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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Column: The F word

On move-in weekend, I found myself at Target just like every other frazzled freshman. Even though I really had nothing much to buy, it was refreshing not to be drenched from the rain that gave us such a warm welcoming transition into our new lives. With no focus, I sauntered around the store and I happened on the beauty aisle.

If you know me, I naturally gravitate towards that area of Target (mostly for the pretty colors from the nail polish display). On my typical adventure in department store land, I noticed two sets of racks with shaving products, one for men and one for women.

You could tell because most of the cream and razors on the women’s side was some shade of pink, and everything on the the men’s side was navy blue or black. But if that didn’t make it obvious enough, one had a poster with a woman on it, and the other, a man.

I went on to notice that the side with the woman on the poster had the title “Body Care” next to it, while the poster with the man on it said “Grooming.” When I think of body care, I think of eating an apple a day to keep the doctor away; when I think of grooming, I think of a day at the spa.

These are two very different things: one is something that is essential to your health, the other sounds like something you choose to do to pamper yourself. But if I don’t shave am I not taking good care of my body’s health? I know men shave too but has any guy ever gotten the stink-eye for having a little fuzz on his armpit?

This wild pursuit of physical perfection has been around since Shakespearian times, where the trait most valued in a woman was sprezzatura: “effortless grace.” It’s kind of sad that we haven’t progressed much since the Medieval ages, where cleanliness and body care really meant having the “decency” to never be caught off guard at our most human moments.

We still have to be insanely beautiful without ever revealing the amount of effort we put into it. It’s absurd that even our natural body functions are socialized to be hidden, such as satirized in the viral YouTube commercial “Hot Girls Don’t Poop.”

I feel like our fixation on beauty in this culture has made it impossible for us to take ourselves and our real feminine issues seriously. How many people watched that “Dove Real Beauty Sketches” video and thought it was beautiful and profound?

In the video, a few women are asked to describe themselves to a forensic artist, who draws two pictures: one based on the women’s self-perception, and the second based on descriptions made by a sample group of friendly strangers.

The faces in the first set of pictures were noticeably less attractive (by conventional standards) than the second set of pictures. I was surprised that so many people thought this was an enlightening study, because personally I was distressed with the whole premise of it.

One of the women in the study remarked, “I should be more grateful of my natural beauty. It impacts the choices and friends that we make, the jobs we apply for, how we treat our children. It impacts everything. It couldn’t be more critical to your happiness.”

Although, I fully support embracing your natural beauty I can’t help but disagree that our impression of our own beauty is the most powerful force behind every single decision we make in our lives. It’s disturbing to think that our quality of life depends on how beautiful society deems us to be; what’s more troubling is that a lot women are fully convinced that our beauty is the most important element of our identity.

I’m tired of girls tearing themselves apart over this. I’m tired of my friends saying they refuse to be in a picture because they are going to look ugly in it. I want more women to embrace their valuable personality traits such as being smart, funny and compassionate.

At the same time, I want woman to not feel ashamed for their interests in fashion and makeup and Seventeen magazine. The same society that forces us to obsess over our appearance shouldn’t shame us if we take a genuine interest in it.

 

If you’re sexy and you know it, and want to talk about it, email MONA SUNDARA at msundarav@ucdavis.edu

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