In conversation recently, someone said to me they don't think that most men realize to what lengths women are expected to go to look "pretty".
I think that person is right.
I also think many women don't think much about all the things they're expected to do to look "pretty". For the most part, those things are just accepted. Normal. Just what you do.
And it harms us. Physically and emotionally.
Physically, the average woman is exposed to a huge amount of chemicals on a daily basis: the facial cleansers, body creams, lip balms, makeup, deodorant, hairspray, perfume. All of these (except for a very few "natural" brands that actually don't contain any harmful chemicals) are loaded with carcinogens and other harmful chemicals. Yet if a woman, or even more so, a teenage girl, doesn't wear makeup she's often considered a freak.
For fear of being ostracized, for fear of weird looks, most women shave. Most women wear a bra. Most women wear makeup. And most women would never even consider NOT doing any of these things!! If they're freely chosen, none of these things are bad (with the exclusion of cosmetics and body care products containing harmful ingredients). But as the ONLY option, the only way you'll be considered attractive (or so people think), I think it's absolutely horrible.
Why can't people see that breasts are not, actually, bra shaped, and that they move when you move? Why can't people see that all humans have hair all over their bodies, not just the parts currently considered socially acceptable? Why can't people see what a beautiful face looks like without a heavy coating of makeup?
I went through a stage, in my mid-teens, where I felt so different, so out of place, and I was desperate to fit in. So, casting off my hippie upbringing, I bought bras, and shaved my legs, and even after a while started wearing makeup. I got to the point where I'd usually put makeup on before leaving the house, and if I wasn't wearing any, I'd look in the mirror and think I looked ugly.
That's what kind of snapped me out of it, along with my new findings about just how dangerous many chemicals in cosmetics are. I didn't want to get cancer. And I knew that I should not think that the only true beauty was from synthetic gunk on my face.
That also coincided with a definite movement in my life towards finding myself. Creating my own identity, being my own person. This involved, and involves, a steady movement to a more "hippie"-ish, more organic, and less constrained by social mores, existence.
So I've become part of the bras and razors are optional club (want to join me? ;-)). Really, why must I change my body, constrain myself in weird and uncomfortable undergarments, or endanger my health by absorbing harmful chemicals into my skin, to fit into some version of beauty I neither accept nor support?
I guess you could say I'm in the process of detoxing from the expectations of this culture. In both this area of my life, and in many others. It's a long process, and often a difficult one, to break away from the expectations of your entire culture. But I think it's a very healthy, very *good* thing to be doing.