By Katherine Harvison, 11th Grade Student at New Milford High School
For centuries young women have felt pressure from society about how they should look. From horrific practices such as foot binding, or the wearing of corsets to alter a woman’s figure, to the seemingly innocent comments about how a woman would look prettier if she curled her hair, or lost a little weight. Whether how radical or how mild these pressures are, they have been a constant throughout history and society. So it cannot be seen as surprising that young women have found it hard to see themselves as beautiful. One recent debate is makeup, and what people feel like is too much or too little.
Everyone feels the need to tell young women what they should do in order to look more beautiful, particularly in areas regarding makeup. Some of it is blatantly obvious, such as telling them to wear makeup to cover up their flaws. What they don’t realize is that telling someone that they are wearing too much makeup is just as insulting. Some women wear makeup simply because they feel more confident in doing so, they find it enjoyable, not because they are trying to impress anyone. I, like most young women, use to wear makeup because I felt an obligation to do so, and I never really felt confident in what was I wearing. I was constantly nervous that someone was going to comment on why I was wearing makeup, or tell me I looked better while wearing makeup. At the same time I was equally terrified to go without makeup, worried someone would ask why I wasn’t wearing any. It was not until I realized that if I was going to wear makeup, I should for me that I really began to enjoy it. Now I find that I could go a day with none at all, or even a full face, and feel just as happy and confident, because I’m doing it all for me, and no one else. All that really matters is what I feel most confident and happy with, that day, and that is more important than trying to meet someone else’s standards.
When it comes to matters of beauty, it can feel like everyone has some opinion on the matter that clashes with someone else, and not just when it comes to makeup. People are constantly judging every aspect of a young woman’s appearance, from her shoes to her clothes to her face and hair. So when someone tries to tell me, or anyone else, what they think looks best on people I simply ask them why do you care? Why do you care how many creams or powders wear, or don’t wear, on my face? Why do you care her hair is purple? Why do you care that her dress looks too short? The fact of the matter is I’m not trying to hide anything by wearing eye-shadow on the contrary, I wear it because it helps my eyes stand out. Her purple hair doesn’t mean she is trying to compensate for something, it just means she wanted purple hair, and as crazy as it might seem just because her dress goes above her knees, doesn’t mean she is a slut. But even if all of those perceptions were true, it really doesn’t affect your life that much, only hers and trust me she is more than capable of dressing herself. So why do you care?
I realize that the world’s perception of young women and beauty isn’t going to change overnight. It’s still important, however, to help young women understand that as long as they feel confident then they are beautiful. No matter how much makeup they are wearing, or the color of their hair, or the type of the clothes they are wearing. Unfortunately, this message can be nearly impossible to get across with everyone’s opinions getting in the way. Still, I do my part, by complimenting people on how amazing their appearance is, not how much better it would be if they changed something. But if that person is worried about what others think about their appearance, I ask them, if you feel beautiful and confident, why do you care?
This blog post was an entry into Young Women Rising’s annual essay contest in which 11th grade students were asked, “What is one of the most important issues facing young women today and how do you see yourself having an impact on that issue?”