How we define beauty is both biologically and socially constructed. For centuries, women have been the centre objects of beauty, their beauty being objectified, utilized and manipulated for politics, religion, arts and media. Today, the media is constantly spreading the message that a woman’s value is tied to her bodies and looks. The message is always tied with a particular body shape, which is often obscured and unrealistic. It is never about loving and respecting the diversity of women’s body shapes. The message is not even about how to look slimmer, how to look skinny, or how to dress for your body shape, and it is certainly never about encouraging fashion outfits for women that fit their particular body shape. It is about “the body shape,” you either have the thigh gap, the large breasts, the round butt, or you do not.
But, how did we arrive at this point, and where do we go from here?
The idea of what constitutes a woman’s beauty has been evolving over time.
In ancient times, beauty was synonymous with health – an abled body for both physical labour and child bearing. In ancient Greece, symmetry was the mark of beauty, while blonde women were also worshiped as they represented youth and fertility. Conversely, in the Middle Ages, blonde hair was associated with fidelity and fornication. Fast forwarding to the Victorian era, size became to be seen as the mark of beauty, particularly the hourglass shape of the woman’s body.
Once again, fast-forwarding into the ‘20s, women’s curves were no longer in style, but rather a thin long body was desired. The ‘60s brought the standards of thin long legs and an adolescent body. The supermodel era began with the ‘80s and with it brought the athletic but curvy beauty standard. The ‘90s took women into the world of extremely thin, and today, we are obsessed over large breasts and large butt, and what has been titled “the thigh gap”.
Women’s Ideal Body Types Throughout History
It is clear that beauty standards are not consistent and do not follow any particular rule. What they do is objectify women, place an absurd weight and expectation on women, and reinforce the control of women’s bodies, which, as you can see, has been underway for centuries.
Fortunately, today, we also have a revolution that is slowly being seeded by women across the world. The idea of what is beautiful is being reclaimed by everyday women who are in love with their real bodies. These women are not afraid to stand up to the media and to show the world what true beauty looks like.
If you ask me, nothing is more beautiful than confidence. I will not deny that feeling beautiful oftentimes contributes to feeling confident and powerful. However, I believe that women need to set their own standards of beauty, learn to love and respect their bodies, and know how to work with their bodies to achieve the look they deem is beautiful. We need to move beyond the harmful manipulation of our bodies for an obscure idea of ever-changing beauty standard.
This is where an idol of mine illustrates a beautiful point. Tanya Burr, a fashion and beauty vlogger, blogger, makeup artist, author and a body-positive champion has not only been encouraging women to embrace and love their look, but is also living by her philosophy.
Whether it’s by showing off her outfits, rocking her bikini, or through releasing series of Snapchat videos addressing body-shamers, she is not afraid to address key issues concerning women and media, and continues to advocate for body-positive attitude, fashion, and life.
There are other champions in this revolution. 6Th Sense is a site that is all about body-positive fashion. The site offers a fashion advice column combined with an e-commerce platform. They work with real women’s body shapes and illustrate how women’s fashion outfits and choices reflect on their bodies. 6Th Sense shows women how to utilize fashion outfits as tools to create certain illusions that work best with their body shape. What they are ultimately doing is empowering women to reclaim their own bodies, by showing them that every body type is and can be beautiful and fashionable.
The revolution is underway. The question is, how long will it take for us to embrace all body shapes as the standard of beauty? After all, diversity is what makes our world beautiful, and beauty is what makes our life worth living.