A lot of what shapes us and defines our identity is the culture around us. We base who we want to be around what society deems as normal or even desirable. For women in our culture, our desirability lies in our outer appearance.
Makeup and beauty products are marketed towards us. We often focus on the clothes we or other women wear. The media fixates on our looks and so we also do so in our personal lives.
For a while, I struggled to find the logic. So many people don’t like being judged by looks. We feel the pressure and a lot of people are fed up. So, why not just abandon it all and say we’re not going to buy into these industries making money off our discontentment anymore?
But then I saw a deeper issue that stops many of us from abandoning this way of thinking: our identities. It is not always about looking pretty for the male gaze or anyone’s gaze. But, instead, altering our outer appearance is often a means of self-expression.
As humans, we try to consolidate the people we are inside, our perceptions, with our external world. I believe this is a way to connect when it’s so hard to get to know people on deeper levels. We are doing this through the only medium we know how: our appearance.
The way we do our makeup, the way we style our hair, the clothes we wear, the tattoos we get, and the piercings we get can all be a part of this.
In my own life, I’ve felt torn. On this one level, I don’t want to give makeup companies or similar businesses my money. I don’t need to do that; I can live happily without looking like the ideal woman. I feel I’ve done a pretty good job of casting that demon out of my life.
On another level, there are things and people I’ve been influenced by and built my identity upon. Sometimes I dress in a flannel with a sweater over it in the image of Tina Fey, my ultimate role model. Other times, I want to do my makeup like Penelope Cruz in “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” because she’s dark and mysterious and I want to emulate that.
The act of building an identity isn’t inherently wrong by any means, but for women in our culture, it mingles with a means by which we’ve been oppressed since the beginning of advertising. We should be aware of that and fight to break free from it.
I’m not suggesting we all become identity-less, androgynous blobs. But, perhaps there are new ways to build our identities that we haven’t explored. But, this post is getting a little too long to think about that today. I’ll save it for another day.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/christinielsen/64372218/”>Christi Nielsen</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>