If Beauty Hurts, We’re Doing it Wrong
If you’ve ever read our work, there are a few things you know (and if not, here’s a quick lesson in all things Beauty Redefined!): 1. Rest assured every image you see of a women in media has been digitally manipulated, and the billions of images really distort our ideas of not only “beautiful” but also “normal” and “natural”; 2. You are capable of MUCH more than being looked at, but beauty, diet, and media industries spend hundreds of billions per year to teach you otherwise; 3. When we constantly see females primarily as “eye candy” and valued for their parts – not their whole selves – we learn to spend our time, money, and energy enhancing the worth of our parts instead of understanding the infinite worth of our selves; 4. And finally, the focus of this post: Beauty shouldn’t hurt. If our pursuit of beauty hurts, we might be doing it wrong.
We echo the words of the always fascinating documentary filmmaker Elena Rossini of “The Illusionists” who reminds us who the real illusionists are: the beauty, diet, and mass media industries. “They create, shape and maintain our shared beliefs, values, and rules, promoting aspirational ideals of female beauty that are very difficult – if not impossible – to achieve, in order to create new needs and apprehensions that fuel a 500 billion dollar industry.”
Yes, you read that right! 500 billion dollars every year is devoted to you feeling like you must live up to an illusion in order to be happy, loved, beautiful, and successful. Oh, the lies we buy! Oh, how normal these lies appear when they make up the very day-to-day messages we hear, see, and read. Oh, how we must fight against this illusion and grasp hold of our beautiful realities. And that is our task today and every day. Rossini quoted the American anthropologist Margaret Mead as one of her top 30 reasons for making her documentary, “The Illusionists,” to help the world understand “how mass media, advertising and several industries manipulate people’s insecurities about their bodies for profit” and we stand beside her in this fight. Mead said, “A small group of thoughtful people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Do you believe this? If I didn’t believe it, I surely wouldn’t be writing this right now. If Mead doesn’t mind me adding to her quote, I’d say, “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. That small group could rid the world of the physical and emotional pain of seeking beauty in all the most painful places. That small group could redefine ‘beauty’ back to its original place as a term that encompasses us all – that gathers us in with loving arms instead of pushes us apart. Beauty should never hurt – that is an illusion. If beauty hurts, we’re doing it wrong.”
I’ve been thinking of how painful, yet so normal, some of our pursuits toward beauty are. Our billboard campaign that started this summer in Utah and continues through winter and spring 2012 on the Pennsylvania Turnpike (and more with your help!) feature four phrases. One of them is: “If beauty hurts, we’re doing it wrong.” We are in the midst of a beautiful reality that is ours once we recognize it, grasp hold of it, and back away from living a painful illusion where achieving “beauty” so often hurts. Particularly, I want to bring to light a few of the most physically painful ways we are asked to change ourselves to meet an unattainable standard, and hopefully we can critically consider why we elect to participate in them and why they feel so normal and natural to us: breast enhancement, all-over hair removal and the HCG diet. My goal here is to help us critically consider the painful and often incredibly dangerous illusions we subject ourselves to – for ourselves, for our mothers, for our daughters, friends, sisters, co-workers, and the strangers on the sidewalk. My goal is never EVER to shame or blame anyone who has elected to these pursuits or is going forward with them. We can’t look down on anyone for their own beauty pursuits because we all undergo our own pursuits toward perfection – the line is just different for all of us. The point here is that when we grasp the reality of our beauty, we begin to see ourselves for what our beauty really entails, and not what industries would have us believe is normal, attainable, and the only pathway to beauty, love, and happiness.
