The singer of the group The Gossip, Beth Ditto, is often lauded for her feminist beliefs and her bold, unapologetic display of herself physically. She's very heavyset in size, chooses not to shave her arm pits and dresses in tight-fitting and provocative clothes. This goes against the traditional standard of beauty and beauty etiquette applied to women. As a large and unshaved woman, she is not supposed to partake in the beauty ritual. She must adapt to other modes of expression or deny her appearance altogether as appealing since it is seen mainstream views as a handicap to her being able to assert power through beauty...as a woman.
Beth Ditto is also lesbian and after thinking for a bit, I thought perhaps she can dispossess herself of much of the pressure to fit into society's beauty ideal because of this fact. I think all humans beings want to be desirable and pleasing to others regardless of motivations of sexual orientation because at the core, it's about being accepted and liked, which all humans beings have a desire to be on some level, however, that desire to be accepted and liked is further fractured and detailed by our sexual orientation. Our desire to be liked then becomes shaped by whom we are trying to appeal to sexually, even if it is not towards a particular individual...more likely a symbolic category.
It has been expressed that female to female attraction is not based strongly on looks as much as it is between male to female and/or male to male connections and modes of courtship, because the male component is missing in the former and men are said to be more driven by visual stimulation. This doesn't mean that women aren't (either straight, bi or gay) visual or that some aren't as visual, it is just thought that men on average (either gay or straight) will place a higher premium on sexual attraction defined through looks first and foremost...at least initially. This can be a debate in itself.
Anyway, going back to Beth Ditto, I wonder if she'd be as bold and expressive in the proclamation and expression of her beauty if she was straight. There is a lot more to lose when women denounce their beauty and accept their form of beauty or define their beauty in a way that is not congruent to established and popular beauty standards. Many cannot stand alone and the desire to be liked then has to be overridden if this is to be accomplished. This means that you have to then develop a foundation of self-acceptance that isn't inspired mainly through or shaken by how others see you but at the same time, as a human being, you still need praise and positive confirmation from others in a healthy and natural context.
Again this is very difficult to do because there is much social repercussion and marginality that one can face for not adhering to social expectations...and you walk a fine line between being mostly self-defining to build self-esteem/individuality and then wondering if you are still allowing yourself to be defined by others in a destructive context.
It can be argued that heterosexual women wish to appeal to other heterosexual women, but I feel this is mainly in a competitive and social context, which further validates the ultimate target: men. Even it if can't be articulated or understood well, I think many heterosexual women intuitively understand that beauty is a source or power and a strong factor in determining how feminine they feel and appear to others (especially men) and their femininity is often tied to self-worth and essence.
So if a woman is seen as attractive to another woman in a heterosexual context, then she often inspires a mix of emotions: intimidation, envy, praise and/or respect even. This is one reason why we see more women in magazines such as Cosmopolitan (a magazine targeted to straight women generally) than men (which is the aim for straight women). However, in men's magazines, you generally see more women than men in photos to appeal to the male readers. You don't often see men on the cover of men's magazine unless it is a health, fashion or sports magazine. This is something to consider.