"Beautiful" - A Look Into The Media's Damaging Standards

Standard in Beauty Heidi Klum

There’s something aesthetically-stimulating about reading women's interest magazines. I sift through Elle & Allure religiously and never forget to renew my annual subscriptions.  I’ll admit that even checking out at CVS is an eye candy-ish experience when I glance at all the new seemingly-flawless faces on the covers of each magazine so perfectly positioned on those stands. Admiring beautiful women and often times reading their success stories can be motivating -- almost idealistic.  I view the foundation-dipped, photo-shopped beaus and wonder why my skin care doesn’t make my face glow like that or why my workout plan doesn’t deliver such a six-pack.  For the majority of these women featured in the media - their bodies, their facial structures, and their lives are all seemingly perfect – void of insecurity, embarrassment, body fat, ugliness, jealously, bad hair days, or peer pressure.

That can’t be right. That can’t be reality.

The glorifying of these “flawless” icons that we admire can be the catalyst for negative psychological ramifications relating to one’s security in their own appearance.  I’d argue that through the presentation of such "perfection," the media sets a standard in beauty that has the ability to put undue pressure on girls, young women and even the most seasoned among us.  Not to say that reading a magazine and noticing the featured actress in the centerfold will screw you up mentally, it is to say that all of us are not able to discern surgery-sculpted faces and photo-shopped thighs from reality – that cohort primarily being adolescents.

Young girl standard in beauty

Take a look at any given fashion, beauty or health magazine and ask yourself...

  • When is the last time a woman on the cover reflected the average size of the American female?
  • Have I seen a plus-sized model in a mainstream fashion magazine lately?
  • How often are the facial proportions of an “ethnic” model with American roots highlighted?
  • Were there any faces featured in my magazine's beauty section with a wrinkle?
  • Do I flip through pages of advertisements that show bodies with cellulite?
  • Is a celebrity's “before I was famous” picture ever displayed in a centerfold?
  • DO I SEE MYSELF IN THESE WOMEN OR EVEN AN ATTAINABLE VERSION OF ME?

If your answer to more than half of the above questions is "no," here's why: The type of content listed above is not considered by the media to be inspiring or quite frankly, sellable.  So why do we buy if we don’t see ourselves? Is it because we see an ideal version of our appearance? And if what is presented in the media is supposedly the standard in beauty, where do we fall in the class ranking?

standard in beauty report card

I ask you these questions not to begin a magazine boycott, but to bring to light the urgency in teaching young women that even if they don’t look like the model in the beauty spread described as “Beautiful” or “America’s Sweetheart” that they still are. I imagine the difficulty in telling your daughter, sister or friend that the size 0 swimsuit body that they see in the most popular health editorial in the country only reflects the “in shape” perspective of a few, but it's true.

There are developing female minds all around us - young and old - who deserve to know that who they are and how they look is acceptable, and that despite popular opinion, "Beautiful" is subjective and involves more than outer appearances.

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