“You’re Insecure, Don’t Know What For”?: Current Beauty Standards are Changing the Concept of Femininity

Throughout this post, you will notice I have sprinkled different music videos that speak about beauty and appreciating women behind the mask of beauty standards put forward by media, and the fashion and makeup industries.

To start you off, here is the video that inspired the title of this essay post. I chose to use the line “You’re insecure, don’t know what for?” because of its provoking question. I argue that our insecurities are caused by the ever-shifting “norms” produced by beauty and fashion industries.

Many women spend countless hours each week changing their physical appearance to meet the standards set forth in magazines and the fashion industry, sometimes to the extent of actually altering their body in a permanent or semi-permanent nature. Promoted by media and the fashion world, it is these standards and trends that essentially decide what beauty is and is not, and they eventually create what “normal” femininity should look like. While many of the trends in the fashion world are fleeting and atypical, such as what one sees in fashion magazines and runway shows, numerous other fads make their way into mainstream society and are diligently practiced by women who just want to look “normal.” One such infatuation that women are being coerced to believe will make them look well-groomed is called cosmetic tattooing, a current craze where a person has their eyebrows tattooed to mimic the act of applying makeup to fill in one’s lighter spots on the eyebrows. Older concepts that are already cemented into society’s definition of beauty include thick hair and tanned skin; women practice these customs by getting hair extensions and attaining a bronzed look with the help of sunless tanning sprays or a tanning bed. In short, beauty standards set by the media, social media and the fashion industry are causing women to alter the natural appearance of their bodies in to order gain the respect of other women as well as their male counterparts.

This video’s message sticks out to me simply because of the resistance to change. I translate the line, “Somebody better put you back into your place,” as the blind acceptance to beauty norms for the purpose of this post.

The beauty standards that the fashion industry hold themselves to create a ripple effect that normalizes what femininity is supposed to look like. Trends that stem from the fashion world are used to help women attain the unnatural physical appearance, such as those that are derived from a photo-shopped image. Not only can photo-shopped images create the illusion of a slim body, but they also have the ability to manipulate the object’s skin tone. Society helps women replicate the seductive bronzed look through facilities that offer indoor tanning by way of spray on tans or tanning beds. Essentially, the idea that in order to be an alluring female one must become tanned is nonsensical. Not only are these measures unnecessary, but also the use of tanning beds has been linked to skin cancer. Even when people are fortunate enough not to develop melanoma, the cost of the practice provides sufficient reasoning to avoid adhering to this trend. In a similar manner, acquiring tattoos to fill in eyebrows is another costly procedure that can actually deter from one’s natural beauty. At the very least, it is another example of how modern beauty standards are pushing women to change their body by introducing unnatural substances into their bodies. Furthermore, the idea that having thick hair is equated with beauty has caused many women to attain hair extensions that can add volume and length. In itself, the act of acquiring hairpieces is not troublesome, but the fact that the beauty industry makes a generous profit from preying on women’s insecurities is both a serious offense and unscrupulous. Moreover, the idea that having thicker hair is attractive has now created a new market, although quite expensive, for semi-permanent false eyelashes. Just like one may get a hair extension, eyelash extensions are readily available, although they need to be refilled as the lashes fall out. The continuous advertisement of these beauty standards creates a normalization of unnatural beauty practices in order to be seen as a feminine woman.

Here’s another beautiful video with a nice message (get it :P).

An overarching problem with these beauty trends is that it perpetuates a false illusion of what femininity and sexuality should look like, while at the same time, the price of these procedures eliminate a large percentage of women from being able to use these methods of enhancement. The result is the creation of an elite group of women that are able to meet the status quo and ultimately help shape what the media, social media and the beauty and fashion industries consider as beauty. Unfortunately, in our ever-increasing technological world, adolescents are being subjected to the advertisements of such standards more often. Ultimately women are sexualized at an increasingly younger age, and, at the same time it also perpetuates what “real” women and men should look and act like. Because adolescents are constantly exposed to these standards of femininity and sexuality, both physically and behaviourally, males begin to expect it while young women begin to think it is necessary to comply in order to be respected and desired. Therefore, current beauty standards, which are costly, unnecessary and deter from natural beauty, are changing the concept of what femininity is simply because a profit can be made by manipulating and playing on the insecurities of the masses.

This video shares my views with the line “There’s not a thing that I would change” (Bruno Mars – “Just the Way You Are”).

In order to change the trends set by beauty and fashion industries and other entities such as the media and social media, several steps need to be taken. First, women will need to refrain from actively participating in procedures that are promoted to enhance beauty, thereby boycotting the notion that a select group has the ability to normalize beauty standards. In addition, we will need to change the mindset of what beauty is in order to ensure that natural beauty is praised. Nothing is more important than encouraging our young people to look beyond magazine ads and appreciate beauty within themselves. However, that is not to say that women who choose to continue using these enhancement procedures should be persecuted. Rather, it is important that society allow women the freedom to choose how they want to look, instead of having society tell them how they should look. The difference is the freedom to choose for oneself, which should not be used as a reason to degrade a woman that adheres to beauty trends. “Slut-shaming” is a term that is used to describe the act of judging and oppressing women based on their appearance. In order to truly avoid select groups of people from declaring what beauty is and setting standards, we have to accept that each woman has the right to choose how to express her femininity. Moreover, we need to be able to teach our teenagers about the ways that media uses sexuality to promote their products in order to counteract the prescription of certain behaviours that are appropriate to each gender. In this way, adolescents will learn to view advertisements critically and reduce emotional manipulation linked with purchasing certain products to improve their self-image. Providing the freedom of choice, acceptance, and teaching critical viewing strategies are several ways that we can combat the influence of current beauty standards.

The most important message: “She had some troubles with herself” (“She Will Be Loved”). These standards that are forced onto women through a society that allows media coverage to shove thousands of beauty ads per year into an audience can be damaging to one’s self-confidence and perception of beauty.

Women have been emotionally manipulated into changing their bodies in an effort to meet the beauty standards created by the media, social media, and the beauty and fashion industries, which in turn, benefit financially. Because this is profit gained from preying on the insecurities of millions of women, it is our duty to refute these standards and allow women to create their own idea of beauty. As aforementioned, the reason for abstaining from beauty standards must be in order to change the mindset of what beauty is. Women need to resist following these trends because of how others will perceive them, and instead choose to follow them because it is something they are interested in or because it would make individuals feel happier or more attractive by their own standards. Women need to feel appreciated for who we are as individuals and not for how we appear to a third party entity, like the media and fashion industry. We should accept our flaws without being afraid of outside perceptions. Additionally, adults of both sexes should actively resist accepting these beauty standards so that young girls and boys are not sexualized and intimidated by social media’s beauty standards. Ultimately, if women want to change their body in a permanent and semi-permanent nature, it should be because of intrinsic motivations, not pressures from current beauty standards.

A final thought! What about the effects that these standards cause on relationships? This song has been a favourite of mine since its release because of the meaning. This video uses the idea of an abusive relationship, but what if the harm was actually caused by industries that destroy one’s self-esteem by insisting that natural beauty is not good enough?

This entry was posted in Social Justice, Uncategorized, WGST 100: Introduction to Women's and Genders Studies and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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