Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Home Lifestyle & Health If you’re conventionally beautiful, it’s easy to criticise airbrushing and beauty standards

If you’re conventionally beautiful, it’s easy to criticise airbrushing and beauty standards

It’s not our fault we’re ugly, Jameela (Picture: Getty)

It’s probably really tough being beautiful… And I’m not even being sarcastic.

You maybe get a lot of unwanted attention (although I think a lot of us can relate to being catcalled etc, even on our ‘ugly’ days) and perhaps aren’t taken as seriously due to your looks.

There is also a huge privilege there, however, and it can create blind spots when it comes to realising how the average person lives.

This was highlighted recently on social media, when actress, model, and presenter Jameela Jamil slammed her fellow celebrities for using airbrushing apps to doctor their pictures.

She told the BBC: ‘I would like to put airbrushing in the bin. I want it gone. I want it out of here.’

Aside from the fact ‘get in the bin’ should be a phrase consigned solely to twee centrist dads, the point that airbrushing isn’t the best thing is fair enough (sort of).

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I mean, I remember when I first read Caitlin Moran and wanted to take on the patriarchy one #fuckyourbeautystandards post and Ruth Bader Ginsburg pin at a time.

It’s probably something I would have wholeheartedly gotten behind at one point; the toxicity of the Instagram aesthetic is real, and can be damaging to young girls no doubt.

But then you think a bit harder and realise that banning airbrushing, as is the will of Jamil, doesn’t do anything to change the beauty standards that still exist.

We all live our lives fully aware of the fact cellulite exists on everyone from Kardashian to cashier, or that people aren’t born with eyelash extensions and we’ll all likely get stretchmarks at some point.

The paradigm of what is beautiful is ever-present, though, and airbrushing gives us the tools to make our skin a little clearer on our profile picture or get rid of that stain on our teeth that’s been bugging us for years.

Jameela Jamil might very well say it creates a false image of ourselves in our minds. But, it’s pretty easy for her to say that, isn’t it?

She’s a conventionally beautiful model, who stars in US TV shows and is featured on magazine covers.

I understand that she’s had difficulties in the past, and tabloids have come after her in horrific ways. There’s no excuse for that whatsoever.

Could you ever see a picture of her, though, and think that you weren’t looking at a traditionally extremely attractive woman? No.

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No wonder, then, that she doesn’t see a need for airbrushing.

If the rest of us – with our own list of insecurities and body woes – were to delete FaceTune from our phones today, there would be no revelation.

There would be no change in the amount of girls looking to get cosmetic surgery, or hospital admissions due to eating disorders.

Women who wear make-up are not the problem. Women who use tattoos or surgery to make themselves look how they wish? Also not the problem.

Models with unattainable bodies would still walk the runways, and there would still be shelves full of products to make us tighter, brighter, and lighter.

That’s because beauty has always been an industry based on modifying ourselves; from the bound feet of Ancient China to the corseted bodies of Edwardian England.

We’d have more luck if we dismantled capitalism, but that’s another story for another day.

What I essentially mean is, with the world being as it is, all banning airbrushing would do is lay us bare without any control of the images we put out there.

You want to see more spots? What if I don’t want people to see my spots? It’s down to me.

I had always believed that celebrities had a duty to the public to act as role models for the young people they look up to. But we’re all only human, trying to look and feel our best.

Women who wear make-up are not the problem. Women who use tattoos or surgery to make themselves look how they wish? Also not the problem.

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Go after the corporations feeding us ideals and change the system, rather than picking on the lowest common denominator who has been fed the same ideals since birth (Jameela actually said this in relation to Khloe Kardashian, but the next day came for Cardi B and Iggy Azalea among others, which really defeated the point).

It’s reductive and boring to suggest that anyone that chooses to change themselves is some ‘double agent of the patriarchy’ who wants to make people feel bad about themselves. Perhaps they just want to feel nice, and that’s something we can all relate to.

The fact of privilege is that it forces people to forget that their own situation is not that of everyone.

Jameela, for example, has a project called I Weigh, which takes submissions from people on what they value about themselves outside of their physical beauty.

I find this a hard pill to swallow in general, as I believe that it’s extremely easy for people to distance themselves from their bodies when their bodies aren’t considered political.

Being pretty or sexy or desired aren’t just about the patriarchy – for trans people or fat people or people whose bodies have been societally maligned forever, feeling attractive in your own skin is part of survival.

It also puts the onus on the self, suggested that if you are worried about your exterior it’s your personal values at fault rather than those of the Western world.

I love the idea that we’re all complex individuals and should stop obsessing over weight, but when you speak about beauty standards without considering agency then that takes away any nuance.

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Many of Jameela’s statements have drawn comparisons with sex work exclusionary feminism; painting porn or sometimes sex in general as a patriarchal tool used to oppress women and nothing more. This is because – despite ‘good intentions’ it’s far too black and white.

Not everybody who looks or acts a certain way is doing so because of men, and while critiques of the sex and beauty industries are absolutely necessary to make life better for us all, placing people into good and bad boxes is so entry-level it hurts (and hurts women in the long term).

Can’t we just let people live their sexy, made-up, airbrushed, surgeried lives and give them the tools to improve themselves mentally and physically however they wish?

There’s an icky feeling I get in my stomach when I see someone talking down to ‘the wrong kind of women’ because they’re not fighting the patriarchy every damn day. Especially when you’re a #bossbabe with legs longer than the walk from Victoria tube to the coach station, it’s extremely patronising.

Yes, perhaps we should all be happier with what we’ve got. In the meantime, I’d like to be able to get rid of my stretchmarks as I see fit, thanks.

Teach your kids about laxative teas and photo editing and fatphobia. But also stop telling adults that they’re out of order for existing within the screwed up world they cannot get out of.

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