norm for women of a certain age. For women in their twenties, there has been an increase in the promotion of “preventive Botox”, a procedure undertaken on the assumption that once there is a crease in a piece of paper, it is impossible to smooth it.

Not your mother’s plastic surgery

The general view is that if something makes a woman happy or feels confident, she should do it – advice that doesn’t distinguish between buying a new lipstick and elective surgery. This assumption is based on the feminist sentiment that judging any woman’s individual choices amounts to internalized misogyny. Criticizing a woman for the importance she places on her appearance is just sexism in another form. After all, historically, a woman’s looks were one of the greatest tools in her arsenal, one of her only avenues to agency and power in a man’s world. Despite the drastic increase in equality today, women are loath to give up the prized asset of beauty. Seems fair, considering the myriad of small injustices and burdens that women still carry.

But to dismiss any criticism of beauty practices as mere misogyny is insufficient. We can thank female beauty for the purpose it served in our collective past while acknowledging its shortcomings. In addition to surgical alteration practices, the stakes continue to be high on beauty appointments, personal care, makeup and hygiene. Eyelash extensions, gua sha massage, twelve-step skincare routines. . . recommendations on how to improve a woman’s appearance are limitless. (Meanwhile, my husband insists he only needs to shower every three or four days.) What conversation are we avoiding when we refuse to ask why women are changing their appearance more than ever, even though we have more options in the modern age?

Distracted by our gazes

Cosmetic practices and procedures are not limited to women, but are primarily marketed to women. Men make up only about 6% of all Botox procedures. There are clear patriarchal benefits to keeping women obsessed with their looks, in addition to the companies (and their male CEOs) that the fixation keeps profitable. I can’t help but wonder what more women could have accomplished, if not for the hours and energy we spent on our hair, our skin, our clothes, our bodies.

It’s not just a matter of women’s personal choices. The increase in cosmetic practices and procedures raises the stakes for other women, especially the younger generation. Our individual choices affect our communities and our culture. We also have to recognize that looking better can quickly become an obsession. Research shows increasing rates of body dysmorphia in teens. This, along with eating disorders, are dangerous illnesses, making the sentiment that “if it makes a woman happy, she should do it” downright cringe-worthy.

When so many women go under the knife or the needle, young women internalize beliefs that modifications are standard and necessary, that their natural beauty is not enough. Due to the amount of energy, effort and money older generations expend to stay young and beautiful, they imply that a woman’s first and foremost responsibility is to be physically attractive, despite our accomplishments. social. How long can we, as women, blame society and the beauty industry before we take responsibility for upholding these standards ourselves? We must recognize our shared obligation to other women, especially young women, not to artificially create our own ideal bodies and faces.

With so much money to be made from women’s insecurities, no one is coming to save us. These practices and products will continue to be sold as long as there is a market for them. And yet, we women continue to play victim to beauty standards, bemoaning these expectations while willingly participating in them. We accept aging in men as part of the natural order of things, but pity or ridicule our own sex for any loss of youth and beauty.

Perhaps we can accept this fact in women as a whole by first accepting it in ourselves. Perhaps, like the feminists before us, we are the only ones who can free ourselves from an operating system, although ours is made up of beauty standards and sales, rather than voting rights and financial. Maybe we’re changing the system simply by being ourselves, crumpling the paper of our faces with a story of laugh lines and contentment forged in the wisdom of age, rather than beauty.

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