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Is Media Setting Unattainable Beauty Standards for Young Women?
“Looks don’t matter; beauty is only skin-deep.” “Everyone is beautiful, beauty is in the heart.” We hear these sayings every day, but we still live in a society that seems to challenge this very idea. If looks don’t matter, why does the media use airbrushing or Photoshop to hide any flaws a person has? There have been several complaints from celebrities who were unhappy that they were photoshopped so much that they looked far from reality. If looks don’t matter, why are so many young women starving themselves because they’re unhappy with the way they look? It’s because our society promotes a certain body image as being beautiful. The unrealistic standard of beauty that women are bombarded with every day gives them a goal that is impossible to reach, and the effects are devastating. These impossible standards need to be stopped, and society instead needs to promote a healthy body image along with the idea that women of all shapes and sizes are beautiful.
I’m living in a generation where cell phones and social media are practically like food and water for teenagers. Because of all the images and the ideal standard of “beauty” that is displayed on media, many teenagers(often young women) like to compare themselves with each other, and that’s where emotions like insecurity or simply feeling as if you’re not good enough begin to appear. To add on, I admit that I do sometimes obsess over the amount of “likes” and “followers” and I’m sure many other girls feel pressure from this as well because teenagers often like to compete in these specific areas. According to some research, I found out that it only takes thirty minutes of online exposure before a young woman begins feeling self-conscious about themselves. This is so shocking to me because I am usually exposed to about nine hours of media a day. Being from a Chinese descent, the beauty standards in Asia are also quite high. The ideal standard of beauty is a slim, tall body, fair pale skin, and double eyelids. Being very thin is a popular desire and there are even internet trends like the “A4 paper body challenge” where women would take pictures of their waist compared to a piece of A4 paper. This scares me a little because having a waist as wide as a piece of A4 paper is pretty unappealing to me. Additionally, when I visit my relatives they usually make fun of how tan I am from soccer and how much prettier I’d be if I had fair white skin. I think that body images should be displayed less or be more diverse. I’m living in a generation where cell phones and social media are practically like food and water for teenagers. Because of all the people that are displayed on media, many teenagers-often young women like to compare themselves, each other, and that just spreads negativity instead of positivity that we need.
There have also been many reports from previous models sharing their experience in the modeling industry and state how much pressure they had from the companies to be stick-thin. Thankfully, an Australian model named Rosie Nelson has been campaigning to force modeling agencies to look after every model’s physical and mental health, after her own experience where her agent wanted her "down to the bone." “I am old enough to know better, but if I had been 16, it would have been heartbreaking,” said Nelson last week. “It makes you feel horrible about yourself, knowing that you’re not OK the way you are. I was already eating mostly steamed vegetables and fruit, I wasn’t eating any sugar, avoiding dairy, avoiding just everything, really, and doing more than an hour of exercise every day. I didn’t feel good about myself. I was becoming a slave to achieving what they wanted me to do.” states Rosie, 23. Nelson achieved almost 114,000 signatories last week after handing her petition to Downing Street, appealing for policymakers to demand regular health checks for models who, she says, “are becoming anorexic and doing drastic things to get ahead. There really isn’t any reason why they can’t adapt to having healthier-looking girls of more diversity and more range.” The fashion and modeling industries need to start taking responsibility for the "ideal figures" they are holding up to the wider range of models in the world. Several countries like Spain and France are trying to keep models at a healthy weight instead of anorexically thin(Kay, Karen).
In 2018, it’s very common for teenagers to engage in media(TV, Social Networks). In fact, according to a study in 2015 by Common Sense Media, teens spend nine hours on an average day on watching media like movies, television, social media sites. Kids like to be active on social media and are very concerned with how often they need to post every day(Davis, Cameron). They almost feel as if it’s mandatory to present what’s been happening every day to the public eye. In result, every like and comment gets tallied up and used as competition. Social Media can be dangerous because for somewhat starts as a fun way to document and share experiences can turn into an obsession that can ruin one’s self-image. New stats and studies are just beginning to determine the effects of social media on the way kids view themselves. A Common Sense survey called Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image found that many teens who are active online fret about how they're perceived, and that girls are particularly vulnerable:
35 percent are worried about people tagging them in unattractive photos.
27 percent feel stressed about how they look in posted photos.
22 percent felt bad about themselves if their photos were ignored (Knorr, Caroline).
I think that media is setting unrealistic beauty standards for young women. One thing that could lead to is body dissatisfaction. Research has shown that media has a negative impact on girl's self-esteem and that unhealthy messages such as needing to have a thigh gap and a flat stomach. All these messages about body image on media lead to disordered eating behaviors, such as restricting food, binging, and purging. These behaviors develop because of these teens thinking that they need to look like and obtain these unattainable body types(Davis, Cameron).
One of the biggest and unhealthy "ideal" image that social media preserves are female celebrities that are tall, white, and thin. This is not good for girls from different ethnicities or girls who struggle with weight issues because they might feel as if they are not good enough as the stereotypes. A study held in 2015 by Laura Romo focused on a group of Mexican American females and a discussion on their view of body image and the media. Most of the girls agreed that being thin was the ideal beauty of media shown in movies, TV, ads.. they still feel pressured of reflecting this mainstream images. A 16-year-old girl in the focus group said “in white culture basically you just have to be skinny. Because you see it on TV, you see it in magazines, you see it everywhere. Everywhere you go, you basically hear that you are supposed to be like that.” If this is what girls of color are seeing in the media, you can imagine how that affects their own body image(Davis, Cameron).
Despite all the negativity that media has portrayed on young women, there are has been a spread of body positivity. For example, Dove’s beauty campaign features women of all shapes and sizes in their advertisements. The rest of media should really begin to follow Dove’s footsteps and put a stop to body shaming. Instead of focusing on a person’s weight and a certain look to meet the ideal standard of beauty, we should promote healthy lifestyles in order to stay fit, or diverse beauty all around the world for young women to feel good about themselves again and not be pressured to look a certain way. It’s about time to make sure every girl feels beautiful for being themselves, not stress over who they are not.