By Rosanna Emenusiobi
(continued from the last edition)
The Distortion of Feminine Beauty: Photoshopping (contd)
One of the main strategies used to reinforce and normalize a distorted idea of “average” is media's representation of women as extremely thin (meaning much thinner than the actual population or what is physically possible for the vast majority of women) – either by consistent use of models and actresses that are underweight or extremely thin, or by making the models and actresses fit their idea of ideal thinness and beauty through digital manipulation both on screen through computer-generated image (CGI) and in print media. Essentially, their “feminine ideal is tanned, healthy slenderness, with no unsightly bumps, bulges or cellulite, and bodily and facial perfection that results from hours of labour: exercise, makeup and hair care” (Coward, 1985). Many years later, plastic surgery and Photoshopping. This unrealistic form is consistently represented across almost all media forms, along with blemish-free, wrinkle-free, and even pore-free skin, thanks to the wonders of digital manipulation as an “industry standard” that is openly endorsed and defended by magazine editors and media makers the world over.
Photoshopping has reached an all-time high. It is inescapable. From lost self-esteem, lost money and time spent fixing “flaws” and a well-documented preoccupation with losing weight, the effects of these unreal ideals hurt everyone. We know that advertising – especially for fashion or beauty products – depends on two things: 1) girls and women believing their happiness, health, and ability to be loved is dependent on their appearance, and 2) girls and women believing they can achieve physical ideals by using certain products or services. Do we really understand that ALL media (with very few exceptions) depend on advertising money to operate? Because of that, the editorial content or programming has to uphold those same ideals or else advertisers aren't happy. Digitally slimming women's bodies, adding or exaggerating a “thigh gap,” and removing signs of life like pores, gray hairs, and wrinkles aren't just casual decisions based on aesthetic preferences of a few editors — they are profit-driven decisions to create false ideals for females to seek after in hopes of someday attaining them. These hopes are largely driven by desire to be found attractive, loved, appear healthy, and ultimately, happy.
Lindsay and Lexie advice, “Recognize that you are not just a body. Recognize that your body is not just an ornament or an object to be fixed and judged — it is an instrument to live and do and be. Reject messages that teach you otherwise. Cancel subscriptions, unfollow on social media, spend your money elsewhere, talk back to companies and speak up in your own circles of influence. Your reflection does not define your worth, and self-comparisons to unreal ideals get us absolutely nowhere. These ideals are unlikely to change anytime soon, so we have to change our perceptions of the media and bodies with or without media.” I refer you to the website of these women to learn more on how artificial beauty: airbrushing, Photoshopping, manipulation of one's bodily image, cosmetic surgery, makeups and so on alter ladies' images and minds, often to the ladies' disadvantage.
5.3 “Under-the-knife 'Beauty'”: Cosmetic Surgeries
Cosmetic plastic surgery includes surgical and nonsurgical procedures that enhance and reshape structures of the body purported “to improve appearance and confidence”. This is different from plastic surgery which takes care of reconstructing damaged parts of the body. Cosmetic surgery reconstructs healthy and normal parts of the body that one dislikes. While reconstructive or plastic surgery aims to reconstruct a part of the body or improve its functioning, cosmetic or aesthetic surgery aims at improving the appearance of it. Today the list of cosmetic surgery appears endless: eye lift, face lift, breast lift, nose lift, tummy tuck-in, thigh reduction, neck liff, rib removal, lip augmentation, liposuction (reduction of fat), breast implants, breast reduction, breast lift, buttock lift, and buttock implant. Others are: labia reduction, lip enhancement, nose reshaping, ear reshaping, cheek implant, cheek lift, brow lift, chin lift, chin implant, jaw reshape, arm lift. The list could go on and on. Any part of the body one dislikes could be 'reconstructed' so that one appears more 'beautiful' and confident in one's estimation.
Unfortunately, there are stories of cosmetic surgeries gone wrong – they ended up destroying the seekers, disfiguring them beyond recognition.
6. NO MAKEUP CAMPAIGN
When Alicia Keys, a 15-time Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter/producer, an accomplished actress, a New York Times best-selling author, an entrepreneur and a powerful force in the world of activism, began her NOMAKEUP CAMPAIGN, she was criticized for it. Reasons given were because she is naturally beautiful, so she is very comfortable not wearing makeups. Critics wished some other person other than her should have begun the campaign.
However, she continued with her campaign, convinced that women should look natural. She reflected on how much women are brainwashed into feeling like they have to be skinny, or sexy, or desirable, or perfect. She became tired of the constant stereotyping through every medium that makes women feel like being a normal or plus-size is a crime. Or the constant message that being sexy means being naked. She wanted to be herself and she has maintained that, encouraging other women to courageously follow suit. She came to realise that women hide even who they really are under those makeups.
I would like to end this first part with a quotation by Golda Poretsky:
“Beauty shouldn't be about changing yourself to achieve an ideal or be more socially acceptable. Real beauty, the interesting, truly pleasing kind, is about honoring the beauty within you and without you. It's about knowing that someone else's definition of pretty has no hold over you.”
Are women pretty or beautiful? Both. When someone is pretty, they have a good appearance; when someone is beautiful, they shine inside and out.Women are all there – physically and internally. This insight introduces the second part, which is, THE INNER BEAUTY OF WOMEN – the other dimension of women's beautiful endowment by their Creator.
1. WOMEN'S INNER BEAUTY
If you have been following me in these series of exploring women's God-given beauty, I said that both the physical and inner beauty are women's prerogatives. The foregoing pages focused on the physical beauty and its distortion. Now, in the following pages, we will concentrate on the second part of the beauty of a woman, which is her inner beauty. Poets, artistes, and writers have all described placed priority over a woman's spiritual or inner beauty. But I have argued that the beautiful body that houses these inner qualities should also be appreciated. I will begin this section by quotes by various categories of people: poets, musicians, renowned spiritual and secular writers. Why are they focusing on women? The answer is not far-fetched: WOMEN RULE THE WORLD! Simple. Of course, not politically, but by their endowments and influence, especially bringing life into the world. Remember, the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. Whose hand? Of course, woman's. Mothers ultimately have the greatest power in the world because they influence the way their children develop and the things they do when they grow up. It's important that we offer mothers every support we can. After all, the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. I will end this second part of the discussion on women's beauty with biblical insights. So what have people said about women's inner beauty?
“Outer beauty attracts the eyes, but inner beauty captivates the heart” -
“There is an inner beauty of a woman who believes in herself, who knows she is capable of doing anything she puts her minds into. There is beauty in the strength and determination of a woman who follows her own path, who is not thrown off by obstacles along the way. There is a beauty a in woman whose beauty confidence comes from experiences. A woman who knows she can fall. Picks herself up and carries on.” All the qualities enumerated here are inside, and in them lies the other dimension of beauty of a woman. Wait for the continued unfolding. Women, rejoice, thank God, for we are the apex of creation – God's masterpiece!
(to be continued)