Beauty. A socially constructed idea that defines little girls (and boys) from a very young age. An idea that makes little girls and boys go running to the mirror to compare each aspect of their physical appearance to the so-called “beautiful” men and women on magazine covers, advertisements and t.v. screens. Unfortunately, young boys and girls are not the only prisoners of this construct. Adults face the same reality, in which society’s standard of beauty is publicly displayed in almost every aspect of life. Although beauty is a socially constructed idea, every individual internalizes beauty in different ways and unfortunately, many people find themselves inadequate to the skinny, dolled-up, blonde haired model that “defines” these standards.
The Dove commercial above, does a unique, but efficient job of advertising awareness of society’s corrupt standards of how women should look. Furthermore, they show the steps that women take to become the ideal image of “beauty,” which includes anorexia, bulimia, etc. Unfortunately, these serious actions can lead to lifelong health affects, thus being why Dove promotes talking to your children (specifically daughters) from an early age, about society’s unrealistic expectations of beauty and the way in which people become imprisoned by the idea that they aren’t beautiful enough. In Eva Cherniavsky’s Keywords Essay on “Body”, she writes “But mass culture also circulates bodies promiscuously; its technologies and commercial logic ensure the production of desirable body images made available to the widest market.” We see this in the Dove commercial which specifically points out moments that advertising and commercial logic promote models– skinny, dolled-up, etc–as the desirable image of beauty. Even further, I see this everyday in my personal life when I’m reading a magazine or watching commercials on t.v. We are constantly told what body images are “beautiful” and “desirable.”
In relation to the Dove commercial and to Cherniavsky’s Keywords Essay on “Body,” The Bluest Eye sheds light on the idea of beauty and the way in which it shapes young girls lives. A specific part of the novel in which readers see the young girls feed into society’s standard of beauty is when Pecola is handed the Shirley Temple glass. Pecola and Frieda are sitting there discussing how beautiful Shirley’s features are, while Claudia tells the reader how she is confused by the desirability of both Shirley’s appearance and dolls in general. Claudia says of the dolls:
“I had only one desire: to dismember it. To see of what it was made, to discover the dearness, to find the beauty, the desirability that had escaped me, but apparently only me. Adults, older girls, shops, magazines, newspapers, window signs—all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured. The Bluest Eye “Here,” they said, “this is beautiful, and if you are on this day ‘worthy’ you may have it.” I fingered the face, wondering at the single-stroke eyebrows; picked at the pearly teeth stuck like two piano keys between red bowline lips. Traced the turned-up nose, poked the glassy blue eyeballs, twisted the yellow hair. I could not love it. But I could examine it to see what it was that all the world said was lovable” (pg.20).
Here in the text, Toni Morrison is showing how young girls as well as society, are trapped in a singular idea of beauty. Although Claudia doesn’t find it desirable, both Pecola and Frieda show many similar reactions to the dolls as women do to models today. As the Dove Commercial states, it is important to talk to young girls about the concept of beauty and body image before they are corrupted by idea “I’m not pretty or skinny enough.”