Body Image, Social Beauty Cues, and the Empowered Woman

Body Image, Social Beauty Cues, and the Empowered Woman

By Jessica Crystal Joy

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

The word ’empower’ is defined as: “to give (someone) the authority or power”; “to make (someone) stronger and more confident”.

As a woman living in the United States, I experience certain roles, standards, and beliefs regarding my own empowerment and my gender which were taught to me from childhood onward. These experiences are common among other women throughout the United States (and other western countries) as well. These belief systems and standards were passed down from our earlier generations to us, one cycle at a time.

Some of these inherited experiences create the opposite of the definition I shared above. They are presented in one manner and in fact are really diminishing our power. This occurs through instilling negative expectations of self and others, social pressures, perceived or real rules and laws of location, and personal fears and doubts that are systematized – and subsequently shared with others.

The focus of this article is the expectations put on women’s bodies, and what amount of authorship – and therefore empowerment – we have over our bodies.

Women and Body Hair

As our bodies mature during tween and teenaged hood, we become aware of our hair growing in places beyond our heads. And although this is a natural part of reaching physical maturity, most parents automatically teach their young girls that this natural occurrence is something to be managed and taken care of – and is therefore foreign, unacceptable, unattractive and unfeminine.

My parents, and others, typically provide their daughters with one option: any new hair grown must be shaved. The location generally starts with legs, armpits, and facial hair. This focus typically stems and grows as the young lady matures. This is enforced either by constant suggestion to shave, shaming the young lady to shave, normalizing hairless bodies, and providing no positive examples of women who choose to keep hair on their legs and other body parts – and who are still respected, desired romantically, and successful in life.

This normalizing of outside opinions of you, dictating and suggesting how to manage a woman’s body, tends to then be enforced by the peer group. An example of this social popularity – who is popular or not, and who is made fun of for looking ‘masculine’ or ‘un-womanly’ – just for having hair showing on body parts that are deemed not natural or acceptable. From here, potential and future romantic partners can also reinforce this belief system by complimenting a woman’s smooth hairless skin, or acting disinterested in romantic or sexual relations when the women might attempt to grow her leg hair, or has any hair on her face.

Growing up, one of my female extended-family members had visible lip hair before the age of 10 years old. Already, before getting into elementary school, her peer group was actively shaming her and teasing her for what naturally grows on her body, and her decision to keep her natural hair. She begged her mom to wax her ‘moustache’, and her mom at the time said she was too young for that and asked why she desired this – to which my young relative said “because others made fun of me for having hair there”.

Body Image, Social Beauty Cues, and the Empowered WomanAlready, before the age of 10, this young woman learned through experience that she was deviant or wrong for being hairy in certain places of her body, that she had to gain approval from others outside of herself, and had to alter and present her body in an ‘acceptable’ way they (society) deemed appropriate.

Your Her-story

From my perspective and experience, being an empowered woman entails looking at your her-story, acknowledging how your world supports certain body-image beliefs, asking yourself “is this belief serving you and lighting you up?” and taking the empowered option to reject this idea if it does not serve you.

In this context, being empowered – authoring your own life – is being a beacon of alternative choice for other women and showing, merely by walking around appearing as you choose, that there are other options than fitting the socially-normalized hair and body image. Taking back choice, power, and authorship of your body can start as simple as this, and in this way, having hair on your body can be an act of self-empowerment, spirituality and deep connection to your Creator.

In my next article I will share my personal journey of body and hair image, how I found my fiction and my truths, and ultimately reclaimed my authorship of my body.

Updated November 2014

Previous article by Jessica:

About the author:

Jessica Crystal JoyJessica Crystal Joy is a feminine empowerment educator that has been studying spiritual and self-improvement work since 2001. She provides articles, workshops, and presentations geared towards helping women become confident in speaking their desires and requirements in their life, using their intuition and deep connection with their bodies.

Jessica is known for quickly creating an environment of safety and expansion, to help her clients go beyond their past limited belief systems while explicitly and providing practical ways to be and live from a deeper empowered state of being. She has a B.A. in Psychology and is a Certified Tantra Educator, Certified Intuitive Guide, a member of the Holistic Living Network, a yogi, creative writer for New Earth Media, blogger, professional speaker, essential oils expert, and vegan, and incorporates many tools of Mastery Systems in her work.

For more articles and ways to work with Jessica, check out her website jessicacrystaljoy.com.

 


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  • Allene

    As the first one to comment I must say: great job! Amazing work.

  • Robert Revhone

    So to be clear, I still have to own a Porsche to be considered a human being, much less viable for a relationship, whereas you can abandon personal hygiene altogether? Does this mean I can grow a neck beard and back hair too? What about giant side burns.
    Of all the crazy ish going on in our society aimed at keeping BOTH genders tucked nicely into damaging roles based on our genitals; Rules imposed by both genders on their own and the other gender from what I see.
    What then, is the point of trying to convince other women to adhere to YOUR notions of beauty, as if that were any different than their mothers and fathers imposing beauty standards?
    To me, this article read : “Dear reader, you’re not bright enough to figure it out on your own, let me tell you how it works.”
    Seriously, if a woman shaves her legs and feels nice about the time spent on her appearance (many actually take pride in such things, or ultimately enjoy making *themselves* feel sexier via that endeavor), then let her. I don’t really think she’s holding back the movement (as it is today, sadly) in any way.
    Since when did empowering our wives and daughters start to include the notion that if they choose one lifestyle, method or appearance they are gender traitors or doing something wrong. Shave or no shave, it’s up to them to judge its merits, not the place of a self appointed matron of all those poor, lost, helpless, agency free women in the world.
    The next time you pick up your pen, I hope you can actually find an important topic, and of course, respect peoples choices in life, even they aren’t feminist, crunchy, or anti male(or whatever it is you purport to stand for) enough for your tastes.
    Oh, and the turtle leaf dragging captcha thing…kind weird, kinda cool.

  • Lenna Doll

    Sorry, I am 7 decades old next spring and since the age of 13 have shaved my legs and under my arms. I NEVER listened to anyone dictating this act. I just never liked the idea of furry armpits or legs. A PERSONAL choice, for heaven’s sake. Find another subject to advise women on…..