It is a true and common saying that women in the world today are far more beautiful than their ancestors and yet women today seem to struggle more emotionally with beauty standards than women before them.
Why is that?
Many people today will be quick to blame Hollywood and the media, laying all of the blame on the movie stars, which is a common answer.
Feminists will be the first to tell you that it's all men's fault (or society's fault, ran by men) for pressuring women into meeting "unrealistic standards".
Rarely, if ever, will you hear "I set my own beauty standards" or "women set their own beauty standards".
The truth of the matter is that it's really a combination of factors, though not all factors are equal. Beauty often works like fashion, going in and out of certain trends, while still maintaining some sense of consistency.
So let's break this down, shall we?
Hollywood's Role in Beauty Standards:
Beauty standards in Hollywood, as you can see from the picture above, have changed the most and have probably been the most varied. Hollywood tends to reflect beauty standards more than it pushes beauty standards, though. This is because Hollywood is in the business of making money, which means that the audience largely dictates the standards. Obviously Hollywood can try to put whatever they want in front of us, but ultimately it is our choice whether or not to financially support Hollywood's decisions every time we choose to pay for a film.
In Los Angeles, CA where Hollywood culture thrives the most, women are the least offended by "Hollywood body types" and use the term "unrealistic" the least. However, in New York City, New York where Hollywood culture is more looked down upon, women are far more offended by "Hollywood body types" and use the term "unrealistic" at much higher rates, even to the point of accusing those women in Hollywood of being unrealistic and not wanting to see advertisements that have really skinny women. (Celebrities like Katy Perry are even photo-shopped to look thicker, not thinner, than she actually is or her advertisement would make women less likely to buy the product.)
In reality, Hollywood just follows the beauty trends in our society. In the 1980's, there were many more Caucasian buxom blondes who dominated the TV screens and media ads. In the 1990's, there was a shift from buxom to skinny - regardless of race as Tyra Banks and Halle Berry showed - and an expansion from blondes to include brunettes. In the 2000's and 2010's, there was another expansion with petite and multi-ethnic women like Isla Fisher or Eva Longoria.
Hollywood has a lot of problems but setting our beauty standards is not one of them.
Society's Role in Beauty Standards:
The introduction of a "perfect body" Barbie doll leads many to blame society for littering American homes with an unrealistic doll. But did you know that Barbie was created by an American businesswoman and inventor named Ruth Handler? She modeled Barbie after a German doll which was modeled after a TV show character. Are we really going to accuse this woman of having some malicious agenda just because we're not happy with our perceptions of her product? After all, if you look at life-sized mannequins used in American malls and clothes shops at the exact same time, it's easy to tell that Barbie is just a miniature fashion mannequin.
|Barbie vs. Non-Barbie|
|Barbie vs Mannequin|
This might upset you to hear this, or it might just make you laugh, but you should know that this body form was used for mannequins - and Barbie - because of how great it highlights fashion. It was always meant to flatter the fashion styles presented as much as possible. After all, you can understand how stores would want to show their fashions in the best possible light to sell them, right? The stores were not thinking that women would suddenly develop insecurities about the mannequins so how could Barbie's inventor - a woman - think that a miniature doll version would suddenly make little girls develop insecurities?
Barbie was always meant as a fashion doll; Not a beauty standards-enforcing doll. That's why Barbie - and mannequins - are not made in "realistic" forms but fashion-flattering forms. Yes, it is an unrealistic body type but women should know that it was never made with any intent to offend or pressure. Mannequins were made to sell women clothes and Barbie dolls were made to sell doll clothes to little girls in preparation for the adult fashion they'd be buying later.
Men's Role in Beauty Standards:
|Victoria's Secret Ad|
Straight men are attracted to the female form, it is a fact of nature. Another fact of nature is that the female form attracts men for reproduction reasons. This is why men are attracted to what they perceive as fertility factors. In fact, women even become more attractive when they are at their most fertile, according to men and women!
In different areas of the world, there are divergent perceptions of what "beauty factors" are. In colder regions, buxom women are more valued because they have a higher chance of reproduction success since they can withstand the colder temperatures better. In tropical climates, smaller women are more valued because they have a higher chance of reproduction success since they can withstand the hotter temperatures better. This is why they say "beauty is in the eye of the beholder".
Most commonly though, men just like when women look like women and have feminine features that are different from the features that men have. Believe it or not, men really value the physical differences in women and appreciate seeing a woman that doesn't look like himself. This is why the most consistent beauty factors throughout all cultures, tends to be femininity.
Just as women have standards for men, so men have their own standards for women. However, the media and feminism tends to vastly over-exaggerate what men's standards exactly are.
