By: M. Carramaschi
Beauty standards are a series of qualifications women must meet in order to meet the “feminine beauty ideal”, and supposedly, only then, reach personal and professional success. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you heard that right: according to our society we as women must please every single person other than ourselves first in order to achieve self-fulfilment. Makes sense, right?
It can be discussed that beauty standards are a way for women to feel beautiful and confident, but I disagree. Don’t get me wrong, I find nothing wrong with making changes and additions to ourselves in order to feel our best, however, I believe the pressure put on women to attain a specific standard holds us back, and quite frankly is extremely problematic. Now, I don’t want to be unfair and discredit all the strives we have made in order to breakdown this appalling notion that a woman’s worth can be defined by her looks, but I also can’t ignore the fact that we still have a long way to go.
It seems that the 21st century is the epitome of innovation; as a society we are actively becoming more inclusive concerning race and gender, we have cars that drive themselves and we are even exploring different planets and learning more about our universe every day. But for some reason, when we look at issues such as self-esteem, we appear to digress about fifty years back. As an example, let’s look at body image and teenage girls. you can tell me society is already body positive all you want, but when statistics show 67% of middle school girls say they would prefer to be skinnier whilst half of them are already at healthy weights, it’s quite hard to believe you. You can say society protects children, but when 95% of people with eating disorders are teenagers aged between 12-25, I am again forced to disagree. Finally, you can preach all you want about how education for girls and boys are equal, but when 60% of college girls feel pressured to be a certain weight, I can’t help but feel you are wrong. What pains me the most about this is when I imagine if all this time spent by young girls analysing their appearance was spent instead with hobbies, studying, and socialising. How much further could they go?
Now you may think, “Oh but that’s just puberty, all this insecurity is just a phase”, but it isn’t. Beauty standards unfortunately continue following teenage girls as they grow into adulthood. Here’s how. First, let’s begin with some statistics. I would like to begin this by saying only 5% of women naturally possess the body type portrayed by the media. With that said, an overwhelming 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and over 40% of them have stated they consider cosmetic surgery in the future. How unrealistic is it that we are all running towards a body that only 5% of us have? This just goes to show that women are being taught to focus on their appearances rather than their real accomplishments and goals. Pregnancy is a great example of this, more specifically, the postpartum body. How absurd is it that after creating a life inside of you for 9 months and quite literally performing one of our universe’s most magnificent miracles, a mother has been trained into thinking that she should now worry about the newly formed stretch marks on her breasts, her excess abdominal skin and getting to losing that pregnancy weight ASAP. This brings me to my next point, which is where things become even more unsettling and quite frankly, sad: Why on earth is this still normalised?
It often infuriates me how I don’t see society as a whole addressing this issue appropriately, and most of the times when I think about this, I always find myself circling back to this quote by Rupi Kaur where she says: “It is only a trillion-dollar industry that would collapse if we believed we were beautiful enough already”. This phrase may be simple and concise, yet I find it holds an undeniable truth that is right in front of us: beauty standards keeps the business alive. They profit off of us when we are led to believe we must lose weight, they profit off of us when we believe we must straighten our hair and they profit off of us when we believe we must change our faces, and shave our bodies, and dye our skin and become more toned, and so, so much more. So, the next time you feel poorly about your appearance after a social media stalk or a trip to the scale, remind yourself that for the most part, this is all just one big marketing scheme.
I want to stress that this isn’t an article going against dressing up, plastic surgery or just generally making ourselves feel beautiful. Heck, I love wearing makeup and doing my hair and buying new clothes! I just feel we need to remember that we are individuals, and as individuals it is only natural that we are different from one another and that these differences shouldn’t be hidden, but instead celebrated, because (yes, a little cliché, I know) they truly are what makes us beautiful. Let’s learn to use beauty to bring ourselves higher and make us feel good. But most importantly let us also never forget that we are so much more than just a face.