09 April 2008

The Beauty Meme

When are we going to realise that we are not only being conned by supernaturalists but also by people who want to make money from exploiting human weaknesses?

Let's take, for instance, the beauty industry. How many strands do you think there are which take advantage of us?

I was reading an old edition of Essence magazine (January 2008) and they featured an article about 'Ageless Beauties - Special'. They showed a number of black women ranging in age from 34 to 72. I flicked through the magazine feeling a sense of pointlessness to it all. The women were all made over within an inch of their lives. Their hairstyles were all coiffed and primped, make-up done just so and paraded in shoes and clothes which cost an arm and a leg when put together.

Here's the byline from the piece:

''...we celebrate 13 (from more than 5,000 applicants) phenomenal women. Let their radiant skin, killer bodies, timeless wisdom and generous spirits inspire the ageless beauty in you.''

The article then outlines how these women have 'achieved' their looks and in the main they credited this to 'God'. They encouraged people to be focused on praising God, giving their life over to God, etc.

How can we hope to raise children to enjoy life, be themselves, forge their own paths, love themselves for who they are when we constantly push, from all angles, that they are not good enough and they should watch what other people do? I have a dream that one day people won't give a damn about who is wearing what, whether someone looks old or young or is abled-bodied or disabled, gay or straight, fat or thin, their race or anything else that is in the category of the superficial.

You notice that there appears to be a campaign against women thinking for themselves. Women are targeted so overtly to conform to a standard. Note how many programmes are on television advising people how to get dates or 'dump the frump' and everyone is put through a make-over mill and comes out looking like Stepford Wife clones. No emphasis on individuality. You will conform or be condemned. Some presenters even try to conjure up the most vile description of the 'before' victims and gush and praise their handiwork after viewing the 'after' make-over.

I have created an environment where I don't care about how I look. Of course, I have my favourite items, feel more comfortable in this item of clothing than that - but quite honestly, I would rather read a good book, blog, go for a long walk, talk to friends and family, help a neighbours child to read, meditate, potter in the garden pulling out roots - filling my nails with dirt and doing a thousand other things than spend too much time and money worrying and considering how I look. What is the point? If someone doesn't like me as I am then I choose not to make that my problem. Why would I want to look younger? When did this youth-obsession seep into our cultures?

I see the so called 'stars' who have teeth straightened, rhinoplasty, breast augmentation, face lifts, brow lifts, liposuction and many other 'enhancing treatments' - and they have access to the best photographers, make-up artists, designers and such. They receive free items from producers of high-end products and act as walking advertisements. Being photographed by the tipped off paparazzi, magazines, newspapers at glossy functions helps to feed inadequacy and fattens the bank balances of the haves.

Why do we place so much emphasis on how we look? Who does it benefit? I don't think it benefits me. Clothes are to keep me warm or to cover certain parts that will prevent me from being arrested!

No, I am not interested in paying to have my eyebrows plucked, artificial nails applied every two weeks, my legs waxed, traipsing the shops each weekend maxing out my credit card, perusing the magazines for the latest trends or anything like that.

I'm not interested in being sheep and following the crowd because that is a sure sign I am not living my life for me. This one life that could end at any moment. This one life where following my dreams means being myself.

So to all those women featured in Essence, I have a message for you: Sack the gods and reclaim your life - regardless of how you look.


Ralph Dumain said...

I haven't looked at Essence magazine more than a half dozen times in the past 30 years, but it appears to appeal to the subliterate. Critical thinking is certainly not encouraged and I suspect the editors and authors are more intelligent than their readers but cynically manipulate them.

Fortunately, black women tend to age very well. Regardless of age, many black women appear to undervalue their own physical beauty and other qualities. Color and size prejudice have not disappeared. What a shame. If people would learn to appreciate black women, the world would be a better place.

Grégoire said...

Fortunately, black women tend to age very well. Regardless of age, many black women appear to undervalue their own physical beauty and other qualities. Color and size prejudice have not disappeared. What a shame. If people would learn to appreciate black women, the world would be a better place.

I'm assuming this is a very wry piece of sarcasm, so I'll compliment the author on his oblique critique of objectification, and leave it at that.

This is a fantastic blog, by the way. I'm happy I stumbled my way in here.

Annette said...

I agree with you entirely. There is to much emphasis on always looking good, and you just can't.
It takes to much time and to much moeny!!
I think if you feel good then you will look good.
I have my fav clothes and they are years old!!

Zee Harrison said...

Hello Ralph, Gregoire and Annette,

Apologies for not responding earlier - I'm in the middle of doing some 'blog-housekeeping' so bear with me everyone!

I'm not sure about 'black women aging well'. I know some black women who do and some who don't, equally some white women do and don't. But the big question is what does 'aging well' mean?
I think I am unusual in that I am so not interested in a person's external appearance - it is so irrelevant and superficial. I do not discriminate against people based on how they look - who are they? What interests them? Are they thinkers? Are they excited by life, thirsting for knowledge, living in the moment? These are more important to me.

I agree with you Ralph re. your comment about Essence magazine. Do they really believe the stuff they print and promote? Remember, I used to buy this type of fodder too!!! Now I shake my head as I turn each page. Mind-numbing.

I'm so glad you see through the heavy pressures for women to conform. Good on you!!

Thank you all again.