Voluptuous Twig This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

January 4, 2012
I inhale and exhale the coffee tinged air of Barnes and Noble methodically. Sipping the foam from my skinny vanilla latte, I peruse the wall of magazines in front of me. Scanning them left to right, I see identical celebrity smiles on every cover, similar color schemes and layouts, and even synonymous headlines. Among this sea of conformity I spot a few black sheep; a section of over-sized, edgy, new-age type publications. My eyes fix on a particularly colorful eleven by seventeen inch periodical called V Magazine. The bold block letters across the front read: THE TRANSFORMATION ISSUE.
V Magazine produces six issues annually, and while it strives to be unique and cutting edge, it has one major similarity to the expanse of others on either side. Not a single woman, among hundreds in editorial spreads, has thighs, hips, a belly, or arms. They may appear to be fully constructed upon first glance, but a closer examination reveals the bent stirring straws they balance on in lieu of legs, the hip bones instead of hips they clutch between fragile fingers, a concave piece of metal under barely their breasts, and two flimsy tree roots sprouting, then wilting, from jutting shoulders. We are supposed to believe that these women, who would look positively ill in any other setting, are not dying, but graceful, light, ethereal; this is what beauty is supposed to look like. This is what a woman is supposed to look like.
Pictures of twenty-four year old “women,” encased in the shells of fourteen year old boys, paper the walls of teenage girl’s bedrooms. Music video dancers and pin-up girls show that tiny waists, big boobs, and wide hips are the way to get men salivating, but, simultaneously, rib bones and sharp elbows are apparent in most Victoria’s Secret ads, a company with a name synonymous to “sexy”. These days being the ideal is more than impossible, it is indistinguishable. How is a woman supposed to be a voluptuous twig? Tina Fey said it flawlessly when she observed the contradicting standards of beauty: "Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass[...]the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits.” Every girl is also expected to appear confident, but not conceited, witty, but not impudent, and have just the right amount of curiosity to seem interesting, but not naïve.
Who whispers what is attractive in the public’s ear? How is the world supposed to know what turns it on? Who wrote the guidelines for how big a girl’s ass should be before it compensates for her unfortunate nose? It would appear as though each individual answers those questions based on their own particular sentiments, but personal opinion frequently melds into Western ideals, making it virtually impossible to judge anything without society’s influence. Why are tiny, useless feet, bound for twenty years, beautiful to some, yet repulsive to others? Why do men in certain areas of Africa and Asia covet the women with the highest number of gold coils around her neck? Cultural ideals prove that beauty is not always in the eye of a single beholder, but an entire society.

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