The very concept of a beauty ideal negates the value of women as people. Yet, throughout the ages and around the world, women are expected to act, be and look a certain way that fulfills a man’s desires, depending on the cultural context. In Nigeria, there are spaces that provide women a place to gain weight in order to attract a male partner. Meanwhile, restrictive eating disorders are on the rise in China, as Westernization, alongside other “socio-cultural factors that include gender roles, economic opportunities, religious values, and the cultural objectification of women,” create unrealistic expectations of not only what a woman has to look like, but who she is meant to be.
In America, the history of “ideal beauty” has fluctuated over time. Post-World War II advertisements told women to gain weight (“Men wouldn’t even look at me when I was skinny.”), and a decade later, the same advertisements convinced women to shed the pounds so they could find husbands. Written by men in male-dominated industries, regardless of what the beauty ideal was, these advertisements said one thing: be “this” or men won’t love you.
I don’t really remember the exact moment when he first told me that my weight was an “issue” for him. I don’t really remember body standards ever being apart of my experience in dating until my first “real relationship”. I started dating my freshman year of high school more specifically the summer before my freshman year. I'll say that I didn't notice that my body was different than the other girls in my class until the moment I started my first relationship. I remember asking my first boyfriend what the first thing he noticed about me was. He took a minute to think, and without real hesitation, he said, “Your chest.” I said “My chest? You mean my boobs?!” He replied, “Yes you have really big ones.” How poetic and romantic is that? I’m not sure was I really expecting from a freshman boy in high school, but in that moment I started to really evaluate my body.
We spend most of our lives not only discovering who we are as a person, but also trying to figure out what our purpose is. We find ourselves trying to keep up with all the latest fashion trends, like hair, make-up, clothing and shoes, things that are assets to defining our inner beauty. However, these are things that are temporary, things that make us feel good for a moment. How about feeling good, for the long run? Being in it to win it? To be able to wear your crown high and be proud of the Queen inside you?