While reading "The Beauty Myth" by Naomi Wolf my mind has been effectively blown from the correlation between suppression and beauty. The ideals of our modern women clearly contribute to the "stuckness" many females feel in being both powerful and pretty. In fact, one has become interchangeable with the other. As if in order to be powerful you must also be beautiful, and that beauty in itself does not exist without a sense of hierarchy. Women spend their lives trying to change, to be that picture perfect image in the magazines that only exists with photoshop, to obtain this sense of "making it" that no longer includes professional career goals but a Brazilian wax and the latest fast.
In meeting the demands of the economy along with the demands of society, we are tired. Over the last 50 years, this has become a more and more serious health issue. Eating disorders are more common than ever, people are having hormonal issues that ceased to exist in earlier centuries, mental illnesses continue to skyrocket and our perception of beauty is undoubtedly false. But it is not just about health, it is a political issue and a social issue as much as anything else. Staying skinny, staying tired, staying distracted by conventions of beauty said to align with achieving "control" really prevent us from having any control at all.
With every step women take in proving intellectual capacity for fields of business, engineering, medicine, teaching, and law there is a repeated pattern of taking just as many steps back. I would like to think it was a coincidence but I know that's not true. There is way too much evidence to prove otherwise.
"It is seeking right now to undo psychologically and covertly all the good things that feminism did for women materially and overtly. This counterforce is operating to checkmate the inheritance of feminism on every level in the lives of Western Women. Feminists inspired by Frieden, broke the strange hold in women's popular press for advertisers of household products promoting the feminine mystique while almost at once, the diet and skin scare industries became the new cultural centers of women's intellectual space." - Naomi Wolf
Basically, every positive stride we make is met head-on with a counterforce from the beauty industry. Whether that is skincare, waxing, makeup, weight loss schemes, fad diets, and dangerous pills, fast fashion, eyelash extensions, or the ideal female model - you get the point. When we move forward in our academic accomplishments or professional careers, they do their best to push us back. Convincing the female gender as a whole that in order to truly be anything, to make a name for yourself, to be "worthy" beauty is not an option, but an expectation. The work you do doesn't matter if you look unfeminine doing it. Some people will do just about anything to obtain that societal standard - they believe it is the truth when it is not.
Whether women aspire to be a career driven women, a mother, or anything else, she is still involuntarily expected to meet a certain beauty standard. For example, Wolf states, "Women took on all at once the roles of professional housewife, professional careerist, and professional beauty." This assumption imposed on females is argued to be a suppressing tactic. The more focused we are on our physical appearance, the less time we have to focus on the things that really matter, the things that could make a difference. Instead of getting attention in politics, the stock market, or research the beauty industry keeps our circle small. It instills the belief that what we want to really be known for is our looks, our bodies, our sexual appeal. All in all, it is a distraction. It keeps us stuck and it has kept us stuck for some time.
Fighting The Beauty Myth is exhausting work. We have thousands of companies, billions of dollars, and a strong history of gender inequality working against us. "Because of their pressure, the youthful model supplemented the happy housewife as an arbiter of successful womanhood. Reproductive rights gave Western women control over her own body while the weight of fashion models is plummeted to 23% below that of ordinary women and eating disorders rose exponentially. Every generation since the 1830s has had its own fight to the version of the beauty myth."
Success is counteracted with an innate assumption to prioritize physicalities over intellect. It's a scheme. By looking at the industries that promote The Beauty Myth with this type of lens is the first step in acknowledging the discourse that allows it to exist. Additionally, it empowers women, and even men, to resist the expectation and realize our worth is not disposable and beauty is not a prerequisite. Her skin doesn't look like that, it's photoshop. She's not that skinny, I promise. What you see isn't the truth. The standards created are false, in fact, they are unobtainable. There will always be more products to buy, more weight to lose, more ways to change. That's the point. They want you to keep working, to keep believing that once you look a certain way you will have it all, but there is no end. The Beauty Myth is just that, a myth.