Beauty Standards’ Impact on Feminism


The interpretation of beauty varies from one person to another and with historical periods. Some individuals regard beauty based on the outward appearance, while others stress that beauty is more than physical looks. Social media has contributed heavily to making ladies perceive beauty differently. They face pressure from society and social media on how they can look. This paper investigates how beauty ideals have reshaped feminism and if women should adopt the new definition of beauty.

Background of Feminism

Feminism is a political, social, and economic ideology that advocates for equality of rights for all sexes. Women desire to match the regular-changing world, and thus the feminists advocate for their beauty rights (Rhode, 2017). In today’s world, the increased opportunities for cosmetic enhancement and all issues surrounding beauty have paused complex challenges. Some ladies have sought the pursuit of beauty as a pleasure source. A black lady who would dream of whitening her skin would be condemned in the past, but currently, the feminists advocate for women’s beauty rights. In 1851, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Amelia Bloomer were the first to launch the feminist campaign by wearing short skirts (Rhode, 2017). Over time, many people globally have joined these campaigns to support women’s definition of beauty. Women in the community are forced daily to contend for male approval, and feminists are against this. Some have sought to challenge discrimination based on weight and ensure tolerance for any body size. Others have campaigned against oppression women face, such as wearing sexualized clothing. Concerns about appearance have been associated with depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety.

There are set of standards that currently define modern in the ever-changing world. Some say women wear makeup to be beautiful; others argue that ladies have to be skinny with curves to be considered beautiful, while others say that one must be young to be beautiful (Mckay et al., 2018). Aesthetic surgery has been incorporated to help the ladies match their desired level of beauty. These trends have been determined with history and technological advancements. Society emphasizes being thin through magazines, diet changes, and adverts to lose weight. Some photoshop applications women watch celebrities and other personalities on social channels, which has shaped their definition of beauty. The ladies are forced to adapt to these changes to fit into society perfectly in this contemporary world.

Beauty Standards Reshaping Feminism

Redefining Beauty One Photo At A Time is a YouTube video that women discuss beauty and gain a redefinition of the term. The first girl says beauty is all about putting on makeup, while another lady suggests it is about age (Dove US, 2014). Another one accounts that what she understands about beauty has been defined by television, magazines, and movies. A beauty is a very important concept and the seek for achieving it is a very natural behavior (Sisti et. al, 2021). Other girls are scared of taking pictures because they have termed them not beautiful. A tutor has been invited to the meeting with many girls to explain redefining beauty. The speaker says beauty is all about incorporating what individuals do not like. One girl in the video encourages her mother to acknowledge she is beautiful despite her age. Some suggest that smiling when taking a photo enhances one’s beauty. One girl says even though she does not look like the people in the magazines or she is not thin, that does not mean she is not beautiful. Some girls who did not consider themselves attractive re-watched themselves in the mirror and realized that they were lovely. Social media has widened the interpretation of beauty, and girls can use their creativity to redefine it in social media.

The body serves as a vital part of every person’s identity, and other people’s reactions to one’s body are a crucial determinant of self-worth. A persons’ body shows their age, race, ethnicity, sex, and gender (Chrisler & Johnston-Robledo, 2018). Stereotypes relating to body observation have led to disapproval or approval and avoidance or approach. These observations determine how individuals are treated differently, especially women. The focus on beauty, fitness, and pursuing hobbies has become a primary part of self-image.

The body has become a central part of determining one’s self. Self-improvement attempts by women and girls, termed as “the body project,” aim to ensure they improve their physical outlook. Evaluation of diaries by American girls between 1830 and 1990 demonstrated a recurring theme of self-improvement (Chrisler & Johnston-Robledo, 2018). In earlier times, girls were focused on their internal aspects to improve their moral aspects. They strived to be better people, more loving, gentler, more faithful, and more trustworthy. Around the midpoint of the 20th century, the meaning of self-improvement shifted as the girls focused on their external appearance, the body (Chrisler & Johnston-Robledo, 2018). They wanted to be prettier, thinner, and attractive; modern-day ladies want to be sexier. Girls have internalized the concept that what is beautiful is good. The body has replaced the soul as the salvation’s object. Some ladies have experienced harsh judgments via social media; perhaps they do not match the modern day’s set beauty standards.

