Most women who try to obtain a designer body do not realize the consequences for women everywhere and the message that it sends to little girls who observe us. Thin, smooth and voluptuous ideals of women have become the standard that has a negative impact on girls and women.
If you identify as a woman in our society, why do you remove your body hair or feel the need to? I have often been in the shower for an extended period of time trying to make my body smooth and hairless, shaving my legs at least twice a week and armpits almost every time I shower. Shaving, plucking and waxing away body hair has become the standard once a girl hits puberty, as women have been shaving their bodies for over a century now in America.
But why would we keep our bodies looking as though they are prepubescent when our body hair is an external sign of mature womanhood? The answer leads back to the early 1900s when shaving companies were trying to figure out a way to make more profit and found a solution by advertising their products to women. Ads containing wording such as, “Women’s armpit hair is defiled” and, “ Sleeveless dresses ... and knee-high skirts make superfluous hair an embarrassment, ” planted the seed of vanity and fear of unattractiveness that at one time women did not have to concern themselves with.
Products advertising the removal of body hair for women have skyrocketed since their debut, and women and young girls consume these products without questioning their significance. It is so harshly viewed as abnormal for a woman to keep their pubic hair., as women with body hair have been described as revolting, lazy, unclean, sloppy, unattractive, freakish and the list goes on. Women have become a victim from internalizing this patriarchal beauty standard that was started by a men’s beauty company. This fear of scrutiny plays into other aspects of being a woman in America, as beauty products for women have pushed women’s bodies to be viewed as an object that should be designer. A designer woman can be described as a woman who attempts at modifying or transforming their natural bodies to achieve a desired look
This idea of women’s bodies needing to be perfected from a natural state causes many girls to be dissatisfied with their appearance once they are close to puberty. I remember as a preteen being unhappy with my physical looks; I went from being a kid engaged in hobbies and friendships to worrying about my weight, my wardrobe, my bushy eyebrows, my short eyelashes, my hairy legs and armpits and my overall physical attractiveness. At that time in my life I began doing whatever it took to become the designer woman I saw advertised all around me. I began unhealthily dieting, shaving and waxing, wearing all different kinds of makeup and dressing more provocatively by the time I was 12. I believe the portrayal of the designer woman we consume in our society not only negatively affected me psychologically in terms of my self-value but it also took time away from allowing myself to grow and foster skills that were important for a healthy lifestyle.
It has been 10 years now since I have been struggling to try and become a designer woman, and for girls nowadays I worry about them becoming concerned with their appearance at an even earlier age due to the expansion of technological media and advertising that girls everywhere are subjected to.
How do we stop this abusive cycle that has been perpetuated onto women for over a century? To start, being sympathetic to young girls and women about their body images can help in their understanding that the way women are depicted in media is often unrealistic and is something difficult to deal with. They need to be informed that this message the media gives us is a struggle that many women face. To have healthy habits they should not let worrying about their bodies take over their lives. Using positive language regarding yourself and other girls and women regarding their personal characteristics rather than their physical appearance is a great implicit way to help girls and women in prioritizing their personal characteristics over their looks. Modeling behaviors that show others body acceptance and appreciation for our physical appearance is a way to demonstrate to other girls and women how they should view themselves.
I personally choose not to shave my legs or armpits anymore and only wear makeup when going out, and even though it doesn’t look like the bodies we see in the media I do not let my non-norm body affect the way I value myself. I hope that when other girls see me and my ability to take life in stride without worrying what others think about unkempt appearances that they too will be inspired to be their naturally beautiful selves. I believe that leading as a healthy example for other girls by not fearing society’s scrutiny in choosing not to shave or wear makeup is the best way to make an impact for change in our brutal media’s ideal of women’s bodies becoming objectively “designer.”