Fashion, body cult, trend or ideal - society loves to judge and define what is beautiful. But through this men and especially women are pressed into ideas dictated by the environment. But what are so-called beauty ideals? Is this thinking still contemporary and how can we break through our own subjugation?
"You are beautiful" or "Look how beautiful she/he is". We have all said or thought these sentences before. And just as naturally you have probably asked your reflection whether you are beautiful. Actually something quite normal. But the problem lies in the question itself. Because very few of us know what beauty actually is and how we really define it.
Even if the understanding of beauty differs from continent, country or even the age of the interviewees, there are still similarities. Attractiveness researchers have discovered that beauty can be broken down to the same aspects across all borders. Accordingly, people who we consider to be fit and capable of giving birth are considered beautiful - pure skin is evidence of health, wide hips of an evolutionary advantage. So you are not impressed by the beauty of a person, but by their health and vitality. There are also signs that you find a face that corresponds to the so-called golden ratio beautiful. The famous rule of proportion has been researched and applied since ancient times. Even today, historians and researchers agree that we find paintings or objects such as flowers and even faces that follow this rule particularly attractive.
The history of beauty ideals
Even though many people scientifically consider the same things to be beautiful, our understanding of the ideals of beauty has changed fundamentally over the millennia.
However, one thing always remains the same: we long for things that we ourselves find difficult to achieve. That is why it quickly becomes clear that beauty ideals always consider as beautiful what is rare in the respective epoch or country. So nowadays people in Asia find big eyes beautiful, in Africa lush figures and in Europe rather slim bodies.
Today's diversity also existed in the past thousands of years. The Venus of Willendorf is one of the most famous artifacts of early times and shows what was considered beautiful at that time: small, exuberant women who were the epitome of the joy of childbirth. This was probably also due to the fact that in those times food was scarce and a corpulent woman stood for abundance and security. In the Egypt of the Pharaohs, make-up was again the measure of all things, and in the Middle Ages white skin and long hair were considered a sign of wealth. Women and men who could show this rarely had to work in the fields and could allow themselves a life in their own four walls. After the Rubens women in the baroque era, the 20th century was characterized by strong, slim, but also female women. They had survived the war and could watch their weight in a society of abundance. And the slim woman is still a sign of prosperity and discipline in the industrialized countries. Today, in the 21st century, globalization has made the ideals of beauty even more diverse. But what seems to be becoming more and more prevalent are so-called "toxic" beauty ideals, such as lower body weight, or trends like the Thigh Gap - the gap between the upper thighs. Even a natural look that is created unnaturally is currently considered beautiful. It shows once again how much we want to achieve just what we think we can least get between operations and optimizations.
What people do for beauty
Surely you too have done things to make you feel more beautiful. This could be a simple face mask, make-up, a new hair color or maybe even a diet. The fact that we do all this to meet our definition - or rather the social definition - of beauty is something many of us quickly forget. Only when people take drastic measures such as cosmetic surgery does the discussion become louder again. Yet our adaptation to the beautiful norm begins much earlier.
Other cultures also show the extent to which people submit to beauty ideals. In 20th century China, for example, many women bound their feet so that they looked smaller. In Ethiopia some tribes wear the so-called plate lips. And all of them do so to correspond to a certain idea of beauty and to attract the opposite sex. Not all of what we do today is as drastic or harmful. But we should be aware of what we are changing for. Because because these ideals have always accompanied us, we can hardly decide what we ourselves consider beautiful and what is shaped by society.