When the digital world of female faces and bodies looks nothing like the natural world, is it any wonder that women have turned to physical alterations like breast augmentation, all-over hair removal or the extremes of the HCG diet to meet these unreal standards? The possibility of achieving unnatural ideals through enhancements, procedures and products is a game-changer for what women today are capable of looking like. But what about our daughters, nieces, students, coworkers, etc? What will their own developing, aging, otherwise “flawed” forms look like in comparison to the realities we are manipulating? Next time you hear floods of radio ads asking you to come in for all-over laser hair removal, see billboards for breast enhancement or magazine ads for extreme diets, consider this info and remember, beauty doesn’t have to hurt.
Enhance Your Breasts, Enhance Your Life?:Just a few months ago, the Food and Drug Administration stated in a report that breast implants are safe but WILL fail within 10 years. “[Women] need to understand they’re going to need many removals and replacements for the rest of their lives,” states Zuckerman, president of National Research Center for Women & Families, a group that examines the safety of medical products. The FDA says up to 40 percent of patients who get silicone implants will need another operation to modify or remove them within 10 years. For women with implants for breast reconstruction, the number is even higher, at up to 70 percent. The biggest issue was scar tissue hardening around the implant, while pain, infection, ruptures and asymmetry followed close behind. Women with breast implants are also more likely to be diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a rare form of cancer.
Did you know silicone implants were pulled off the market in 1992 after concerns were raised about their safety and that leaking silicone was linked to dangerous immune-system disease? In late 2006, the FDA returned the implants to the market after clinical trials couldn’t find a clear link to the diseases. Plastic surgeons were clamoring for the return of the silicone versions because they say they look and feel more real than saline. (Which makes our billboard messages “You are capable of much more than being looked at” and “There is more to be than eye candy” especially pertinent!) After 14 years of no silicone implants, plastic surgeons breathed a sigh of relief and silicone implant procedures skyrocketed: “This is a great day for plastic surgeons and especially for their patients,” said Dr. Phil Haeck, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
It might be a great day for you, doctor, because you and your fellow surgeons will make billions off these “temporary devices,” (as they’re called by the FDA) but do your patients know what they’re in for? The FDA report states patients must get MRIs every two years to screen for “silent ruptures” of the silicone implants, which don’t deflate when they tear like saline implants so you don’t know when they’re leaking. That’s an extra $2,000 biannually for women who have elected to breast enhancement! Add it all up and the original $5K to $10K procedure will now cost a 25-year-old woman at least another $35K for re-implantation and $30K for the recommended number of MRIs throughout her life! And that is not including any health complications from all those surgical procedures, anesthesia, potential leaking or disease, time away from work, family, and life, etc. With plastic surgery up nearly 500% in the last decade as it becomes a normal part of our beauty pursuits, we must know the potential danger of our choices, and we want women everywhere to be happy and healthy – first and foremost.
HAIR-FREE: The NEW way to be!: Did you know the ideal of being totally hairless from the neck down has only happened in the last couple decades? While American women have been shaving leg and armpit hair since the 1920s, and shaving the bikini line since at least the 1950s, the completely “bare” look has only been in style since the early to mid 1990s. If you research this, you’ll see many attribute this new beauty ideal to pornography that hit the Internet in the late 90s and sent billions of images of women across the world in an instant.
Here’s the thing: getting waxed anywhere can be excruciating. On your eyebrows, lips, underarms or anywhere else, waxing hurts! And the latest new procedure, laser hair removal, is an unavoidable new standard if you listen to radio advertisements or see billboards. For thousands of dollars, women (and men) elect to multiple procedures to have their hair burned off by lasers to meet the latest standards of “beauty.” Of course, those who have this work done can’t be shamed or blamed for electing to it – many say they save time in the long run by not having to shave like they used to. But it’s important to pay attention to how quickly beauty ideals change. If it were 1995, we wouldn’t feel the pressure to be hair-free from our eyebrows down because our standard of beauty hadn’t narrowed to the degree it has today, and billions of dollars are invested in us believing hair-free is the only way to be!
