What does society (and more precisely the media) want from women? Women throughout the history fought for, and eventually obtained, the right to vote, the right to property and the right to control their bodies (to some extent), and have been persistently claiming for gender parity in the workplace. Things are finally working out for women, some could argue, somehow the world seems ever more complex for females to live as an independent and fulfilled individual. That is not simply about the fact that it would reportedly take 81 years to achieve full gender equality in the workplace or the fact that some countries, including the U.S., have not signed UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. It is also, and perhaps even more so, about the beauty standards that seem more and more impossible to achieve and contradictory and bedazzling definitions of feminism.
Tina Fey, in her renowned book ‘’Bossypants’’, argues that ever since Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé introduced their body features as the new cool thing, society expects women to have all of these characteristics at once, instead of embracing and celebrating diversity.
‘’Every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits,’’ she argues.
We talk about women empowerment in developing countries and urge to end domestic violence and sexual harassment against women, which are all important and necessary, yet the world seems to turn a blind eye on high criteria that define an ideal woman and make most females feel miserable about themselves.
Popular figures such as Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj are supposedly the most ‘’feminist’’ singers in the entertainment industry defending women’s right to be free. Yet, the image of woman they portray is lascivious and does everything she can to get her man’s attention. (Think Beyoncé’s video for the song ‘’Partition’’ and ‘’Anaconda’’ from Nicki Minaj and how they feel like they need to pole dance or lap dance for Jay-Z and Drake).
The size of an ideal woman is another issue, for a longtime, women were taught to stay thin to be considered attractive, but somehow ‘’thick is in’’ at the moment. This new trend, however, does not try to embrace all body types and bashes thinner women for some reason. Once again Nicki Minaj but also Meghan Trainor (think ‘’All About That Bass’’), Jennifer Lopez (think ‘’Booty’’) trigger an unnecessary clash between ‘’thick bitches’’ and ‘’skinny bitches’’.
What baffles me the most is the fact these songs are sung by women for women (at least supposedly). Women have been traditionally reduced to a role of ‘’pin-up’’ or ‘’eye candy’’ by many male artists, so do we really need this extra discrimination that comes from within?
The Internet does not hold back and follows the same trend that either condescends or sexualizes women. Kim Kardashian could apparently ‘’break the Internet’’ with her nude photos and instead of focusing on why the world needs to see her surgically modified body many websites rushed to compare her behind to Nicki Minaj’s. The whole cyber world seemed to stop for a moment when Cloud accounts of many female celebrities were hacked and their intimate photos were released to the public.
Women’s role in society should not be this complicated and women do not have to go through diets, surgeries and cosmetic operations to look like this vague ideal of woman.
I leave you to ponder this speech from the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (that ironically appears in a Beyoncé song):
We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, “You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man.” Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support. But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings, in the way that boys are. Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes