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Let’s Stop Singing about Girls Who Don’t Think They’re Beautiful

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Pitt chapter.

It has become commonplace knowledge that there is propaganda in the media that affects our thinking and our behavior. I think our society is slowly starting to realize that stick-skinny girls in magazines are airbrushed and that rich and glamorous celebrities do have troubles behind the façade in which they are displayed. However, there’s another trend that I would like to criticize: one that is usually praised.

There are a bunch of songs expressing how girls don’t need to be insecure because somebody (a boyfriend, usually) loves them. Let’s take “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars. He sings:

Yeah I know, I knowWhen I compliment herShe won’t believe meAnd it’s so, it’s soSad to think she don’t see what I see

But every time she asks me do I look okayI sayWhen I see your faceThere’s not a thing that I would change

This song is strikingly similar to One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” in which the boy band sings:

But when you smile at the ground it ain’t hard to tell,You don’t know, (Oh oh)You don’t know you’re beautiful,If only you saw what I can see,You’ll understand why I want you so desperately,Right now I’m looking at you and I can’t believe,You don’t know, (Oh oh)You don’t know you’re beautiful

In both songs, we have a girl who is clearly insecure about her looks—she either can’t believe the compliments she hears, or she won’t see what the boy is talking about when he says she’s beautiful; and there is a boy, her hero, who tells her that she really is beautiful. As we listen to these songs, they sound refreshing. We think “wow, instead of degrading women, here is a song that lifts us up, and tells us that we are beautiful, even though we don’t think so.” But I want to take another look. Why do these songs reinforce over and over again that we are insecure? Why do these songs tell us that we need a guy to tell us whether or not we are beautiful, that we need someone else to validate us?

I think it’s fair to say that women are sometimes insecure. I don’t think these songs made up that notion. However, that insecurity must be learned somewhere, because we aren’t born with it. Baby girls giggle and smile at the mirror and at pictures of themselves. Women, however, are more likely to scowl at their reflection. What causes that switch? Of course to a question like this, there are going to be a lot of variables. But I think one we can’t ignore is the media’s reinforcement of the notion that women are insecure. We grow up thinking that it is natural to be insecure, and perhaps subconsciously we develop the idea that we are supposed to be insecure. Although these songs appear to have a positive message, I think it can be detrimental to play them over and over again. It just encourages the idea that girls are unhappy with the way they look, and whether you plan for it to happen or not, I think the message will plant itself in your head, and these songs and themes can encourage dissatisfaction with the way you are.

Granted, we do have insecurities, wherever they may have come from. And yes, if you’re going to find a friend/significant other, it should be someone who will say they love you in spite of all of those insecurities – someone who can’t even fathom why you could be insecure because you’re so wonderful. But I don’t think we need to listen to these messages that will further encourage us to be insecure and seek out someone to accept our insecurities when we could be listening to things that encourage us to overcome our insecurities and accept ourselves.

Image credit: 1, 2, 3, 4

Casey Schmauder is a Campus Correspondent and the President of Her Campus at the University of Pittsburgh. She is a senior at Pitt studying English Nonfiction Writing with a concentration in Public and Professional Writing. 
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