As society accepts gender equality, so, too, does it understand that a woman’s worth is more than her outward appearance. Or, at least that is what we like to believe.
A recent and problematic post circulating Facebook preys upon that belief by doctoring a 2004 photo of an adult model to look like a 1950s swimsuit ad. The doctored picture intends to advocate a curvier body standard than the one desired today. This post, and others like it, set of a wide range of reactions such as “Why can’t society be like this now?” and “Real women have curves.”
While these types of posts carry positive intentions of promoting acceptance of a body type that contrasts what is often shown in modern media, the execution is still damaging. It is degrading to perpetuate an ideal body type at all even if it is a seemingly more “achievable” shape.
The problem often starts within women themselves. According to Psychology Today, “Women’s insecurity about their appearance is driven by competition with other women.”
Instead of making comparisons, women should focus on promoting self-acceptance and health.
France recently set a positive example with its passage of a law requiring doctor verification of a model’s health before they could walk the runway. This sends a positive message that health is more important than fitting the unfair ideal.
While the French law is beneficial, the pressure to conform to beauty standards persists. A current trend among young girls ages 11-13 involves posting videos on Youtube asking “Am I pretty enough?” A new standard, no matter how achievable, will still prompt these questions. Changing the standard is not the solution. Abolition is.
Grace Gilker, the director of UT Women’s Resource Agency, said much of this pressure comes from the media.
“A lot of it is attributed to advertising. Women’s bodies are more frequently used to sell goods than men’s bodies are,” Gilker said. “The cliche ‘sex sells’ is a cliche for a reason.”
Gilker believes it is important for celebrities and public figures to call out magazines that employ Photoshop to force natural beauty into a more collective ideal.
Lucy Atkinson, an assistant professor at the University of Texas, specifically highlighted the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty as an example of harmful advertising. Despite its appearance as a holistic campaign, it actually promotes “a standard and communicating the idea that your natural, raw self is not enough.” She also noted that while Dove uses women in commercials that appear to promote body positivity, its campaign sells creams that diminish cellulite.
Atkinson said the issue with many of the movements for a curvier body ideal is that “even if it’s more encompassing and broader, a standard implies a baseline expectation, and not everyone will measure up.”
We need to get rid of ideal body standards because they trivialize and undermine the decades of hard-won progress made by advocates. Only then can women realize their fullest potential and individual beauty.
Vernon is a PACE freshman from Houston. Follow Vernon Twitter @_emilyvernon_.