Recently, I read about the leaking of Beyoncé’s photos sans retouching, in which she looks like a woman with some blemishes, smile lines and other imperfections that you would expect to see on any human walking the earth. My mind immediately jumped to Cindy Crawford’s consented release of untouched photos, bearing stomach stretch marks and all. It was refreshing to see a beautiful woman embrace what a culture of perfectionist has deemed unattractive as Cindy unapologetically flaunts her cellulite, flawed skin and other imperfections before the world.
Both of these instances garnered mega uproars in the social media realm and as expected, people applauded Cindy’s candor and the gifting of her middle finger to the world of retouching. But the reaction to Beyoncé’s photos caused me to say hmmmmm. Some fan’s were heated to say the least because she wasn’t the impeccable and unblemished woman they were used to seeing. She seemed, well, human. As a Beyoncé fan myself I thought she still looked great untouched and while she worked hard for her title of Queen Bey and her immaculate image, it is just that, an image. I also felt a twinge of empathy for the tremendous pressure she and other celebrities must receive to constantly remain that flawless face splashed across the television screen or print ads. It can’t be easy to live up to those standards and yet many women try, while ultimately failing because no one, not even Queen B herself is perfect. I see it in myself and those I love all the time, the negative self talk, ridiculous diets, and caked on make up to hide what society deems ugly. There is a constant pressure on women to reach impossible goals of whatever is considered perfection at the time, even going as far as disfiguring and harming organs attempting to achieve the perfect hour glass shape or Minaj-esque butt. It is an epidemic of self-hatred mostly due to a widespread massacre on our esteem.
But, what else is to be expected when we are constantly bombarded with a stream of ‘ideal’ women, when our husbands or boyfriends gawk at them, when we are compared to them or are criticized for not fitting the mold? In a study researchers found that the amount of time spent on-line, watching television and reading magazines was directly related to the internalization of the thin ideal, body surveillance, reduced body esteem, and increased dieting in teens (NetTweens). This alerts us to the fact that constantly taking in these portraits of supposed perfection will eventually have an effect on one’s esteem, especially if that person is already insecure and nothing like the images they view. Although this study focused on teens, there is no age limit to the effects, young and old women are suffering alike. In 2013 there were 15.1 million cosmetic surgery procedures performed in the United States and the number continues to rise each year (Plastic surgery.org). Unfortunately, I have no answers as to how to stop such a systemic and deliberate attack on women’s body images that even some of the most monetarily successful women in the world aren’t immune to. But I will begin with discontinuing negative self talk and urging those closest to me to do so as well, also I will try to embrace my imperfections, and love myself as I am, flaws and all. Won’t you join me?