Breaking Beauty Standards

Leon Festinger was the first to suggest the concept of social comparison theory in the 1950s, which proposed that people rely on external models to form their self-perceptions. These models can be people we know in real life or in pop culture. This can either be a downward or upward comparison depending on how the model makes us feel: superior or inferior. When it comes to physical attractiveness, seeing celebrities present a certain standard of beauty can result in an upward comparison where we strive to achieve that standard. Research shows that low self-confidence and self-esteem, depression, self-harm and eating disorders can result from the feeling of falling short at the models presented to us.  

 

There has never been a time in human history where people were consuming more media than we are in 2018. Our phones are constantly in our hands. Celebrities are being sponsored to post on Instagram about the latest fad in weight loss, teeth whitening and clothing that shows a lot of skin, and we have instant access to all of this.  

 

 

Even before we have a phone, we have toys. The Barbie was one of my favorite toys I played with as a child. I actually did a project on her with a friend in high school about the unrealistic body images Ruth Handler came up with for Mattel. If Barbie was a person, she would stand at 5’9”, wear a 39FF bra, have size 3 feet, and an 18” waist while having a 33” hip. She most likely wouldn’t menstruate and would have to walk on all fours as her breasts would topple her over. She wouldn’t be able to hold up her head because her neck would be far too skinny and fragile as it would be larger than any normal head. Yet, Barbie is beautiful. Though its popularity is diminishing because of advances in toy manufacturing, people are still striving to look like her. People have gotten surgeries to get as close as they can to this standard.  

 

There is always a new beauty standard fad. A few years ago it was the thigh gap, but now it seems to be leaning more towards the curves… the fit curves… like the Kardashians. Speaking of that, Kylie Jenner has spent $2 million on her appearance. She isn’t the only celebrity in the media that has gone under the needle to ‘perfect’ themselves. Many do, making the beauty standard even more impossible for the average American woman.  

 

 

It isn’t just a body image standards, but facial standards as well. People deemed attractive to have a more symmetrical face, have thick threaded and arched eyebrows, and don’t have beauty marks or any marks for that matter. They have perfectly clear skin that always looks airbrushed. When we don’t naturally look like this, and we want to because that is what is beautiful, we throw money at the beauty industry and beg them for clear skin and white teeth. We fill in our brows, cover up our acne and contour our faces to look thinner. There are even apps that can perfect our faces for us. We can play with the settings to ‘fix’ our selfies so that we can look more like the women plastered on billboards in Time Square. Then we post these altered selfies on social media so that people can like and comment, reassuring us that we look the best when we pound on makeup, find the best lighting and angle, and edit our features. 

 

We are just starting to see a turnaround in beauty standards. Dove has come up with Real Beauty campaign that features “real” women. They aren’t Photoshopped. They aren’t hosting toned abs and perky breasts, but they are in fact, us. Victoria Secret’s sales dropped in 2017 as people weren’t feeling represented by their store. When I go into Victoria Secret, they either won’t have my size (36DD) or they will have three boring bras that I already have. Plus, spending upwards of $40 on a bra is slightly ridiculous to me. They have had at least two campaigns that I don’t agree with. The first has been compared to Dove’s as it is a “love my body” campaign. The second is the “Perfect Body” campaign. Victoria Secret’s models are all the same body type: skinny, fit, smaller breasts and few to no curves. Saying that the perfect body is this sets the standard so monstrously high that almost no one can achieve it.  

 

 

Though there are beauty companies trying to fix the standard, it is far too little. We need to stop subscribing to these standards. All bodies are beautiful, just the way they are. Besides, physical appearance isn’t what matters. I know it’s over said, but it’s what is on the inside that counts. Who you are as a person is the important stuff. Real beauty is inner beauty.