“To me, Beauty is the wonder of wonders…It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.” -Oscar Wilde
Kristi, from N.E.K, wrote a piece for Eden Cafe called “The Media and Everyone Else Are Not Responsible for Your Poor Body Image.”
From the piece,
“I’ve always been fat and unattractive. And I currently loathe my body, but not because of the media.”
Studies have shown that, across the board, people find certain qualities attractive. Facial symmetry is one of them. (Perrett et al. “Symmetry and Human Facial Attractiveness.” 1999.) Beyond that, beauty is a socially constructed concept. It’s dictated by society (which is reflected by the media.) You are considered “unattractive,” in part, because society has placed a lower value on your physical characteristics.
Currently, society places a high price on skinny people. Yet, this is a relatively new phenomenon. Look at the portraits of beauty in Renaissance Europe. The body size of models depicted in fashion magazines decreased significantly during the 1980s and 1990s. (Sypeck, Gray & Ahrens. “No Longer Just a Pretty Face.” 2004)
Beauty standards are racist. White women are held up as the ideal. Black woman straighten their hair. Southeast Asians lighten their skin. The most popular cosmetic surgery in Asia is blepharoplasty, a procedure which makes the eyes look more round. (Lee & Kim. “Asian Blepharoplasty.” 1998.) Women who reflect these standards of beauty are more finanically successful. (Hunter. “Colorstruck.” 2007.)
Beauty standards are classist. Healthy food costs more. (Drewnowski. “Healthy Food Costs More.” 2010.) Gym memberships are expensive. Exercise takes time. Children who grow up in poverty are more likely to be obese. (Grow, et al. “Child Obesity Associated with Social Disadvantage of Children’s Neighborhoods.” 2010.)
She also says,
“I’ve been reading on some blogs about how straight men and the fashion industry are to blame for the poor body image/low self esteem of some women. I read how awful it is that the average woman is not fairly (if at all) represented in the media. And to that I say, so fucking what?”
Exposure to “the media” increases a teen’s likelhood of developing an eating disorder. (Katzman and Morris. “The Impact of the Media on Eating Disorders in Children and Adolescents.” 2003.) In fact, just reading fashion magazines decreases self-esteem (Monro and Huon. “Media-portrayed Idealized Images, Body Shame, and Appearance Anxiety.” 2010.)
Women who meet society’s beauty ideals are successful. They are perceived to be better people. People feel more positively towards them. (Langlois et al. “Maxims or Myths of Beauty?” 2000.)
Is the media the ONLY problem with beauty in society? No. Is it a major contributor to a huge problem which impacts all of us? Yes.