A closer look at 3 current beauty ideals
Being slim at all costs
Sports, gym and best of all a calorie deficit - almost every woman knows this. The goal: to be slim and fit. Only a few undergo this mixture because they really enjoy it from the bottom of their heart or because they want to promote their health. Because society makes us know that we only need to be slim to have a better life. But the reality is quite different: Only six out of 10,000 women have the famous 90-60-90 measurements and by far not only these women are successful in life. What starts with the "I only want to lose a few kilos" may end in a dangerous eating disorder. Because leaving food out is easier than dragging yourself to sports permanently. Numerous media also fire the image of the slim woman. Nearly all magazines have titles in every issue with diets and customer successes. Mainstream fashion is simply not produced for larger sizes and in social media we learn that women over 60 kilograms are considered overweight. Of course, the desire to lose a few kilos is not always linked to the will to be particularly beautiful. Some people also want to lose weight for health reasons. Whether the first few kilos turn into a dangerous slimming mania can be seen relatively clearly in many cases: a constant feeling of hunger, excessive sport and detailed knowledge about calories can be the first signs. If an associated permanent feeling of weakness occurs, the body is clearly undersupplied and a doctor should help to question the deficit and the way of thinking.
Just don't get cellulite
Cellulite seems to be the spectre of all men and women. Women do not want it and men often find it unsexy. Yet this attitude is miles away from the actual reality. Over 80 percent of women develop cellulite in their lifetime. The biological change of the connective tissue, which lies directly under the skin, affects the thigh and buttock area and can have different degrees of severity. Some women get cellulite as early as puberty, others only in the course of their lives, and for almost all of them the change causes insecurity and restrictions in everyday life. For many men, cellulite is still an indication that women do not exercise enough or eat the wrong foods. However, this is only a very small part of the truth, because cellulite is usually not influenced by external factors. It is therefore also a fallacy that slim women do not have cellulite. In the media it is still treated as an absolute taboo subject. If magazines are dedicated to the topic, then only to present creams and techniques that are supposed to remove the dents. Women should not expect too much from these products, because as already mentioned, external influences have only a limited effect on cellulite. Only in the last few years, some social media accounts have shown that there is another way and how women really look. But the picture in society still has to change a lot to finally accept cellulite as a normal part of almost every woman.
Fight against body hair
A woman must be completely hair-free on her legs, bikini line, under and on her arms, belly and face. At least that's what many men and women think nowadays. How a female genital area really looks like - i.e. with hair - many men only know from old movies or have no idea anymore. And also many women have never seen themselves with full intimate hair or hairy legs. But where does this cult of the hairless come from? According to an article in "The Journal of American Culture", the American Harpers Bazzar is to blame. In 1915, it was first entitled "Unwanted hair must go - for summer dresses and for dancing". This was followed by an advertising campaign that lasted for years and changed our way of thinking about body hair. It is hard to believe or imagine that all women were previously completely hairy in their pretty long dresses and feminine appearance. Both had never contradicted each other. Until this campaign. Today, women shave all parts of their bodies that might be visible through clothing to look feminine and innocent. The childlike pattern is particularly effective here. Even a shaved genital area supposedly makes us appear clean and untouched. Who benefits from the hype about naked skin? Above all the industry, which turns over billions with razors, creams and lasers. And the media is rarely concerned with the normality of hair. Here rather tips against razor pimples are spread or we are told at which parts men do not like female hair at all. For years there has been a lot of resistance, albeit very quiet, against this shaving dictatorship. But in public the cry for hair is only seen as a part of the feminist struggle. And yes, it belongs to feminism, which stands for equality and self-determination. But the right to hair is simply the right to the normal condition of the body. Because it is a fact that shaving is a sometimes even painful and unnatural process that removes an important physical protection from external influences.
Why we should turn our eyes from beauty
Somehow beauty ideals and the fight for a beautiful body read like a compulsion. And that is basically what they are. They are the compulsion that we should deal with our body. Because we have it in our hands and can shape it as we like. This is not possible with all aspects of our life and it is not uncommon for women to occupy themselves with more than their beauty. The fact that this way of thinking has long since become outdated is not yet evident enough, especially in the media. Now it is up to all women and men to fight against the ideals of beauty and for more diversity in everyday life and also in public. Because only in this way can we all escape the constraints of external appearances and finally concentrate more on our inner self.
It's your turn!
To which ideal of beauty have you already submitted yourself? What do you think we can do for more diversity and chain-breaking? We are looking forward to your comments in the comments ection below.