I have written that feminist movements seem doomed to repeat themselves and each generation of women have to start over with the same concerns as their foremothers. Girls longing to meet societal beauty standards is one of those concerns. Essentially, it starts at a young age with wanting to look like their favourite Disney Princess and this notion is detrimental.
Later on in adolescence, the corrupting potential of cultural influences in the consumption culture is evident in the ways the media makes girls feel their only values lie in how they look. It took post-backlash feminist analysis from the 1990s on to identify what these various cultural influences were taking away from girls. The conclusion was both their childhood and self-worth.
We live in a mirror-mimic society and in a society like that, a little girl can no longer innocently sneak some of her mother’s lipstick and gaze at her “grown-up self” in the mirror. Now the “self” she sees is refracted through all the other pictures she has seen in the media of girls and women whose natural attractiveness has been carefully posed, airbrushed and embellished by computer programs.
The beauty against which she judges herself is not just artificial; it is also increasingly limited in type, with less and less variability of feature permitted in fashion shoots, for example. This can have dire consequences for anyone not Caucasian.
It seems inevitable that this kind of self-comparison with female faces and bodies that do not actually exist would lead to low self-esteem and consequent self-flagellation. Unsurprisingly, girls now diet and suffer from depression, body dysmorphic disorder, and eating disorders at younger and younger ages.
This dreadful chain of events is due to a fast-paced world and our society’s obsession with female physical perfection at all ages. If growing up is a carousel ride that used to be stately and measured, in recent decades, it has been speeding up faster and faster so that today’s little girls have to hang on for dear life and have no way to get off the ride safely.