Why do girls wear make up? Because we have come to think we are not beautiful enough without. Why do girls shave their legs? Because we are told we are hideous with hair. Why do girls order salads and drink skinny lattes? Because we are made to believe that being skinnier than we are equals being better than we are.
The other day an elaborate quote by the artist Banksy appeared in my news feed on Facebook. In it he denounces modern day advertisement, saying it makes people feel small: “They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else.” I think he is right, in our Western world adds constantly show us an ideal that we are not. It is an ideal we pursue but fail to obtain, being inevitably disappointed. Personally I’m especially affected by ideals of beauty; the slender bodies of (15-year-old) models mess with my idea of what a woman should look like.
As I travel South America, I am hardly confronted with the ideals of my Western home. I don’t watch television so do not see commercials and tv-shows parading perfect men and women. In the streets here I hardly come across any posters or billboards advertising perfection or ideals. Already in the first few weeks of my travel I felt the pressure begin to lift, making me realise once again how susceptible I am to advertising. Walking through mountains, visiting villages where the only advertising comes in colourful paintings on the walls, space appears in my mind for my own ideas on beauty and a good life.
After about a week of travelling I stopped wearing make up. At home a day without mascara would be a day in which my face did not count, here it just feels like me. Some people even tell me to my unmade up face that it’s beautiful.. When it comes to body image, I now look in the mirror and see my size for what it is, knowing it does not correspond with my (adopted) ideal of women. But, unlike before, I no longer reproach myself for not being two sizes smaller. In this trip I’m learning to, with confidence and acceptance, be who I am. If I like me, others will do so too.
Of course, it’s all very well to create the impression here that I have become immune to the pressure of beauty ideals and perfection shown in advertising. I am not. Today I was in a museum that houses works by one of the world’s most famous fashion photographers, Mario Testino. I walked into a room and there she was: Gisele Bündchen displaying her beautifully round arse to the camera. And another one: Gisele lying on a bed wearing nothing but a black mask over her eyes. Her photos were the epitome of eroticism, and not only did she turn me on, I wanted to be her. “Give me that body!” the voice in my head yelled.
A few hours later I went for lunch in a burrito bar. The waitress asked me if I wanted everything with my burrito (“con todo?”) and started to list: avocado, cheese, sour cream.. Not having the perfect body burden of Bündchen to carry, I, of course, answered: “Si, con todo!”.