In all dictionaries beauty is defined differently throughout them all. They do all seem to have a few things in common. Beauty means something along the lines of someone who is attractive, appealing, charming, and delightful. So, looking at this broadly, beauty can be all things, even thoughts, that appeal the too senses. Some dictionaries go as far as addressing beauty as an attractive or seductive looking women. Beauty is one of society’s great obsessions, and it is now worse than ever.
Beauty can be broken down into two different parts. Inner beauty, refereeing to how someone is on the inside (i.e. personality); and external beauty, referring to physical features (i.e. face, body parts) (James, 2013). This papers focus will be mostly centered on external beauty because many individuals are effected by society’s standard/definition of beauty. I see young girls and women to be effected the most by society but, young boys can also be effected. This influence starts during childhood and is continued by the media.
Am I beautiful? This is one question that everyone has asked themselves in their life. This process of classifying someone as beautiful starts at birth. The first words a baby most likely hears is “You are so beautiful”, since you are just a baby for all you know, you could be being told that you are hideous, so this process has not really affected you yet. As a child continues to grow parents continuously praise their child for their beauty. It has become second nature to think that our appearance is a very important thing; we have been programmed to think so since we were children.
Little girls will be praised for pretty faces, cute hair, and beautiful dresses. Little boys are mostly considered handsome, and cute. The continued positive remarks we get about our beauty in our childhood, makes us grow up to believe that we need to spend time on our looks, and stick with societies expectations of beauty, because being beautiful makes you feel good. Little children have the best imagination, and the most influential minds. To a child, the dancing princesses, fighting off dragons, without a hair out of place or a zit on their face; is 100% real. “Firstly is children’s literature, Adams (1985) argued that children have become accustomed to hearing fairy tales, whether they are in books read before bed time or in films” (James, 2013).
Princess are a seemly harmless “object” for little girls to obsess over, but they represent a very poor way of true life. Jasmine, Aril, Snow White, and Cinderella, all have one thing in common; they are flawless and they associate ugliness with bad, and beauty with good (James, 2013). Cinderella for example, is living with her step mother and “ugly” step sisters, who make her do all the chores. They are portrayed as bad people, who have an “ugly” appearance. Where, in the end Cinderella finds her prince and they live happily ever after; implying that good things happen to beautiful people (James, 2013).
These princesses from fairy tales and films are then made into plastic creations, best known as Barbie. It is estimated that a Barbie doll is sold every 3 seconds. She represents an ultra slim waist, with perfect looks; a little girls dream. A Barbie doll does not live up to reality though. With her 16’ inch waist she doesn’t even have enough room for her vital organs, let alone eat food. She has a neck that is 2x the size of a normal neck, and it is 6’ thinner than it should be; she would not even be able to hold her head up. “According to Dittmar, Halliwell and Ive (2006), girls exposed to images of Barbie dolls reported lower body esteem and a greater desire for a thinner body shape in comparison to girls exposed to Emme dolls, a US size 16, and no dolls” (James, 2013).
We live in a world where we are told that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” but there are multiple studies that show if you are not living up to what society classifies as beauty, you will not have as many advantages. Attractive children are more popular with teachers and classmates, attractive applicants have an enhanced chance of getting a job and receiving higher salaries, and in a court situation; attractive people are found guilty less often and when they are found guilty, they receive a reduced amount of severity (Fox, 1997). This is something that shows up worldwide within the workplace.
A 2000 study in Brittan concluded that for men and women, if they were seen as unattractive or short there was significant earning penalties (Patzer, 2010). Out of this study they found that tall men would receive a higher pay, and obese women would have a lower pay (Patzer, 2010). “Evidence from studies conducted in the United States, Canada, and China in 1994 and 1999 suggests that highly attractive employees enjoy increased earnings of between 7.5 percent and 15 percent over their average-looking peers” (Patzer, 2010). 16% of workers, by a report from the Employment Law Alliance in 2005, were victims of appearance discrimination (Rhode, 2013).
Appearance related bias also intensifies disadvantages based off of gender, race, ethnicity, age, class, and sexual orientation (Rhode, 2013). Society’s beauty standards penalize the people who do not have the time or money to worry about their appearance. Then, weight discrimination creates costs for people who live in communities with shortages of healthy food and exercise facilities (Rhode, 2013).
Thanks to the media, society has become accustomed to inflexible standards of beauty (Fox, 1997). The T.V, magazines, the internet; they are all flooded with “beautiful” people, making this seem like something normal and attainable. When, in fact, the standards of beauty have become harder to obtain, especially for women (i.e. media ideal of thinness if only held by less than 5% of the population) (Fox, 1997). Our beauty obsessed society has always been a problem, but now with the amount of mass media we have, the problem seems to have gotten out of control.
The people that are being shown as “perfection” have insecurities like all the ordinary people, under all of their make-up and ways to make their body “perfect”. We need to stop spending time and money on the increasing gap between “perfection” and reality. Men and women of all shapes and sizes are beautiful and we need to educate the children on these fabricated images, so they can learn to feel comfortable in their own skin.
As a society, by educating one person at a time, we can create a healthier environment for every individual. One day, we then all might be able to live in a society where people are not starving themselves to fit in. Children (and even adults) need to learn to define themselves based off of their rareness and abilities. So many people in society are pressured by the “ideal beauty”; and it is overwhelming. This will continue to happen until individuals learn that they are good enough.