According to an Ipsos study carried out in March 2011 for Psychologies Magazine, 64% of women deem themselves to be “beautiful or quite beautiful”, and their hang-ups tend to disappear with age, as if they learn to accept themselves as they are. French women and their bodies: a true love story?
Contrary to what you might think, it’s neither slimming nor youth that are essential for feeling beautiful, but happiness. Admittedly, differences can be observed depending on the age groups: 8% of over 60s cite youth (against 1% of 15-19 year-olds) but only 4% cite “knowing how to bring out the best of one’s body“ (against 15% of 15-19 year-olds).
While 64% of women find themselves “beautiful or quite beautiful“, 50% nevertheless have a complex about a part of their body. But once again, age is a determining factor in the way in which they perceive themselves: while 71% of 20-24 year-olds say they have complexes, only 48% of 35-44 year-olds and 38% of 60+ women say they do! Through ageing, women learn to put their flaws into perspective and feel comfortable about their bodies.
Nevertheless, 54% of women would like to change something about their appearance. The majority of the time, it’s more a question of slimming than beauty: the stomach comes first across all generations, with a peak after pregnancies, which tend to stretch this part of the body. Young women have more complexes with their bodies, whereas the over 45s would like to change their face more than anything else, in response to the changes caused by time.
But overall, this Ipsos study reveals that for the most part, women live in perfect harmony with their appearance: only 10% claim to find themselves “not beautiful at all“, against 25% 30 years ago!
The changing room is a pretty pointless place for men: most of the time, they already know what size they need in their favourite shops and buy without trying. This is unthinkable for women who try on 11 pairs of jeans, on average, before finding the pair that fits their body shape (Levi’s study). For a woman, the changing room is therefore a place that gives rise to a specific ritual, with an outcome that can be either enriching or demoralising.
She enters the changing room, hangs up her (potential) future purchases, carefully draws the curtain, and begins trying on the clothes. She then becomes distraught if she spills out of them, or delighted if they fit perfectly.
Every woman has gone through this inevitable experience when out clothes shopping. Yet, there are different “trying on” types, which don’t all have the same meaning for women.
In “Sans amour” (“Without love”, Denoël, 2011), novelist and essayist Pierre Pachet puts himself in the place of a 60-year-old woman and analyses her solitude and her renouncement of seduction after the changes that have left their mark on her body. Is it too pessimistic a view of a woman in her sixties?
“Older women aren’t born looking the way they are now“: this is the opening text from Pierre Pachet’s book. Throughout its 146 pages, he pays particular attention to the sadness of this inevitable descent from youthful beauty and the sadness of these women in their sixties who are betrayed by their bodies, sometimes by the death of their loved one which condemns them to loneliness. “The woman at 60″, the theme that returns throughout the book, is a parallel with the woman at 30 – one’s erotic limit during the 19th century, when life expectancy was 40 at the very most. The age when one is past their best has therefore extended by 30 years but it is no less fearful.
In 2002, QualiQuanti led two studies about both women’s and men’s physical perception of the opposite sex. There are many interesting findings, including favorite body parts and attractive qualities seen in others. Notably, when asked to describe a memory about womens’ bodies, men focus on physical details rather than memories: most often, they talked about the perfect body of a model or a particular body part they prefer (breasts, legs, etc).
Women, on the other hand, insist on holistic beauty and strength that emanates from their loved one, rather than their specific physique. Overall, men prefer physical beauty while women focus on intangible things like charm, mystery, and seduction. Find verbatims and more in the rest of this blog post.
Wal-Mart’s launch of its new GeoGirl cosmetics line aimed for 8-12 year-olds has been stirring up debate about how young is too young when it comes to caring about one’s appearance.
The idea behind the line is clever in that it aims to bring together at once older women’s quest for eternal youth, and younger girls’ desires to act older and more mature.
By targeting both moms and their kids with packaging and fun-sounding ingredients, it’s easy to see how strongly society values beauty and youth, at any age.
And while it may seem strange that Wal-Mart is trying to sell anti-aging products to girls who haven’t even gone through puberty, there is a cultural norm being created that every girl must look her best, which creates a lot of insecurity among women that is starting earlier and earlier. Even though there may be questionable things about this product line, there is little doubt that it will gain in popularity as more and more women begin to follow the ideas of advertising pushing them to buy an endless amount of beauty products. To read more about the philosphy behind these ideas, read the rest of the article.