Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rant du jour: Women & the C21 ideal of beauty

I had my weekly mani-pedi in Manhattan last week, whilst succumbing to my guilty pleasure: the stack of US Weeklies & People mags sitting in the salon. I could pretend that I am above such stuff, but hell, I like seeing what people are up to and, especially, what they are wearing. As an editor, it's fascinating to see which trends filter through to the world at large.

However, whilst I'm all for staring at frocks & shoes, the trend that really scares me in these magazines is that for body shapes, shown in frequent paparazzi bikini shots. So many of the women look exactly the same, with their neat noses, little hipless hard bodies, bolted on grapefruit breasts and lollipop heads.

That these women would manipulate their bodies to fit a fixed ideal of beauty that is so, so far from the reality of the female shape is so dystopian, so just plain wrong that it's almost impossible to comprehend that it is now considered perfectly normal to spend thousands of pounds on major, life threatening surgery to alter the shape of breasts, bottoms, faces and more.

I'm not talking about procedures such as breast reduction or the pinning back of flapping ears or even liposuction here but operations that actually change your physical shape by inserting implants, or shaving bone. When did society become so obsessed with one ideal of beauty?

I was looking at pictures of Hugh Hefner's bunnies from the 1950s & 1960s yesterday. They were curvy, long legged, blowsy even. With bits that wobbled and breasts that spilled rather than staying clamped under their clavicles), they looked like more beautiful versions of everyday women.

Today's bunnies, the Kendras et al look like alien boiled eggs atop their contorted bodies. Sure the hair stringy & dull from bleach and eyebrows plucked to permanently amazed lines would be familiar to a screen siren of the 1930s, but the faces shiny from chemical peels, the lips inflated to blow job pillows would not.

Women have always tried to conform to an idea of beauty: from the bust of Nefertiti with her kohl'd eyes to the Ditchley portrait of Elizabeth I with her plucked hairline, leaded face and ginger wig, but when did they decide that their idea of beauty was to look like a sexualised dummy for the use of men?