When I attend a concert, I don’t think: Wow! With a few guitar lessons and some willpower, I’ll be playing up on stage in no time.
When I go to a great restaurant, I don’t think: Wow! With the right ingredients, I’ll be cooking a five star Beef Wellington.
But when I flip through a fashion magazine, I think: Wow! With those jeans, eye-shadows, hair gel and willpower, I could look like that.
And that is usually tall and thin with long hair and clear skin
This is where the argument for a more realistic models usually begins. But why? Why do the models have to change?
The best singers, writers, and painters are showcased in CDs, libraries and museums, but most people will never have a best-selling song or book. Every time I hear a song, I don’t lament my terrible singing. Wouldn’t it follow that the look of models, height, weight or face structure, would be a small percentage of the population that was showcased?
We can argue that art and beauty is in the eye of the beholder and end the debate. But we aren’t taking down museums. Could so many people agree on a great painter because we are told? Or is it because we hold in us some standard to good work. What’s wrong with these models being more beautiful than me? Even before Photoshop. Artist are born with the gift as well as taking the opportunity to hone it. I don’t hold it against models to have been born tall or thin and been noticed and to learn to show their best sides.
Yes, I believe we are all beautiful. And creative. But some are more creative than others. Why is it offensive to us that some women are more beautiful than others?
Perhaps, the problem is not in which models are chosen, but that we believe a model’s beauty is attainable and important to our very worth as women.
When I took art classes, I didn’t expect to become Picasso. I expected to be able to draw a semi-decent still life. I didn’t think there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t be a famous artist.
But when I put on jeans, I expect my stomach to be flat. And I feel bad that it’s not. I feel unattractive. I feel wrong.
Why do I see an extreme and exotic beauty as possible, even necessary to my happiness?
The issue may not be what we find beautiful but how we find it beautiful. And how we use beauty.
Beauty is often not admired for its own beauty. It’s used to sell something. And that something is often available. I can go to a local store and buy it. And the implication is by purchasing and using this foundation or soap or shoes, I can look like the model. Even though the model is just wearing the product because she happens to already look a certain way.
It may have began as natural by-product of advertising since the purpose of an advertisement is to create or make obvious a need or desire that can be satisfied with said product. They chose beautiful women to sell the something as usual but in this case it’s a product that makes us better looking. And then they sold us the beautiful woman instead.
Maybe it go deeper. Perhaps, it is a survival instinct to want to be beautiful and attractive. To want to look good enough to mate. This instinct, coupled with a culture that uses beauty to sell products and creates products to sell beauty, builds the perfect storm of twisted notions and skewed self worth.
What I don’t believe is that the problem lies with the typical model body frame being found in only 2% of the American population. It’s the same percentage of want-to-be published writers actually getting published. I don’t think the issue is that the typical woman weighs 23 pounds more and is 6 inches shorter than the typical model. The root of our struggle is that we believe the typical model is the typical woman. Or could be with just a little more willpower.
At this point in our cultural norms, it seems impossible to re-frame models as musicians or artists. Their bodies as talents that they were born with and learned to use as most people with gifts learn. I fear that today’s models are too entwined with the products and fashion in which they sell. I don’t know if another solution beyond shifting to more typical bodies to sell products while bombarding the next generation with the knowledge of Photoshop and the three hours of makeup and hair it takes for even the most beautiful to look like a fashion model.
But I worry that we are missing the point.
I hope that, someday, we will not think that an unattainable beauty is just a product or diet away from the women that we are. I hope that we won’t believe that the most beautiful woman in the room is also the most terrible. Or the most lucky. I hope that we able to just put her looks on par with the woman next to her who can sing or dance or play guitar or was born into a wealthy family. A stroke of genetics and a good teacher. Or investor. Or hairstylist.
I don’t want another person’s beauty to be hidden from magazines so I can feel better about myself. Or find something else to lament.
I want to notice her beauty.
And move on.