You are on page 1of 5

Gonzalez 1

Bryan Gonzalez
Professor Beadle
Eng115; TR; 11am
3 November 2016
The Over-Emphasis of Womens Beauty
Margaret Wolf Hungerford is credited with coining the phrase Beauty is in the eye of the
beholder. When you think of beauty do you automatically start thinking and linking this with
celebrities, actresses and models? If so, our society is to blame for this. Although one might
claim that society is moving away from this, the truth is it is not happening quite effectively or
rapidly. One can witness in a Covergirl magazine with Taylor Swift on the cover, just how
society establishes and emphasizes higher expectations of beauty and looks on women in their
youth and enforces it as they mature by rewarding beauty and this is causing direct negative
effects for women in forms such as body altering.
Society employs an association in womens youth between what it means to be good looking
and the development of the female gender identity itself in order to establish higher standards of
beauty for women. A young girl would see this Covergirl magazine cover, and many others like it
and start associating being a girl with being as pretty as Taylor Swift or another model, actress,
or celebrity it may have. In Claire Renzetti and Daniel Currans work From Women, Men, and
Society one can exhibit a similar action being done with toys; A quick perusal of most
contemporary toy catalogs reveals that little has changed. The toys for sale in the catalogs are
usually pictured with models, which can be taken as an indication of the gender appropriateness
of the toy (Renzetti and Curran 80). This association between toys and what it means to be a girl
and feminine has been around since toys were created. With the creation of this association, girls

Gonzalez 2
are taught to be just like, say a Barbie doll or a Disney princess, and in still being young and
developing when they are taught this, many naturally assume the mindset that they must be
pretty and look like a Barbie or princess in order to be able to be a girl. This association
transcends further than toys and as Lorber discusses in her work Night to His Day: The Social
Construction of Gender, Many cultures go beyond clothing, gestures, and demeanor in
gendering children. They inscribe gender directly into bodies. In traditional Chinese society,
mothers once bound their daughters feet into three inch stumps to enhance their sexual
attractiveness (Lorber 24). Emphasis on womens beauty exists cross-culturally, and in some
cultures, such as the Chinese, they are present to a far worse extent, to the point where they find
the need to permanently establish it in a young womans anatomy.
Society continues to reinforce a higher standard and emphasis of womens beauty as they age
with better treatment in life as exhibited in the Covergirl cover. Covergirl magazine with this
cover as well many others, is essentially rewarding Ms. Swift and the other various actresses,
models, and celebrities for their attractiveness. In her article The Truth About Beauty Amy
Alkon discusses the importance that good looks have in our society, looks matter a great
deal. The more attractive the woman is, the wider her pool of romantic partners and range of
opportunities in her work and day-to-day life (Alkon). In doing this society only cements the
belief that a woman must be beautiful in order to be able to succeed or at least have a pleasurable
experience in life. Another example in Jacque Jackson and Antonia Lyons work "The Perfect
Body: Men and Women Negotiate Spaces of Resistance Against Beauty and Gender Ideologies"
defines the extent to which looks are valued, In the Western context, body-altering practices are
a rational response, rewarded by the social capital of acceptance physical appearance has
greater currency than other forms of achievement. (Jackson and Lyons). In order for a woman to

Gonzalez 3
succeed they must look attractive since as the quote says looks are valued far more than any
other achievements and this is something that again, is reinforced by the Covergirl magazine.
One can associate the reason for Taylor Swift getting to feature on the cover with how
beautiful people consider her to be.
Ultimately, the issue is that this emphasis that society places on the need for a woman to be
beautiful and attractive is a practice that negatively effects women. This high value that
people, the media, and this Covergirl ad place on a womans looks are causing women to do
harmful practices such as body altering. This can be evidenced in Jackson and Lyons work,
Within contemporary Westernised cultures there is a pervasive interest in altering the human
physique. Such practices, which include cosmetic surgery, bodybuilding, dietary modification,
exercise regimes, and eating disorders, signify a cultural fascination with (a pursuit of) the
'perfect' body (Jackson and Lyons). Extreme forms of altering the body are being used
particularly in order to reach this ideal figure that society, with images emphasizing slim and
beautiful women such as the Covergirl magazine has created. Further examples of body altering
can be viewed heavily in the Kardashian family. They are the highlight of getting surgery after
surgery in order to try to reach the figure that society idolizes and a large part of the attention
they receive is for continuously doing so. The effect that over-valuing a person who is
beautiful is no different than body shaming and harming more people, particularly women in
this case, than it is helping.
People might argue that society is making improvements in terms of not imposing high
beauty standards on women and while this may be true to some extent, it is not the entire reality
of it. For example, in the situation of the Barbie dolls and Disney princesses, one might say that

Gonzalez 4
both these brands have taken initiative in correcting the situation by implementing dolls and
princesses of colored skin and more variating body shapes. Though this may be true, the reality
is that these are severe minorities with little sustenance since Barbie dolls, despite any changes,
still maintain makeup caked faces and the Disney princesses, despite their changes are still
designed with thin waists, slim bodies, and perky breasts and butts. To the Covergirl magazine,
one might argue that Taylor Swift is on the cover because of her success rather than looks and
state that there are women who did not earn their success based on their looks such as
presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. This too, though absolutely true just as the last argument,
is also flawed. The first part of the claim cannot be supported and it is quite clear that what is
being advertised is Ms. Swifts looks rather than any indication of her accomplishments. The
second part of the claim is fair; however, the truth is that this, just as the changes in Barbie and
Disney is a severe minority. Even in our considered more advanced and more forward
thinking/looking society there are not many women like Mrs. Clinton to substantiate the claim
and when one looks at it globally, it is even less demonstrated.
Through the means of gender association in womens youth and unattainable portrayals and
rewarding as they mature, society has placed a rather large and unrealistic expectation on
womens outer beauty which have caused women to approach negative sources for trying to
become more beautiful. Though attempts to rectify this situation have been made, they are far
and few. Change cannot be made instantly on a national or global scale and so I challenge one as
an individual to seek to change the emphasis they themselves and those around them have placed
on beauty, that of womens in particular and to stop helping these enforce unrealistic
expectations about outer beauty, one person at a time.

Gonzalez 5
Works Cited
Alkon, Amy. "The Truth About Beauty." Psychology Today. Psychology Today, 1 Nov. 2010.
Web. 01 Nov. 2016.
Jackson, Jacque, and Lyons, Antonia C. "The Perfect Body: Men and Women Negotiate Spaces
of Resistance Against Beauty and Gender Ideologies." Women's Studies Journal, 26.1
(2012): 25-33.
Lorber, Judith. Night to His Day: The Social Construction of Gender. Composing Gender,
edited by Rachael Groner and John F. OHara, Bedford/St. Martins, 2014, pp 24.
Renzetti, Claire and Curran, Daniel. From Women, Men, and Society. Composing Gender,
edited by Rachael Groner and John F. OHara, Bedford/St. Martins, 2014, pp 80.