I am going to talk about the word perfect because I believe it is one worth pondering. How many people do you know are self-described “perfectionists”? How many people strive towards an ideal of perfection without really having an idea of what it looks like? Sure, they might how their own prescription of what perfect looks like in their life, but can a person ever actually quantify and qualify the concept of perfection?
Of course not! It is impossible to qualify what perfection is and simultaneously what imperfection is. For, imperfection cannot exist without perfection and vice versa. The good news is that if there is no way to even qualify either of these concepts, there is no need to fret about them.
And, then everyone lived happily ever after without stressing over and developing ulcers because of their perceived imperfections, right???
Wrong. The truth is that the aesthetics and temperaments of the culture we live in stress perfection daily. Thus, arbitrary or not, a standard of perfection is impressed in our cultural consciousness and it exists in correlation with an attitude of deterministic individualism in which people are the makers of their own success, happiness, and everything in between. Unfortunately, a standard of perfection functions in relation to appearance; not simply in the realm of physicality, but also materially and professionally.
I know, I know. I might seem like Miss Doom and Gloom, but believe me, I am trying to convey some hope! If we can realize that perfection is nothing more than a mythological theme, then we can recognize the arbitrary nature of its language. When we recognize how the language is more of a deceptive marketing tactic, then people can maybe take it a little less seriously; with the understanding that it is not real!
The notion of perfection is a simultaneous ego-boosting and inferiority-producing proposition.
Let us look at the way perfectionism is entangled in the language of a competitive society. Toothpaste ads make a person look weak and ugly if their teeth are a little too yellow; they certainly will not find love. Car commercials brag about how much one can break the speed-limit in a shiny new automobile, somehow not get pulled over and given a ticket all while becoming a better socialite. Need I even mention how Victoria Secret advertisements on television, in magazines, on billboards, etc. compound and capitalize on women’s learned insecurities?
There might not even be a market for these products if advertisements did not strive to convince people there is something wrong with them that can only be fixed by a certain body type, clothing, acne cream, booty bops, cars, and even houses.
Without a feeling of lacking, we would not be incited to buy products that we are convinced give us a little more superiority. As long as people believe they are imperfect, they will continue to purchase products and engage in behaviors that keep them striving towards an impossible ideal of perfection.
It is hard to gain something that does not exist!
Buying into a myth of perfection is an economic venture.
A desire for perfection is capitalized in the realm of female beauty.
In The Beauty Myth, feminist Naomi Wolf writes:
“The rise in women’s magazines was brought about by large investments of capital combined with increased literacy and purchasing power of lower-middle and working-class women: The democratization of beauty had begun”(William Morrow and Co. 62).
Here, Wolf refers to the period in the 1860’s and 1870’s when our country started to see more advancements for women. Wolf mentions that it was during this time that a wave of women’s magazines immerged, promoting domesticity and Betty Crocker homemaking skills. Thus, the image of the ideal woman in the kitchen was simultaneous to advancements in careers, governmental influence, etc.
A similar situation happened in the 1950’s after World War II when women gained advancements in the job force when men went off to war (Wolf 64). Women in the workforce boosted the economy and when men started to take jobs back from them, industries feared the economic losses they would endure without the purchasing power of women.
According to Wolf, women’s magazines pushed harder to gain the purchasing power of women in home and beauty markets by creating and manufacturing images of ideal domesticized and beautiful women (64-65). Wolf’s main point is that along with advancement, came a marketed, arbitrary, and pressurized beauty myth that pinned women in a strict set of expectations in regards to their both their physical and material appearance. In the 1960’s, the second wave of the women’s movement began, during which women began to speak out against these expectations.
“As soon as women of the 1960’s spoke up, the media took on the dreamwork demanded by the vital lie of the time, and trained the beauty myth against women’s appearance” (68).
In other words, you can be brave, courageous, independent, and intelligent, but damnit if you are not perfectly beautiful, you will fail against all odds. When you speak too much truth, you will be subjected to criticism about your appearance in an attempt to deflect from your threatening intellectualism. Magazines and other forms of marketing will continue to convince you of all possible imperfections.
Again, this is only an attempt to keep women in the kitchen and keep buying the products and striving for an ideal look that make us baby dolls.
The good news is that we know perfection is not real.
We know the idea of perfection only exists in an imaginary realm. There is no proof in the pudding when it comes to perfection in appearance, material gain, in how upscale our living environment is, etc.
Women tend to be handed down an idea of perfection in the context of Naomi Wolf’s explanation of a beauty myth. They are at least taught to strive for it.
This is a paradox that cannot be undone as long as women continue to buy into the media-infused notion that there are imperfections that can be fixed with just the right products and appearance.
And, this is the point that I have been stressing throughout my blog: if women continue to seek solace and protection in physicality and appearance-based obsessions, the cycle of chasing unachievable perfection will only continue to haunt them. If women as a group were to keep buying into the idea that there is something about ourselves in need of repair, the falsification of womanly perfection will continue to make us miserable and always searching for an endless bottom.
So, if we can just know that perfection in the material, physical, and superficial realm is nothing more than marketing tactic meant to keep women emotionally and spiritually repressed, we can more easily see it for what it is and laugh in its face.