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A Contemporary “Ethical Dilemma”: Capitalizing on Insecurity

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at York U chapter.

We are exposed to THOUSANDS of ads every day. Instagram feeds, YouTube videos, TV shows, bus stops and billboards are just some of the many places where someone is trying to sell us something. To any of you who think that the only thing you’re being “sold” is a product, oh are you in for a treat!

Advertisements not only have the frightening ability to sell us on brands or products (which we all know are astronomically overrated), but they also have the capacity to sell us on an ideology.

Think the conception of life that advertisements project and how they perpetuate a very narrow view of what is deemed “beautiful” or part of the “good life.” None of us ride on horses through the sunset while wearing a chiffon dress and expensive French perfume. But this image, among many others, leads to the association of “success” with abundance, luxury, and over-indulgence. And these are not, in any way, “good” things. In fact, I would argue that they make us more self-obsessed, less environmentally-conscious, and more satisfied with short-term pleasure over long-term gain.

To add insult to injury, in order to satisfy these narrow conceptions of “beauty” and the “good life,” many of us who do not naturally “fit the bill” find ourselves bending over backwards to feel worthy. Companies actively capitalize on our deepest insecurities, projecting the idea that the holes we feel (and create) within ourselves can be filled with the swipe of a credit card.

There are three areas where I have personally fallen victim to this capitalization: beauty, wellness, and music.

the BEAUTY industry

I have never been that into makeup, but when I started purchasing and using certain products on a regular basis, I noted a MAJOR problem. For one, there are thousands of brands that are, in my opinion, different renditions of the exact same thing. Once again, we’re faced with abundance – way too many options that lead to way too much wastage.

The beauty industry loves to preach that makeup can help one feel more confident in their own skin and “enhance inner beauty.” But don’t get it twisted – the only way to accomplish this “enhancement” is by purchasing a series of products that must be applied in a specific order. “Not to prime is a crime!” And don’t stop there, they’ll tell you that skincare is a must. Acids and serums and “concentrates”…it’s an endless headache.

In addition to being gaslit into purchasing all these products that will seemingly make us look better and therefore feel better about ourselves, we have also bore witness to racially-motivated beauty trends like “fox eyeliner” and skin-bleaching products. Not only must you contour your face so that your nose looks slimmer, your cheekbones are more defined, and your forehead is less wide, but make sure your skin is lighter too.

Under the pre-tense of making us “feel better” about ourselves, the beauty industry capitalizes on providing a “solution” for socially constructed “problems” with our appearance.

the WELLNESS industry

It was the time of year when I am most stressed: the days leading up to my mom’s birthday. Since she is by far the most difficult person to shop for, I was struggling to figure out what to get her. I finally decided on a diffuser thinking it would help my mom feel relaxed. She does so much for our family and I knew I wanted to get her something that would help her prioritize her mental well-being.

Little did I know, decent quality diffusers can cost well over $100. They are plastic globes that shoot out steam! WHAT A SCAM!

My issue is not with diffusers specifically, but any product that is meant to prioritize wellness. Isn’t it ironic if purchasing these items causes me financial stress? Think face masks, massagers, gratitude journals, or pretty much anything in the wellness section at Indigo. Having a clear state of mind has become a luxury and that is extremely problematic. We have completely commodified the essence of who we are; we have given power to those who don’t know or care about us to capitalize on our sense of self.


My early 20s have been no joyride, let me tell you that. I’ve faced existential crisis after existential crisis, struggled with relationships, and found myself questioning if I was on the right path. One thing that always brings me comfort during these uneasy times is music. Listening to songs about what I’m going through helps me cope and inevitably, I find myself feeling connected to the singers/songwriters.

So when I hear that Taylor Swift tickets are nearly IMPOSSIBLE to obtain, you know I’m going to make an issue about it. The disastrous monopoly that Ticketmaster has on concert ticket sales has led to prices skyrocketing, leaving fans disappointed and frustrated. We have reached a point where it is no longer about how deeply you connect to an artist’s music and how badly you want to see them live, but about how much money you have in your bank account to make it happen. Being unable to afford a concert ticket does not make you any less of a fan.

I’d like to end this article by noting why the “ethical dilemma” in its title is in quotation marks. Because let’s be real…this is no ethical dilemma at all. An ethical dilemma is a scenario where all potential options lead to a logical, moral conclusion. There certainly isn’t morality behind a system that benefits few at the expense of many.

So next time you’re feeling bad about yourself, don’t make someone else rich. Don’t let a company tell you that you have a problem that they can fix. Take the power back!

The second we stop looking for happiness elsewhere, we’ll start finding it within us.

Riya Bhatla was a part of Her Campus’ York University Chapter from 2020 to 2024. During her time at HCYU, she served as both a Writer and Campus Correspondent. She is now certified to teach high school in Ontario and is pursuing a Master's Degree at the University of Toronto! She is also contributing to a research project that is investigating the “lived experiences of the first Master’s degree recipients at a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya.” In her free time, Riya loves going on walks with her dog Kobe, bingeing Scandal, and going for Friday night Karaoke at a local pub.