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The aesthetic violence: a new form of violence against women


socióloga Esther Pineda G

Traditionally, when we speak about violence against women, we frequently put our attention primarily on physical, psychological and verbal abuse of a woman from a man with whom she is in a coupled relationship. However, in our modern society there is a violence that has reached tremendous proportions and is costing many women their lives with little attention paid to its victims.
The violence of which I speak is the aesthetic demand, which is a psychological violence that has a physical effect on women, that is to say, it impacts their objectivity of their own bodies in a society that establishes beauty as a matter of identity and feminine value. That is to say, their value as a woman is in their beauty.
This aesthetic violence begins by defining, in an arbitrary way, with models and patterns of established cultural imperialism, through the mass media and the fashion industry, music, cosmetics marketing, glorification of “perfect” bodies—which are nothing more than a fiction conceived as ideals, as a pattern to follow and under which women are declared “imperfect” by this particular criteria which forces women to suppress themselves and constantly correct themselves.
This aesthetic violence is also part of the patriarchal system in which men de-value the natural state of a feminine body and embrace standards allowing themselves critical assessments inherent in the system and which husbands, fathers, friends, boyfriends, brothers all promote, surrounding a woman with the message that she must transform her body in order to look more attractive or suffer the shame of reduced worth if she does not look like a mannequin of beautiful face and perfect measurements, as promised by the marketplace.
Aesthetic violence is exercised through unscrupulous doctors, endangering women’s health. Doctors who see women as clients, not patients, as business and who perform surgeries and introduce unsafe and prohibited substances into women under inadequate conditions and in dangerously unclean facilities, with poor instruments, expired medications without informing them of the dangers, without letting them assess the risks. This is medical violence against women and it compromises the saferty and health of women.
This is fundamentally a violence that women exercise upon themselves as they evaluate and value the criteria thrust upon them by the capitalist market that has commercialized their bodies. Women submit to these unnecessary invasive surgeries, starve themselves, all through the tyranny perpetuated against them under which the expected social aesthetic is established by society.
This aesthetic violence is one that erases a woman’s identity as they push themselves into a mold imposed upon them that goes against their body, their weight, their features and slowly erases them.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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KathyG's picture

Thank you

The subject of violence against women is so encompassing. Thank you for speaking to this aspect as well. These insecurities born of an early age stay with women throughout their lives affecting how they feel about themselves and how they interact in relationships; spending way too much time worrying about how to look more attractive than living their lives. It's easy to get sucked into. Part of the solution is being good role models to our children of accepting and respecting ourselves. Gracias por su voz!

Katharina's picture

Dear Esther, As Kathy wrote

Dear Esther,
As Kathy wrote above, it really is an extremely valid point you bring up here when we talk about violence against women. Being better in shape, thinner, more beautiful and more attractive is definitely something that is omnipresent in so many societies. There are tons of stories from my immediate community, it is something we talk about a lot and even though we all know that the images of women portrayed in fashion magazines or the TV are photoshoped and unnaturally enhanced, it still causes some degree of self-doubt. Not sure, if I'm making any sense here, but I hope you understand what I'm trying to get at.
I'd really like to hear more of your thoughts and observations on that topic.
Warm regards! Katharina

Kara-Amena's picture

Well said!

Dear Esther,

What a powerful article! I wonder why some girls and women are more affected by this than others. When my children were younger, we did not subscribe to cable t.v. The only things they could watch were pre-recorded movies and documentaries. It was not part of any master plan - it just happened. What we didn't realize was how much we were protecting them from advertising and the exact things you described. I have seen and experienced the detrimental effects of our biased media. People's minds are being manipulated. I am listening to a series of lectures right now called "Your Deceptive Mind" and it discusses how our minds are programmed to be biased - based on what we have each been exposed to. We easily jump to erroneous conclusions, make judgements without listening to the facts. We are not naturally critical thinkers, we have to force ourselves to think critically. All of these human weaknesses make us perfect victims to the violence you describe.

Do you have any suggestions for ways to combat this problem??

Thanks so much for sharing. It was a very thought-provoking piece.


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