WOMEN AND BODY WORKS 6
Women have for a long time worked on their images. Different women doit for different reasons. There are those who do it to boost theirself-esteem, others because of their job occupation while others doit for themselves i.e. for the health benefits that accrue. DebraGimlin in her book, ‘Body works,’ stated that, “a clearunderstanding of women`s attempts to negotiate identity through workon the body requires an appreciation of both social structure andindividual negotiation of culture" (2002). In this statement,she means that there is what determines how much a woman invests inher body. There is an aspect of balancing what the society dictatesas beautiful and what an individual feels about the meaning ofself-beauty. A woman’s definition of beauty should be about whatshe feels about herself, what she is comfortable with, and not whatthe society is dictating to her. Though this should be the case, fewwomen allow themselves to be their own judge instead of followingwhat the culture is dictating to them.
Women have for a long time been subject of the gender crisis. Thesociety is still largely patriarchal despite this being the 21stcentury. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder as the old sayinggoes, but it seems there is already a standard set for what beautyis. Debra states that there is a lot of pressure on women to meetthese ideals. Statistics show that more women compared to men areworking out to get to the ideal body shapes. Women are going forliposuction surgeries to get rid of fat they feel is in the wrongplaces of their bodies. The statement by Debra above shows that thereis an in-between position between women who work on their bodies outof their volition, and those that are looking to satisfy the socialdemands by a majority of the population.
A woman is celebrated when she loses a few pounds because, accordingto most people she is becoming more attractive, and her body will nolonger be embarrassing to look at (in my opinion). That is accordingto what the society feels is attractive and what they feel is notgood enough to look at. The man on the hand, his efforts may not evenbe noticed. Mostly the man is doing it for himself and not to meetthe cultural demands. The woman according to the society should havea perfect appearance for one to say that they are morally upright andthat they have a good character. Yes, both genders care about theirappearances, but on a woman’s part, there is a certain characterassociated with a certain appearance (Gimlin 2002).
Studying the relationship between self and body is a sensitive topicwhen it comes to women because of the social pressure involved. Awoman’s body cannot be perfect, and that is the reason we find thatbesides there being the aerobic classes, there are plastic surgeonsto correct the perceived anomalies. There are different reactionstowards the change. These reactions are from the individual herselfand also from other people. The identity of a woman seemedintertwined with her physical appearance. It is taken to bereflective of her inner self. When a woman is physically attractive,she draws more people to herself. It could be that more people findher more attractive than before, and tend to feel closer to her. Itcould also be that the people’s perceptions about her have notchanged but the woman, upon achieving her goals on what she wants tolook like, feels more confident and can thereby, open up to morepeople.
Looking at the two scenarios above, we can say that it fits theexplanation given by Debra on social culture and individualnegotiation of culture. The message on many commercials tells thewomen that there is a certain way they should look for them to beattractive. That is according to the society ideals, and this makesmore women opt to go the extra mile to achieve that look. Below is aninterview with one woman Jeanette, about her bodywork practices. Ishall analyze her views on her image and the reason she does what shedoes to improve her appearance.
According to Jeanette, there are many ways that she enhances herphysical appearance in order to look more attractive. For example,recently, she has had a microdermabrasion to correct her breastsshape and size. She also has a specific hair stylist who handles herhair needs, takes care of her pedicure, as well as manicure. She hasalso enrolled for certain classes of gymnastics for her to get anappealing body shape and size as well as maintain that body. She goesthrough all these procedures for her to feel good about herself. Thatis, for her esteem and confidence issues.
The society has conditioned the minds of most women on what is idealand what is not ideal. It is for this reason that women work hard tomold their bodies into a particular form for them to fit into theseideals. Many women depend on those people that they feel are expertsin a particular field for advice. For example, in the case of myinterviewee Jeanette, her hair stylist knows the style that will suither shape of the head. The main reason she visits her stylist is toenhance her look as a woman. This is where the aspect on gender comesin. There are certain things that dictate a woman’s style.Depending on a woman’s financial capability, she can achieve thatperfect look, and change how she looks anytime she feels so. This iswhat defines the social classes that different women belong to. Thereare times she objects to a certain style, but her stylist convincesher that it is the ideal style for her. Like Debra says, there is away that the stylists tend to conceptualize what beauty is and thestyle that would make a client more beautiful.
The first time she visited the plastic surgeon for themicrodermabrasion, she was told that she had to change some aspectsin her lifestyle. She was to take the precautions for the procedureto be successful, and for her to get the desired results. She thenwent and changed some of her lifestyle habits like smoking accordingto what the specialist had advised her. The surgeon unlike her hairstylist has so much influence on her. He decides what procedure isnecessary and when it is necessary. To her, the procedure is meant tocorrect what aerobics cannot like the breast size.
The reason she does this is that there she is taken more seriouslyand being a business woman, her clientele has increased in numbersince she decided to take care of her image. This finding is in linewith the finding by Debra that a woman’s appearance is an outwardshow of her character according to the society. As discussed above inthis paper, there is what one feels about their selves after thechange and there is what think people about the person. The thingthat impressed me about my interviewee is that she feels that herbody work efforts have transformed her. Instead of feeling thatpeople are attracted to her because of the way she appears, she feelsthat she is more open to talk to people as she feels more confidentabout herself. She has acquired an identity that does not seek theapproval of other people but her approval.
So far, she is satisfied with the progress that she has made and ishappy about it. For her stylist though there are times they do notagree, she has earned her trust and takes her as a professional inthe job that she does. She feels that she does it for herself, andthis has improved her outlook on life. She has achieved much more inher field just because she feels better about herself. According toher, the way she looks tells a lot about her status, something she isvery careful to guard. The bottom line is that there should be abalance between what the world terms as beauty and what a personfeels about their self. The latter is what will determine how muchone can achieve and how they feel about themselves without puttingtoo much considerations on the culture.
Gimlin, Debra L. Body Work Beauty and Self- Image in the AmericanCulture. Berkeley: U of Carlifonia, 2002. Print.