Heidi Chamorro Fem.

Literary Theory 04/04/10 Beauty: the Facade of Power over Control

Women are exposed the concept of beauty from a young age, many from fairy tales and movies. One in particular that many women have seen as children is the story of Cinderella, a story in which a young girl is made a servant by her stepmother and ugly stepsisters and only escapes with her prince charming when he finds her, because she fits the shoe, and she becomes beautiful again. Fairy tales like this one and many modern films show women who are empowered by their beauty and who escape their otherwise horrible lives because they are able to become beautiful. This idea of beauty has made women think that they are the ones controlling their own liberation while in fact it is man who is controlling them. Beauty has become an idea to control women and throughout history this idea has not changed. From fashion trends to current trends of plastic surgery women have become obsessed with beauty and with youth, but why? Who benefits from women’s obsession, and how do fairy tales and television programs aimed at women help foster this idea of ideal beauty? In this paper I will discuss three main ideas that control women and the way that fairy tales and the show sex and the city help portray this control. The first will be weight, the second age, and the third will discuss the way that these ideas of beauty are used to divide and pit women against each

It is by creating an obsession with looks that feeds the patriarchal system that women have tirelessly fought to suppress. as Wolf says. thin. 2). 10). Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are the ones that are passed down generations. thin. “the last one remaining of the old feminine ideologies that still has the power to control those women whom second wave feminism would have otherwise made relatively uncontrollable” (p. successful women who are beautiful. youthful women who are oppressed because of their beauty but in the end it is that same beauty that helps them get their prince charming. and obsessed with retaining their youth. In The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf she speaks about the idea of beauty and how it is. This means that stories like Cinderella. These stories tell of beautiful. “The findings suggest that feminine beauty is a dominant theme and that tales with heavy emphases on feminine beauty are much more likely to have survived” (p. How do fairy tales play a role in this obsession? As little girls women are exposed to stories that parents think are only teaching morals but as Baker-Sperry and Grauerholz (2003) found from their study. in a “vertical hierarchy according to a culturally imposed physical . more often than the stories illustrating moral values. Similarly older women are exposed to television shows like Sex and the City that portray older.other as a means to control them. This in turn reinforces what women have already been exposed to as youth and keeps them.

Within the fairy tales that have lasted through generations the main character is always shown to be a thin women. discussed eating disorders with a group of women and received the women’s opinion on their thoughts. Falon. These fairy tales depict younger women but shows like Sex and the City. The first in many ways that beauty has become a form of control has to do with the issue of weight. Katzman and Wooley 1994) the idea of thinness is said to be a form of control over women because. which portray older women. Wolf (1991) speaks to this same idea of control stating that. In the show the women are obsessed with staying thin because this is part of their idea about true beauty. “attempts to do so command more and more of their time. ix). By showing women that they need to be thin in order to be successful or happy the media is pulling women down. 12). show the same thing. They work out and when they are depressed and gain a little weight it is automatically questioning their beauty until they can go to the gym and work it off.” (p. In Feminist Perspectives on Eating Disorders (Fallon.standard” (p. A Cinderella Story (2004) and the Prince and Me (2004) there are not women with different body sizes shown as the main character. “a cultural fixation on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty but an obsession about female obedience” (p. Even in modern fairy tales like Enchanted (2007). 187). one woman stated: . Katzmann and Wooley (1994).

you can’t make decisions and you can’t be physically powerful” (p.74 references to their beauty. 718). Being youthful or looking youthful plays a major in the control that has been put over women. at least according to fairy tales and media. If you are so hungry because you are not getting enough food [that] you can’t think straight. In their analysis of fairy tales Baker-Sperry and Grauerholz (2003) found that of the fairy tales that contain younger women 57 percent were described as “beautiful” with 1. by males. In a separate study about women’s attractiveness based on body shape Singh (1993) found a correlation between age and beauty. Another idea that has kept women controlled through beauty is youth. with younger . 351) It is through this idea of an ideal weight that women are forced to worry about gaining a little bit of weight.14 references (p. In the study the images that were underweight or thin were associated.“I think it is kind of a way to keep [women] powerless that they collaborate in. while only 5. They associate a ridiculously low weight with beautiful and it is those who fall under this ideal thinness that cannot be beautiful in the eyes of society. In the context of fairy tales it is the youthful women who are always seen as the most beautiful.2 percent of the stories that contain older women referred to them as “beautiful” and had only 0.

