Every person has a different understanding of what is beautiful in life. At the start of human civilization during the Old Stone Age, a woman was defined as beautiful if she was plump and overweight, a symbol of health and a necessity to survive long periods of famine (“History of Obesity”). In more recent times, beauty has changed to be women who wear size 0 pants with a coveted “thigh gap” and slim stomach that has led to an epidemic of eating disorders controlling millions of people’s lives (Gaudiani).
Strut your stuff!
For some girls, society’s view of what is seen as beautiful is thrust upon them at young ages when they enter beauty pageants, such as those on the TLC hit series Toddler’s and Tiara’s. At a young age, parents force their children into beauty contests in hopes of having the prettiest little girl of them all. It is here that the
girls are introduced to parading around stage wearing skimpy outfits that pageant moms think will give their daughters a certain edge. And if they choose to proceed with the pageant life, some of these girls may turn in to the women who strut across the Miss USA and Miss Universe (Toddlers and Tiaras). When people gather to watch the popular pageants, most are not doing so to judge the character and personality of the women walking across the stages. All eyes are on their perfectly toned bodies as they stride in their five-inch heels and barely-there bikinis or their skin-tight gowns. The way these women are portrayed is extremely sexualized in an attempt for them to look like the perfect Barbie-girl. We have allowed societal views of beauty to influence ourselves for too long and this problem is being highlighted more and more everyday. In the most recent Miss USA pageant, the media did not all center around the winner Miss
Nevada. Rather, media outlets focused on her competitor, Miss Indiana, whose “normal” body shape included size four curves and an athletic build rather than the skinny physique of the other pageant women (Ward). The fact that she did not even make it to the top ten in this pageant because of her low scores on swimwear is outrageous but the public’s response and appraisal gave her the confidence boost she needed to be happy throughout the rest of the night and not hate her muscular build (Ward). So maybe there is hope that society’s definition of beauty is become more accepting of the various shapes of bodies in the world.
Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?
We look into the mirrors in front of us and critique everything about our bodies that we hate, comparing ourselves to the digitally photo-shopped celebrities on the cover of the magazines that surround us at the grocery store checkout line. It has gotten to the point where mirrors are even being altered to give certain images. Cassey Ho, a Pilates instructor and blogger known for her POP Pilates workout videos, has noticed this at gyms. Most of us have gone in front of a mirror and noticed how this certain mirror makes us look thinner. Ho realized that the mirror in front of the section of the gym meant for lifting weights made her look rounder and hence more buff; in the stretching room at the gym she noted that the mirror made her look skinnier, and so did the mirrors by the cardio machines (Ho). I can’t even begin to imagine what clothing stores would do to their mirrors so that their customers would look skinnier. It is crazy that something as simple as a mirror has been altered to fit our idea of what is beautiful!
However in the midst of all culture that skinny is beautiful, women are becoming more confident with who they are and what they look like. With this confidence comes the comfort of wearing yoga pants without worrying whether they look as good as the thin girls who are sporting the same pants. At first, many women thought of yoga pants as demeaning and unforgiving in the way that the material shows every bump, every imperfection of the body. This led to only the fit, modelesque women to wear the skin-tight pants. However, this changed to be what it is today: every woman, curvy or thin, walking around in yoga pants without a care in the world of how people will judge them.
Pretty on a Plate
The beauty that we see is not limited to people. There is beauty surrounding us everywhere, even in our food. On shows on the Food Network such as Chopped, contestants are scored heavily based on the presentation of the food (Chopped). And why wouldn’t it be? If we go to a restaurant, we expect to be served food that looks appetizing not like a disgusting pile of mush. If presented with the option of eating either of the two dishes presented above, many of us would choose the better-looking dish on the right. But underneath that beauty on the plate, there is the ugly truth of where that food comes from. Bacon looks so delicious and the crunch that fills your mouth when you take a bite of the perfectly cooked strip of meat is mouth-watering. But that piece of bacon comes from a pig that is raised in a disease-ridden, dirt-infested shack layered with feces that is considered a farm for the thousands of pigs stuffed inside (Smithfield Foods). These pigs are transported to slaughterhouses where they are burned alive to remove the hairs from their body and kicked around until they finally become the packaged meat that fills our supermarkets (Meet Your Meat). The pregnant sows are not treated any better despite the fact that they provide piglets for the farmer to make even more money on (Smithfield Foods. The Group Housing). This factory-farming problem is not limited to pigs; it is a problem for chickens, cows and other animals that humans choose to raise in large quantities for the benefit of our taste buds.
The Hunger Artist
In my Critical Thinking and Writing class at Santa Clara University we examined Franz Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist. ” In this story, we watch the hunger artist starve himself in an attempt to capture the attention of the surrounding people and achieve the artistic perfection that he seeks. Rather than captivating the people, his popularity fades as people misunderstand him and lack appreciation for what he is doing from an artistic standpoint. The hunger artist values his artistry but the onlookers fail to see the beauty in this artistic expression leading to his rapid deterioration and ultimately his death. Despite others no longer seeing the beauty in his exhibition, the Hunger Artist stays true to what he wants to encompass and does not give in to the societal views of his art.
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder
There are times in our lives when we get caught up in the trends of our society and allow this to cloud our vision so that we cannot see beauty. But we must remember that there is beauty in everything, especially ourselves, we just need to learn to see without the influence of society. However, when it comes to seeking beauty, we must not be oblivious to the ugly truth that hides behind the beautiful exterior, as is the case with food. My advice: focus on the beauty but don’t be ignorant about what goes on behind the scenes.
Chopped. Dir. Michael Pearlman. Food Network. Television.
Gaudiani, Caroline. “Fact Sheet: Women and Eating Disorders.” Love Your Body. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2014. <http://loveyourbody.now foundation.org/factsheet_2.html>.
“History of Obesity.” Dawn Centre. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2014. <http://www.dawn-centre.ie/index.php?page=Page&op=show&id=90>.
Ho, Cassey. “Fat Mirrors & Skinny Mirrors.” Blogilates. N.p., 2012. Web. 13 June 2014. <http://blogilates.tumblr.com/post/863968 9043/fat-mirrors-skinny-mirrors>.
Meet Your Meat. Youtube. N.p., 14 Mar. 2012. Web. 13 June 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykTH_b-cXyE&oref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DykTH_b-cXyE&has_verified=1>.
Smithfield Foods. Producing Enough Sustainable Food. Youtube. N.p., 23 Apr. 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxMHl5Gr2Yg>.
Smithfield Foods. The Group Housing system for pregnant sows on company-owned farms at Smithfield foods. Youtube. N.p., 31 July 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDkadoJgk tc>.
Toddlers and Tiaras. By Mathilde Bittner and Matt Sims. TLC. Television.
Ward, Michelle. “Miss Indiana Mekayla Diehl Talks Praise for ‘Normal’ Body: ‘I’m Confident in My Own Skin.'” People. N.p., 12 June 2014. Web. 13 June 2014. <http://www.people.com/article/ miss-indiana-miss-usa-mekayla-diehl-praise-normal-body-twitter>.