By: Sienna Thomas Merrils
What exactly does being beautiful entail? This is a query with a dynamic response. Women are expected to conform to the ever-evolving beauty standards that have been set for them in our culture. Although a number of researchers have attempted to provide an explanation, there doesn’t seem to be much agreement. There are numerous factors that have influenced our modern conceptions of beauty, including racism and social media.
The criteria for female beauty in our modern culture are quite high and nearly impossible to meet. Women have historically been subjected to pressure to conform to specific standards of beauty. Media portrayals of beauty can be found on social media, in publications, in films, and on television. Many people will go to great lengths to conform to the current concept of beauty, this could be changing the colour of their hair and exercising more to fit a certain body type, or even risking cosmetic or plastic surgery. There is a crippling obsession in our culture – to be viewed as attractive and to be beautiful.
Examining the evolution of what has been considered “beautiful” through the years reveals that beauty standards have altered drastically. Many ladies started cutting their hair shorter in the 1920s because it was fashionable at the time. Many people in the 1930s aspired to have an hourglass body shape. Big hair was considered to be an essential component of beauty in the 1980s, whereas pale complexion and lean bodies were praised in the 1990s.
Many women experience pressure to alter their looks to conform to society’s standards of beauty. More than 40% of female respondents to a study indicated that they would consider cosmetic surgery. Lockdown gave way to a rise in interest in cosmetic operations as people became more conscious of how they looked on camera and had more free time and money to spend on it. The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons reported that at this time, its doctors saw up to a 70% increase in consultation requests. In 2021, hair transplants received an average of 35,000 monthly Google searches, then liposuction, which received an average of 30,000 monthly searches. By 2022, searches for less invasive procedures like microblading, hair extensions, lip fillers, and blepharoplasty; a technique to remove extra skin or fat from the eyelids had surpassed these and other more complicated cosmetic surgeries in popularity. Even if these less drastic cosmetic changes are becoming increasingly popular, the popularity of body modification procedures and the “BBL,” which has become the newest trend among celebrities and on social media, has skyrocketed. However, the growing interest and acceptance of the BBL (Brazilian Butt Lift), which is now regarded as one of the riskiest cosmetic surgeries in the world, is concerning.
Companies have begun rebranding their beauty goods as “countercultural advertising campaigns that resemble social activism” due to the increasingly exclusive perception of beauty. They feminised and uplifted the image of beauty products, which was just another strategy they used to expand their clientele and increase their sales. Over-the-counter products like skin-lightening creams are regularly promoted, using models that haven’t used the product. This misleads people to believe that they can achieve unrealistic results, causing harm like burns and rashes to the skin.
Both men and women are subjected to unrealistic societal standards and pressures of beauty, however, because of the dangers of diet culture and social media, body criticism is more common in women. Girls are more likely to be exposed to mindsets that emphasise the need to limit food consumption and weight growth. The prevalence of excess weight reduction, calorie counting, food restriction, and over-exercising has led to a major rise in diet culture over time. I have also gone through this. I feel like I’ll never measure up to the girls I see while I’m scrolling through my Instagram or TikTok feed, which makes me feel miserable about myself.
Putting too much pressure on women can be toxic and damaging, making those who don’t fit the standard of beauty feel inferior. The issue with beauty standards is that they represent an impossible ideal for women to meet. They vary regularly over time, and women are expected to modify who they are to suit the image if they want to be seen as “appealing or “pretty”. These absurd idealisations of beauty could easily lead to body dysmorphia and low self-esteem, especially for someone who has never been taught to accept themselves from the start.
Although teenagers today will benefit from the modelling business promoting body acceptance, much more work needs to be done to create an environment that is welcoming to people with a variety of body shapes.
The contemporary body positivity movement, which aims to normalise various body types, has thankfully challenged social beauty norms. This trend is significant because it not only eliminates the shame associated with weight gain but also paves the way for a society where personal beauty is at last valued. Lizzo is an admirable role model for people because of her strong character and commitment to standing up for everyone. Young people nowadays are growing up in a society that is more open and tolerant. Therefore, young people today have a bright future thanks to the media’s representation of body diversity.
We should accept and cherish our flaws as part of who we are. If we were all to conform to the same defined standard, we would not have distinct faces and body shapes. All racial groups, physique types, haircuts, and stretch marks ought to be accepted in society. It’s crucial to move on from the archaic notions of beauty. Although the outlook for humanity is promising, to move forward, we must broaden our horizons and embrace everyone.