The social class difference has effectively been demonstrated through the body. The people who can afford cosmetic surgery, the latest fashion, and personal trainers appear younger and thin; they are likely to be approached because of their beauty (Chrisler & Johnston-Robledo, 2018). Members of higher economic class pay more attention to the body’s appearance, while those of lower economic class are more concerned with its functionality. Thus, the rich can easily choose the activities that improve their appearance. They can also delay childbirth through birth control methods and use an expensive cosmetic procedure to attain a sexualized and narrow body after delivery.

The body affects self-esteem, self-consciousness, self-regulation, and self-confidence, which are crucial elements determining how women feel about themselves. They all involve the ladies’ attitude towards the body’s influence on their personality (Chrisler & Johnston-Robledo, 2018). Women’s social status has been linked more to beauty than their actions. Despite the bodies not being the same, all females have an embodied self. Different feminists have presented their perspectives based on women’s embodiment. The first generation of psychologists was more concerned about unearthing evidence against the popular belief that women’s reproductive bodies hindered them from engaging in certain activities. Even as the reproductive body was acknowledged for producing motherhood and other females’ immense happiness, it drove the women crazy.

Several progress signs created the necessity for the feminist study of self and body to understand better. There was an exploration of eating disorders among young American ladies, as the clinical psychologists were concerned about women’s weight (Chrisler & Johnston-Robledo, 2018). It affected the women’s mental health, engaging in risky behaviors to lose weight. There was a reaction against the women’s liberation movements, which had criticized time-consuming beauty practices and painful fashions, such as high-heeled shoes. People started publishing feminist books to pressure the ladies to take up body projects and enhance body beautification. The work on the body politic and social constructionism significantly impacted feminist psychology. There was a discussion on the oppression women faced in society on the institutional, interpersonal, and personal levels.

Some feminist psychologists delayed their study as they thought it would support the initial and outmoded concepts that tailor the women’s body towards reproductive lives. However, today, women have access to the historical images of bodies. The trending revealing clothes mean that ladies and women are always judgmental towards each other (Chrisler & Johnston-Robledo, 2018). The body never gets isolated from the world through embodiment, but otherwise, it is constantly engaged in it. Individual interactions affect their self-esteem and self-objection, and the body’s embodiment is facilitated by interaction with others. Many people perceive women’s bodies as objects of beauty or sex and are victims of regular judgment and evaluation. Many girls know that they are subject to constant assessment, thus hindering them from being comfortable.

From childhood, social experiences shape one’s embodiment in three phases: experiences with the physical domain, experiences with the mental domain, and experiences linked to social power. These three phases may positively or negatively affect embodiment, depending on the treatment and individual is subjected (Chrisler & Johnston-Robledo, 2018). Every day a woman gets instruction on how her body should function, look, or behave. These instructions come from social media, leaders, the government, or other women. They learn their bodies should be feminine, sexy, beautiful, pure, youthful, fashionably dressed, healthy, bearing, and fit; this permanently shapes their lives.

Over the past years, different scholars have challenged the feminist perspectives on their beauty’s perception; some have been urged to revisit the topic. It is crucial to investigate the beautifying woman as an artist and the beautified lady as the process’s end product (Cahill, 2003). Understanding what beautification does to a woman’s body is essential to know how beauty standards have reshaped feminism. Beautification is a means of self-expression and self-transformation for a woman.

Women have used ideal bodywork methods, such as cosmetic surgery, aerobics, and hair salon, to achieve beauty. Social media has placed unsustainable pressure on women, and thus they opt to copy the interpretation of beauty from their preferred celebrities. The adverts on social media, such as losing weight, have compelled many ladies to be slim to be considered beautiful. In cosmetic surgery, plastic surgeons have the right to deny performing a given procedure if the client does not have a justifiable reason (Cahill, 2003). In most instances, the women who choose cosmetic surgery have doubts about their inner selves. They claim their bodies do not fully represent who they are in reality. They fail to accept their current status and thus opt for cosmetic surgery to enhance their beauty. The individuals are always prepared for cosmetic surgery, expecting that the exercise will meet their demands.

