Women seek it, society expects it and the media demands it. “It” is beauty. But do women have the freedom to define beauty on their own terms? Allie Chambers seeks answers.
Admittedly slow to follow trends of any kind, including smartphones and Netflix, I recently decided to read Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code. I had heard it was a controversial book, and my curiosity was piqued. When I would ask people who had read it to let me in on the hype, their replies were the same: “You need to read it.”
Nearly 14 years later, I did.
DaVinci Code’s plot revolves around characters who are in search of the holy grail and those trying to protect its discovery. The book contends that the holy grail is a symbol for the Divine, or, Sacred Feminine.
Wikipedia defines the holy grail as a vessel that serves as an important motif in Arthurian literature. Different traditions describe it as a cup, dish or stone with miraculous powers that provide happiness, eternal youth or sustenance in infinite abundance.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary says the grail is an object that is sought after for its great significance.
Considering these two definitions, that of eternal youth and something being sought after, I began thinking about the holy grail of beauty. Each generation’s concept of beauty varies slightly, and today’s gold standard is a woman who exhibits youth. She is thin, with large breasts and derriere, full lips and flawless skin. The media covets this aesthetic and emphasizes it in politics, social media, movies, T.V. and most magazines.
I compiled some findings in my own quest for beauty’s holy grail.
Searching online inundated me with specific beauty products that women “cannot live without”. There’s mineral makeup, matte lipstick and voluminous mascara. From lips and eyes to face and hair, the importance of women looking beautiful was not lost on me.
My hunt extended beyond products to exact measurements. If you’re a Marilyn Monroe fan, you likely know that she possessed the ideal hip-to-waist ratio of 0.7, or 70%. To calculate this, divide waist measurement by hip measurement. For example, a person with a 25” (64cm) waist and 38” (97cm) hips has a waist-to-hip ratio of about 0.66. If you’re clumsy with a calculator-like me-just look it up online and your computer will calculate it for you. Curious who else shares Monroe’s status? It’s an impressive list that includes: Venus DeMilo, Katy Perry, Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Alba, Kim Kardashian, Helen Mirren, Kate Moss, Alessandra Ambrosio and Salma Hayek.
It doesn’t stop there.
Measurements for ideal facial beauty exist as well. Commonly referred to as the golden ratio, divine proportions, the Fibonacci number, or Phi, it can be found throughout life and the universe. The appearance of Phi creates a sense of balance, harmony, and beauty in the design we find in nature.
Many works of art and architecture claim to have been designed using the golden ratio. The prehistoric monument Stonehenge features these proportions between its concentric circles. Others include The Great Pyramid of Giza, the Parthenon and the Notre Dame de Paris.
Artists throughout history, like Botticelli and Leonardo DaVinci, have used it as the basis for their compositions. The most notable is DaVinci’s Mona Lisa.
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder (or “Phi” of the beholder in this case), but a 2006 study from the University of Nebraska explains that a smaller nose and chin, along with a larger distance between the eyes and a smaller mouth width, are deemed desirable traits for women. Beauties from Queen Nefertiti in 1350 BC to modern-day glamour icon Angelina Jolie possess this ideal facial symmetry.
So many messages, and they all have the same theme: Women are expected to live up to society’s rigid ideals.
But where does it end?
It stops NOW, if Molly Galbraith has anything to say with it. She is a co-founder and owner of Girls Gone Strong, an online presence with one purpose: To provide women with evidence-based, body-positive information along with a united voice to silence the fear-mongering, multi-billion-dollar weight-loss industry and mainstream media who prey on women’s insecurities for profit. After years of struggling with her own body image and self-worth, Galbraith has committed herself to helping women embrace their bodies and fall in love with themselves, cellulite and all.
Australian Emily Skye draws upon her former insecurities, and her passion for fitness, to help others achieve their best lives on her Youtube channel, EmilySkyeFIT. There she shares exercise tips and her secrets to becoming fit and confident. Skye believes in having a healthy mind as well as a healthy body and embracing one’s-self completely.
And they are not alone.
Iskra Lawrence is an English model who at age 26, already has an impressive list of accomplishments. She is a contributor to Self magazine, brand ambassador for NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association, and in 2017 delivered a Ted talk on Ending the Pursuit of Perfection. Lawrence uses her large Instagram following to challenge beauty ideals and spread body-positive messages. She doesn’t allow any of her modeling photos to be retouched and frequently tags her photo captions with #everyBODYisbeautiful.
Under one photo Iskra wrote,
“This is my body. It’s real and I love posting pictures showing how confident I am because society has taught us we have ‘flaws’. You are more than your body. You get to decide what beauty is.”
Yes, Iskra, agreed. And yes to all women who realize that the holy grail of beauty lies within oneself.