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Feminspire | April 24, 2014

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The Trouble With Tanning: Why Needing a “Natural Glow” is Bullshit

The Trouble With Tanning: Why Needing a “Natural Glow” is Bullshit

| On 13, Aug 2013

Oh, how society loves to toy with our female minds. We’re supposed to be thin but not too thin, we’re supposed to be sexy but never too sexy, we’re supposed to wear high heels but not the kind that make you look like a “street walker,” and in the last few years, it’s been decided (mainly according to the media, specifically women’s fashion and beauty magazines) that we should have a “healthy, sun-kissed glow” if we want to look our best.

Well, newsflash, women’s media: This so-called “healthy glow” is pretty damn hard to achieve, since the majority of us cannot afford those ridiculously expensive self-tanners (the ones that, supposedly, actually work), and those of us who go to school or work full-time jobs typically don’t have enough time to bask in the sun outdoors (with proper lotion, of course!). Thus, tanning beds may seem like a the only alternative, even though most publications warn against them! And it’s somewhat ironic (or perhaps, hypocritical) when you think about it, because the same mediums are telling us to be tan if we want to look good, but also that we shouldn’t do anything unsafe or take it too far — be tan but only in our specific way!

Countless women’s publications also love to ask the question, “Do men prefer tan women?” And the male consensus is generally something along the same lines of what the magazines have been providing with their statements on how it’s best to acquire (or lather on) that “radiant glow.” Most men that these publications “survey” will usually respond with something like, “I prefer women with a nice, natural-looking tan, not the kind that looks orange, or like they’re trying too hard.” And this is problematic for several reasons.

For starters, it shouldn’t matter if certain men consider tanner women to be more attractive than pale women — this is just playing into the idea that we need to cater our appearances to what men find desirable. But what’s also troublesome is the fact that, once again, even though this is suggesting we learn how to get a “healthy” tan, it’s still implying that tan skin looks better, and indirectly leads women to use harmful tanning beds or spend ridiculous amounts of money on tanning lotions in order to pursue some elusive beauty “ideal.”

Tan MomThere is also a really frustrating stigma that comes with being a “too tan” female. “She looks like an Oompa Loompa” or “She’s tanorexic” are things we’ve all probably overheard at one point or another. And as I mentioned in my post about “crazy bitches,” it’s never cool to make a play off a word that is fundamentally associated with a serious illness. It has also been suggested that tanning can be addictive, so either way, let’s stop using that word to make fun of people for being “too tan,” shall we?

Or even better, why don’t we stop making fun of girls for being “too tan” entirely? “She tries way too hard” is another idea that often gets attributed to girls and women who look “unnaturally” tan, but when the media is constantly telling us that we need to be tan in order to look and feel good, why are we condemning women for attempting to follow suit?

Anyway, reinforcing that tanned skin will give you confidence or make you appear thinner,or whatever else they’ve come up with is just plain shallow and stupid. There’s nothing wrong with trying new things or wanting to better yourself in some aspect, but it is wrong when those ideas come from societal compulsion. Surely many people enjoy getting a tan in the summer or on vacation. But no one, especially impressionable young girls, should ever have to feel as though they need to be tan in order to look good. And it’s society’s influence that should receive a bad reputation, not the girls who tan compulsively.

Written By Nicole Woszczyna

  • Charmlessblur

    Good article! Very true! Well…I’m with you…who gives a crap what men want? I try and just do whatever makes me feel good (and I try and leave what the media says I need to do to feel good out of it)!

  • Kaitlin

    The irony.

  • Kaitlyn

    I don’t believe that a “healthy glow” exists. At least not for me. I’m so pale that my only option is a sunburn.

    It also boggles my mind that white women are encouraged to be as tan as possible, yet women of color are encouraged to be as white as possible. Just leave us alone and let us be the color we are! Jeez.

    • Gaia

      Also, we’re encouraged to get a tan, but then get dissed for ”getting wrinkles early on”. A woman can’t win, huh?

  • lianeandthemusic

    I’m pale as a ghost, and while I definitely get my fair share of people telling me I ought to try tanning, I’ve never had a man tell me that he would absolutely not date me because I’m too fair. From what I’ve experienced, it seems like it’s the media trying to convince women to shell out money for something men don’t notice and/or care about. I have had guys tell me I’d look great with a tan, but most of the time, I get it from women.

  • Amorita Couret

    It´s kind of ironic how the idea of “fashionable tan” was born from the late creator of the brand “Chanel”, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.
    In her time, she fought with the idea of women wearing tiny, dangerous corsets and introduced many comfortable alternatives to women formal wear; And so, she introduced the idea of a tanned skin as an alternative to the normative pale skin of the time.
    She used her influence as a designer to encourage women to get outside, ride a bike, get comfortable and feel beautiful with themselves, even if they were the kind to get tanned easily.
    Of course, the idea of ” a tan makes your face features look better” was rather avant-garde at HER time; today, media has overused this idea to the point of making it a way to make women feel bad about themselves, either if they obey it or not.

  • Kaitlin

    That’s so strange, I haven’t ever searched for tanning……

    • Heather Hancock

      It’s not *solely* based on your searches, though it is content-aware. It also goes of tags for pages you’re looking at. :)

  • Lindsay

    I work in a tanning salon part-time and there are many health benefits to indoor tanning *it is controlled UVA/UVB exposure *vitamin D..etc..etc, Do i believe you need a tan to be beautiful?? NO!!!! To each their own is my motto nowadays. I can see both sides of this issue. Media making it damn-near impossible to be perceived as ‘beautiful’ unless you follow steps a,b,and c to a T…but also women wanting to be free to be fair, or tanned, or ‘glowing’ whatever their personal preference may be. As long as the reasons are for yourself and not how others will perceive you, then why not?!

  • Tarklovishki

    Everything in society marketed toward a woman seems to have a double-edged sword effect to it. Women are never allowed to be happy with themselves. If we’re not upset and insecure, then we MUST be arrogant and boastful. We’re never allowed to win in any scenario unless we truly fight for it … and then we’re just mad, psycho feminist bitches.

    I’m pasty but I have the tendency to burn easy, so I do have a tan particularly on my shoulders where I burn the most. In January, I suffered a first degree sunburn and couldn’t sleep the way I wanted to without being in extreme agony. So, yeah. I’m going to keep my pasty complexion. I’m going to keep out of the sunlight as much as I possibly can without having it endanger my health.

    What I hate, also, is that every time I look at them, women of colour seem to be getting whiter. I hate the fact that to be “popular” and “successful” they have to basically whiten themselves up. It sickens me that people actually have to do that. Like we can’t just accept them with the skin colour they’re born with. Society has to change them so that they’re “acceptable”.

    I’ve heard people say that it’s hard to relate to black celebrities, or even like them. I want to smack those people in the mouth. It’s not hard to relate to people of colour, in fact it’s just as easy as relating to a white person.

    Ugh, I’m trying to be articulate with my opinions but I feel like a mass of angry anger and I’m probably going to ‘afbghrthjrejthtr’ all over the place if I don’t end this soon.