We all know, theoretically, that standards and conventions for beauty are a load of crap, but that point was driven home from me today. I was idly searching for ideas for how to wear two different colors of lipstick at once. A Buzzfeed post called “17 Easy Ways To Make Your Lips Look Perfect” popped up. Column 1, Row 2 of “Borrowed” Image #13 (originally via Vintage Make-Up Guides) gave me pause.
A Cupid’s bow can be toned down with foundation. Trace prettier lipline with stick.
If you watch or read make-up tutorials or know something about beauty, you will immediately recognize how bizarre that statement is.
If you don’t, the Google results for “Cupid’s bow” speak for themselves. The image results are all positive portrayals. The page results include an article that claims that women with Cupid’s bows are more sensual than the “cold fish” women who don’t have them, Pinterest boards replete with admiration for the feature, one YouTube and two text tutorials on how to create the illusion of one (perhaps with the help of another result: a product specifically designed to enhance it), and even a whole beauty site named after the humble tubercle. The image I found was advising creating a “prettier lipline” by obscuring a Cupid’s bow with foundation while everyone else seems to be trying to play it up.
Although most people will try to say that beauty standards are based on things that “everyone knows” or that are “objective fact,” the only thing that is objective fact is just how arbitrary the basis for beauty standards can be. One person’s much-desired feature is another’s flaw to be “corrected.”
I have to admit I was especially annoyed because my Cupid’s bow is one of my few features about which I feel unadulterated pride, since it seems to be almost universally sought-after. Stumbling on that image reminded me that there is no such thing as an unchanging and universal standard of beauty for even a single, specific facial feature. Self-confidence based on ever-shifting societal standards of beauty, then, is fragile by definition as well as a reinforcement of beauty standards as a whole — and who would want that?
Certainly not me. I can carry on liking my Cupid’s bow just as I like other visual features of mine rather than thinking of it as some kind of special, socially-blessed bit that somehow elevates my status.