Why do looks limit?

Written by Valentina Frank

 

Have you ever seen a photo of a beautiful person and ended up in front of a mirror unconsciously comparing yourself with the photo? The more you look at yourself, the more flaws you find in your appearance, and your self-esteem can easily be affected. In today’s world, you constantly get brainwashed into thinking that you are not enough the way you are and should change your looks to become a “better person”. I recently wrote a blog post regarding the issues of beauty standards, but I feel there is so much more to research and study on the subject. This time, I didn’t have an aim for where I was going with my post; I just started surfing the internet on beauty standards and looks. With the help of photos and images, I want to analyze and give my thoughts on this subject.

 

I started by simply googling “beautiful woman”, and in just the blink of an eye, my screen was filled with dozens and dozens of beautiful women. Most of the women that popped up as the definition of a beautiful woman were white. I noticed only a handful of “genuinely” colored women when scrolling through the images. Many women probably have different ethnic backgrounds, but with the help of makeup, hairstyling, and heavy photoshop, they were whitewashed to fit the norm of the beauty standards. I made a quick google search on what the biggest ethnic group in the world is; Han-Chinese. What stunned me was that I had to scroll through the pictures of the beautiful women for quite a while until I came across a picture of a woman who could fit the standards of a Han-Chinese. It is very odd that only one picture could represent the biggest ethnic group in the world amongst the hundreds of photos. However, it is an eye-opener to how Eurocentric our beauty standards are.

 

Beautiful woman”

 

I then went on to type “handsome man” in my google search, and I was shocked. Several handsome men popped up on my screen, but all of them were white! It took me quite a few scrolls to find a man with a different ethnic background than a Caucasian white, and when I finally found one, he was heavily whitewashed. I scrolled through the whole first page of “handsome men” and was shocked to notice that I didn’t come across a single black man; keep in mind that I went through several hundreds of different photos. The lack of representation of people of color in our society is unfortunate and there is no wonder that non-white people feel excluded when it comes to beauty standards.

Handsome man”

 

People with disabilities in our society are another group of people who face constant exclusion, and the risk of them being marginalized is significant. About 15% of the world population experience some sort of disability, yet the representation of people with disabilities in the context of beauty is almost non-existent. Recently I came across an article about the first girl with down syndrome to become Victoria’s Secret model. Victoria’s Secret as a brand feeds off people’s insecurities and their desire of looking like runway models. It’s no surprise that people would like to look like the beautiful women representing the brand; I mean they are some of the most beautiful women we’ve ever seen. The issue is that the life behind the scenes of the runway models is not glamorous at all. Starvation, invasion of privacy, and unrealistic expectations of their looks are just the iceberg tip. The fact that a girl with a visual disability has been accepted to represent a brand as heavily concentrated on looks as Victoria’s secret is a sign that we are slowly moving in the right direction. People who suffer from disabilities- or anyone who feels they can’t fit the norm of beauty, can now refer to a supermodel, gain confidence, and truly understand that they are as beautiful as anyone, despite their imperfections.

 

Victoria’s Secret models”

 

“Sofia Jirau, the first Victoria’s Secret model with down syndrome”

 

In my previous blog post, I explained how we become limited and exclude ourselves from society due to our insecurities. We feel anxious that our imperfections will define us as human beings, and therefore we want to protect ourselves by hiding them. The issue is that these so-called “imperfections” most often are only in our heads. It would help if you did not exclude yourself from society because you feel you don’t fit perfectly to beauty standards. I mean, who really fits? Almost everybody has insecurities, meaning most people think they can’t define themselves as “perfect”. So why even strive for perfection? It is such an unrealistic aim. What you can do instead is to think about what you define as beautiful. Not what the media or the society thinks. What does the definition of beautiful mean to you? Then you try to change your aim and strive for that without caring about what’s important to others.

 

Because at the end of it all, why do we even care about looks? What matters is the way we act towards one another, and everyone should be able to enjoy their life without being limited by the way they look.

