|Found on tumblr|
While I was reading about society's beauty standards and the role of women themselves, I stumbled upon a quote from Jean-Paul Sartre, who said about women that they are "moitié victimes, moitié complices comme tout le monde" (half victims, half accomplices, like everybody). And this quote made me think a lot.
There is a lot of documentation on the beauty standards promoted by society through media, like this report for example, and how we are victims of this standard because it induces lower self esteem - and much more dangerous effects for some like eating disorders.
But what about the other side of the coin? The responsibility of women themselves in adhering and perpetuating this standard and its consequences? I briefly raised this question in my post about the Dove Real Beauty campaign, and one commenter related her story about women's pressure on each other about motherhood - how mothers would follow education standards and judge each other if they don't follow these rules.
Peer Pressure in Beauty Standards
And at a personal level, we have people around us who, consciously or not, perpetuate that pressure, just like mothers judged this commenter about her children's education. These women who say you should skip the cheese, or that you look so slim, are examples of this peer pressure that enforces beauty standards. So yes, this standard, if created by "society" in general, is perpetuated and reinforced by women who choose to go on diets or make that kind of comment to other women.
But, the question is, how aware are they of this pressure they create? Telling a woman she is fat because you consciously want to hurt her, and complimenting a woman by telling her she looks "slim" are very different situations, because in the second case the woman doesn't even realize she is perpetuating a standard. So in that case, how "accomplice" is she exactly?
The Actress Case
This is of course, an extreme testimony in a world where looks are particularly important, but I think that kind of behaviour is, to a lesser extent, around us. Of course, there are the unconscious and inconsequent remarks I mentioned earlier, but I do think some women do this consciously, just like the other actresses in Portia de Rossi's testimony. They would let someone know they think she is eating too much, or she is fat, sometimes only by the way they'd look at her, or small comments.
Why we Judge Each Other
I remember having been shocked at how intolerent they were to obese people, telling the worst kind of stereotypes you can have on them (they are lazy, eat all day etc.). Having suffered it themselves in the past, I was quite puzzled they would adopt the exact words other used to make them suffer in the past, becoming the bully in a way.
When I think about women who "bullied" me that way, they always were quite unhappy, on diets, suffering or having suffered eating disorders, having low self esteem (the woman I mention in this post is one of them).
Given this fact, my theory is that maybe, women who perpetuate the standard by judging others seem to be those who actively try to fit in, and in a way, they validate their choice by trying to impose it on other women. I have received most remarks on my food habits from people who are on a diet, for example.
Maybe they need to reassure themselves on the fact that they are right to do so, and meeting someone who doesn't act like them challenges their decision. So they need to put pressure on her to make sure they are not the only ones to feel bad about their body. If it makes any sense.
In the end, what we can do about it is be aware of that, and try to liberate ourselves from this standard and like our body the way it is. But when you have been exposed to this standard for so many years and keep seeing this standardized photoshopped images everywhere, is it even possible?
Sorry this is all a bit blurry as it is just a first theory. What do you think? Did you also meet women who would judge you and make you feel like you should try to be thinner and look taller? If you have any insight, any reads on the topic please share!