Body Image in Society

Destiney McCraney Ms. Wills English 100 19 September 2012 Go Against the Grain Remodel your nose, show your chest, and bend over for the camera. This is basically the message society is sending to women today. If you conform to the world’s idea of what a woman should look like then you will be accepted. In the two articles “The Pitfalls of Plastic Surgery” by Camille Paglia and “The Beauty Myth” by Naomi Wolf, the way women have responded to the message from society is discussed from both perspectives.
Wolf is clearly against women’s confinement to societal pressures. She reveals that there is a “secret underlie poisoning our freedom,” referring to the way women focus on appearance and fitting in (Wolf 10). Paglia’s argument focuses on the extent of women using plastic surgery to become what they believe society wants them to be. She writes about the way women have made themselves their own “works of art,” taking plastic surgery to higher levels in the industry. Wolf emphasizes the way women have changed their values over the years.
She makes an emotional appeal by concluding that the “contemporary ravages” are “destroying women physically and depleting us psychologically”(Wolf 19). Over time, society has influenced women to confine themselves to what the world believes is beauty instead of embracing the power of being a woman and focusing on their place in the economy. The first image portrays a woman who is perfectly proportioned yet still uncomfortable with her body. The woman in the ad has her hands behind her back as if she’s nervous about people seeing her in the bikini she’s wearing.

The light blue color of the background symbolizes renewal instead of the sadness that would be portrayed from a darker blue; losing weight creates a brighter future. The bend in her leg reveals her shyness as she looks towards the weight loss product, feeling like she has to use it in order to be confident. The fact that she isn’t comfortable after she has lost 25 pounds and is wearing a black bikini reveals the extremes that our society force us to go to in order to be accepted.
If it isn’t one part of the body, it’s another. The phrase “jealous exes” is used to draw attention to the product giving a perspective on what women feel is important these days. Just by looking at this ad it is implied that most women want to make all their exes jealous, not become a CEO of a company. The ad as a whole, pin points how the world thinks women should want to look. Why 25 pounds and not 5? Why is she still uncomfortable? The pressure from society creates this never ending cycle of conformity to the ideal woman.
It seems as though women today have shifted their attention to issues that shouldn’t matter. Many women are concerned with “physical appearance, bodies, faces, hair, clothes,” bringing attention to the relationship between “female liberation and female beauty. “(Wolf 9) The pressures of society have influenced women to believe they all need to resemble one another. The media always tends to focus on skinny models, light-skinned women, long-haired women, and tall women when they refer to the word “beauty. These are the types of women that are scarce in our society because everyone obviously isn’t born that way. Most of our society is filled with women who have curves, like the plus sized models of today, or who have darker skin compared to the famous models with fair complexions. The spotlight on the preferred image of women in society causes them to think they have to be just like that vision in order to be accepted. In the image I have chosen, there are two different women who both won a beauty contest in different areas of the world.
One woman is skinny with long, blonde hair in her face, while the other has curves and dark, shorter hair out of her face. The woman with curves is more conservative with her outfit and her make-up. She is wearing a bikini, but covering her bottom with a wrap and her make-up is more natural. The skinny woman on the other hand is showing off her body in a bikini and her make-up is on heavier than the other woman’s. The women in our society today feel like they can’t achieve certain goals in life without being the world’s ideal women, but according to this image, it is possible.
The plus sized woman in this image is a great example of an empowering figure for women in our society because she is confident with her body and makes the statement that it is okay to love you the way you were born. Who is to blame for women thinking they constantly need to change themselves to fit in? Why aren’t women comfortable with their bodies? When people like the media are repeatedly beating you up for being yourself you tend to change if you are not confident. The media exploits women through ads, magazines, and “pornography” and the women of today are allowing it to happen (Wolf 10).
There are only a hand full of women who aren’t ashamed to go against the grain and be proud of who they are. In the photo of J-woww, the magazine is criticizing her for moving her leg a certain way causing her cellulite to show. She is wearing a pink bikini that shows off her tattoo and tanned skin. The magazine points out that she can’t cover up every flaw with tattoos and tanning oils implying that she is full of imperfections. In the eyes of many other people she has a nice body, but according to the media she needs work done. As long as she is comfortable with her body their opinion doesn’t matter right?
Wrong. Many people look at this in a magazine and agree because society has taught us to judge one other the same way they judge us. In the words of Wolf, these obsessions are “poisoning our freedom,” women in earlier days worked hard and sacrificed for women today to have the power and money they have, but the way women today feel about themselves leaves them “worse off than our unliberated grandmothers” (Wolf 10). Society has conned women into focusing on beauty and acceptance instead of being empowered and useful in the economy.
Women are usually projected as sex symbols that should always look a certain way. It is rare to see a woman in a movie or magazine with a professional outfit on that isn’t showing too much skin. A woman wearing a nice skirt with a blazer and a shirt buttoned all the way up is a great icon to other women because it shows how you don’t have to have your chest out and be exploited to be important. The image portraying a professional woman flexing her arms like a man would shows how women can have power without conforming to society’s expectations.
The way her mouth is open gives the impression that she is excited to be in the position she is in, and comfortable with herself as a woman. The workplace has more women in it now than it did years ago, and more women need to start taking advantage of this new opportunity. Over the years women have been influenced to confine themselves to the ideals of society. Women are constantly judged and criticized forcing them to change themselves when there was no need to. There are not many women who will stand up and go against what the world thinks, embrace the power of being as woman, and take heir rightful place in the economy. If there is going to be a change it has to start with the women not the men, the media, friends, or society as a whole. “If we are to free ourselves from the dead weight that has once been made out of femaleness, it is not ballots or lobbyists or placards that women will need first; it is a new way to see. (Wolf 19). Works Cited Paglia, Camille. “The Pitfalls of Plastic Surgery. ” Harper’s Bazaar (May 2005). Print Rpt in Convergences. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2009 Print Wolf, Naomi. The Beauty Myth. New York: Harper Collins, 2002. Print

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