The Bad About Beauty Standards
Just thirty minutes ago, I headed to the hotel lobby in Kyoto to get some coffee to take back to the room. I donned a slinky black dress, a waist-cinching belt, new leather pumps and a thin red cardigan to cover my shoulders for modesty. Thank god for Japan’s ongoing hygiene theatre. I didn’t have enough time to do my makeup and I was happy enough to wear a mask to hide that. All the women are in heels and long, modest dresses. Even the grandmas. To be a woman is to be on display.
I’ve written a few times on this blog to defend people who play into traditional beauty standards. Today I’m taking the time out to talk frankly about the bad of strict beauty standards. As a Black woman, I’m no stranger to these rules—middle class Black women don’t dare leave the house without a nice outfit, neat hair and a clean manicure. This same expectation is taken to an extreme in Japan, somewhere I lived for many years.
Sue me, but I don’t think that beauty standards are based solely on nurture. Features such as unblemished skin, clear eyes and teeth all signal good health. Yet — plenty of beauty standards posed on society are unrealistic compared to the average person. Beauty standards often promote a narrow and unrealistic ideal of what is considered attractive. This can create pressure on individuals to conform to this ideal, which can be difficult or even impossible for many people.
Body ideals vary vastly based on the culture yet they are unified on the front of being largely unobtainable. Most Black women do not want to be as thin as plenty of other women idealize. And in Japan many women would consider America’s beauty standard to be too athletic or muscular. The unifying feature of idealized bodies is that they are nearly unobtainable to the average woman without lots of dieting, exercise, surgery or genetics.
There’s an idea that Black Americans have some great feminist culture body positivity but this certainly is not the case. At fifteen, I stalked pro-anorexia blogs. The aim was to fit a giant Toblerone inside of your thigh gap. So imagine the shock I had at the $50 weave shop in Detroit when a group of the stylists, asserted that only dogs liked bones. Anything under 180 pounds was bones.