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Santa Cruz Indymedia

Commentary :: Gender & Sexuality

All women have beautiful bodies

The so-called "beauty industry" reaps billions of dollars as a result of media brainwashing that convinces women their bodies, which are already perfect and beautiful, do not live up to artificial, male-defined standards.
All women have beautiful bodies
By Elaine Charkowski

To the beautiful women who read this article:
I read a recent article about modern women having parts of their toes removed (causing crippling pain) so their feet can fit "fashionable" shoes! Women in China had their feet bound and were crippled for a thousand years (three inch long feet were "fashionable") before foot binding was outlawed.
Why do many women actually pay doctors to "fashion" them to fit men's ideas of "fashion?" Why is it legal for doctors to mutilate women's healthy bodies?

"Taught from infancy that beauty is woman's sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison. —"Mary Wollstonecraft, reformer and writer (1759-1797)

The "beauty" industry reaps billions of dollars annually by inflicting physical and psychological abuse upon women. Profits are maximized by exploiting womens' negative, media-induced feelings about their bodies.
In her essayWoman as Other, Simone de Beauvoir describes how women are regarded in male-supremacist societies, including ours. "She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her. She is the incidental, the inessential, as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, the Absolute. She is "The Other."
Unfortunately for women, patriarchy (male supremacist society) spans the globe. As a result, patriarchal men define themselves as the human race (mankind) the "perfect norm" against which women are measured–and found lacking. They project their artificial standards of beauty onto women's bodies like blank movie screens. Women are at risk if they internalize these standards. Surveys by the Kinsey Institute found that American women have more negative feelings about their bodies than women in any other culture studied. Like clothing and cars, womens' body shapes go in and out of style. Today, Marilyn Monroe's beautiful, voluptuous figure would be regarded as obese!
The primary source of womens' discontent comes from their second-class status in sexist, male-supremacist society. However, the "beauty" industry use mass media (owned and controlled by men) to falsely attribute women's discontent to personal negative feelings about body image. Attempting to banish discontent, women try to conform to "the perfect norm" by changing themselves–not the male-supremacist society.
Due to unrelenting brainwashing, millions of women and girls hate their natural, beautiful bodies, spending time and money to change them. Thus, the energy women could have spent transforming our violent, woman-hating society is turned against them, consumed by the eternal and often unattainable quest for "beauty." Consider this woman-hating ad for Woodland Park Hospital's Cosmetic Surgery Center:"A normal shaped bust, A flat tummy. Regular shaped thighs. We all know what would make us look right but a lifetime of wishing won't make it so.?
A "normal" bust? "Regular" shaped" thighs? Looking "right?? By whose standards?
In her book Backlash , Susan Faludi wrote about the "fashionable" Victorian wasting-away look. It fueled America's first dieting mania and fatal eating disorders. Many Victorian women died after taking toxic potions to achieve a chalky-looking complexion. Another toxic "beauty aid" was Fowler's Solution (containing arsenic) which supposedly "revitalized" aging skin
Unfortunately, the demand for a corpse-like appearance is still with us. Skeletal models stare out at us, gaunt and death-like, from the pages of male-owned "women's" magazines. Over a century later, the cult of beauty still pressures women to risk their lives for the "ideal" body. Many young girls, vulnerable to negative media messages about how they "should" look, begin dieting at age ten or younger!
Twenty years ago, Retin-A (which causes cancer, birth defects and severe dermatitis)was prescribed by doctors to combat wrinkles. Botox is the latest toxic wrinkle-reducing craze. Botulinum toxin (which causes botulism) is one of the most poisonous substances on earth. Botox, a refined strain of this deadly toxin is injected into women's facial muscles to paralyze them to reduce wrinkles. However, wrinkles return and repeated injections are necessary. Allergan Inc.which manufactures Botox anticipates making billions.
Incredibly, doctors can legally inject a deadly toxin into women's faces without the Food and Drug Administration's approval.
In the 1970s, feminism cut into the beauty industry's profits by encouraging women to feel better about who they are rather than how they look. "The industry aimed to restore its own economic health by persuading women that they were the ailing patients," Faludi said. Beauty became medicalized and a lab-coated army of doctors prescribed many bizarre and expensive treatments including skin injections, face lifts, liposuction, hormone treatments, silicone implants, injections of mares' urine and plastic surgery for virtually every inch of the torso.
One doctor even promised to reduce women's height by sawing their leg bones!
The cult of beauty has serious social implications for women. Faludi notes that in times of backlash against women's rights, unhealthy beauty standards converge with social campaigns against women. By contrast, during periods when the culture is more receptive to women’s rights "athleticism, health and vivid color define female beauty."
In the first two decades of the twentieth century, female athletes outshone movie stars and set healthier standards of beauty than today's.
However, when women gained political power in 1920 by winning the right to vote, the first Miss America “beauty? pageant was established.The backlash began and continues today.
Health requirements vary for each woman. Moderate exercise and maintaining the weight necessary for cardiovascular health should always be encouraged. Unfortunately, women often endanger their health by jogging obsessively, losing dangerous amounts of weight and even going under the knife to become "beautiful."
We live in a society that regards women's living, breathing bodies as inanimate objects to be "sculpted." The fact that women experience pain and even die from various "sculpting" techniques is ignored.
Drs. W. Earle Matiry Jr. and Patrick Chavis had women patients die during liposuction! Lucha Villa, one of Mexico's most popular singers and film stars, went into a coma and barely survived.
Dr. Robert Harvey became known as the "breast man of San Francisco." During a luncheon at the all-male Bohemian Club, he showed slides of Asian women whose breasts he had "occidentalized," making them (in his opinion) "more feminine." For women nervous about surgery, Harvey's associate suggested facial injections of collagen."It's a good way for them (women) to get their feet wet–to cross the bridge to surgery."
A 1988 Dow Corning Corporation study found that silicone gel implants caused cancer in more than 23 % of rats tested.The Food and Drug Administration dismissed the findings.
How many precious woman-hours that remain after a hectic day of work and child care are wasted obsessing about body image?
Imagine how our society would benefit if the billions of dollars consumed by the "cult of beauty" were spent on housing, education and job training for women, especially those stuck in poverty.These billions would be better spent for battered women’s shelters, health clinics and quality day care for women who seek education and career training in order to better their lives.
The next time you look in the mirror and catch yourself negatively judging your body, remind yourself that these thoughts are not your own! They were injected into your mind by a woman-hating culture.
Always remember, when you look into the mirror a beautiful Goddess is smiling back at you!