The male gaze on women is regarded as an objectifying gaze that shapes the way men view the ladies about beauty. A man looking at a beautiful woman only sees the surface and appreciates the aesthetic beauty. Some women have opted to modify their diet or deprive themselves of food to become thinner. That is the only beauty aspect that exists for them and thus cannot recognize the lady as the subject, an entire human being, and a subject (Cahill, 2003). Viewing aesthetic beauty can make one perceive the woman is not appearing as herself and not revealing essential aspects of her being. Aesthetic beauty thus makes men view women as objects that can be used to satisfy men’s physical and social needs. The element of viewing the lady as an artist and artwork is thus eliminated through this perception. Therefore, a woman remains an item of physical desires to the men or is considered an object of utility.

Based on feminine beautification, it must create a positive connotation for feminists’ intersubjectivity and be distinguishable from society’s view of female bodies. Simply the feminists state that the beautification processes cannot be reduced to the concept of viewing women as objects of physical desire (Cahill, 2003). Feminists do not discourage male gazes as long as they are not subjecting women to tools of sexual satisfaction. Some women may desire to be looked at so that people can appreciate their beauty. A woman who derives pleasure from beautification often disobeys the addresses.

The male gaze can render the female’s beauty a commodity of satisfaction, suggesting that women can control their beautification process; however, they can quickly lose this control. Non-objectifying and non-subjectivity gaze are possible, giving a beautified female a dignified pleasure. A beautified lady must be recognized in-herself and not as a command of make desires. Most ladies heavily invest their time and money to achieve the beauty they desire (Cahill, 2003). The models the ladies watch on television have made some viewers define beauty. Some women of lower classes are deemed failures of beautification because they cannot meet society’s beauty standards. The time the women spend beautifying themselves dictates the oppression they are subjected to within the community. Women always strive to enhance their beauty to enhance their self-esteem when relating with other society’s members.

Eating disorders, social media, body images, and pornography have reshaped beauty standards for feminism. Some women have adopted missing their meals to reduce body as some societies view thinner ladies as more beautiful (Mckay et al., 2018). Information on the latest fashion designs spreads through social media and pressures the girls to emulate the beauty standards set on social media. Ladies may wear exposing clothes in the name of beauty, and this may be viewed as pornography and enhance the male sexual desires towards such ladies. They consider themselves free to match the modern trends of fashions at the expense of exposing themselves. Beautification is an intersubjective process that communicates more about an individual.


The redefinition of beauty led to the rise of feminist movements across the globe to advocate for women’s rights. Social media has defined beauty standards, putting pressure on the ladies to match these demands. Girls should use creativity on social media to redefine beauty. The rich are more concerned with body appearance, while the poor are concerned with body functionality. Women should find their definition of beauty and avoid being heavily influenced by social media of what beauty entails. Ladies should appreciate their bodies and prevent body projects like makeup and aesthetic surgeries.


Cahill, A. J. (2003). Feminist pleasure and feminine beautification. Hypatia, 18(4), 42–64. Web.

Chrisler, J. C., & Johnston-Robledo, I. (2018). Woman’s embodied self: An introduction. Woman’s Embodied Self: Feminist Perspectives on Identity and Image., 3–14. Web.

Dove US. (2014). Dove Selfie | Redefining Beauty One Photo At A Time. In YouTube. Web.

Mckay, A., Moore, S., & Kubik, W. (2018). Western beauty pressures and their impact on young university women. International Journal of Gender and Women “S Studies, 6(2), 2333–2603. Web.

Rhode, D. (2017). Appearance as a feminist issue. SMU Law Review, 69(4), 697. Web.

Sisti, A., Aryan, N. & Sadeghi, P. (2021). What is Beauty?. Aesth Plast Surg 45, 2163–2176. Web.

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