The image of the ideal woman has changed over time, with today’s image affecting women all over the world. Women’s magazines are laden with heavily Photoshopped images of models who appear to carry ‘ideals’ which readers should strive for. This may include, but is not reduced to, thin waistlines, sizeable breasts and perfect skin. Forgetting that women come in all shapes and sizes, these magazines distribute harmful messages that women in their own skin are simply not enough if they do not conform to these ideals. This issue has been tackled by several different sources, but the burden of perfect bodies has been burned into society’s minds to such a degree that both men and women are put down and ridiculed because of how they look. We see, specifically on the internet, that people have become bold in their remarks and unforgiving in their judgements. With any hope for the future, the ‘ideal woman’ will be that which displays health, happiness and confidence.
The image of the ideal woman has transformed throughout time depending on societal perceptions and an individuals’ status in a given time period. According to R.S Fleming, women throughout history have been depicted in art and photography with no body hair (for hygiene reasons, no doubt), with marble complexions and low to moderate body fat. While it is well known that good practices in hygiene and fashion was indicative of wealth, the same can be said for body weight. In earlier eras, it can be seen that girth was indicative of affluence, which explains why portraits during such times display people whose bodies are voluptuous (since typically, the wealthy could afford portraiture, while poorer families could not). While during these times girth was perceived as a positive, such a notion has been expelled from modern society, which deems body fat to be disgusting, or perhaps, unacceptable. If, on occasion, one finds themselves flicking through a fashion or women’s magazine, they will find an abundance of images of women as almost polar opposites of the wealthy people in history. Women in modern magazines are seen with one body type: thin, glowing skin and without flaw. That which one does not see, however, is the amount of editing that produces such Barbie doll models, where the model herself is virtually non-existent. ABC news, Entertainment Tonight, The Today Show and others have critiqued footage of the Photoshop process emulated in typical womens’ magazines:
Here, one can clearly see that the model who entered the booth is not the same as she who is displayed on the screen. There are a number of things which have been altered, including the lightening of the models’ skin, enlarging of her eyes, the thinning of her torso and the elongating of her legs. Such modifications can presumably be seen in womens’ magazines from different places in the world. Superdrug conducted a study concerning the ideal body type for women in 18 different countries around the world. They used one model who was photoshopped to conform to cultural ideals from these countries:
That which is obvious from these images is the idea of a universally suited ‘ideal’ woman does not exist. While there are cultural ideals appropriate to countries around the world, they are all vastly different. Superdrug commented on the study, stating that “Widely held perceptions of beauty and perfection can have a deep and lasting cultural impact on both women and men […] “The goal of this project is to better understand potentially unrealistic standards of beauty and to see how such pressures vary around the world.” From this, we can interpret that those magazines, social media accounts and public figures who attempt to emulate the physical properties which the ideal woman possesses actually perpetuate harmful messages that we are not enough, or that we must look a certain way in order to be deemed beautiful. In reality, because of the level of modifications which models are subjected to, these ideals are virtually impossible to achieve, and perhaps, dangerous to maintain. This danger can be realised by observing various trends and diets which women and men have subjected themselves to in order to meet unrealistic criteria.
Such trends as the ‘thigh gap’ or the ‘printer paper’ challenges, both of which can presumably only be achieved with certain body types, have left trend followers saddened with their inability to comply, which reduces their confidence in themselves. In a world in which it has become popular to be self deprecating, we must push back against ideologies which do nothing for us aside from dragging us to dark places which leave us feeling depressed, unworthy and unattractive. We must build each other up instead of joining those who critique and judge others based on their appearance, and ultimately, stand with those who seek to eradicate such judgement and similar behaviours from those around us.
Images taken from Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKQdwjGiF-s ‘Body Evolution – Model Before and After Photoshop’
‘Victorian Feminine Ideal: about the perfect sillhouette, hygiene, grooming, & body sculpting.’ R.S Flemming. http://www.katetattersall.com/victorian-feminine-ideal-the-perfect-silhouette-hygiene-grooming-body-sculpting/
‘What the ideal Women’s Body Looks Like in 18 Countries’. Alanna Vagianos https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-the-ideal-womans-body-looks-like-in-18-countries_n_55ccd2a6e4b064d5910ac3b0