When women are trained from childhood to crumble at the sight of their appearances, this is the first successful step of the beauty illusion.
The beauty illusion grows and grows at an impeccable rate, to the point we lose ourselves; our blemished skin, our flabby stomachs, our one slightly drooped breast, our stretch marks, our body hair, our cellulite, all the 'grotesque' attributes that make us female.
As a teenager, I would flick through the pages of Vogue, tracing my fingers around the slender bodies of supermodels. I was mesmerised by the irrevocable beauty in these women, knowing it would never occur in my own chubby, prepubescent reflection. "I could never be a model" I thought. 'Models' remained 'models' on the pages of glossy magazines, whilst I remained the very awkward, spotty girl who got on with school.
Although magazines had a massive influence on the ideals of beauty, it was refreshing that once I closed the pages of Vogue, there was escapism. The current generation, born into a world of social media, have slowly had that space diminished. Constantly surrounded by a culture that perpetuates female beauty, perfection and materialism, these standards have become suffocating and impossible to escape; the perfect marketing tool.
Before the eruption of social media, we could distinguish the difference between women who were models, women who were celebrities and ordinary women. Models posed on white sandy beaches; their legs so ridiculously wiry, oiled and bronzed, perfectly lathered in grains of golden sand. They looked so poised, their bodies, beautiful imaginary things. It was impossible to replicate their statuesque physiques. Celebrities were snapped on red carpets with diamond encrusted dresses and perfect up dos. They were engulfed in prosperous beauty, attending elegant events we could only dream of and visualize in magazines. Models and celebrities were the epitome of female perfection.
These warped perceptions of beauty standards are no longer restricted to stick thin models and celebrities on the pages of magazines. The same pressure is leaked into the ordinary woman's life when she wakes up in the morning and checks her phone. She lays in bed with scruffy, tangled hair and puffy eyes logging in to Instagram. Her heart thuds as she flicks through images of her pristine online peers. Their golden pins are exposed in tropical print dresses. They show off their long, manicured fingernails, as they hold cosmopolitan cocktails filled with heart shaped ice cubes. They're surrounded by lush green trees, exotic flowers and over-edited blue waters. Their expressions are ecstatic as they soak up the sun that drapes large and golden over the sea. Breasts like giant, hard coconuts, poke through their pineapple bikinis. Pixy noses, pearly white teeth and full pouty lips; white-washed faces as if carved in porcelain. The picture has thousands of likes and streams of comments, expressing love and admiration for such picture-perfect people. But these women are not models nor are they celebrities.
The ordinary woman brushes her thumb across her Instagram feed, staring at beautiful people, lost in their rose-tinted globes. It is only exotic beaches, designer clothes and sun-kissed athletic bodies that exist. The world of Instagram stretches far beyond normality and makes her sick to lay around in bed, while a utopian world is dangled in her face. We are perpetuating a culture that was instilled to control and distort women's self-perception. We are reinforcing a culture that 'beauty and materialism equate to our happiness'. We are preserving a culture where the 'beauty illusion' succeeds and the surgeon's market is booming. Naomi Wolf's 'The Beauty Myth' translates the idea seamlessly in this quote:
"The surgeon's market is imaginary, since there is nothing wrong with women's faces or bodies that social change won't cure; so, the surgeons depend for their income on warping self-perception and multiplying self-hatred."
The popularity of social media is the latest marketing tool for beauty ideals and distorting a woman's reality. Combining both extremes together, creates an image-centric world impossible to replicate. It dampens how we see our lives and terrifies us to reveal the imperfections that lie within ourselves. The media has seeped through our consciousness, forcing us to conform to the perfect identities that once only existed in the pages of magazines and barely resonate with our true selves.
Women can stay masked in flawless skins, with contoured faces and adorned in expensive materials, but there is only a thin layer between this aestheticism and the real person that lies beneath. What would the world be like if we stripped ourselves of these suffocating skins? If we dared to risk what is truly human, female and part of ourselves. Women that dare to risk it are often ridiculed, but refreshingly celebrated. Rupi Kaur gave women confidence and struck social media with a truth bomb after she posted a picture of herself lying in bed with a period stain. The picture was quickly taken down due to its 'graphic content' which didn't follow 'community guidelines.' Kaur was disgusted that a natural process in the female body had to be censored, yet the site was filled with women who are "objectified, pornified and treated less than human." She gained over a million followers in support of such bravery against instilled patriarchy.
Women are silent, yet sick of a world that cuts through the truth of womanhood, that censors her biological make up and plasters it with images of pornography, objectification and silicon-filled body parts, until she becomes the property and creations of men. It is both vital and empowering to have women like Rupi Kaur shattering those misogynistic boundaries, which stigmatises a woman's nature as a burden and the root of her misery. It unifies our female genetics and shows us how beautiful, interesting, creative and artistic it can be to share our true biology. The female body is not taboo, nor is it dirty; femaleness gives us the gift of birth and power. It is time we as women begin to celebrate this. We need to be daring, resilient and imperfect, leaving our waist trainers at the back of our cupboards. We need to really look deep within ourselves, to what is truly female, beautiful and beyond the 'man-made' world.