Written by Chris Granat
I was walking northward from the Portland State campus to the MAX stop at Pioneer Square the other day when I noticed something somewhat interesting. It isn’t unusual to see some rather peculiar individuals in Portland, but this particular person caught my eye. She was an average Caucasian woman, probably in her late 60’s, who was buying a ticket to board the MAX westbound. What was alarming about this woman was the absurd degree to which her skin was tanned; that and her bleach blond hair (although it may have been colored, not bleached). Now, when I said late 60’s earlier it may have been a pretty big understatement, because she was certainly no novice to senior citizenry. I transferred up from the University of Oregon a year back and can truthfully say this elderly woman was more tan then some of the “fake n’ bake” girls in Eugene. It really made me think: what is it in American culture that skews our interpretation of beauty in such a way? Why do women feel the need to go completely overboard with tanning, with makeup, and with coloring their hair when it just makes them look shallow and fake? And an even better question: why is this elderly woman buying into this nonsense?
We have preconceived notions as to how people should act in each age group. For instance, teenagers are supposed to be rebellious, insensible, and indifferent. In contrast, the elderly should be dependable, reasonable, and compassionate. The elderly should not be fake n’ baked, should not get their tongues pierced or their arms tattooed, and really ought to avoid tagging buildings. These predetermined identities might conflict with individuality but as a general trend they lead to a normal, healthy lifestyle. The elderly woman certainly wasn’t being harmful to anyone by sporting an excessive tan, but it’s a good example of just how unhealthy our society’s attitude is towards “beauty.” The explosion of media hype is largely to blame since Hollywood beauty is blond, tan, and stick thin; where celebrities are analyzed under a microscope in over the counter magazines as they gain or drop in weight, move in and out of rehab, or go from one relationship to the next. Sex is imperative, as their bodies (which should be bronzed and ‘perfect’) are displayed and their drooling teenage audience struggles to keep up with the latest trends and with what they see in the magazines as ‘beautiful’ regardless of how pictures have been altered and how unrealistic and unhealthy celebrity lifestyles are.
Women are objectified. That’s the notion we’ve been spoon fed since Elementary school. It’s a known fact that throughout history females have frequently been mistreated and underappreciated. Knowing this, it makes sense that women are more apt to change their appearance since they are in fact portrayed as objects (even in a “politically correct” society) through magazines, television shows, and movies. If an example is needed, just watch a 007 movie. The women that the protagonist, James Bond, encounters are scantily clad bimbos who usually euphemistically run off with him at the end of each film; as if they exist only as trophies that Bond earns in the end for defeating the villain.
The coupling of unrealistic American “beauty” with the objectification of women in widespread media makes for a messy end. Women, who have lived their entire lives as a figurative object of sex appeal don’t know how to live their lives as a normal human being. Continuing to apply excessive amounts of makeup and swarming to tanning booths, our society will be unable to cope with a generation of elderly people who refuse to leave their teenage years behind.