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Exploring Gender: Standards of Beauty

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There are different standards of beauty for men and women. When I talk about standards of beauty, I’m talking about the standards of how we take care of ourselves. Women are expected to be well groomed. They are expected to shave, exfoliate, bleach or remove any facial hair, have their hair brushed and highlighted, never have white or grey hair, have pressed clothes, put on makeup, and wear high heels. Women are expected to do these things in order for society to consider them normal and to be seen as attractive. Most women feel the need even to take a shower and put on nicer clothes to go to the grocery store.

The standards of beauty for men, though, are much less demanding. Mostly, their facial hair should be in good order; their clothes shouldn’t be horribly messy; and they shouldn’t smell bad. Men don’t feel the same pressure women do to look their best at every moment.

So how do standards of beauty relate to gender? As I look at myself, I think about them in regards to me. I have never followed all of the standards of beauty for women. I don’t wear dresses or makeup or high heels, but I do shave my legs and exfoliate and brush my hair. Generally, I take care of myself well. But lately I have been thinking about how standards of beauty change with a different gender identity. My main issue is with shaving my legs.

If I don’t shave my legs, I will no longer fit within the standards for women, so how will that affect the way people perceive me? Will people think of me just as a strange woman who doesn’t want to shave her legs, and so does not take care of herself properly? Or just as a man?

It’s amazing that such simple things determine how people perceive individuals all because of societal norms. My body should be my own, but I can do nothing without thinking of the consequences of my choices. And society dictates what is and is not acceptable.

This weekly post is a forum to discuss my inner struggles with my identity, hoping perhaps I can shed some insight for some others as well. But each thing I discuss, no matter how big or small, always comes back to a conflict between myself and society.

As I was walking to class with my best friend today, I was discussing this post with her because I couldn’t think how to put my feelings to words on this matter. We started walking up the steps toward the classroom, and our professor was behind us. Entering the class, my best friend summed it up: “Society sucks.” I agreed, and laughing, so did our professor.

 

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