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Beauty - who sets the standards?

We women push size zero standards on ourselves

Author: Charlotte Kuchinsky February 5 2008

Jennifer Love Hewitt portrait

Recently Jennifer Love Hewitt, one of Hollywood’s most adorable and talented actresses, has been battling with the tabloids who decided to give her the career-killing “fat” label. Unlike many others, who just sit back and take whatever these rags dish out, she has taken a pro-active role to stop them from maligning her further.

Well, good for her! With girls as young as the age of 10 now crash dieting for fear of being labeled as “fat,” it’s about time that someone with real power stood up and fought back. Hewitt, the star of CBS’s hit television series, “Ghost Whisperer,” and a silver screen starlet in her own right, decided to do just that. It may turn out to be some of the finest work she’s ever done, making the valid point that a size two cannot be construed in any way as fat.

So this begs the question: who actually establishes the standards of beauty in the first place? The first thing to remember is that the standard of “what” and “who” is considered beautiful constantly continues to change. Cleopatra, who was considered by many in her time to be the most beautiful woman in the world, would by today’s standards be anything but beautiful; her features were sharp, her nose was too big, and her figure was often a bit on the “plump” side. However, in her time and place none of those things kept her from being considered beautiful.

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The Reubensque woman would most certainly be called ‘fat’ by beauty standards; this is a body type who didn’t just have curves; she had a little weight on those bones. Still, for hundreds of years, people have looked at these figures on canvas and in books and have been easily able to see what the artist might have considered so appealing. It seems odd that we somehow can’t manage to apply those same standards to the women of today.The Mona Lisa too is, by today’s standards, anything but beautiful. Yet, if you ask an art lover, you certainly won’t hear such a claim.

In years past, it would appear that artists - painters, sculptors, and the like - had a big influence on what was considered beautiful. So did those in the theater, high society, and yes, even politics. But who has that kind of influence today? Oddly enough, it is the same kind of people. Magazine photographers, artists, Hollywood, celebrities, and to a much lesser degree, even politicians, still have an impact on the setting of beauty standards. So does television, advertising, and print media as a whole. They all have a major impact.

However, as much as we women would like to point to men and their obsession with the fantasy-like females they see in Playboy magazine, the truth is we can’t really blame them either. The guilt lies directly with us! We set the standards ourselves. We always have and it is likely that we always will, and we have no one to blame for our current predicament but ourselves.

We buy the magazines that insist on size zero models. We idolize the models that strut their perfect bodies on the Victoria’s Secret runway. We buy all of the diet drugs, food, drinks, and products that promise to help us lose 50 to 100 pounds practically overnight - health be damned! We purchase the thighmasters, buttmasters, ab machines, hip abductors, weights and treadmills that their manufacturers swear will make us look like Sports Illustrated models. But rarely do we dare to utter the magic word - “NO!”

That’s not to say that women shouldn’t strive to be healthy or to care about their looks. Of course we should; obesity is a growing problem all over the world. But why is it a growing problem? Some will say it is because we set impossible standards for ourselves and, when we can’t meet them, we give up. I know that to be true because I’ve done it myself.

I am five feet, eight and one-half inches tall. I am big-boned; really big-boned. I’m not pretending to be. I just am. Consequently, even at 110 pounds, the smallest size I ever achieved was a six. I was never going to be smaller than that no matter what I did. I could starve myself, exercise 24 hours a day, and drink enough water to float the Nile and I wasn’t going to get any smaller. And, in truth, I shouldn’t have been that small. I was anorexic long before anyone really knew what that meant. I almost killed myself trying to achieve something I could not. No one else is to blame. No one forced me to do it. I did it to myself.

Women today are continuing that same unhealthy cycle; a cycle that we ourselves set in motion and that only we can stop in its tracks. Luckily, for us, a few celebrities with the “right stuff” are stepping forward to help get the kind of publicity that we need to be heard. Most of them, oddly enough, are women of color who, for reasons no one can quite comprehend, have already claimed the right to be curvaceous.

Think about it for a moment. No one questions the stunning looks of Jennifer Lopez, Queen Latifah, America Ferraro, Jennifer Hudson, or Sara Ramirez. They are accepted for who they are - beautiful women who just happen to have a few extra luscious curves. Now they have joined in the fight for Caucasian women everywhere to have the same right. However, they can’t do it for us. We have to be willing to put down our foot and say “no!”

What these stunning women of color have proven is that women have the power to set their own beauty standards. They did it with nothing more than a belief in their own internal and external beauty. Their self-confidence radiated from within and forced those on the outside to see them exactly for who they are. Now they challenge us skinny white broads to do the same. It’s either that or let people in high places with not one ounce of care about how it affects our lives continue to make our mothers and daughters, sisters and best friends, and ourselves feel like something less than we are.

Suzanne Somers, TV sitcom actress, comedian, singer, and entrepreneur always says that there is a goddess within every single woman. She is vibrant and knowledgeable. She is intelligent and sassy. She is kind and self-sufficient. She is loyal and loving. But most of all, she is beautiful. But the world will never see her unless we let her out and we can’t do that until we embrace who she really is. Self-acceptance has always been the key. Women who accept themselves for “who” and “what” they are, are just naturally beautiful.

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Posted on 27/03/09 14:58 by: Jane Cooper

Fab article, I'd rather be fat and happy than thin and miserable any day.
Posted on 25/08/10 06:59 by: AJ

Great article, and I strongly agree!  Women have the power to set the standards of beauty ourselves.  Self-acceptance can bring peace of mind.  Now that's HEALTHY!!!
Posted on 27/05/11 17:06 by: Logen Williams

I'm a guy and I know that the media is stupid. I'm glad somebody can actually stand up for something huge such as beauty.

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