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Beauty vs. the Beast MAG
The beast preys greedily on a 15-year-old girl, showing no mercy. Physically and mentally, she deteriorates, fades, and weakens, but it cares only for her money. She surrenders to its unceasing trickery. At last, it devours the skeletal, exhausted girl, but it does not stop at just one; it will binge that same day on over a million more. Almost every American girl is entangled in this war. The beast is the media and its image of ideal beauty. Unrealistic images of women in the media today negatively affect teenage girls by creating unattainable standards.
The beast conceals itself in our culture in a variety of crafty ways. Masks of the beast are virtually everywhere. Beauty activist Jean Kilbourne estimates that in an average day, a person will view over 3,000 advertisements. The beast is on television, the Internet, billboards, magazines, movies, CD covers, music, and so on. Reality does not seem to exist anymore.
Our society's media gives young women the messages that we should be thin, dress in clothing that accentuates our body, and plaster our face with cosmetic disguises. Whatever happened to natural, modest beauty? It seems like the media is playing tug-of-war with teen girls wedged in the middle. Over three-quarters of women's magazines contain at least one message concerning the altering of a woman's physical appearance via diet, exercise, or cosmetic surgery. Kilbourne looks at it in this way, “Our face becomes a mask … and our body becomes a thing.”
Think about it. The media use young women to sell beauty products, cars, food, and much more. We are props! Teens compare and judge themselves against models and celebrities on a regular basis. The average model is 5' 11" and weighs 117 pounds. The average woman is 5' 4" and weighs 140 pounds.
Many teenage girls and women have beauty goals that are unrealistic. We try to make them attainable by purchasing the newest beauty products. The diet industry alone makes an estimated $40 billion to $100 billion a year for its (mostly temporary) weight-loss services. Engraved in our brains is the constant need to buy products that make us good enough in the eyes of our peers, the opposite sex, and everyone else.
Overwhelmed by the presence of unattainable body images, average women become nearly invisible in the media. The meaning of true inner beauty is ultimately lost under a mountain of brainwashing, air-brushed photos, and meaningless material objects. The beast gets attention through these unending images of unachievable beauty. Females who view the images look at their own reflection and compare. Does the mirror image match? If not, many young women take action to reach that goal, even if it affects our well-being, leading to health issues, most prominently various eating disorders.
Of girls who are a perfectly normal, healthy weight, 50 percent to 70 percent believe they are overweight, and some will go to extremes to attain “perfection,” according to an article on the Media Awareness Network. One out of four college-age women uses unhealthy weight-control methods, according to the American research group Anorexia Nervosa & Related Eating Disorders. The toll of this eating disorder epidemic is death, if untreated. Unfortunately, suicide can also be a result because of the pressure some teens face if they do not measure up.
Self-esteem is suffocated when the beast invades your mind. Teens especially struggle. At this point in life, we are trying to figure out who we are. In our society, this is already difficult because there are so many influences telling us to be something we are not.
Teens want to be free, but when they turn on the TV or flip through a magazine, unrealistic images create unrealistic desires. According to the Media Awareness Network, “research indicates that exposure to images of thin, young, air-brushed female bodies is linked to depression, loss of self-esteem, and the development of unhealthy eating habits in women and girls.” Teens take the images and stereotypes of the ideal woman and burn them into their minds, judging themselves by the standards of the beauty industry.
“We are being brainwashed to hate our bodies so that we can buy unnecessary products to remedy them, and waste endless hours on artificial beauty,” according to an article in The Culture of Beauty magazine. Even models have inferior thoughts of themselves, says Ann Simonton, a former cover model. During preparations for a photo shoot, Simonton heard the other models around her complaining about parts of their bodies they were unhappy with. It struck her that these models were the ideal women – they were the pinnacle of beauty in our society – and yet in their eyes, even they were not good enough. This just proves that happiness through beauty is unattainable.
Yes, the airbrushed images in our media are a sham. Yes, if taken too far, health issues occur. Yes, self-esteem dwindles when you gaze through a mirror of lies. No, you do not have to descend into the jaws of the beast. You can get out.
I hope with all of my heart that girls can see that they are beautiful. Together, we, as women, can fight back and transform the media to fit a real-woman perspective. We can become a part of that growing population of women and teens who don't care what society thinks. We can finally declare that we are not devoted to or manipulated by the beast. We can defeat it together as many individual, beautiful women.