Borítókép: Fuu J, Unsplash
Especially young people are prone to the manipulation tactics of the industry and will set an unhealthy and anxiety inducing precedent for themselves. From trying out useless diets to covering themselves in a specific brand of make-up, the longform self-harm of our age is damaging everyone.
Ideal Beauty Is A Hoax
As most huge trends tend to do, the current era’s beauty standard also stems from Hollywood’s slightly alienating representation of what a human body looks like. Beauty as a concept has been widely different throughout the longstanding history of humanity. Think of the Venus of Willendorf and compare that to Cleopatra, to Marie Antoinette, to Marylin Monroe and maybe to Kim Kardashian. Vastly different, yet they all have one thing in common: they are all considered the ideal beauty of their respective eras. What also connects two of them is the air of heavy celebrity culture circling around them.
Hollywood has produced celebrities and celebrities produced something that is very familiar to everyone who has ever used social media (Instagram in particular in this case) — influencer culture. Static pictures that capture essentially perfect lives and perfect people with a lot of resources, money and opportunities that normal people just don’t have access to. They also bring with them different sponsorship deals that help them sustain their perfect lifestyle.
However, the young people who idolize celebrities will suffer from this. They will buy that specific brand of make-up, underwear and diet, because their beloved millionaires told them to. And what this process brings with it is the standard of one kind of beauty that is highly dependent not only on body shape and figure but on all-encompassing cosmetics as well. And as mentioned before, the kind of beauty-standard celebrities bring are the ones wished to be mimicked by young people, who don’t have the resources to achieve the kind of effect celebrities can.
Especially for young women, this standard can be detrimental and harmful. This air of perfectionism that hangs around the female beauty standard puts young girls in a difficult spot of either conforming fully to the standard or inviting possible bullying and name-calling. This has a horrible effect on their mental health and can set journeys of self-discovery back years.
Men, Please Starve Yourself To Look Good
In discussions of unhealthy body standards and the cultural practices surrounding them, the conversation tends to focus on women (or at least female-presenting people), but in reality, you couldn’t go anywhere in this conversation without examining the unreal standards set for men as well. The ideal for men is mostly based on height and build, at least one of which nobody can do anything about, yet it is one of the main “arguments” when discussing a man’s aesthetic merits.
The question of build is more complex. The more pronounced abs you have, the more attractive you’re perceived. There is this existing myth that the more abs someone has, the stronger they are, simply because abs are built during exercise. So you must be muscular and healthy, right? To a small extent, this is true. Proper exercise can build muscles. But the extremes some go to to achieve their abs is highly unhealthy and harmful to the individual.
One of the most famous Hollywood cases of this is Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. He played the role for 17 years and during that time, this diet consisted of boiled chicken and broccoli. This, you can survive. What’s most harmful to health is that before all of those very necessary shirtless scenes (especially pointless in movies directed at kids and young adults, might I add) one has to starve and not consume any water for at least 30 hours to achieve the desired result. This is also a regularly used technique in bodybuilding.
Do you know what else is known about bodybuilders? The malnutrition in their bodies is so severe that they can barely carry their own weight, let alone something heavy, so being well-built doesn’t necessarily make them strong. Now, next time a lanky no-muscle teenager or the chubby boy who gets bullied every day sees that this is how you can get fit and be more attractive, what will they do? You guessed it. And it will take a toll on them in the long run.
Oh, Just Take Her Swimming On The First Date
The pressure of the make-up heavy beauty industry is something that’s most prevalent in young girls trying to find themselves. There are two types of people who use make-up. One is the healthy view of enjoying the colourful and different possibilities it provides. The less healthy version of wearing make-up just to fit in but honestly despising it. This latter type is the focus of this section.
Teenagers and young adults tend to categorize one another based on appearances and aesthetics, as that is one of the easiest ways to put someone in a box of many. The pressure of using make-up is familiar to any girl older than ten who ever had a single pimple. Using make-up provides a sense of security, of fitting in. It’s conformity. This conformity however brings along a kind of uniformity as well. When everyone tries to look like the same person, to conform to the same ideal beauty, it takes away the character and individuality that those little imperfections we are trying so hard to cover up give us.
As everything, this is a two sided coin: men will tell you they prefer bare-faced women compared to heavy make-up. Yet, the lack of make-up warrants bullying of young girls from any side, because the bullies (interestingly, other girls mostly) learn from the culture they grow up in, that there is only one way to be pretty, and that is also the only way to fit in with the rest. However, it is important to note, that these exact beauty-standards can create a sense of non-conformity and warrant a similar reaction of peers when boys do use make-up. So in reality, whatever you do, you can’t win this race. It would be better to just try to be yourself; easier said than done, but worth a chance.
Don’t Care If You’re Fat, It’s All In Personality
In the past years more and more movements and activists sprung up speaking up about body-positivity and how it can be achieved. Body-positivity is not just about being fat or skinny, these movements include discussions of racism, gender and ableism along with the notion of fat-shaming. In simple terms, body-positivity encourages all people to feel comfortable in their bodies, regardless of societal norms or pressure to change.
This kind of activism of recent years has helped shape the beauty-industry and created a different kind of standard: the standard of confidence and honesty. This is a strive to destigmatize the human body and accept other people simply as they are. The movement in recent years even encouraged brands selling beauty-products to override their earlier advertisement tactics that worked with the ideal of the perfect beauty, instead inviting the notion of real everyday people, and showcasing a truer effect than influencer-culture ever could.
With the prevalence of this movement I believe we could create a healthier discussion around beauty, one where everyone can find their own comfort, and rather unites than creates barriers between people — which is the ultimate goal of the current beauty-standard. By inviting more inclusive thinking of body-positivity and beauty, we invite back that kind of individualism that got lost somewhere along the way and create a healthier, more forgiving outlook for young people who are just trying to find themselves in this array of ideals.