The Contradictions of Beauty Standards

Rachael Ryan

The way we view and feel about ‘femininity’ is shaped by the world around us and often we internalise these attitudes. ‘Femininity’ is something that many girls and women are raised to conform to. From the minute we are born, sometimes from the minute of a gender reveal party, the lives of many young women are somewhat predetermined. Girls are raised to be obedient, to be submissive, girls are told that they should be nurturing and a caring, girls are told that their goal in life is to be a mother and to be a good wife - this can be significantly shown in girls' toys such as baby dolls or kitchen playsets - our roles in society are taught to us at a young age.


There's so many hoops for young women to jump through just so they can fit in. Only to never achieve these beauty standards because the standards themselves are so inconsistent and contradictory. Young women have to navigate a world that tells them their bodies aren’t enough and at the same time the world sexualises women’s bodies so much that they cannot simply be human. Society places contradictory standards on women’s bodies by telling them that they are too fat, they are too thin, their ass is too small, their ass is too big, their tits are too big, their tits are too small. There’s a constant reminder that women’s bodies aren’t desirable, they’re not attractive or their body is inappropriate. It's expected that women have to make corrections and alterations to their bodies so that just *maybe* they’re enough. Women are told that if they get this one cosmetic surgery they may be happy, if they get this one product they may be enough, if they eat this particular diet they may be attractive.


Not only are women’s bodies regulated, the ways in which women present themselves is also called into question in a patriarchal society. To be a woman is to wear makeup, to follow constant trends, to dress in certain ways. For women who don’t conform to these standards, their identity to being a woman is called into question. If women shave their heads, or have pixie cuts they’re suddenly deemed to be ‘masculine’. If women have their hair dyed blue, suddenly their opinions and values are undermined and are reduced to being a ‘snowflake’ or a ‘SJW’.


Women are expected to look a certain way, to dress a certain way, to behave a certain way - otherwise there's social consequences to this. If you don't follow trends, if you don't wear makeup, if you don't shave, funnily enough if you shave your head - you get told you're not good enough. It's expected for women to maintain their beauty and to be eternally youthful . If you don't regulate yourself, to monitor your own beauty and behaviour, you get told that "you'll never get a man", "you'll never get married", "you're going to die alone". There's so much pressure for girls to conform to these standards and the standards are never achievable. Society places so many contradictory standards on young women, so where do the standards end? When can women just simply ‘be’?