While it is true that men are visual creatures, they are not quite as picky nor quite as open-minded as they are made out to be. Some women think that men are so attracted to the female form that they are sexually open to any woman so long as she has woman parts, this is not true. Other women think that men focus on tons of nuances and subtleties and demand precise perfection, this is also not true.
While it does depend on a man's culture, again, for the most part men just like women to be feminine as a way to contrast their own masculinity. Young guys who are not ready for commitment are not the same as men. Young guys are much more open-minded since they have a biological necessity that pressures them to find a certain amount of release for sexual tension. Men, however, are much more balanced and do not just rely on physical beauty but personality beauty as well.
A woman's physical beauty to a man can be changed by her personality, for better or worse!
American men don't really pressure women in regards to beauty standards. Of course, they each have their own preferences in women just as all women have their own preferences in men, but that's about as far as their role goes in this context. So if you want to know what kind of beauty is the most ideal to a man, it really depends on his individual preferences and culture.
Women's Role in Beauty Standards:
|Heidi Montag famously got surgeries AFTER getting married and having fame; not TO get married and have fame.|
Surprise, surprise! Women play the biggest role in beauty standards as well as tend to be the most obsessed with beauty and standards of beauty.
That's right. Women notice "flaws" and criticisms that most men don't even notice!
The sad truth is that many women do far more in the beauty department than they need to because they think or feel that they have to.
In addition, most women rank themselves against other women and use other women as their beauty standards.
Just as little girls love to imitate the pretty princess and wear the princess clothes, jewelry and/or make-up; So do women sometimes end up imitating other women. Or they get jealous and criticize. Either way, this usually has nothing to do with men - aside from one thinking that men find another woman more attractive - or society - aside from one thinking that society finds another woman more attractive.
Take the picture above with Heidi Montag for example. Hollywood didn't make her get surgeries, she had more TV time pre-surgery than post-surgery. Society didn't make her get surgeries, she was known as a "hottie" long before the surgeries. Men didn't make her get surgeries, she found herself a husband who was attracted to her just the way she was before surgery. (Plus, believe me when I say that there are tons of men out there who find her to be more attractive pre-surgery than post-surgery.) The sad truth here is that this woman got all of these surgeries because she wanted them. She criticized herself, pointed out "flaws" in herself and made a drastic decision to "improve" them. She implemented unrealistic beauty standards on herself and in turn, made herself look unrealistic.
Women are each other's harshest critics. Women will notice the most nuanced of details that sometimes even other women don't even notice. We get jealous and we get competitive. Feminists don't want to admit it but the reason is that we want attention for our beauty. We like receiving positive attention for our beauty and we love when someone considers us "beautiful".
Whether you are the kind of woman who only likes that attention from your lover or the kind that likes that attention from as many people as possible, it's just a natural and innocent feminine tendency to want our beauty to be appreciated.
What is not natural or innocent, however, is an obsession with beauty. Some women allow themselves to be so overwhelmed and obsessed by beauty that they actually attack themselves or other women based on their beauty standards and they do so in harsh manners.
Now I am not saying that women should not have beauty standards or should not allow themselves to embrace certain beauty standards. What I am saying, is that everything in life requires balance, including beauty standards.
The most important and universal beauty standard is healthiness.
As long as you are healthy, you are beautiful in your own way. If you have certain preferences for yourself, that is perfectly normal! Sometimes women prefer to look a certain way and there is nothing wrong with that but you should never destroy yourselves for beauty. In America, no man, society or Hollywood is dictating the beauty standards for women; Women have the power and control to dictate their own beauty standards.
So the next time you are feeling insecure about beauty, try not to attack yourself or another woman. Instead, try to focus on why you are feeling insecure. Should you be feeling insecure? If the only reason you are feeling insecure is because you think another woman might be more physically attractive than you are, do not let that bring you down! Part of what makes us beautiful is our individuality and uniqueness. Physical beauty is only one part of the equation of overall beauty. Personality, attitude and even values are all parts of the equation as well.
The more women choose to focus solely on physical beauty standards, the more they are choosing to objectify themselves by choosing to focus on only 1 aspect of beauty.
Women in America are fortunate because they get to decide what is beautiful:
If they chose to focus more on acting ability, then actresses in Hollywood would be more talented than beautiful.
If they chose to focus more on sociability than fashion then society would reflect personality more than looks in advertisements, etc.
If they chose to date men and not young guys who are too immature for long-term commitment, then those men will value their overall beauty more than their physical beauty.
If they chose to be more accepting and understanding than jealous and competitive, then they would have more female unity than female cattiness and "mean girls".
So remember: Women are empowered in America and women do control more than feminists want you to believe. After all, if you believe you have no control then you're more likely to submit to feminists who claim they can get that control for you, after you donate to their cause, of course.