Have you guys seen the new TV show called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend? It's about Rebecca Bunch, a high-powered lawyer in New York who left her job to move to West Covina, California, to stalk her old teenage flame Josh. It's hilarious and wildly fun to watch if you love cringe comedy. She just fails at life so hard that you just can't keep your eyes away from the spectacle of it!
And oh did I mention that people randomly break out into song too? I have a mean case of the LSS with "The Sexy Getting Ready Song" which she sings while preparing to "bump into" Josh at a house party. You must watch it. It has some explicit language though so, yeah. You are warned.
Funny no? But also deeply insightful. I run a beauty blog that basically tells women which products and procedures to use to propagate that "patriarchal bullshit". I write about how women should wax their body hair, tweeze their eyebrows, wear Spanx, and put on their makeup to be beautiful. For a while I felt guilty about it - I felt like my work added to the disease that is the objectification of women - but soon enough I realized that's not necessarily the case.
Here's the thing about beauty: it is power. Beauty is the grease that makes it easier to convince other people to do what you want them to do. It opens doors where none may exist for less attractive people; some jobs in fact require a certain level of attractiveness (flight stewardship, entertainers, modelling, etc.). Beauty soothes. Beauty pleases. Because of this, you can use your beauty - real or contrived - to advance your prospects in life.
The pain point is that a standard exists. Yes, it is unrealistic and yes it is born out of the patriarchy's desire to control women through something as fundamental as our self-image, but it exists. We can say that we are all beautiful but the truth is that some are more beautiful than others. Some are born with it. It can be achieved or enhanced through cosmetics and procedures.
The good news is that you can choose not to play this game. You can choose not to wear makeup, or wax, or wage a war with the girdle. You can be in a job where personal beauty is not important, where talent and knowledge matter much more than your appearance. You can surround yourself with people who don't care at all whether you groom your eyebrows or not. Or wear the same t-shirt and pants everyday. Or have chapped lips. This kind of life is possible and it is absolutely okay that none of this matters to you. If it makes you happy then that’s really all that counts!
You can also choose to play the game and win it on your terms. You learn how to enhance your own beauty, acquire the products you feel you need, be fit, and transform yourself according to the image you have of yourself in your head. I’m not going to tell you what it is; it is something you have to discover for yourself. But I will caution you against trying to be beautiful to make someone else (say, a man) happy. Remember, use beauty as a tool to acquire more power and happiness in your life. Don’t use it for the sole benefit of someone else because therein lies the road to true misery.
Some people take the obsession with beauty to an extreme. They try all the products, the treatments, the dubious “beauty cocktails” purveyed by sketchy clinics and online stores. They go under the knife to achieve the body of their dreams. It's their body and their money so I don't judge them for their choices, but I sincerely hope that they know what they're doing. The patriarchal bullshit goes deep and is difficult to root out without self-awareness and introspection.
In other words, to deal with the unrealistic standard of beauty we are bombarded with everyday, it's important to understand two simple things.
1. You can choose not to deal with it at all. Yes, that option exists.
2. You can choose to love yourself and be happy with your appearance. At the same time, you accept that you can use beauty as a powerful tool in advancing your career and relationships.
And that's that.