In an era where social media and the celebrity culture are really dominating the scene, the pressures to fit into the traditional beauty mold is at an all-time high. We’re being bombarded with images and videos of all kinds from the media and advertisers from the beauty and fashion industry who are relentless about selling airbrushed perfection and shallow ideals of beauty. For this reason, it’s become very challenging for the modern day girl and woman to ignore the unrealistic standards of beauty today.
The good news is that many of us are no longer willing to turn a blind eye to the shallow ideologies that are being propagated by the media. As a society, we’re gradually awakening to the negative impact of poor self-image in girls and women and the need to see their beauty and intrinsic worth in a new light. We are on the brink of a major reformation when it comes to repositioning women’s place in society. The recent Me Too movement which spread virally in October 2017 as a social media hashtag, after the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct allegations, to bring awareness to the widespread prevalence of sexual harassment and objectification of women, especially in the workplace, is strong evidence of this.
Another indication of a shift in our collective ideals of beauty is that we no longer feel inhibited when it comes to vocalizing our dissatisfaction with any insensitive coverage of women’s issues in the media. For instance, the trailer of the new Netflix series ‘Insatiable’ sparked an enraged outcry by viewers who were offended by the body-shaming and fatphobic storyline. It casts a derogatory light on those women facing critical issues centered on body image such as eating disorders. ‘Insatiable’ depicts the story of an overweight girl, with an eating disorder, who loses weight and seeks to gain vengeance on those who bullied her. Even though she receives a lot of positive reinforcement because of her slim appearance, she still suffers from the stress and the pain that she has as “fatty patty”.
One might argue that a series such as ‘Insatiable’ is a noble attempt to put a spotlight on the emotional challenges that girls and women face around being accepted and loved no matter what their size. But where ‘Insatiable’ fails is that it does little when it comes to inspiring women who are in the same position as the protagonist. In fact, it triggers the wounds of those who can relate to the story, reminding them of the pressures of trying to fit into a beauty meritocracy. A petition, to stop the show from airing, has been signed by over 145,000 people. It’s been filed on the grounds that the series has a damaging impact on the self-esteem of young girls.
Even though it’s encouraging to see audiences’ quick to respond to this abomination, I believe that we need to be more proactive when it comes to taking the steps needed to empower the contemporary woman so that she feels whole, complete and accomplished even if she doesn’t measure up to the perceived ideal of beauty and own her unique brand of beauty, even if it does not fit within the conventional mold. I believe that we need to tackle this by igniting a beauty revolution that addresses the issue on both an individual and collective level.
Dealing with it on an individual level involves making concerted efforts towards bringing about an internal shift within girls and women by educating them on how they can maintain a strong sense of self-worth and develop an identity that’s independent of outward appearances. On a collective level, we need to change the paradigm of beauty by instigating fundamental changes in our education system and the media to develop healthier standards of beauty that draw the focus from a woman’s physical attractiveness to her accomplishments and character.
If we’re willing to work together, we can transform our distorted and skewed perception of women’s beauty into one that is more healthy and wholesome. When we embody the new standards for beauty, we will convince ourselves and the rest of the world that, as women, we are so much more than our bodies and faces—we are multifaceted individuals with distinct values with numerous gifts to share.