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Our Beauty and Conscious Aging

Posted May 22 2009 11:55pm

Of the 11.8 million cosmetic procedures performed in the U.S. in 2007, less than 10 percent were done on men ( source ). So women feel - continue to feel - the pressure to look young much more than men.

Years ago when Naomi Wolf wrote The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women she argued "that women's insecurities are heightened by these images, then exploited by the diet, cosmetic, and plastic surgery industries.

Every day new products are introduced to "correct" inherently female "flaws," drawing women into an obsessive and hopeless cycle built around the attempt to reach an impossible standard of beauty. " ( source )

"Women are victims of an impossible standard. The pressure, according to Miss Wolf, has become relentless during the past decade, as women have begun competing head-on with men in the professional sphere.

For Naomi Wolf, the beauty business isn't just a ploy by Madison Avenue to make a buck. What truly powers the $33-billion-a-year diet industry, the $20-billion cosmetics industry, the $300-million cosmetic-surgery industry, and the $7-billion pornography industry, she argues, is a far more insidious and destructive agenda. It is a political tool to keep women down: "The beauty myth is not about women at all. It is about men's institutions and institutional power." ( source )

"The author notes the historical roots of this problem. The modem beauty myth can be traced to the social upheaval following industrialization, around 1830, when a new class of literate, idle women was suddenly in a position to challenge male dominance. The upshot, she concludes, is that Women are mere beauties' in men's culture so that culture can be kept male."

The beauty myth-in Miss Wolf's view-transforms women into self-destructive, fearful, even paranoid creatures who have a love-hate addiction to food, a negative body image, poor self-esteem, and tenuous relationships with the men in their lives. They frequently become anorexic or undergo dangerous cosmetic surgery to achieve the perfect body. They pursue this fruitless quest with the zealotry of religious fanatics, and yet they are doomed to fail because they are pursuing a chimera.

The author cites a raft of data to prove her point. She notes that cosmetic surgery is the fastest-growing medical specialty in America, and she claims 10 per cent of women are afflicted by eating disorders-a marked rise during the last decade. And many of these women are among the best educated in American society. Miss Wolf rails against the frauds perpetrated by the cosmetics industry, and roundly criticizes women's magazines for their docile collusion in this fraud." ( source )

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article titled Celebrity Plastic Surgery: What Not To Do, asking "Do cosmetic procedures make us look younger? Or just weirder?" Read the entire article here and view the slide show "How Celebrities Are Aging”here.

Conscious aging implies loving ourselves - not hating ourselves for wrinkles and then scurrying to eradicate them. The day we figure out how to keep the clock at the height of our physical youth, strength and beauty, I'll climb on the bandwagon too, but this ... this is a mockery of that.

Quite apart from the sensationalistic nature of the slide show (above), we must ask ourselves (not just we women, but all of us, because our men, our fathers, brothers, and sons are also part of us), why we are walking down this road of slavery and servitude. Why have we fallen into this trap? Why are we buying into this false youthfulness rather than into our brilliantly evolving being? We are truly beautiful at all ages and at all times, but we don't appear to be capable of seeing it.

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