The ideal of beauty. High bar or strangling rope?

Most people want to look good. High cheekbones, beautiful hair, a slim and flexible body and expressive eyes. Women in particular seem susceptible to the idea of beauty that society dictates to them. But why is that actually the case? In this article we take a critical look at the female image of beauty.

The Western ideal of beauty

The beauty of man has played a major role since man existed. But the ideal image of beauty is not a fixed image. In fact, it is constantly subject to change. In the Renaissance, two conceptions of beauty were used simultaneously. On the one hand, people sought beauty in the most accurate representation of nature possible. On the other hand, the desired beauty had to be a kind of copy of divine beauty. The woman in the Renaissance is a woman with clear curves and preferably long and curly hair. Nowadays the ideal of beauty is very different. The emphasis in the modern Western world is mainly on having a slim body. This thinness ideal was first introduced in the 1970s. Twiggy, Audrey Hepburn and Jane Fonda had a slim, almost petite body and a young appearance. These women were seen as role models and body image was adopted by the masses. The advent of television, of course, made its spread easier, and soon almost every girl dreamed of a lithe slim body. Western society also likes to give the impression that beauty is something that can be created. Anyone can be beautiful if you work hard enough or spend enough money on it. This line of thought is intimately linked to the capitalist system. The use of make-up has become indispensable in the West. Makeup emphasizes attractive facial features and can at the same time cover up flaws. But in addition to the face, tanning, tanning beds and teeth whitening are also used. This clearly shows the importance of beauty in our culture. Plastic surgery offers more and more options to adapt the body to your own wishes, and in this way many people have become their own beauty project.

Other countries, other images

However, the Western ideal of beauty does not apply everywhere. In other regions, different ideas about feminine beauty prevail. In many African countries, old women are desired for their wisdom and beauty, just like full women with more weight. This essentially says that there is no such thing as universal beauty that can be measured in external measures. Another example of a different image of beauty from the West is the Padaung tribe in Burma. From the time the women of the tribe are about six years old, they slowly have more and more copper rings attached to their necks, until their necks appear to be extremely long. There is a woman in this tribe who wears 37 rings around her neck. For the Padaung tribe, this is a sign of absolute beauty.

A dictatorship of men?

With the example of the Padaung tribe in mind, we can ask ourselves whether the beauty ideal is so good for women. The rings weaken the muscles and deform the bones and joints of the women. And because of the Western ideal of slimness, many women develop eating disorders and exhaust themselves in the race to appear slim and young. The question is also whether women really do this for themselves, or whether they mainly want to live according to the image that men have created of them. Some feminists made the link between the rising power of women since emancipation in the 1970s and the increasingly slim-oriented fashion image that emerged afterwards. In this way the women were again ringed and kept short, they could now be independent, but were they also thin?

Freedom of images and unique beauty

There is probably still a lot of work to be done on women’s inner freedom before they become their own boss and no longer allow themselves to be influenced by fashion images. It is clear that such a free spirit is a difficult thing to acquire. With the constant stream of images from the media, it is difficult for women to define themselves without an ideal of beauty. But this could ultimately be possible, and it would place women stronger and more decisive in the world of men. Those who are no longer an object become a subject and can determine for themselves what happiness lies in, what beauty is, and which path to take. After all, every woman has a unique beauty and it deserves to be seen, exactly as it is!

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