RONZONE: The frustrating futility of women’s beauty



Raquel Ronzone

No matter how much women try, they still cannot get it right.

Women have read the publications. They have seen and heard the broadcasts that inform them of the alleged relaxation of society’s rigid, impossible standards of female beauty. The media proclaims that a long-overdue and liberating revolution in body image is occurring. They cite Dove’s internationally recognized Campaign for Real Beauty, Lifetime Television’s “How to Look Good Naked,” the ban on underweight models in Madrid’s Fashion Week and the fiercely unwavering public statements on body acceptance issued by paparazzi victims Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Aware of the issue, fashion magazines have celebrated the diversity of the female form.

The global grassroots internet movement, Revolution of Real Women, has infiltrated Facebook, MySpace, Flickr and Twitter, encouraging females to reclaim their self-esteem and individuality.

Even the American government has entered the dialogue: the women’s health branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services includes a section on body image on its homepage, alongside topics such as heart disease and cancer.

These and other initiatives, the media says, are rooting for the “everywoman” by promoting something other than the tired and overwhelmingly unrealistic image of bony catwalk and magazine models. At the end of the day, though, media outlets still insist that some women are simply too muscular, too athletic, too curvy, too fat, too thin, too flat chested, too busty, too hippy or too boyish in build to qualify for attractiveness.

Many women might not be beautiful according to the media’s standards. Women, however, are certainly wise enough to realize, not only the back-handed compliments that some of the aforementioned initiatives are giving them, but also the media’s detrimental emphasis on appearance over health.

Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty has contributed positively to the conversation on body image insofar as it has afforded average-sized women the same attention and publicity given to their gaunt counterparts. Regardless of its aspirations of promoting acceptance of all figures, Dove is still a business, a company whose much-lauded campaign still aims to sell products such as skin-firming lotions and cellulite creams. Evidently, Dove is reinforcing the idea that little imperfections degrade beauty and that women should resort to temporary, cosmetic methods of treatment, rather than life-long programs that ensure health.

One woman did challenge the media’s pervasive influence, opting for fitness over superficiality, only to encounter criticism. Published last month, an article in the LA Times noted that some have criticized Michelle Obama baring her noticeably toned arms in sleeveless dresses as improper for such a public figure. Others consider her arms ugly in their supposed masculinity. Not even the first lady can escape such disapproval from the press.

Other publications favor hypocrisy over criticism. On their glossy covers, fashion magazines, juxtapose tips for body acceptance and self-love with tips for slimming down, toning up and losing weight in order to get a bikini-ready body. These headlines scream that no weight is ever low enough, that diets and workouts are the admission fees to an enjoyable day at the beach or pool and that only a certain body type is worthy of donning the summer staple – the two piece.

Arriving at and maintaining a socially desirable appearance is becoming increasingly more futile for women. Organizations have strayed away – or at least promised to stray away – from featuring insufferably skinny models. This act has only allowed the media to focus its criticism on the perceived flaws of the physical self, which, according to society, must be slim but bony, toned but not muscular and curvy but not fat. Instead, women must turn to mental fortitude, something personal and valuable regardless of inches, pounds or shape, as protection from the beauty myth.


Raquel Ronzone is a sophomore communication major from Philadelphia. She can be reached at [email protected].