The Crushing Effect Of Beauty Standards On Women

by Avree Hebbar, Vernon Hills High School

Our society has become too accustomed to shaping women into the ‘perfect mold’. A mold that has so many complex aspects, that it has become overly tiring to fulfill. The idea that women have to dress a certain way and have a specific body type, while giving men free passes, and excusing them from having anything near the amount of expectations has been so normalized.This idea doesn’t seem to be explicitly stated, it seems to be more implied. This implementation creates the image in everyone’s head of the perfect body; the perfect ones being those you see the models having, and the famous actors. By showing high status figures conforming to this idolized body, it can seem as though one must achieve it in order to be able to earn validation from others, be anyone, or get anywhere. I myself sometimes feel so much pressure to meet these expectations, that are so heavily rooted by society, that if not met, I could find myself feeling unaccepted and unappreciated. This feeling is definitely not new to the majority of other women.

Dress codes show that women will always have to conform, undermining the amount of progress that’s been made with what is deemed acceptable clothing. It’s like climbing up an escalator that’s going down. Some people have come so far in regards to what women can and cannot wear in everyday life, but because there are still so many more people who agree with this ‘perfect mold,’ dress codes still are a different story. There are so many different ideas of what a woman should be, each of which take form in different situations. At some events they should be put together, and modest. Other times they are seen as just a body without a brain. Dress codes are an attempt to suppress a woman’s right to expression. Whether it’s in schools or the workplace, women have so many restrictions, creating an ordeal unique to women. Students at Coast High School, in California, for example, cannot wear any of the following: “Bare midriff tops, Halter tops, off-the-shoulder tops, spaghetti strap tops that show cleavage, Short shorts, low-cut pants that are revealing or show under garments, Swim wear, tube tops, Muscle shirts, Pajamas or slippers.” Most of these things only apply to the attire of female students. This creates the idea that women are the only ones who have to change to be considered appropriate. We are denied so many things, just to make sure that we aren’t the reason someone else is being distracted. With all these expectations, it’s created a burden we have to carry around. There are so many different requirements compensating for the fact someone else can’t control themself in a work environment.

Dress codes creates the idea that women should always present themselves a certain way, which makes it easier for people in our society to justify expecting women to appear a specific way in other aspects of everyday life. Even when dress codes aren’t present, people end up shaming those who don’t check all of their boxes on beauty. The set bias on beauty, that one has to be skinny yet curvy has seemed to be set in stone. You see it being played out in every day media. It creates an illusion that one must have a set body image to get anywhere or feel accepted. The feeling of acceptance, which so many people crave, creates something resembling impulsion and urge, and a need to fit in or be wanted. Beauty has become an ideology now instead of a concept. It has become something to achieve instead of something to feel. Many say beauty comes within yourself, but the society’s idea of beauty is purely physical.

Women should be able to look however they want, but they’re told that just being themselves isn’t enough. The results are very conflicting instructions.You can’t reveal too much, but make sure there is something to show. Don’t show off or be too confident or cocky, but don’t be shy either. You must be put together and keep what’s yours to yourself, but still appeal to anyone and everyone. There’s always a silver lining, and it seems that in order for a woman to feel confident, there always has to be a third party opinion, when it should really come down to how they feel about themselves. Expression of any form is about self appreciation, and today’s bias and expectations have progressively been taking that away.

Women are so much more than just their bodies, but that seems to be the only thing they are appreciated for. If it’s a “good one”, that is. The general idea about good bodies and bad bodies are very conflicting, and nothing ever seems to be good enough. Real beauty isn’t about the amount of makeup it takes to hide imperfections or the amount of money you spend on body altering. It’s the image you have of yourself that defines it. The concept of beauty will never be absolute, but it should definitely not be set by anybody but yourself.

When an outsider tries to force their thoughts on their idea of beauty onto someone, it creates a gaping hole that makes them feel incomplete. One singular set of standards isn’t supposed to create a worldwide phenomenon, or create the perfect population of women who conform to a specific set of guidelines on feminine beauty, but it does, and that is what leaves so many women feeling insecure and unworthy. The whole idea of beauty is to realize how special you are and the impact you have, but it’s been changed into trying to make yourself special for others. The main goal we all need to strive to reach, is to feel confident for ourselves, and not for society.

The Crimson Cardinal is Midwest JSA's publication, comprised of student voices and opinions.