Another guest post today from my lovely friend Sophie! Honestly, she’s quickly becoming one of my favourite gals ever
(“did you say to her, “well actually Miss, I do, he’s rather well known. Have you heard of One Direction?”) and if you’re lucky, this won’t be the last you’ll hear of her in this series ;) You can read Soph’s earlier guest post here!
I saw an image, the other day, which was an advertisement from what must have been the mid twentieth century, for a weight-gaining product. Yep, I did just say weight-gaining. The image features a young woman in a bikini, smiling and stating that men would not look at her when she was ‘skinny’. It got me thinking. What makes ‘curvy’, or ‘solid’, the most attractive build to society in one time period, and ‘thin’ or ‘skinny’ the most attractive build in another time period – namely, now? Not to mention the dissonance in what is considered beautiful or attractive when it comes to the traditions or generalised views of people of different countries. In fact, there is nothing specific (or even remotely indicative of body shape, weight, height, hair colour, ethnicity etc.: physical features that we focus on so much) in the definition of ‘beautiful’. The definition is: ‘Pleasing the senses or mind aesthetically.’ It is evident, because of this, that the perception of beauty is exactly that: a perception; a view; an opinion. Beauty is subjective.
So why are we, as a society, so hung up on having the ‘perfect’ image? I mean, does the perfect image even exist? If attractiveness is subjective, then one thing that is attractive to one person is simultaneously unattractive to another, ruling out the idea of an ideal physical appearance. So are we not better off just accepting who we are? It certainly seems a lot less detrimental to our respective ‘self-esteems’ and mindsets.
It just upsets me to see SO many people my age trying so hard to change their physical appearances. I’m not talking about hair colours, piercings etc. In fact, I see them as the very opposite: to me, they’re a form of self-expression. I’m talking about extreme dieting, purging, and anorexia. I’m talking about people my age, and even younger, struggling so much with their body image that they develop mental disorders like anorexia or bulimia. It upsets me a lot. Why it happens, though, is kind of no wonder. We are constantly surrounded by images of ‘perfection’; images telling us what we should be; what we MUST be in order to be attractive. And we just sort of sit back and watch it happen. We can blame ‘society’ or ‘the media’ to our heart’s content, but we need to remember that we ARE society. You, personally, may not be directly responsible for conveying these messages of such specific and exclusive ‘guidelines’ for attractiveness, and consequently, the way in which many perceive themselves, but you can certainly be responsible for stopping it.
Of course, it’s not that these images portrayed to us (images in magazines, images of models etc.) are bad; it’s just about the messages we send through them. I think we just need a more extensive variety of ‘looks’ to be portrayed as attractive, in order to convey the message that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. To demonstrate that physical beauty is up to interpretation, and not a set of certain characteristics.