This is the first blog post written by Women’s Center student volunteers. Views expressed in student articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the Old Dominion University Women’s Center.
Many women wake up to their daily routine of executing a series of primping and grooming rituals to get ready for the day. Some of us have become so accustom to this, that we may not even realize why we spend so much time concerning ourselves with altering our appearance on a daily basis. We are constantly being shown, through example and word of mouth, that there is an expected and recognized norm of how a woman should look and present herself. This message suggests that our bodies, in their natural state, are in need of adjustments to be “ready for the day.” The pursuit of this stamp of societal approval consumes massive amounts of many women’s time and money. I am not suggesting that basic hygiene is a frivolous waste of time, but many of the things that women consider of equal necessity may be just that.
Such rituals and steps many women take each day include the removal of body hair and extensive makeup and hairstyling. All of these things are done in conflict with our bodies’ natural state. We have been told over and over, both directly and indirectly, that these things must be addressed in order to be attractive and feminine. Advertisements, movies, TV shows, and word of mouth more often than not, portray women as needing to be extensively well groomed and feminine. A women is expected to look a certain way at all times and when she isn’t in compliance with this, it is unacceptable and inadequate.
Examine body hair on women for a moment. It is a naturally occurring part of the human body and yet we are programed to feel deep and utter shame for having it. Imagine if we had culturally evolved to feel attracted to body hair and have a deep repulsion to head hair. Instead, we decided that it is a standard expectation of beauty for women to have hairless bodies. The strong dislike for female body hair is an arbitrary and gratuitous concept society has latched on to.
The same excessive expectations are often applied to makeup and hair styling. Many women feel completely obligated to incorporate these things into their daily routine to feel presentable. They display deep guilt and shame when they leave the house without doing so. I often hear women apologize when they do not participate in taking time out of their day to alter their face and hair to meet the arbitrary societal standard of beauty. It is absurd that this expectation has been drilled into our brains, directly and indirectly, to such a degree that many of us feel a deep sense of guilt and shame when we display our face in its natural state of existence. We have the right to roll out of bed, address our basic hygienic needs and walk out of the house proud and gracious for the beautiful, healthy body we have.
I know not all women fall into the category of willingly concerning themselves with these rigorous beauty routines and more power to them! If you are one of these women then take a moment to honor how awesome it is that you have defined your own sense of worth and beauty beyond the fanciful and ridiculous guidelines given by mainstream society. Women’s commitment to looking a certain way varies from person to person with a diverse range of time spent focusing on outer appearance. I am well aware that I have an unnecessary fascination with worrying about how I look.
Regardless, I feel acknowledging and giving such ideas a different perspective is a worthwhile endeavor. There are many women who may go above and beyond the beauty standards discussed here and wouldn’t have it any other way, which is fine as well. Women have the right to express themselves and present their body in whatever way feels true to who they are on any given day. Women don’t need societal suggestions and guidelines defining what is expected of us in order to be beautiful. When you feel like your self-worth is lower because you haven’t conformed to the societal standard, that’s when it becomes an issue worth challenging and changing.
About the Author:
Brenna Perez is a junior at ODU studying for a Bachelor’s in Biology with a Political Science minor. She intends to pursue a career in wildlife conservation. Beyond her interests in scientific fields of study, she proudly identifies as a feminist who strongly values social equality for all.
Brenna has been volunteering with the ODU Women’s Center since the summer of 2013.