Ideal Types; A Burning Topic:
It seems to have been on everyone’s lips back in the 80’s, then it died out during the 90’s and now it is all over the place again. So not only is it a pressing topic to discuss, but one where you are sure to catch a lot of flack, for voicing your opinion (especially as a man it would seem, at times).
Regardless, I want to voice some thoughts I have on the topic. It occurred to me, when I saw an Instagram post, a meme regarding women at the gym. The main focus of the meme simply wanted to state, reasons other than the ‘patriarchal body-standards’ for women to go to the gym.
I have several issues with this meme, or rather what it might represent. Not issues like some might have, rather it shows a culture I hope is changing, while at the same time displaying a vulnerable culture I constantly witness everywhere in society today.
I won’t disregard that for some (perhaps even a lot of women) in the world, they still feel haunted by patriarchal standards and opinions, within society, in regards to women’s looks. However, I do believe in today’s society, where we are trying to be more equal than ever, it would be remiss to simplify it down to something like this.
Of course, as already stated, there are some women that feel haunted and imprisoned within these archaic male views. But the interesting fact is, so do some men. Me personally; I have faced a lot of flack for it all through my life, and I am sure many LGBTQ+ men, often have to wrestle with ‘patriarchal’ standards of beauty and health etc.
So my first point is basically; not just women combat the old and archaic, outdated and unfair, beauty, health and so on, standards of patriarchal culture. But luckily I think if we address from a gender-neutral standpoint (discussing it with both genders in mind as being victims of it), we might get even further with our equality today, among all people.
Before I get into this point I want to say a few things: First of all, I am in know way with any of my points, especially this one, trying to belittle or diminish the hardships women have faced, especially because of men, throughout the ages. Secondly, I am in no way trying to bitch and moan about women as a whole, in my mind you are wonderful beings.
But what I want to address in this point is still very interesting, I do believe. You can kind of say it is similar to the old saying “women are the worst enemy of women” (it is an old danish saying at least, might not translate well into English). In a much milder sense, this saying kind of forms the basis of my point. Women are adding onto the scrutiny women face, as women also judge each other and force one another into female beauty standards as well as the “patriarchal” ones. You can often see women at the gym, when talking to their friends or in the way they look at strangers, perpetuating certain beauty ideals onto other women.
Once again, I know it is far from all women that do this, but I think it is a fair point to raise, in order to see all sides of the issue. Also, the same goes for men, men scrutinize each other, quite a bit in fact. Going to the gym, you constantly have the eyes of other men (as well as women) on you, looking at what you are doing, comparing themselves to you. So indeed, the genders don’t help each other here, in this sense.
3rd (final) point:
To some up my 2 previous points, into one final point. I would as an embodiment sociologist, suggest that what people face is not necessarily a patriarchal beauty standard. Indeed we see more and more examples, of various new individualized standards, trends and so on. What people face, is what I would call a “mainstream beauty standard”. It might, back in the day decades ago, have originated in a patriarchal world culture. But they have morphed into something which is quite gender neutral, at least as I see in the mainstream society.
However, this does not mean it is any less bad. People should not feel haunted, imprisoned or forced to ignore themselves, because of societal ideals. But I mostly feel sorry for the people that sometimes end up feeling like this. In no way is it always the persons own fault, for the people that suffer the worst, it often happens because of many other factors in their lives. Such as feeling forced into certain social situations, becuase of work, family, lovers etc.
It all, sorry if this sounds hard, boils down to the scales of utilitarianism, at least to some extent. As I see it (a view I share with thinkers such as Jean Paul Sartre, Ulrich Beck and Anthony Giddens), we all have free will and with that a responsibility to define ourselves. However, this is at the same very freeing and incredibly scary, not to say stressful and nerve wrecking.
So many people opt to shirk this responsibility over to others. When it comes to body ideals, they often end up, because of social cliche’s and so on, subscribing to fashion and mainstream body ideals. But this also means a disconnect with their own identity, in favor of letting go of some of the responsibility that comes with self-realization.
Because of this disconnect, many people can get a feeling of anomie (Durkheim’s theory), where they can’t locate themselves within a society, that constantly changes and has new demands for them to fulfill.
This is one of the many reasons I fight for people to have free will, for people to be allowed to be themselves. Everyone, no matter gender, sexuality, socio-economic status, who dares to be themselves, are first of all being very brave, second of all they are just trying to be a whole person in balance with their own ideals, their own wants and needs. Nothing can make us as confident, as feeling our physical appearance matches with our internal identity.
Whether it is by covering the body in tattoos, getting plastic surgery, wearing a certain style of clothes, working out a lot, being really skinny or growing every inch of body hair you can. As long as the decisions you make about your identity, are coming internally from your own reflections, it gets you closer to bringing your embodied and mental identity together, in other words (mine); being whole.
Thank you for reading if you made it this far, I hope you enjoyed it and got the positive message I have tried to portray, that we need to allow people to follow their own ideals.