Craig Norman/The Gauntlet

Can it, covergirl

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Poor body image is one of the leading psychological hindrances to women's progression in modern society, which comes as no surprise considering the messages sent by most of today's influential social standard setters--specifically, popular fashion magazines. Beauty sections in these publications call attention to numerous minor imperfections, causing women to focus on their most minute flaws. This not only leads to distorted self-images, but also increases the likelihood that women will place more stock in their appearance than their intelligence.

For instance, the Cosmopolitan Web site contains 28 pages of beauty tips, including a page entitled "Cellulite Self-Help," as well as a page titled "Furry-Arm Alarm"--basically 28 reasons for women to hate their bodies. Cosmo, however, is not the only culprit of promoting poor body image.

Elle suggests the secret to looking great is merely correct posture. This sounds simple enough until "firm breasts", a "tight tummy," and "toned hips" are included in their list of posture pluses, even though posture is actually unrelated to any of these aspects of appearance. In the same article, Elle advises their readers that "there's no point in believing your legs look great in this season's must-have skirt length--when they don't." This insinuates that a girl requires a thin body, similar to that of the women who model this season's must-have skirt length, in order to look good in stylish attire.

While models are indisputably beautiful on some level, expecting all women to conform to the five-foot-eight, 115 lb image of perfection created by magazines through the use of such figures is unrealistic, not to mention unnecessary. According to Mademoiselle, the average woman is five-foot-four, weighs 138 lbs, wears a size 14, and measures 37-29-40--hardly the picture these magazines paint of what women should strive to become.

Beauty has become such an obsession among women that many consider their appearance to be the only determining point of their worth. Although more and more women are gaining recognition due to their intelligence, it remains ingrained in countless females' minds that to look like Cindy Crawford is to be successful. This is thanks to a society which, through magazines and TV shows, has taught women that super-model-gorgeous girls are the ones who get to join the cheerleading squad and date the captain of the football team--which to many young women is the definition of success.

One example is Marie Claire's attempt this month to encourage young women to be successful by attaining a highly influential position in government. Unfortunately, their idea of a highly influential government position is the First Lady. Why not president? Should the success of a woman really depend on the success of a man?

There are precious few magazines available to women that promote either intelligence as a means of success or realistic body images, and women are continually taken in by illusions of obtaining models' bodies and thoughts of dating attractive men. It is troubling to realize that not only do women willingly allow themselves to be influenced readily by the opinions of males, but they also seem to be more concerned with these opinions than they are with bettering themselves through the expansion of their minds.

Every student at the U of C has the world at their fingertips, and needs only to take advantage of the opportunity. Each woman alone can decide what will ultimately define her success--be it the perfect body, the perfect man, or a life filled with limitless possibilities, independence and dreams-come-true...