Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Makeup As A Form of Oppression

I've been taking a class called Gender Issues this week. Today's discussion was on women's body image. We were talking about how most women hate their bodies and are much more preoccupied with their bodies then men. We found that as men in the class, it was difficult to relate and really understand what it is like to be a woman (even though the women tried); men do think about their bodies but seem to mostly be at peace with them. This is often not the case with women. Ironically, women high on the beauty scale have been found to not be statistically more happy with their appearance then women lower on the scale! Women hating their bodies profits many groups of people (fashion designers, diet industry, abusive men) but not women it seems.

Women who are unhappy with their appearance are often tempted to change it. We talked about women having cosmetic surgery (breast implants, lyposuction, etc) and how in a sense it can be immoral (though not always). When I was talking about it with Jobina (who disagreed) I explained it this way; if a person is seen as a whole they are a combination of their spirit, mind and body. Thus if a woman hates her body isn't she really hating herself as a person (who God has created)? Our professor (a woman) thought that it was impossible to hate one's body but not have it affect one's spiritual life. Thus doing cosmetic surgery to oneself becomes a moral and spiritual issue.

One of the girls in class brought up the issue of makeup - is that the same as cosmetic surgery? My friend Dylan jumped in with how he's always considered makeup to be a form of oppression against women. This topic of makeup (and questioning it) seemed to produce tension in the room. Dylan noted that he, like many men, don't honestly care (or don't want) women to wear makeup and that he considers it a form of female oppression. I think that I agree with this. Our professor had told us that when it comes to beauty enhancement that her rule of thumb is that "if I have to do it or I can't stop it, it's problematic." Thus, if a woman can't not use makeup, what does that say?

May Light increase!


Anonymous said...

I think you need to take your theory one step further Mark. There are many reasons why some women hate their bodies. And in some cases, just one or two parts of their bodies. For some women, it's not a case of hating their body as much as hating the reaction they think they are getting from other people about their body. For other women, hating parts of their body is due to physical pain from that part. For others, it is due to emotional scarring from teasing earlier in life. It's fine to say that this is how God created you, therfore you should love your body the way that it's another thing to live it when you've been verbally (and sometimes physically) abused from others because of it. I know women who have to put on makeup to hide enormous scars or birth marks. A lot of times these women do this because their marks make others uncomfortable. One lady that I know is religious about her makeup routine because she has a giant birthmark on her face that disturbs the people she works with. The public reacts completely differently to her when she covers it up. So to make a long story longer, I do not agree with your class. I think people do cosmetic surgery and wear makeup for many different reasons and I don't believe that has anything to do with their spirituality.

But I love you anyway...

Love, Michele

Mark said...

Michelle: Hey thanks for your comments. It's good to know you still love me even if my ideas are so out there! Anyway, a few clarifications. Regarding cosmetic surgery I did not say that all surgery was immoral. Certainly, cosmetic surgery for health reasons is more then justified. And certain kinds of cosmetic surgery that changes bodies so that the person can function better in society (say fixing a nose that looks like the wicked witch of the west's) are acceptable as well. But women going under the knife so their breasts are bigger/perkier/etc? The problem with this kind of surgery is that the person is rarely satisfied with themselves after a while. They fall prey to the myth that "if only my ___ was ______ I'd be happy with myself." Unfortunately this doesn't ever solve the deeper problems that are at the root of their discontentment with their body.
As for makeup, it doesn't sound like you are a slave to it (which is good). But except for some exceptions, I put radical diets, makeup, and cosmetic surgery into the realm of things that are generally oppressive to women. 40 years ago it was considered immoral to wear makeup, now it's the norm. 5 years ago unnecessary cosmetic surgery was considered immoral; now it too is becoming mainstream. I feel pity for my daughter and her friends growing up. Most of them are going to get the message that they are not beautiful enough as they are. Is this not oppressive do you think? I of course have not totally thought through all of these arguments, so I'm open to being challenged on this. Take care

Jay Boaz said...

I was about to get into this, but I don't really have time (Youth beckons). I shall discuss it with you in person tomorrow instead. :)


Anonymous said...

You are walking a pretty fine line in your definitions there Mark! :) Where do you draw the line? What if a woman's breasts were non-existent? Is fixing that any different than fixing the wicked witch of the west nose? Would it not have the same affect on the woman's self esteem, or on the way people perceive her? Do people react in the same manner to a woman with a nose issue as they do with a woman who is flat chested? Do they find that abnormal? Would the woman feel the same need for surgery with either one? I think so. Make up was prohibited back in the day, yes. But men looked for different things back then. Mainly, men looked for a mate with larger hips and breasts as this was supposed to be a sign of fertility. If a woman in that time was born with no hips and a flat chest, don't you think she would have wanted to change it?

Just some thoughts...but it's late so I don't really know if they make sense.

Glad to hear you had a nice day with your family...happy father's day Mark!

Love, Michele