Lisa Bluett

Fitting the mould : beauty and empowerment

Lisa Bluett
Lisa Bluett

By Lisa Bluett

IF there was a generic mould that people (females particularly in this case) were expected to fit in into order to attain the tick of approval current society deems necessary for us to feel appreciated, and *gasp* beautiful, well  I’m sure I couldn’t possibly be squeezed into it.

The mould would be too slim, too tall, the nose too straight, teeth too white, hair too soft and either too long or too short. The mould would also be really judgemental and would insist that it was me that was “too fat” or that my legs were “too short, my neck too long, bust too small, nose tooo big”! It would be just like the reoccurring nightmare I have where I find myself on one of those awful ‘next top model shows’ and in the final make over, they swivel my chair around and I look in the mirror and see someone else’s face on my body- screaming myself awake as fast as possible.

While scrolling through my emails this morning, I’d received a request to update my profile information on a website that employs casual staff for events.  Instead of asking whether I liked interacting with people, whether I liked eating or using the products their major clients sell or if I cared about anything at all in the world- the information required: name, location, D.O.B, Shirt and pants size, hair colour, eye colour, gender, skin colour. I felt the grim presence of the mould in the corner of my mind questioning all the specifics: small, enough? Blonde enough?  Blue green eyes, or just blue?  Female… are you sure?

I decided that perhaps I should see what the company was really looking for. This made matters worse.  Workshops would provide help about “how to be beautiful” and to be “the best version of yourself” by providing tips on skincare, wellness, fitness and beauty. I was deeply puzzled at their idea that these workshops could help a ‘female’ “become themselves”. If I followed those tips, I would in essence become someone else and the expectation that I wash my face and cut my toenails would be theirs, not my own. I’m happy being dirty, smelly, barefooted and unshaven- it’s the people around me that aren’t.  And perhaps this is why I’m not going to be going to one of these workshops but fundamentally what puzzles me is that these recommendations are made while flying the banner of ‘female’ empowerment.

Wearing lingerie, eating fat free delicatessens and applying the perfect shades of (an animal had to suffer for you to look amazing) eye shadow*, to attain that trendy smoky look is simply not my idea of empowerment. Instead of deconstructing and critically evaluating what it means to be a ‘woman’ in contemporary society the intellectual, emotional and visceral potential for meaningful engagement is smeared by expectations that are centred upon that hideous mould that makes people feel disempowered in the first place.  If you fit the mould and you want to live in the mould, good for you. But if you don’t, surely you should still be able to promote a product because it’s about the product, not about what you look like in a super small t-shirt and super small pants?

The question I’d like to know, should we take these agencies to task and demand (or politely ask…) that women are valued more for other skills, rather than looking good to promote products?

*These items are provided in the workshops to encourage woman to feel beautiful wearing and using them.  


1 thought on “Fitting the mould : beauty and empowerment”

  1. I’d say yes, I guess. But I think companies will follow if society changes. I’ve experienced less gender role pressure in South-Africa than I did in Holland, by the way…
    And, while playing around with make up is fun… I’m more than my looks and have the degree to prove it. Beauty is a celebration of femininity and has many faces; it’s not what makes you valuable as a woman.
    Side track: If too tall and too thin is the ideal, how come it’s so hard to find fitting clothes if you ARE too tall and too thin????


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