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Beauty-industrial complex oppresses women

Beauty is a concept that everyone can get if they have money. | Julie Araica/The Cougar

The year was 2002. The dance was the Tooty Ta, and our teacher, Mrs. P, stood in the middle of our circle, imploring us to squat our legs, stick our bums out high and shake our bodies front to back singing a single refrain: A-tooty-ta, a-tooty-ta, a-tooty-ta-ta.

This was kindergarten. This was where I would meet Sharon Osbourne, the perky, thin blonde who, through no fault of her own, stood as a constant reminder of what I would never be: a perky, thin, blonde.

My 5-year-old mind was aware of what commodified beauty looked like and who it left out of the equation. This was the first of many times that I would be terrorized by beauty. Though beauty is naturally occurring and universally acknowledged in every facet of our lives, Western society has drawn borders around the people who we call beautiful.

Pre-business freshman Rahni Stewart said that she also dealt with the pressure to be what society said was beautiful.

“Historically in the U.S., the first tier of beauty is white skin with blond hair, blue eyes and a petite frame,” Stewart said.

Rahni is a black woman with natural hair. She said she is taller and bigger than most people. When she was younger, she said that she realized she would never be what most people considered beautiful, and she had to accept that.

“I should not have to put pressure on myself to become beautiful for someone who is more than likely also struggling to fit into this impossible mold of beauty,” Stewart said.

In her honors thesis for the University of New Hampshire, scholar Ann Marie Britton declared “unrealistic images of beauty [have] resulted in anxiety, low self-esteem, and low self-confidence in many women. Most of these negative emotions stem from unhappiness among body and appearance.”

But what is beauty?

“Beauty is a combination of physical traits that society says are ideal,” Stewart said. “What no one ever talks about is the concept of beauty revolves around a mold that was cast centuries before the modern woman and does little justice to what actual beauty is.”

Beauty is superficial. It is expensive, takes time and effort and causes many to lose an important sense of self and the integrity of their truth whenever they age. Moreover, due to the nature of beauty, the concept itself has become an industry in which people make money off of female insecurities and complexes that are often perpetuated by the industry itself.

As a result of this destructive industry, many girls spend crucial time during their development calculating how well they fit into the image of ideal beauty.

Girls are left with a callous, superficial image of themselves that bears no truth to who they really are or could be. When this happens, many girls and women lose precious time that could be spent developing themselves in positive, enriching ways.

Stewart found ways to enrich her life by working hard and getting a full ride to college as a Bauer Honors student. She plans to open an educational company and become a civil rights lawyer for the federal government.

She will make a difference in the world, because she understands that beauty should not be used a standard for success. Stewart made it out of the oppression of the beauty-industrial complex.

Despite Stewart’s success, the terror of beauty is that it can eat away at the precious time that we have to make something of ourselves. It is an obsession that halts the progression of life. Beauty is a single facet of life. Life should be lived outside of manufactured beauty and given the chance to blossom into its full potential — beautiful or not.

Assistant opinion editor Mia Valdez is a creative writing senior. She can be reached at [email protected].


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