Obedient to the Beauty Industry – A Feminist Perspective

As I age, I find myself watching women with a different lens. I see women in their forties and fifties embracing their grey hair and wrinkles, and I see women who spend loads of money on products and procedures in an attempt to turn back the clock. I am an empowered 48-year-old woman who wants to embrace my aging body, honoring it for the wisdom and strength it contains. Yet, I flip-flop back and forth between highlighting my greys and adding more grey and platinum color to my naturally blonde hair.

Paulina Porizkova

I follow Paulina Porizkova on Instagram, a model in her fifties who shows her authentic self to the world, sans makeup and plastic surgery. Then, I watch GOOP with Gywneth Paltrow as she tries to embrace the changes in her body as a 49-year-old woman who is a public figure. Paltrow and her team at GOOP bring in experts in the field to empower women to accept their bodies as they are.

I listen to The Guilty Feminist podcast, where the guests unapologetically share their stories of being a feminist AND caring about what other people think of them. Listen to the beginning diatribe in episode 272 from Felicity Ward, where she condemns the patriarchy for the social conditioning that we, as women, all grow up with.

Jennifer Volbrecht celebrates feminism in her workbook Feminism: A Journey to Equality. She and co-author Danaelle Rodriguez lead the readers through a series of prompts to encourage and empower women and girls to love and accept their bodies. Purchase your copy here.

Vollbrecht gifted me with Untamed by Glennon Doyle in 2020 as a thank you. The book was validating for the life I was living. See my review of Untamed here. I listen to Doyle’s podcast every week: We Can Do Hard Things. They tackle subjects with a raw, unfiltered voice, encouraging people to be their true selves. In an episode about Beauty  (Beauty: How Did We Get Trapped in this Cage?) Glennon, her sister Amanda, and her wife Abby talk about the messages we pass down to girls. They discussed how telling young girls they are pretty perpetuates the power of beauty and the attention they will gain by being beautiful. When puberty sets in and pimples and oily hair take over, it can be challenging for young girls to adjust to this change.

Abby and Amanda Doyle

Glennon shared how negative comments about her in the beginning stages of her relationship with her now-wife, Abby Wambach, set her on a path of false eyelashes, bleach blonde hair, and a wardrobe upgrade. “They,” said she was too old and basic for Abby. Knowing she would be seen more as a public figure with Abby at her side, she stepped up her beauty game for a few years.

It is a game. Women receive the message that their beauty enables their privilege in the workforce, in dating, and in life, in general.  We can choose to play along or change the narrative by showing up just as we are.

In the article Pretty Privilege: Why Bias is Real, and What We Can Do About It, the author writes: “…Employers viewing photographs of potential employees were inclined to increase salaries by nearly 10.5% to attractive people (Mobius &  Rosenblat,  2006). Similarly, the Halo Effect implies that we subconsciously assume people’s appearances reflect their overall characters (Nisbett & Wilson). With this in mind, it is unsurprising that physically attractive individuals are perceived as more “sociable, dominant, sexually warm, mentally healthy, intelligent, and socially skilled” (Feingold, 1992). Attractive people often benefit from this bias from an early age, resulting in greater confidence as adults. Researchers suggest confidence translates into successes as self-assured individuals are more likely to step out of their comfort zones (Mobius &  Rosenblat,  2006).) Asking for higher wages or even a greater willingness to take on job opportunities are some ways in which confidence can translate to professional success.”

I am drawn to friends and celebrities that fill up their social media feeds with their authentic selves. I want young girls to see what women really look like. Let’s see teenage women in regular clothes at the mall without full hair and makeup. For this to happen, young women need to feel confident in themselves and look au natural. So how do we do that? In my opinion, we continue to show up how we indeed are courageously. Celebrate our bodies just how they are, flaws and all. Not always striving for perfection and the lowest weight we think we can be.

portrait of smiling teenage girl
Photo by Kseniya Buraya on Pexels.com

In an article on GOOP (Gwyneth Paltrow): “Is Taking Care of Yourself Vanity?” Margo Marrone reflects on feeling beautiful.

She says feeling beautiful isn’t related to the way she looks. “It is a headspace. For years, I said awful things to myself. A shaman teacher once said to me, ‘Send yourself flowers, not arrows.’ It took me many years to do it, but now I send myself only flowers, and at fifty-five, I feel my most beautiful.” Her tips for aging beautifully integrate body and mind, wellness and beauty seamlessly.

Margo Marrone is the founder of The Organic Pharmacy; she is a homeopath, pharmacist, shaman, and yogi—and a clean-beauty formulator.

I am hopeful as I see the world changing that we are making significant strides in the right direction. As we embrace who we are with body acceptance, natural beauty products, and fewer filters, girls and women have the chance to let their lights shine from the inside out.

Anastacia Elizabeth Walden is a writer, editor, and the owner of

Walden Writes For Women.



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