“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” is

“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” is a parody of the conventional love sonnet that questions society’s standards of beauty. Not only does Shakespeare use sonnet 130 to satirize love sonnets, but also to criticize the unrealistic expectations that society has for female beauty. The speaker of the poem describes his mistress is in a genuine and honest way, expressing his infatuation for her in negative comparisons with nature. For example, he notes that her eyes are “nothing like the sun,” (1) and the color of her lips and breasts are dull compared to the red of coral and the whiteness of snow. Traditional love sonnets often embellish and misrepresent the lover by comparing them to the beauty of a goddess or nature. In contrast, the speaker acknowledges his mistress’ imperfections since she is only human. He sees her as rare and remarkable in her own comparison and not in “false compare” (14). Thus, the poem suggests that love does not need this vanity to be real, and women do not need to achieve unrealistic standards of beauty in order to be beautiful.As I read this sonnet, the concept of society’s obsession with looks and high beauty standards is a characteristic of the poem that I can easily relate to. In the poem, the speaker spends a lot of the poem talking about what’s wrong with his mistress’s appearance, yet he doesn’t say anything at all about her personality. The familiarity of this situation resonates with me. Like it or not, I am being judged by how I look, how I dress, and how I carry myself by classmates, friends, strangers, etc.. Today, society’s unrealistic standards of beauty is heavily felt with the strong influence of the media. As a young woman, I affirm that these standards are very powerful. Everyday, I am surrounded by these beauty icons whether it be through advertisements, movies and, of course, social media. As I see these images, I feel pressured to look like these celebrities in order to be beautiful. As a result of this desire to fit into a very narrow definition of what is beautiful, I have experienced body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and eating disorders in a vicious cycle. For me, it started out with the goal of losing a few pounds by eating less in grade 9. But slowly, I began to restrict certain foods, which led to counting calories and other dieting tricks. This one goal soon became an unhealthy obsession. Moreover, I find the prevalence of this obsession with appearance astonishing; it has even become a standard conversation topic among my friends. Unfortunately, as I grow older, the list of my insecurities only seems to grow. Likewise, in the poem, the speaker lists all of his mistress’s flaws which illustrates how she far from “perfection” she is. Essentially, the speaker in this poem is pointing out that love sonnets also retain a very narrow definition, as it makes women into goddesses over human beings. Whereas conventional love sonnets make their women into goddesses, the speaker is amused by his own attempt to describe his mistress as imperfect. To illustrate, the speaker states, “I grant I never saw a goddess go / My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.” (11-12).However, the speaker’s lighthearted, satirical tone suggests that these conventional standards of beauty are questionable, perhaps even wrong. So, what actually defines beauty? Who creates society’s beauty standards that we seem to desperately strive for? ¬†As a Chinese-Canadian, I experience pressures from both western and oriental standards of beauty. These expectations are often contrasting, and as a result, I feel torn. Western culture values the aesthetic of a tall, tan, slender but busty woman, with a small waist paired atop a perky butt. Meanwhile, Chinese culture values pale, porcelain skin, large eyes, and slim figures. Although the standard of beauty may differ around the world, it is something we endlessly strive for in order to be attractive. Overall, the poem suggests that the standards of beauty and femininity in our society shouldn’t rely upon fitting into an abstract, unattainable illusion.

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