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Emily Verdouw Headshot

We Need to Stop Validating a Woman's Place in Society by How Beautiful She Is

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WOMAN MIRROR
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Ah, January, the month I'm certain a woman's anxiety about how she looks reaches its heights. A new year, a new start and inevitably, a new diet. Who am I going to look to for inspiration?

Well thank goodness for the shift in attitude 2013 saw. Curvy bodies took centre stage and you could say that it was a successful year in the fight against expectations on women's bodies. Perhaps we are finally moving towards a more rational view on what a woman is expected to look like.

And because of this, I feel less inclined to look like Miranda Kerr and now more inclined to focus my efforts on getting a bod like Jennifer Lawrence.

Perhaps for yourself, it's Robyn Lawley or even Kim Kardashian you can now look to. Curvy bodies, 'plus-size' (ehh, hate that term) models and closer reflections of the standard female body than our Victoria Secret model counterparts.

Okay, noticed anything wrong with what I've written, yet? Yes, there's definitely a shift in the kind of bodies society is beginning to glorify and I'm sure it's now beginning to make a whole other group of women finally feel good about themselves, but I can't help but think that this is doing absolutely nothing to curb the anxiety women feel about the way they look.

The problem I believe, is the glorifying of beauty. The cycle of body dysmorphia 90% of British women feel is perpetuate by the glorification of factors mostly beyond our control.

Think about it. The women mentioned above are still absolutely gorgeous, still considered more beautiful than the average woman and have been placed on a pedestal because of this.

And it's this glorification of beauty like theirs, and Victoria Secret models, that's always been a part of society. So, no matter if we change the conversation to praising women with curves, we're still allowing one sector of society to feel they fit, and many others to feel the need to change.

What's worrying about this, is the glorification of beauty is a much more complicated and wide-spread problem, than the desire to emulate a slender frame.

In fact, it's a societal addiction that we can't blame on just the media or the modelling industry. It's a long-standing, deeply ingrained obsession society has on women looking beautiful and on that somehow validating our importance.

If you reflect for a moment and think about the culture within your own group of friends and family, how often are you validated or do you validate your female friends by how they look?

How many of you feel it's a nice thing to do to tell your friends they look beautiful when they dress up for a night out? Sure it's a lovely thing to do, but how often do you reassure your male friends that they look handsome?

What about when you watch TV, how much of your viewing comments are based on what women in that series or on the news, looks like?

Women in power? Do you have a compulsion to comment on the way the look more so than what they're achieving?

Of course, this is all perpetuated in the media too. Female-specific content most often focuses on the aesthetics of a person. Aside from your standard articles on weight loss you have your beauty sections with make-up and skincare tips, then fashion pages and always celebrity profiles on 'who wore it best', comparing and contrasting the more attractive woman. Which then goes on to imply the better-looking person has greater worth, however subtle that call is.

You can't skip around this. It is what it is. I'm sure you're still thinking about how great it would be to lose those last four kilograms as you read this, because it's that entrenched in us and has been so from the beginning of time. The place a woman takes in society has been validated by how beautiful she is perceived to be. So we're constantly on this journey towards approval. And it's trapped us in a cycle of anxiety and worthlessness.

Now this isn't a blog to cry out against how hard it is to be a woman. I simply think it's important that we refocus the 'body image' debate, because I fear we're getting nowhere, fast. The idea that the concern is over our weight is purely a distraction from the fact that the perceived beauty a woman holds has come to affirm her place and subsequent importance in society.

This January, I'd like to say no to dieting and focusing on how I could look better. Yes I think it's important to focus on being healthy and fit, but not to look better, but to feel better. I think it's important that all women (and men) stop focusing on this absurd obsession to validate ourselves by our appearance. I don't quite know how we do actually combat this, but 'Saying No to January' could be a great start.

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