 

References:

Fleming, E. (2021) “What is the most common race in the world?”, Sidmartinibio.org Available: https://www.sidmartinbio.org/what-is-the-most-common-race-in-the-world/

Infogram. “Race of the world population” Available:

https://infogram.com/race-of-the-world-population-1go502yg18k62jd

Basaninyenzi, U.(2021) “Disabilitiy inclusion”, Worldbank.org Available: https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/disability#1

Weigel, M. (2019) “What Life Is Really Like For A Victoria’s Secret Model”

Ranker.com Available:

https://www.ranker.com/list/daily-life-of-a-victorias-secret-model/mason-weigel

Acevedo, N. (2022) “First Victoria’s Secret model with Down syndrome is Latina” Nbcnews.com, Available:

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/first-victorias-secret-model-syndrome-latina-rc na16533

Photo by Zoey Grossman, published by glamour.com (2022)

Available: https://www.glamour.com/story/sofia-jirau-makes-history-as-the-first-victorias-secretmodel-with-down-syndrome

Photo by Evan Agostini, published by wbur.org (2020) Available:

https://www.wbur.org/news/2020/01/03/victorias-secret-models-thinner

Twisted Standards of Beauty

Written by Valentina Frank

 

The world circles around appearances and the idea of what beauty constantly changes, far more quickly than one should be expected to change oneself. Yet, people continuously want to live up to those standards. Why, though? Why is it so important to be “beautiful” in society’s eyes?

 

If we take Finland as an example, it is immediately an advantage if you are attractive. It is easier for you to find a job, friends, partners, or to get by in your everyday life. The Finnish beauty standards are, for instance, being slim, tall, blonde, fit, healthy-looking, etc. The most significant beauty standard of them all, even though it can only be read between the lines, is being white. And that is a big issue. If you are not white, you are instantly in a lower position compared to a typical scandi. This is naturally something that is not only an issue in Finland but also a problem that occurs in the whole western world. Since I am white, meaning I have never experienced any prejudices due to my skin color, I don’t feel I am in a position to present the issue of racial injustice as I can’t in any way relate to the problems of color. I recently got the opportunity to participate in a lecture by Jasmin Slimani about the lack of representation of Afro-Finnish women in the Finnish beauty standards. It was eye-opening, and she explained well the issues she and other Afro-Finnish women have had to experience living in an all-white country. Her lecture got me thinking about what experiences I have regarding the issues of beauty standards, and since this world is far from perfect, I found plenty.

 

In the world we live in today, the power social media has on beauty and how it impacts people is, to be honest, quite frightening. Overnight, a new trend pops up, and suddenly you are expected to look a certain way. People, especially young girls, can get a malformed idea of beauty. And why not young boys, too. They think that to be attractive; they will have to be perfect-skinned, fit, athletic, feminine, or masculine, you name it! These are very unrealistic expectations of what a beautiful person should look like. Yet we constantly strive for looking like the photo-shopped supermodels on the internet. We are manipulated into thinking that we are better and become more successful by being beautiful in terms of beauty standards. And yes, it is true that “attractive” people have more advantages in life, but why does it have to be that way?

 

As a young woman in my early 20s, I can most definitely say I’ve experienced the pressures of social media. I remember feeling anxiety about not having that many followers on Instagram from my early teens compared to the “popular girls”. Why were my selfies not pretty enough? Why was I not cool enough? The constant comparison to other girls was never-ending. Fortunately, in my early teens, social media did not have quite the impact as it has these days. Today the constant reminder to change yourself for the better is exhausting. I could not even imagine going through my most fragile teenage years with society’s “ demands “ on young girls. For example, the amount of advertisements for cosmetic surgery is alarming. Young people are encouraged to get procedures on their bodies to make themselves pretty. Romanticizing cosmetic surgery is something common, and it is everyday life in today’s society for teens to talk about what procedures they want to get done when they are adults. In other words, children fantasize about going under the knife to look beautiful, and it is unfortunate.

