I believe society’s definition of “contemporary beauty” has a HUGE negative influence on how women of all ages feel about their appearance.
That’s because it’s a powerful influence that not only determines how we dress, but also how we feel about ourselves.
And with power comes responsibility, and in my opinion, the media and society are NOT handling this responsibility appropriately.
Let me explain…
You could say that Essex queen Amy Childs epitomizes contemporary beauty.
As a recent article in The Times Magazine claims:
“Certainly she ticks every box of contemporary beauty: full breasts on a slender frame; cascading mermaid hair; huge, lash-framed eyes; pouty lips”.
On the one hand it seems harmless enough. BUT there’s the conflicting criticism where her look is described as “somewhere between Disney princess and off-duty porn star”.
And what’s more worrying is the increasing trend of young women who are resorting to drastic measures, including surgery, in an attempt to achieve this look. The Times article goes on to suggest that society’s obsession with how we look is influencing what young people focus on. They explain how,
“For a generation of teenagers, glossy grooming, flawless skin and facebook-ready make-up have become an obsession.”
It’s sad because there’s an assumption hidden in there that women and girls are not good enough if their own beauty falls short of society’s definition.
More to the point, have we really reached the point where looking the right way is more highly valued than everything else we can do as human beings?
I know that this is a dialogue that continues to be contentiously discussed.
- YES: Women are sexualized
- NO: Young girls should not be exposed to media images that encourage them to want to be women before their time
- NO: It’s not right to dress young children in bikinis or high heels
- NO: It’s not right that advertisers continue to pose scantily clad women next to fully dressed men
And even though people nod their heads in agreement at the above statements, it doesn’t stop the fact that because SEX SELLS, the trend persists.
For sure some retailers are responding. The Co-Op has recently given lads’ mags an ultimatum. They’ve been told to conceal front covers with “modesty bags” or they’ll be removed from sale.
Jo Swinson, the Women and Equalities Minister has described the move as “very welcome”. But whilst it’s a laudable step, it’s simply not enough. That’s because these images are not just in lads’ mags. They’re also on billboards, advertising, TV, soaps, magazines etc. In fact, Jo Swinson goes on to say:
“Many parents aren’t comfortable with the way sexualised imagery has become like wallpaper – everywhere from the bus stop to the corner shop.”
There seems to be no escape from the underlying, subtle message that fat is ugly, thin is sexy and beautiful and women who match up to the idealized images portrayed in the popular media are more valuable than those who don’t.
Should the media take all the blame?
There is a counter-argument.
You could say it’s unfair to place all the blame on the media.
After all, as free thinking individuals we should take responsibility for our own thoughts and responses. What’s more we live in a free society that prides itself on lack of censorship and freedom of speech. You could say it’s personal choice and the media along with the fashion and beauty industries are simply responding to what they know sells.
- You don’t have to buy the make-up and the clothes.
- And you don’t have to go on drastic diets or shape-up plans in an effort to mould your body and your appearance to fit the definition of “contemporary beauty”.
But somewhere this argument falls down – simply because society’s belief are accepted as the truth.
And because the message is so widespread and penetrating, and because we as humans have a need to “fit in”, it’s not easy to dismiss and ignore the “prize” that so many people value.
And because we’re all tempted by quick fix solutions to have a better life, it’s not surprising the media is able to convince us our lives would be better if we lost a bit of weight, wore sexier clothes and invested in the ever-growing mass of beauty and hair products to look more beautiful.
The darker side of society’s obsession
I think a different perspective is needed.
That’s because there are serious detrimental side effects to our cultural obsession with this crazy “one-size-fits-all” definition of beauty. Let’s face it, it’s not so innocent when women and young girls feel compelled to take drastic measures in an attempt to fit in and be accepted.
And there’s growing evidence that this is exactly what’s happening.
We’re in the thick of summer and dieting is a hot topic.
As the fashion changes, the pressure to look good in a bikini increases along with the headlines of the latest magazines with their promises to help us shape-up and lose weight fast.
The latest fad diet, celebrity fat busting tips and miracle weight-loss promises sell. In addition the magazines are filled with celebrity gossip criticizing or congratulating famous women on their toned stomach, cellulite, spots etc. Even new mum Kate Middleton became the topic of discussion about how she could reclaim her pre-baby body.
And it means that this summer millions of women will be experimenting with the latest diet.
What’s more, it’s unlikely to be their first attempt. I find it shocking that dieting has become a normalized lifestyle choice with people boomeranging from one quick fix solution to the next in the desperate hope that this one will work.
Because the truth is diets are inherently unsuccessful.
In fact, a restrictive eating plan often leads to the opposite effects to what the diet promised. Instead of losing weight, feeling great and looking “beautiful”, most women find their diet plans fail and they actually GAIN weight. In turn instead of feeling good, they feel worse.
And despite popular belief, these dietary failures are not because of a lack of willpower.
It’s because our bodies are biologically programmed to respond to a restricted intake of food (i.e. a diet) by slowing metabolism, storing fat and mentally causing us to obsess about food so we actively seek it out
Just be YOU
I think it’s tragic many people feel they are not enough as they are.
I am disgusted by the drive that leads women of increasingly younger ages to become a “clone” and strive to achieve the “contemporary” definition of beauty instead of taking the time to discover, accept and love who they really are.
What’s more, I think more needs to be done to ensure women are educated about the real truth of diets and why they simply don’t work.
And to help I’ve written a free eBook called “Are Your Dieting Strategies Killing You? Revealed: The Dark Side of Summer Dieting”.
In this FREE 27-page eBook you’ll discover:
- Who’s really benefitting from your summer diet – and it’s NOT you
- The dangerous physical, mental and emotional side effects the weight-loss industry would rather you didn’t know
- The hard-wired human instinct that means your diet is destined to FAIL
- Why losing weight will NOT lead to lasting happiness, body confidence and self-esteem
- The shocking reasons why dieting is often a precursor to a struggle with bulimia
- A safer, alternative approach to loving your body and yourself without struggling with food
What’s more, because this information is so important for you to know, the eBook is FREE.
If you are planning to start a diet, or if you are worried about someone who yo-yos from one diet to the next, you’ll find this eBook will contain some key information that will leave you more informed about what’s really happening.
So please, take the time now to download your copy – your health, sanity and wellbeing deserves it.
I’d love to hear what you think of the eBook, so please leave your comments below…
Bulimia Recovery Coach
Julie won a 15 year battle with bulimia over 20 years ago and now mentors and coaches others to bulimia freedom. She is a compassionate, caring bulimia recovery coach who brings a unique and powerful perspective on recovery that has helped people from all walks of life, not just stop bingeing and purging but learn how to love themselves and their bodies and create a life they love.