What is beautiful?

Rita Glazer
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What is beautiful?


I ask myself that a lot.

Last semester I took a Gender Studies course that analyzes women, gender, and sexuality throughout US History. In it, we read an article from a 1937 issue of the Cosmopolitan magazine, and I was shocked to see how little has changed in terms of body image issues in almost a century. It’s titled “Eat and Grow Beautiful,” and claims that you can eat and be desirable at the same time! They actually say “It’s an exciting, thrilling idea, isn’t it?”

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It involved a male nutritionist giving advice on how women can overcome their “beauty handicaps” and achieve the perfect body and complexion through eating different combinations of food. He suggests juice cleanses for those trying to lose weight, sulfur rich foods for clear skin, and iodine for silky hair.


Have these trends changed since the 1930s? What substantial progress has society made concerning women’s body image?

Even now in 2021, women are trying a variety of different food fads and trends to try and achieve an ideal body that is unrealistic. We are supposed to mold ourselves to what is considered “beautiful” according to other people. 


But why? Who decided that hip dips aren’t attractive anymore and an hourglass figure is? Is it celebrities? The media? Our friends and family? I don’t have the answers to these questions. One thing is clear though - society has not progressed much past an early 20th century mindset of body image. 

From my own experience, I have tried to achieve the “perfect” body. With summer upon us, social media is blowing up with bikini pictures and summer body inspo. TikTok is flooded with tips on becoming “THAT girl:” the Pinterest board, unachievable, skinny, traveling, healthy eating girl who works out daily and can do it all. She probably has her dream internship too. Women post their workout routines and eating habits that are apparently supposed to give you the perfect bikini body: toned abs, legs, arms, and a little waist. And a big butt too.


No matter how diligently I follow their recommendations, I don’t end up looking like the girls in the videos.It leads to feelings of not being good enough, low self confidence, and enhances insecurities. 

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Women of every body type should be celebrated and seen as beautiful. However, it’s not as easy as this. There are underlying preconceived ideas of what beauty is and what it looks like, and this has not changed much throughout history.


Now the question is: why do we as women feel so pressured to adhere to body image norms? It's known that everyone has predispositions to weight and appearance. But yet, we continue to bring other women down and uphold this mindset that only one body type is attractive.


How long until pressure they myth of the “perfect body” ends?

Lizzo has spearheaded the modern body positivity movement to include all women of all races, not just small and medium sized bodies of white women. She is a proponent for women viewing their bodies positively and empowering themselves to feel comfortable in their own skin. Even through constant, horrible hate comments, she continues to show off her body with confidence. We need to learn from her.

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 There’s still a long way to go. From 1937 to now, women are taught to be unsatisfied with their bodies. We have been conditioned to strive to be better, instead of accepting and loving ourselves as we are.


Ultimately, confidence and beauty come from within, women need to stop comparing themselves to others and they need to start to appreciate themselves and what they look like. Everyone is beautiful in their own way. 


When you think of the beautiful people that you know, or have met in your lifetime, do they all look the same? Do any of them really fit into the standard you set for yourself?


There is no one perfect body. So, why are so many women still trying to find it?