The Fairest of Them All?
When was the last time you looked into a girl’s magazine and saw pictures of beautiful, flawless, unattainable-looking girls? How did that make you feel about yourself? Did it make you feel bad about yourself, because you looked nothing like the girls in those magazines, or did it make you feel like you are not good enough, because you could never be as attractive as they? Now look around you. How many people do you see around you who actually look that way in real life? Not many, probably. With all the emphasis on girls’ looks in our culture, with all false perceptions of beauty, from false editing to Barbie dolls, it’s no wonder that most girls today have a distorted perception of self-worth and beauty, and believe they have to be beautiful to be happy.
You don’t need to look any further than a girl’s toy chest to find evidence that this is true. Up until recently, Barbie dolls represented an unattainable cultural standard of beauty, with a petite frame and a tiny waist, and oversized breasts. If Barbie were a real person, she would not be a healthy one; with her 36- inch chest and 18-inch waist, she would lack the 17 percent body fat needed to menstruate. Her unrealistic figure has certainly left an impression on young girls. In July 2015, researchers in the U.K. found that girls as young as eight were reporting body dissatisfaction. It makes one wonder if the unrealistic expectations of how girls should look was set by Barbie dolls and played a role in this.
This discovery is very revealing of how much our culture focuses on and values girls’ looks. Girls are being taught, from a young age, that looking good will make them valuable and attractive. Rarely do you see girls in our culture being credited for being smart or brave or kind. Even our president is contributing to this negativity. Donald Trump has complimented and put down women in powerful positions because of their looks, not based on their leadership skills or their accomplishments. He said, about Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, “Look at that face, would anyone vote for that?” instead of criticizing her ideas or skills. He further emphasizes the false idea that women need to be pretty to be successful and minimizes the importance of a woman’s skill or intelligence. Tween tv shows also emphasize the idea that girls must be attractive; a study done by the University of Missouri and University of Delaware looked at 49 episodes of 40 different shows and found that while the boys in the shows had a range of looks and were not always attractive, there were no unattractive girls in any of the shows, and the girls were seen worrying about their looks, working at looking beautiful, and receiving comments about their looks, while the boys seldom worried about their looks. This can lead girls to think that their looks are always important. Even if they are brave, or smart, or are a good person, they have to be good-looking to be worthy.
What’s worse, is that the examples of “beauty” shown to girls in magazines is hardly realistic, with flawless faces,slender figures, and big breasts is hardly representative of how most girls look. When is the last time you saw a girl in a magazine with glasses? Or braces? Or a more curvy body type? I don’t think so. And these images aren’t even real. Most are photoshopped or edited to have skinnier thighs, a more-even skin tone, or bigger breasts. Seeing these photos of “perfect-looking” girls gives girls an unrealistic idea of what they should look like, when what they want to be like isn’t even real. Our pop- culture ideal of “beautiful” doesn’t acknowledge the beauty in diversity, that different girls each have their own beautiful qualities as well, even if they don’t necessarily look like a supermodel. Each body type has its own unique attractiveness. The world would be boring if we all were the same! Besides, being beautiful is not the be-all and end-all of your character or your worth. Being smart, being courageous, and being morally good define your character just as much, if not more.
After all, true beauty comes from within you.