In Gina Kolata's Rethinking Thin, I was reminded that the feminine ideal of the early 1900s was just as unreal as today's photoshopped magazine covers. The Gibson Girls were drawings of otherwise slender women with large breasts and lush hips and buttocks. Their waists were tightly cinched to form an hourglass figure, and they were tall, with bouffant updos that further increased their statuesque heights. Women did their best to emulate the Gibson Girls, despite the fact that they were drawings--idealized versions of a man's vision of feminine beauty. Kolata also claims that flapper girls were a similar invention of artists, leading to the teenage-proportioned body (small breasts and hips) being the new ideal for that era.
Here we are, a hundred years later, still being mocked with unreal images of beauty that we are expected to emulate. Even women who already conform to the ideal are photoshopped to remove the tiniest details, until their faces resemble porcelain dolls. Not only are blemishes, wrinkles and other "flaws" removed, the very proportions of a woman's body and face are altered--eyes made bigger and moved to a different position on the face, lips plumped, widened, and repositioned, waists whittled down, breasts pumped up and lifted. It's ridiculous.
Manufacturers of beauty products absolutely rely upon women's low self-image to sell their products. While I enjoy putting different colors on my face, as humans have done for millennia, the cosmetics industry goes far beyond that. If we are not panicking over every pimple, freaking out over each wrinkle, and becoming hysterical at the sight of a gray hair, they aren't making money. These "too perfect" magazine covers are absolutely designed to shame us, to make us hate ourselves. There is BIG money to be made on our self-hatred.
We bind ourselves in Spanx, strap ourselves into tight bras, slather eight kinds of goop on our faces, pay for the privilege of having someone tell us how and what to eat (and shame us when we haven't lost weight), run on human sized hamster wheels (big big bucks there), dye our hair so we don't look old (instead of for the fun of, say, having purple hair), and then continue to buy the magazines that make us feel like we HAVE to keep doing these things, because we still don't look like the photoshopped cover girl, even though the magazines never actually say anything new (and trust me folks, Cosmo never has any real new sex tips, no matter what the cover hype says).
Well, screw that. I'm sorry, but I don't have the money to support low self esteem. If I felt like I wasn't good enough to be seen in public without buying all of the stupid crap these companies are selling, I wouldn't be able to afford the "privilege" of leaving my house.
Throw those damn magazines out. Stop buying them--they are preying upon you; they are deliberately designed to make you feel bad. Who needs that nonsense? Unsubscribe, and either find a less damning periodical (Bon Appetit, Cat Fancy, Aquarium Fish), or invest your money in some good books instead. If you're a feminist, or at least have feminist leanings, I can highly recommend the works of Sheri S. Tepper, and many of her books can be found for super-cheap used on Amazon. Or, build up your FA library with Gina Kolata's Rethinking Thin, Paul Campos' The Obesity Myth, Roberta Pollack Seid's Never Too Thin (note: Get this one while you can; it's out of print, and only available used), and Barry Glassner's The Gospel of Food.