The Beauty Myth: Why do women often view their bodies as a source of despair, especially in a patriarchy?

Firstly, despite several rights won over by women, our society is largely a patriarchal one. The most important offices of cultural institutions are still disproportionately occupied by men. And since these influential men tend to be drawn from an elite group of Caucasians, it is inevitable that their idea of beauty and appeal is imposed on cultural content. While it is true that men prefer and desire certain body features of women; but what is hardly noted is whether women agree with this. To the contrary, due to their powerlessness to change the situation, women seem to assent to the imposed cultural norms of bodily beauty. Without this sort of socio-cultural conditioning, it is very likely that more women would be happy with the bodies they’ve got and think of themselves as beautiful. Instead, what we’ve got now is a long list of psychosomatic disorders suffered by women that are born out of obsession with the body, including bulimia nervosa, anorexia, etc.

Secondly, consistent with the order of power within a patriarchal system, by focussing mostly on how to sculpt their bodies, women are subjugating their power to contest male domination. In other words, the energy and effort that they could channel toward achieving more equality with men are being diverted away toward maintaining certain body features that men find attractive. This way women are made to undermine their emancipation and challenge the patriarchal orthodoxy. Hence, women’s despair with their bodies serves a two-fold function in maintaining patriarchal control over society.