Joules is a women living in Washington state who loves and accepts her body the way it is.The following verses are from her poem published in We'Moon '95 -Gaia Rhythms for womym.

My belly's rounded room, holds the full and glowing moon
My hips so soft and wide hold the universe inside
Oh what a lucky chance to be blessed with such expanse
To take my womanly stance in this universal dance!

Now some would try to strip and starve me
Some would try to mold and carve me
But nothing is more belittling
Than that narrow-minded whittling!

It is not my bound duty to befit the little beauty
My thighs are thick and thunderous!
my waist is wide and wondrous!
This body that was sent to me,
Is the form that it is meant to be!

Resources: "We'Moon, Gaia Rhythms for Womyn" Women's multi-cultural poetry and art celebrating the beauty and power of women. Available at Bookshop Santa Cruz. To order or to submit articles or poetry, write to P.O. Box 1395-W Estacada, OR 97023 USA
Ph: 503-630-7848 or (toll free) 877-693-6666. Email: matrix (at) Web:

"New Moon -The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams" 34 E. Superior St. #200, Duluth MN 55802. Ph: 1-800-381-4743 Fax: 218-728-0314 Email: newmoon (at) Web: A child-edited magazine that won the prestigious Parent's Choice Foundation's Gold Award for Best Children's magazine–twice. It offers girls and teen women positive articles about body image and self-worth. New Moon strives to counter the psycholigical battering the dominant media inflicts upon girls and women. Excellent reading for mothers and daughters alike!

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