The toxicity of beauty standards
Societal expectations of women are unhealthy and unrealistic
November 15, 2019
In the world today, see different ad campaigns and TV personalities that show completely unrealistic beauty standards. These expectations are detrimental to a woman’s self-esteem and can push them to make questionable decisions when it comes to their own unique selves. Society’s beauty standards need to embrace all women.
Today, society is heavily influenced by what we see in the media. Many TV shows and movies cast beautiful, fit women who seem perfect in the eyes of young teenagers. According to a Mirror Mirror article titled “Body Image of Women,” most content uses “thin-ideal” media, which is defined as images, TV shows and movies that feature thin female leads. Body shape is something that a majority of women struggle with, as many believe their size is too big, too curvy or even too skinny.
A NEDA article titled “Body Image and Eating Disorders” states that 40-60% of elementary school aged girls are concerned about their weight. This problem starts at a young age and follows a woman her whole life. The unfeasible body standards can lead to eating disorders and mental health problems. The same article states that over half of teenage girls skip meals, fast, smoke cigarettes, vomit and take laxatives in order to control their weight. These actions become habits and can develop into these psychological conditions.
According to the Eating Recovery Center overview of health risks for these disorders, there is a possibility of organ damage, developmental delays, and death. Those with these diseases also have a higher chance of committing suicide. Negative body image is created by what women see around them, which can lead to succumbing to these risks. Most girls are guilty of looking in the mirror and not liking what they see. In this society, there is a need to realize that all body types are acceptable.
Many brands don’t allow certain models for their campaign for different reasons. An example of this is the controversy that occurred with Victoria’s Secret in 2018. According to the Cosmopolitan article “Why I’m calling BS on Victoria’s Secret’s total lack of plus-size models in their ‘diverse’ 2018 show” while the brand did include different races in their show, not one of the 52 models featured was plus-sized. This show is a highly viewed event and women want to see someone on the screen that represents how they look, not how they “should” look.
An incredible advocate in body positivity is the artist Lizzo. She is a proud feminist and shares the message that big is beautiful. Lizzo is a strong personality that stands up for everyone, which makes her an inspiring role model to many kids. As an influential artist, she promotes loving oneself no matter what they look like. Young people now are growing up in a more inclusive and accepting environment. Because of this, there is a promising future of the media portraying all different types of people that represent our diversity for kids today.
It doesn’t stop with size either, lack of diversity is also a problem. A Los Angeles Times article titled “UCLA diversity report finds women and minorities still underrepresented in film and TV,” a study taken at the University of California at Los Angeles this year found that in a sample of 167 films, people of color only made up 19.8% of film leads. This factors into beauty standards because people base what they want to look like on stars they see in lead roles. Leaving minorities out makes those individuals feel that they don’t fit society’s idea of beauty. It’s sad to see that even though there’s been progress, there are groups of people that are still being left out and underrepresented.
Social media also portrays these beauty standards heavily. There has been a rise of girls who specifically use their platform to become “Instagram models.” These girls fit all of society’s expectations of attractiveness. Most of these “models” are tan and super skinny with perfect skin and facial features. It’s hard to scroll through Instagram without seeing a girl that fits this description. A Medium article “New study shows impact of social media on beauty standards” explains that the brand Dove took a survey of 1,027 women between the ages of 18 and 64, and 25% claimed their conception of beauty was shaped by social media. 78% of the women surveyed felt that the portrayal of women on these platforms is unrealistic. The rise of social media has given yet another platform for these criteria of women.
These standards can cause people to go to lengths to achieve the face or body they want. Plastic surgery use has been rapidly increasing. People see stars like Angelina Jolie or Kylie Jenner setting trends for plump lips and decide they want to change themselves to fit that description. According to an Attn article titled “How Plastic Surgery Is Changing What It Means to Be Beautiful” botox procedures alone have increased by 759% since 2000. The issue with plastic surgery is that there is the risk of the procedures being botched, which can be unhealthy for the person’s body. The Mayo Clinic’s overview of cosmetic surgery states that with plastic surgery there is risk of complications from anesthesia, infection at the surgery site, fluid build up under the skin, bleeding, scarring and nerve damage. Women would not be in danger of these complications if it weren’t for the beauty standards that push them to get these surgeries.
Procedures to use weight such as CoolSculpting, freezing fat, and Zerona, a fat-contouring laser treatment, have been becoming more popular to achieve a skinnier shape. It’s upsetting that women are willing to go to lengths to change their own beauty to fit what society wants.
The only way this is going to change is if society begins to open their minds to different types of beauty besides the ones that are expected. All races, body shapes, hairstyles and stretch marks should be socially acceptable. Moving forward and away from the outdated beauty standards is essential. Doing this will give all women the confidence they need to be themselves without fear of judgement. The future is bright, but we need to branch out and be accepting of everyone in order to make the progress needed.