standards of beauty

Monique High's picture

Getting Work Done in Beverly Hills

 A year ago I ran into Karla, a good friend’s twin sister at the hair salon.  “You look fantastic!” I said to her.  “Is it the new haircut?”

      “Well,” she admitted, “I’ve had some work done.”

      I was nonplussed.  What did getting her patio fixed or her roof repaired have to do with how radiant and youthful-looking she suddenly looked?  “No, silly,” another friend chided.  “Getting work done means having your face worked on.  Not your house.  They used to call it a facelift.”

      I’m European.  When I was a girl, we called getting our period “being unwell.” “Getting work done,” is the new euphemism in my present stomping ground of Beverly Hills, California.  But I’ve caught on.  Recently, I’ve been ill and haven’t been out much.  When I told my husband that I’d become a virtual recluse, he was extremely sympathetic.  “It’s because of your bad hip,” he said.  “You haven’t been able to drive anywhere.” In Los Angeles, you can’t really get about without a car.

      I disabused him.  “That’s only half the reason.  Because of my hip, I haven’t been able to drive to see Dr. T.  And so I can’t face any of my friends.” He scrunched his brow to make a moue.  He’s a guy and doesn’t get Dr. T. at all.

Caroline Hagood's picture

The Cult of Beauty: At What Cost?

image of lipstick and makeupI had a very strong reaction to a picture of Patti Smith the other day. As I gazed at the fur under her raised arms, I felt guilty and envious.  That peek of hair made me think that when it came to being at home in one’s own skin, I was all talk and she was all action. The feeling was akin to meeting a vegetarian and being forced to reflect on my own carnivorous hypocrisy—lamenting the cruelty of the meat industry and recommending grave documentaries on bestial torture to friends, only to throw back some BBQ during my lunch hour. Staring at the picture, I felt that Patti was the real thing and I was just the synthetic version; as though all the depilatory agents I put between me and my own naturalness had seeped into my pores, making me more chemicals than ideals.

Juliana Shulman's picture

Vagina in Vogue

In recent years, the number of women going under the knife for cosmetic genital surgery has skyrocketed. More and more women are regularly participating in painful bikini waxing procedures to return to the bare pubis of their youth, and increasing numbers of adolescents are seeking genital piercings to decorate their labia. The popularization of all of these procedures begs the question, what is the Western female genital aesthetic and how is it established? Furthermore, we must ask: What are the implications of women pursuing a genital ideal? 

American representations of the female genitalia are extremely varied. Certainly, there are aspects of a popular culture that celebrate the vagina. From paintings by Georgia O’Keefe to the popular activist play The Vagina Monologues, works of art and literature have represented the female anatomy in a positive light.  However, these positive expressions of female genitals and the accompanying symbolic power of vaginal iconography exist as counter-efforts and are far less prominent than the negative representations that prevail. 

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