An op-ed by Lilly Nuck
Beauty. A lot of people define beauty in different ways. While some may consider the most beautiful things to be portrayed on the inside, others wholeheartedly believe that beauty is solely what is found on the outside. The true reason why many have come to believe this stems from beauty standards that were implemented into society tens of thousands of years ago in European countries. Although those extreme beauty standards are not as common in today’s day and age, there happens to be one thing that allows unrealistic ideas of beauty to continue to be depicted in our world: social media. The attention-grabbing ways of technology have attracted generations and introduces the toxic ideologies of what you have to look like and accomplish in life in order to be recognized as beautiful.
Even before the pressure-filled ways of the Internet and social media were introduced into our world, both the ideal “mind and body” credentials of a human being were pushed on young children, specifically women. For instance, according to CNN.com, statues representing women’s physiques date back to as early as 20,000 years ago. To be more specific, in one example in 1908 Austria, figurines were discovered that depicted “round, pear-shaped women’s bodies, many with large breasts.” This just further shows that women have been objectified since the beginning of time. A woman’s beauty was all that she was seen for and the only way through which she could be respected or successful in life. Society deemed a woman important for her perfectly proportionate and sculpted body rather than for her keen mind and cognitive abilities.
Due to these unrealistic beliefs and expectations, women would put in strenuous amounts of time and effort morphing their bodies to fit the mold. Corsets, for example, helped sculpt and frame female figures, creating a thin waist and curves.
Rolling into the 20th century, there was a dramatic shift in what was deemed as “beautiful.” Instead of having bold curves, society was in favor of women having a more slim, thin, and athletic physique–an idea that continues to remain in modern times to a certain degree. This dramatic change pushed women to believe that they needed to become ultra thin, which ultimately introduced issues such as eating disorders into our society. No matter what lengths a woman had to go through, she would do so in order to reach her prime and be accepted as a beautiful being.
The bust-to-waist ratio of women fluctuated immensely throughout the bulk of the 1900s and lowered/dropped in correlation to what was portrayed in the media. Fashion models on the cover of magazines like Vogue were not seen for their trending fashion but rather for a trending body type. This just goes to show one more destructive example arising from an alarming ideology of appearance obsession that has been around for centuries.
This toxic way of thinking is one that has continued in our modern society. Every other TV commercial or advertisement promotes a product or membership for anti-aging, weight loss, how to get a toned physique, and countless other image-improving options. As if the now simplistic ways of television were not enough, the rapidly growing world of social media has created a large uproar in falsities associated with the idea of beauty.
For instance, the article “Social Media and Its Effects on Beauty” explains how social media triggers an array of mental health problems surrounding the idea of beauty. Social media as a whole has had a severe impact on “the perceptual, affective, cognitive, and behavioral aspects of body image [… ] .” Rather than using online platforms as a way to share memorable moments and breathtaking vacations, current generations have converted it to become a place that promotes the idea that appearance is everything. The most heart-wrenching reality is that while innocent girls idolize women who appear to have the perfect look, the “perfect” women could just be covering up their so-called “flaws” through the use of photo editing apps such as Adobe Photoshop and Facetune. Whether they use the app to tighten their face or erase a noticeable birthmark, the app allows them to cover up whatever insecurities they want, creating the forever unattainable illusion of perfection.
The thing that children, women, men, and people of all ages need to understand is that there never will be a concrete definition of beauty. Beauty is so much more than what appears to the eye. The most beautiful of people are the ones who encompass traits such as pure kindness, compassion, empathy, patience, and generosity. So while there is nothing wrong with complimenting a woman on her external beauty, remember that it is not all she is. Remember that she is a person who deserves to have no judgement and be accepted for who she truly is, imperfections and all. All in all, society must change its thought process and begin to embrace the ways that we are different. The only true standard of beauty should be diversity.