I’m delighted to have the wonderful Shay (you can find the link to her blog at the bottom of this post) as a guest poster on my blog! She’s written a highly thought-provoking piece, challenging beauty ideals and stereotypes in the media! I Shan’t say anymore; I’ll leave her words to do the talking.
It was a real honour to have you here again! I can’t wait to write my own post for your blog, although it’ll be hard to match the articulation and powerful arguments that you presented here! Writing like this is the reason I admire Bloggers like Shay so much.
According to Wikipedia, the feminine beauty ideal is “the socially constructed notion that physical attractiveness is one of women’s most important assets, and something all women should strive to achieve and maintain.”
Excuse my French but I call bullshit.
This notion is based on heteronormative beliefs and imply that a woman’s role is simply to stand and look pretty.
The first time I truly acknowledged how influential and derogatory the media and adverts are was in year six. I was about ten.
I knew that magazines changed the way people looked and that women of all backgrounds, cultures, and walks of life were not being represented as much, but it was one of those things I hadn’t properly digested.
We were sitting around tables scattered around the classroom, in the dark, as this video played on a big wide screen.
It was a video of a model, sitting for a photoshoot. Her hair and makeup done, lighting set up and then came the editing process. They made her neck longer, face thinner, lips bigger, face more contoured, eyes bigger, face lower. So many little details were changed, pushing her further and further into being someone unfamiliar. (The video link is below)
After that day, I began thinking about every advert I passed and saw, processing it bit by bit. After that day, I kept comparing myself to the people I was seeing in the media, who had been changed and “perfected”. If they made her neck longer, does that mean mine should be long too? They made her skin lighter…should mine be too?
I have dark skin. So that didn’t go down well. Saying I became insecure about my skin colour is an understatement.
I went to Dubai on holiday with my family. It was a great trip and a wonderful country but it shocked and disheartened me how many adverts for skin bleaching creams there were, claiming it will make you “fair” and “beautiful”, associating the idea of lightening your skin, which in turn is both harmful to you physically and mentally, with beauty and attractiveness. Not only is this encouraging those to contemplate the idea of buying the product and lightening their skin but also reinforces to these women (and men) that they can’t be pretty without obtaining paler skin. Even TV shows enforce ideas like these, for example The Proud Family, which portrays the darker skinned girls as unlovable, stupid and living in poverty. This was a kids show, and children are the most susceptible to concepts like this. I understand that the media and companies need to make money and producers and creators of TV shows and films can do what they want – it’s their production – but these things can harm people, even if it’s not obvious.
It doesn’t stop there. They can’t just stop at our faces. They’re targeting our bodies too, shaming us for having unique shapes, and again not fitting into what they desire to see. As Elm told me, body shaming is “poisonous, with a lot of that being initiated and catalysed by the media”. There’s been a creation of an unrealistic impression on how women should look, damaging women internally, leading to physical damage too. Examples in social media and television include Dear Fat People, a disgusting video by Nicole Arbor, and even our beloved Friends. And the worst part is, sometimes the women are held accountable for their emotions because “they should lose/gain weight and do something about it”. And, I’m sorry, but piss off with “but being fat (or skinny) is unhealthy”. That’s no excuse to disrespect and shame a person for being bigger or smaller than you’d like them to be. Truthfully, no one is obligated to be healthy and whatever condition you and your health is doesn’t mean you’re better or worse of a human being. An amazing woman on Twitter, Callie Thorpe made a very good point I’d like to share: “I’d like to take a bet that you too are unhealthy, perhaps you drink too much, smoke, sunbath with no sunscreen, get too little sleep. That’s also makes you unhealthy. But because my body looks “unhealthy”, I’m the one that is mocked, bullied, made an example of.”
As women, we’re being subjected to unattainable beauty standards, forced to take action to make us look “beautiful”. It’s led people to eating disorders, low self esteem and confidence and so much more. According to a study in 2015 by Common Sense Media, teenagers spend an average of nine hours a day using the media (movies, TV, social media, etc). That’s a lot of exposure to these idealised beauty standards, promoting to these teenagers that white, tall, thin women are the best and prettiest type of woman, when in fact, it doesn’t matter if you’re far from that description of what is idealised as perfect or if you fit the exact description, all women are beautiful in their own way, embracing their own characteristics, inside and out.
Whatever you shape, size, skin colour, face, etc, you need to understand that it doesn’t determine your beauty or worth, no matter what people say. People making judgements about the way you look says more about them than it does about you.
On the other hand, since I was ten, there has been more diversity in the media, not just in terms of appearance, but also in terms of how women behave, straying from the “idealistic” behaviour of cooking, cleaning and being a sexualised, provocative love interest. Women can do all sort of things and be all sort of things. As well as this, I feel like the world is progressing (very slowly) into showing women and young girls that beauty is subjective, especially as popular public figures are using their platforms, privileges and talents as a way to express and tackle these issues like Amy Schumer and Zendaya. Shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt are flourishing and uplifting women. Flaws and “imperfections” should not be abolished from your bodies but maybe instead embraced? And the truth is, women are not obligated to look pretty, ever, for anyone. We are more than just a pretty face.
Always be yourself and strut out your door with confidence, despite what the world is pinning down on you.
“I can’t think of any better representation of beauty than someone who is unafraid to be herself.” -Emma Stone
So girl you do you!
-Shay, Planet Shay
Thank you so much Elm for letting me guest post on your blog a second time! Elm will also be posting on my blog so don’t miss her brilliance there! 😊