Since the release of the 2015 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, critics have taken to the Internet, dismayed about cover model Hannah Davis’ unrealistically tanned, toned and hairless…mons pubis.
I’m guessing that’s not the body part you were anticipating—scientific name and all. Likely, you don’t even know what the mons pubis is. Originally I didn’t know myself, but apparently it’s the newest club member in the vast array of body parts that women are supposed to be grooming and altering to the best of our abilities.
The mons pubis, the area just beneath the bikini line and above the vagina, seems to me to be relatively unimportant. Of all the body parts of which I feel insecure, it falls terribly low on the list—somewhere below my large feet (size 11, to be exact) and my crooked shoulders.
Yet while this body part seems trivial to me, it is now under the same scrutiny that has befallen nearly every other part of the female body. Women everywhere are being prompted to assess their own bikini lines in comparison to the “superior” ones we see in the media. If Hannah Davis has a perfectly hairless, tan bikini line, we say, the rest of us must too.
We try to keep up with a frantic desperation. We obsessively wax our upper lips, our legs, our arms, our toes, our eyebrows and even our vaginas, all under the impression that everyone else is doing so and that this is what it takes to be beautiful.
We see perfectly hairless, skinny, tan women in the magazines we peruse in the checkout line, so naturally we feel pressure to attain the same appearance by chemically darkening our skin, counting calories and waxing every last unruly hair from our bodies, until we’re just as slippery and hairless and perfect as Hannah Davis must be.
This certainly is the popular story, and the unreasonable beauty standards set by mass media are a popular scapegoat, but I argue that to perpetually blame the circumstances of our media culture for our bodily insecurities is a cop-out.
We know that these pictures are not real. The image-enhancing powers of Photoshop have been revealed to the public time and time again, so it defies common sense to continue comparing ourselves to the heavily doctored images we see in magazines.
On principle, we can agree as a society that Photoshop is immoral and evil and should be banned from magazine images, and plenty of articles have been written voicing that very opinion, but the reality of the matter is that Photoshop is deeply entrenched in our media, and it’s not going anywhere.
Perfected, glamorous images sell, and magazines are in the moneymaking business. They sell us a fantasy of what we could look like should we follow their council. They appeal to our imaginings of what could be. But it is our own responsibility to acknowledge that this fantasy is beyond what is physically possible. We have a responsibility to realign ourselves with what is real and what is realistic to expect of ourselves.
I will never look like Kate Upton did last year on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Heck, I will never look like Kate Upton does in real life. Try as I might, surgeries, laser hair removal and the entire arsenal of beauty procedures on the market will never make me look like her. And that’s okay.
Of course, despite my acknowledgment of this fact, I have still fallen prey to the allure of beauty procedures from time to time. I got my upper lip waxed just once, over winter break, on the suggestion of a friend. It was silky and smooth for two weeks, and then seemingly overnight a brand new patch of hair cropped up. And I don’t feel inclined to do anything about it.
While at first I felt shiny and new, proud of myself for inching just the tiniest bit closer to the airbrushed standard, my honeymoon period with my naked lip faded quickly. Nobody noticed and I had never really cared about it myself until someone had pointed out to me that it was something I should care about. In the end, I was left feeling regretful that I hadn’t put that $10 towards something I could really enjoy, like a Chipotle burrito.
If we are spending hundreds of dollars per year on tanning and waxing, manicures and blowouts, what are we skimping on? Dinners out with friends? Trips to the movies? If we are investing our time, energy and willpower into determinedly plucking every last ever-growing hair from our bodies, what are we neglecting?
The images we see in magazines show us a snapshot of perfection, but we need to be savvy enough to recognize that in real-time, perfection is impossible to maintain. Hair grows quickly and tans fade. We are expending valuable energy on a losing battle.
My opposition to beauty procedures and the pursuit of Photoshop perfection is not counter-culture; it’s pro-reality. We have to take the issue of unreachable beauty standards into our own hands. We have to choose to stay fuzzy. Choose to be au natural. We can’t let magazine editors choose for us.