Our perception of beauty is moulded by the images we see promoted by the media in TV shows, movies, magazines, or on social media. We don’t see much diversity in this portrayal of beauty. This creates an unrealistic expectation in society that we have to conform to the idealistic notion that whatever current trend – whether it’s a tiny waist, a peachy bottom, or sculpted muscles, will make us beautiful.
Western society in particular has become obsessed with the idea that feminine beauty equals petite, and thin; while masculinity is synonymous with tall and muscular. A study was conducted by the University of Liverpool and published in the journal of eating disorders where the measurements of mannequins in high-street retail stores were taken, while the male mannequins equated to healthy measurements, the females displayed unrealistically small results.
The media will always attempt to manipulate and alter our idea of beauty standards and what is acceptable as long as it’s a profitable industry
I’ve witnessed family and friends pushing themselves to the limits striving to be someone else’s idea of perfect. As a society our obsession with food, and physical appearance has led to increased cases of both obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents, not only causing low self-esteem but also posing a serious health risks.
The tag ‘beauty’ contains over 200 million pictures on Instagram
The media has the ability to influence what we wear, what we eat, how to wear your hair and makeup, what gym routine we follow – what we should be doing with our bodies as a whole. We give it far too much control over our lives and happiness, with a desperate need to fit in and gain acceptance meaning we’ll follow these trends to the extreme and this is a serious problem. We’re obsessed with looking like the people we see on TV and in magazines rather than embracing ourselves. Without embracing our natural beauty, all the aspects that make us unique rather than clones of a fading beauty craze.
The modified images we are bombarded with and making ourselves miserable emulating, are edited and altered, in some cases beyond recognition, so why are we making ourselves miserable in an attempt to achieve the impossible?
A study conducted by Dove found that more than 5 million negative tweets were posted by women about beauty standards in 2014, and four out of every five tweets gathered were critiquing the tweeter’s own beauty. A massive 82% of women who were involved in the study stated they believed social media influences their opinion of beauty standards. I know I’m guilty of contributing to those figures, and I’m sure you are too.
A long way to go
There are many campaigns fighting to improve the acceptance of diverse beauty, attempting to encourage the natural beauty, and shapes, and sizes of us all.
Sadly, we have a long way to go, a simple search for ‘media bias and beauty standards’ showed me thousands of articles on skin lightening techniques, whitewashing in TV and movies, and the basic lack of diverse representation.
We’re obsessed with looking like the people we see on TV and in magazines rather than embracing ourselves.
We need to encourage the recognition of diversity in our culture, the idea that we all have something unique which makes us all beautiful in our own way – this is especially to be encouraged in children.
The media will always attempt to manipulate and alter our idea of beauty standards and what is acceptable as long as it’s a profitable industry but it’s our choice to let it. A report by SkinStore showed that the average woman in the United States spends around $300,000 on products, for her face alone: in her lifetime, that’s around $8 of product per day.
However, the more we fight for diversity and representation for all regardless of skin colour or weight or any other feature the media critiques, the happier and the healthier we will all be. Every woman is beautiful and entitled to wear makeup if it’s her own choice; every woman is entitled to eat what she wants; each woman is entitled to feel beautiful in the body she has.
Jaymelouise Hudspith is an English language student at Newcastle University with three major goals in life: to make a difference; to become a successful journalist, and (most importantly) to own many dogs.