This means that this obsession with youth is linked to the obsession with staying thin. Many women think that if you are beautiful and not so good at your job you will still be visible because of your looks while the ones who are not beautiful are not visible even though they are good at their jobs (p.women while the images of overweight women were associated with older women (p. Wolf goes on to talk . For older women this says that even women who are highly successful should think about staying youthful in order to stay successful. the characters have no problem speaking about plastic surgery that they have or want done in order to keep their youthful looks. This idea is reiterated in the Beauty Myth (Wolf 2002). “competition between women has been made part of the [beauty] myth so that women will be divided from one another” (p. 35). This idea of questioning women goes into the competition that beauty sets up between women. again for older viewers. This mindset that some women have brings their credibility and intelligence into question in the workplace because other women then wonder if it was their intelligence that got them the job or just their looks. if you are thin you will look young. which talked about working women in the west and their ideas about their jobs and beauty. 309). Wolf (2002) states. 14). While age and youthfulness have kept women in control of their psychological selves these things have also worked in controlling the way women feel about other women. In Sex and the City.

723) This feeling of competition is also present in the more modern shows like Sex and the City where the female leads are constantly in competition with other women. In Snow White the witch despises Snow White because of her beauty and it becomes this obsessive competition to be the most beautiful that causes her to go after Snow White. younger and thinner than other women. her stepsisters. in these ways. Baker-Sperry and Grauerholz (2003) say in their conclusion that “the competition women feel toward other women over physical appearance may limit their ability to mobilize as a group” (p. In the fairy tale beauty becomes the driving force that tears them apart and makes the sisters hate her. They go on to say that. and her stepmother. This is something that society has told us. “Don’t you hate women who look like that?” “Tall. This competition is illustrated nicely in Cinderella between her. the focus on and glorification of feminine beauty in children's fairy tales may represent a means by which gender inequality is reproduced via cultural products” (p. The women in this show will feel jealousy when they see the men they are going after with younger women and this then makes them want to become even more beautiful so that they can win.about the competition that beauty has created among women and the way that women speak of other women when it comes to beauty. 723). 284). . blonde—couldn’t you just kill her?” (p. that in order to be beautiful you need to look better.

size. As Wolf . As women begin to listen to the stories behind the clothing and cosmetics they will realize that there are stories. reaffirming that beauty is on the outside and the kind that’s on the inside does not matter as much. political allegiance. The reason that the idea of beauty and it’s importance on women hasn’t changed is because the ideas and stories that we are exposed to as women haven’t changed. which have yet to be spoken. We continue to see the same fairy tales of our youth with a modern spin on them. This continues as these young women grow and are exposed to advertisement. Wolf (2002) says. Without future programs and tales that show young girls and women that everyone is different and that there is no ideal weight. worthiness or aggression” (p. Part of this due to the fairy tales and stories that are passed down from young girls to other generations of young girls. In order for women to be able to escape this control that the patriarchal system has forced on her she must listen to other women and not only look at them. media and modern television shows like Sex and the City. “we need to stop reading each others’ appearances as if appearances were language.By dividing women it has made it so that women are not able to get together to fight and question this system. 286). or look we will continue reinforcing this tool of control that has fueled the patriarchal system we live in. As the years have passed the ideas of what beauty is and how to achieve it have not changed.

The Guilford press p. 3 (1993) pp 297-321 Wolf. 5 (Oct. P. D. Feminist Perspectives on Eating Disorders 1994. No. Human Nature. 711-726 Fallon. pp. Grauerholz. Gender and Society.C. Bibliography Baker-Sperry.. 2002.. 4. .. S. 17. “beauty” will remain mystified and still most useful to those who wish to control women” (p.. Vol. The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women.. “as long as women censor in one another the truths about our experiences. 402-406 Singh. N.A. Body Shape and Women’s Attractiveness: The Critical Role of Waist–to-Hip Ratio. Vol.(2002) best puts it. Katzman M.. 2003). L. 1991. L... Wooley. 286). The Pervasiveness and Persistence of the Feminine Beauty Ideal in Children's Fairy Tales. No.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.