We get conflicting orders from society.
There is of course, the basic "be pretty, be thin, be fashionable, get married, punch out babies", which is - when you get down to it - survival mechanisms. the human animal wants to breed; they seek out a mate they will be likely to breed with to ensure the passing on of their DNA. What is considered 'appealing' varies from culture to culture, and from time period to time period. While women are no longer programmed to be utterly dependant on a male companion in order to survive or have any semblance of a normal life, the mechanisms are still there due to the fact that such was the case, not too long ago. This all-consuming need to be attractive has the nasty side effect of people who flock to places like pro_anorexia. Girls will do anything to be that ideal, perfect nymph that they sincerely believe society wants them to be, and that they have convinced themselves they need to be. It is not necessarily their families teaching them this. Their families can say "you are beautiful", but Vogue and Elle glamorize the waif in clothing no one can afford and women's magazines everywhere herald "Learn to Love Your Body" just pages away from "Drop Those Last 10 lbs!". The media uses sex to sell everything (hey, it works!), which results in breasts and beautiful faces on every page, on every commercial, in every movie. Whether realized or not, the standard of beauty (something maybe 1% of women can achieve naturally) is quite firmly imprinted on the minds of even young girls. Perhaps especially young girls. The scariest thing I think I've ever heard was my younger sister at age 5, playing with her dolls. She turned to me and said she wanted to be like Barbie when she grew up. Eyebrow raised, I asked her why. "Because," she said as though it were obvious. "She's pretty, she's blond, and everyone likes her." I have been told that men don't necessarily look for the 'skinny blond model'-type of women right out. Perhaps they don't. That doesn't change the fact that girls think they do. That it sure as hell seems like they do. And so we have women inwardly scowling, cursing their reflection every time they walk past a mirror. We have push-up bras and plastic surgery, makeup and hair dye, all designed to make us look what we have internalized as our version of 'beautiful'. 'Acceptable'. 'Desireable'.
On the other hand, particularly in recent years, there has been an undercurrent of 'acceptance'. Taking special care to acknowledge female authors, artists, and musicians. A call for beauty of all forms to be more accepted. Special care taken to avoid gender stereotyping in younger children. Women being emphasized more in sports. Pushing 'plus-sized' women into the media and into the spotlight, trying to battle all the old stereotypes of the weak, gentle, timid, and horribly bland June Cleaver clone that everyone seems to think all women are raised to be. There's a push by concerned parents everywhere, shocked by the rise in eating disorders and suicides, to assure their little girls that they are all right; that it's okay to do as they feel. They don't have to be 'sugar and spice and everything nice' if they don't damn well feel like it. So in addition to the stereotypical "femi-nazi", we get a bit over-the-top with the "be yourself" brand of feminism. It's not women who hate men, it's simply a very strong, somewhat desperate-looking push to get women to realize wait, we're human. We have flaws. It's allowed.
A balance between the two is rare, but truly wonderful to behold. It breeds strong women who like themselves, are pretty confident in their endeavors, aware of their faults, and are not afraid to laugh at themselves when they realize they have fallen into the extreme end of the stereotypes. I am fortunate enough to have encountered women like this, and I admire them tremendously. Unfortunately, the search for a balance also tends to produce the neurotics, bulimics, and self-injurers who can't find it. Some of them realize they are having trouble adjusting what's in their head with what is supposed to be true and can pull themselves out of it, others just feel that something is horribly, terribly wrong - and that it must be them. They starve, they purge, they cut, they burn, they punish themselves for the crime of existing.
I also thought this was interesting:
"Without beauty a girl is unhappy because she has missed her chance to be loved. People do not jeer at her, but it is as if she were invisible - no eyes follow her as she walks. People feel uncomfortable when they are with her. They find it easier to ignore her." - Michel Houellebecq The Elementary Particles
Not necessarily true (name me one ugly girl who hasn't been jeered at), but worth thinking about.
*note: I make it sound like men have it easy. No, no no. I'm well aware that guys suffer, too. In many ways, as much as women; though it's presented slightly differently and results in many different reactions. It's just a hell of a lot more blatant with females, most of the time.