HCG: Starving for Beauty: The Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) diet is a very restrictive, low-calorie diet (and it happens to be No. 1 in Utah, where we currently research and reside). HCG is a hormone produced by pregnant women in the cells that produce placenta. For those electing to the HCG diet, daily hormone injections and a restricted diet of 500 calories per day is required. Marketers of the diet claim you can lose one to three pounds per day on the diet, but the FDA has not approved of HCG because there is no evidence to support it is a weight loss aid at all. Instead, the injections help decrease hunger and discomfort while consuming very few calories. The basis of the diet’s effectiveness is starvation.
The thing is, consuming only 500 calories per day forces your body to compensate by using stored glycogen, muscle and fat. Using these resources actually lowers your metabolism, which makes it harder for you to lose weight and metabolize properly. A bit of research shows many people on the HCG diet suffer side effects including headaches, dizziness, depression, mood swings, blood clots and confusion. Some women develop Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome. And no wonder these side effects occur when you restrict your body to ¼ of the calories dieticians ask you to consume to live a healthy existence! You are capable of much more than being looked at, but on this diet, being looked at is about all you can muster. If this is a diet you are on or considering, please speak with a doctor or dietician who does not profit from backing the HCG diet to know what is most healthy for you. Be safe! We love you and want you to be healthy and happy!
Back Away from the Illusion…
The reality is, when we begin to back away from the illusion and embrace our beautiful realities, we might end up looking a little different than the rest of the world. We certainly won’t look like the unreal women across advertising-fueled media. Our joyful smiles, scars, freckles, wrinkles, hair, curves, laughs, and confidence can and will be a beacon of light to a world of women, girls, men and boys desperately in need of light. Desperately searching for reality in the midst of an often painful illusion. Desperately in need of the hope that your beautiful reality can bring them. Do you grasp the power you hold? Can you begin to understand your unique ability to bring peace, happiness, and beautiful reality to those you pass by each day?
When we recognize the pain we cause to ourselves and the pain we experience in the name of beauty, we can begin to fight back. Have you undergone an elective surgical procedure in the name of beauty? Have you ever binged, purged, or starved yourself on an extreme diet? Have you painfully experimented with removing hair from your face or body to meet an ideal that only recently became a new standard of beauty? Have you believed these “beauty hurts” lies and constrained your true happiness, health and worth? Well guess what? “A small group of thoughtful people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Let’s band together and change the world – beginning within ourselves and branching out to encompass all those we love, whether we’ve met them yet or not. Let’s help every one of us understand our beauty lies in our reality, and the illusions we strive for aren’t necessary for us to find happiness, love, health and beauty.
If you’re reading this, you’ve joined the fight to take back beauty :) And as always, we at Beauty Redefined have a few more ways you can change the world in thoughtful ways. Here you go:
Life is Rough – Be a Diamond in the Midst of It!
Join with us, and with at least four other girls or women that you know – whether in daily life or online – and BOND together by recognizing, rejecting and honestly sharing your own struggles with the pressures our cultures place upon women. Find strength and power outside your own capacity by networking together and openly discussing the dangers of appearance-obsessed society. Escape the dark, pressure-filled circumstances that we – at one time or another – struggle through alone by banding together and bringing those shames, anxieties, angers, successes and joys to light. Read our inspirational post on this very subject to learn more about your very diamond-like self.
Shine with Positivity
Research and real-life experience make it clear that when women and girls speak negatively about their bodies and their appearance, they negatively impact those around them. That goes for women talking about themselves in hateful ways in front of their children and family members, girls that degrade themselves in front of their friends, or any other time a woman or girl says awful things about herself in front of anyone near. Start today with a goal that you will never again say something negative about your appearance aloud, and soon the negative self-talk that floats through your mind will become less and less prevalent, too. To remind strangers and those you love of these positive truths, feel free to buy our beautiful sticky notes or greeting cards with phrases like “If beauty hurts, we’re doing it wrong!” Find them here!
For many more thoughtful strategies to take back beauty, click here.