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Denunciation of beauty standards ill-founded

Dan Hicks | Tuesday, October 2, 2007

I was initially heartened to read Greg Yatrola’s column (“Anorexia and the devil,” Oct. 2) decrying the pernicious beauty standards our popular culture foists upon women. But I have to disagree profoundly with the basis he gives for his denunciations.

While Yatrola does point out the harm these standards do to women, this is not the central complaint of his piece. Rather, the real problem he sees with beauty standards is that they’re not his standards. Rather than judging women by how well they live up to the standards set by Maxim and Cosmo, he believes we should be judging women by how well they live up to the standards set by Greg Yatarola.

It’s true that Yatrola does not say this in so many words. He pretends to be speaking for (straight) “men generally” and a simplistic, biologically deterministic account of attraction. But women’s bodies do not belong to men, whether those bodies are to be admired as attractive objects from afar, used for sex or used for procreation. Women’s bodies belong to women, and it’s up to women to decide what they will do with their bodies.

Yatrola is no more entitled to decide the standards by which women are to be judged than are the editors of Maxim and Cosmo. Standards of beauty – any standards of beauty, whether those of Maxim or those of Greg Yatrola – used to discriminate between acceptable and unacceptable women are objectifying and pernicious. The only terms on which a women’s body should be judged are her own.

Dan Hicks

graduate student

off campus

Oct. 2