Beauty revolution

The objectification of women is alive and strong in the U.S. but it's not by men. No, we're doing it to ourselves.

Artists throughout history leave a pretty accurate visual account of a culture's ideals of beauty. One great example is the quintessential representation of Venus - the female human embodiment of beauty and sexuality. One of the very earliest examples is the Venus of Willendorf, a statue of a woman created between 25,000 and 20,000 B.C. She is, by modern North American standards, obese.

A few thousand years later, Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, painted in 1485-1486, depicts a much thinner goddess, albeit still healthy and amply curvy.

Until recent decades, Western artists have consistently portrayed the ideal female figure as shapely and voluptuous. More importantly, the ideal woman embodied femininity.

But within the last 50 years or so, North American and Western societies have made a drastic shift away from the idea that women should look like, well, women, to the point that androgyny is the new norm.

When Twiggy hit the runway in the mid-1960s, she rocked the fashion world and quickly set the modern beauty ideal. Models after Twiggy, and to this day, have grown taller and frighteningly skinnier, to the point that 18-year-old models like Eliana Ramos of Uruguay fall dead in their hotel rooms, induced by monthlong diets of only lettuce leaves.

Today, the average U.S. model is about 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs about 110 pounds, which is terrifying. I'm the same height, but I haven't weighed 110 pounds since middle school.

As modern feminism finds its place in a still male-dominated world, the female standard of beauty has lost it's shape - the curves that make women unique and sexy.

The new beauty ideal is much more masculine - perhaps women are finally learning that, to succeed in a male-dominated world, they have to appear more like men.

Now there's nothing wrong with being skinny or choosing to present yourself in a way that may be construed as more gender neutral.

If that's how you fit into the world, then more power to you.

The problem arises when young girls start fad diets, when women don't feel comfortable in swimsuits, when beauty magazines consistently have to report about eating disorders or when my own 11-year-old sister tells me she thinks she's fat.

But we women aren't just torturing ourselves over body size. We also do it through makeup, hair products and our constant battle with body hair.

Using makeup should be a rewarding process, not a daily ritual that ties you down every morning. I stopped wearing makeup altogether more than two years ago. It was hard at first - I felt naked and a little ugly. But now I never think about putting makeup on in the morning, I feel noticeably more confident and my skin is happier.

I know many women, and a few men, who love wearing makeup and get the same confidence boost from sporting it that I do from my bare skin. It can be a rewarding process when a person can embrace his or her unique differences instead of attempting to "perfect" or "fix" them.

More powerful than makeup use, the hairless-female trend has gripped U.S. women since World War I, when the May 1915 edition of Harper's Bazaar magazine featured a woman wearing a sleeveless evening gown that displayed bare shoulders and armpits.

Soon after that, a marketing executive representing a company that made razor blades for men began a campaign to convince North American women that underarm hair was unhygienic and unfeminine, according to In two years, razor blade sales doubled and a new gender stereotype was birthed from an effective sales campaign.

Shaving, wearing makeup or staying skinny aren't bad things at all but women shouldn't do them because we "have to." It's time to start accepting women of all shapes and sizes, regardless of individual grooming choices.

Each of us is more of a slave to advertising and social constraints than we realize, and when we view women who ignore those constraints as different, we're only perpetuating the problem.

It's time to stop buying into society's idea of what is beautiful, or even normal, and instead realize we're all beautiful and unique, even without makeup, perfect waistlines or smooth legs.

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