There has always been a societal obsession with women and beauty. Always. In every story ever told, the woman has, like, a nice voice, she’s kind to animals or some shit, and she’s beautiful. Minstrels sing songs of beauty, poets lose sleep, and fucking Helen of Troy had her boyfriends fight a whoooole war–not just drunkenly in a bar–because she was so pretty. Lucky bitch.
My point is not to denounce beauty. Personally, I’m a big fan of it. I don’t think that when I’m walking down the street, daily, and onlookers stop to tell me how attractive I am (read: pervy men who drive trucks and flash toothy grins at me) that it means I’m reduced to my appearance. We reward intelligence, we reward hard work, we reward kindness–I don’t see a single reason why beauty shouldn’t be regarded as something to reward.
The problem, however, comes from the obsession with natural beauty. We’re told we are not special unless we’re beautiful, so we take measures to become more beautiful. We bleach our teeth. We iron our hair. We pluck our brows. We tan our skin. We apply makeup so we can hide the bags under our eyes, conceal our blemishes, highlight our cheekbones, and lengthen our lashes. And we’re met with criticism. “She’s only pretty when she’s wearing makeup,” people say, as if that somehow makes it less true, as if working for it makes it less valid. That’s like saying, “She’s only smart because she studies so hard,” or “She’s only thin because she works out.”
But still, we keep doing it, because deep down, we know anyone who tells us we’re more beautiful without makeup is lying. It was designed to make us look prettier. If it doesn’t, you’re doing your makeup wrong. A man who’s in love with you may be attracted to you more because you’re sharing something intimate with him–you’re showing him the face that nobody gets to see. But you don’t look prettier with invisible eyelashes and uneven skin.
The fact of the matter is this “natural beauty” everyone seems to be so hellbent on isn’t real. We killed it.
The standard of beauty is so high because of makeup, and braces, and hair products, and plastic surgery. Nobody can obtain the level of beauty we’re striving for without those things. No one. It’s gotten to the point where we devalue “natural beauty” when we see it, because the girl without mascara will never compare to the girl with false lashes. It’s not fair to compare one woman at her worst to another at her best. We all know that on a completely even playing field, Kim K., Mila Kunis, Taylor Swift, and Kate Upton without makeup are still prettier than the average girl walking down the street if she’d gone without it, too. Yet we make ourselves feel better by saying these gorgeous women aren’t truly beautiful because they aren’t always as glamorous as we demand them to be. Their beauty doesn’t count.
In truth, we don’t want to see natural beauty. We just think we do. We want the illusion of it, and that’s the real problem with society. A natural woman has dark circles under her eyes. She has blemishes. Her hair is flat and unhighlighted, or frizzy and out of control. She has big pores, uneven skin, and wrinkles. Her eyelashes are short and fine. She has hair on her legs, under her arms, and–not that anyone admits it–she probably has one or two on her nipple. Nobody wants that. We want to pretend that doesn’t exist. People only want what they THINK is natural beauty: a straightened ponytail, yoga pants, concealer, foundation, and mascara. All of this is enough to fix our flaws, but not so much that it’s obvious to anyone else that it isn’t real. Until we stop denying our idea of beauty is a farce, we’ll always feel naked when our faces are.