 

There are different ways to fit the beauty standards portrayed in social media into a question of social exclusion. Social media platforms are widely used worldwide, and beauty standards differ from country to country. That being said, prejudices towards “wrong” looking people are unfortunately widespread. Biases often lead people, who stand out from the norms, to be excluded or left out of different opportunities. When you meet someone new, you often categorize them by how they look; you give them a gender, race, ethnicity, etc. This often happens unconsciously and makes people with prejudices treat those they find differently. This causes a form of social exclusion. For example, people who wear garments that imply a different religion than the norm are often having a more challenging time finding employment or lodging since their way of looking is not what is considered the standard of beauty.

 

Beauty standards are not something that excludes people only on, e.g. social media. For instance, many children and teenagers are pressured to look a certain way to fit in the school environment. A significant majority of children have access to social media and have access to be affected by beauty standards. The issue is that there are no beauty standards “for children,” which leads to children wanting to look like adults. Many young girls try to dress more revealingly, use heavy makeup and enhance certain body parts to look more like their adult idols on Instagram. As a result, even more, children are trying to act and look like adults, and the children who are not (yet) affected by these beauty standards, are getting left out and bullied simply for looking like children. As a solution, some schools have introduced school uniforms to minimize the inequality between students and the risks of someone getting excluded by how they look. Naturally, school uniforms cause many other issues, but that is another discussion.

 

I find it very interesting that people’s insecurity often excludes them from social situations regarding beauty standards. Most people have some issues with their appearances. Still, usually, those insecurities are only in their heads, meaning that others won’t necessarily even notice them, and therefore people are unlikely to be excluded from society due to them. You will not (or at least I hope so) get declined service for not having a small nose or not having a thigh gap, but what is common is that you might limit yourself from doing things because of such thoughts. For instance, some people don’t like going to the beach because they are insecure about their bodies that may not present the current “bikini body” shape. They feel left out because they refuse to show their perfectly normal body, only because they don’t fit in the image of a stereotype. The problem is that only a small percentage of people fill up the expectations social media portrays. Despite knowing that, we constantly strive to change ourselves into the twisted ideals of these photo-shopped beauty standards. People who suffer from visible disabilities might not want to participate in social events because they are ashamed or feel uneasy due to their disabilities. Hence, they are socially excluded by these beauty standards. It is important not to blame these people for being left out. Instead, we should blame society for accepting that beauty standards are twisted and malformed and for not making an active effort to make a change.

 

The existing beauty standards persist due to our relations with other people. We constantly compare ourselves with others, and we always feel that somebody else is better looking, more intelligent, funnier or more successful than we are. Beauty standards would not exist without the never-ending comparison. Due to social media, we are exposed to the standards daily, and we maintain the feeling of not being enough by comparing our lives with other people. We exclude ourselves from others by thinking that we are odd with our imperfections, while every other person is perfect. We forget that all of us have our issues, everyone has insecurities, and you are the definition of perfect for someone else. And that’s not the way it should be because your definition of perfect should be you. Exactly the way you are.

 

References:

Roets, A.(2011) Research States That Prejudice Comes From a Basic Human Need and Way of Thinking

PsychologicalScience.org, Available: https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/research-states-that-prejudice-c omes-from-a-basic-human-need-and-way-of-thinking.html

Silver, H. (2015) Social exclusion, Brown University.

Researchgate.net, Available: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319557578_Social_Exclusion

Treacy, S. (2018) Social Media Users Negatively Affected by Social Media Posts

That Make Them Feel Excluded

Electronics360.globalspec.com, Available: https://electronics360.globalspec.com/article/12905/social-media-users-negatively-af fected-by-social-media-posts-that-make-them-feel-excluded

Fetto, F. (2019) The beauty industry is still failing black women Theguardian.com, Available: https://www.theguardian.com/global/2019/sep/29/funmi-fetto-happy-in-my-skin-beaut y-industry-diversity

Slimani, J. (2021) Mirror, mirror on the wall, why am I not the fairest? – an

Afrocentric approach to the lack of representation of Afro-Finnish women within the

Finnish beauty standard, Åbo Akademi University, Faculty of Arts, Psychology, and

Theology Available:

https://www.doria.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/182709/slimani_jasmin.pdf?sequence=2

&isAllowed=y

Pagtakhan, A. (2021) Beauty standards create fear of exclusion for young girls Riversideeddy.ca, Available: https://riversideeddy.ca/beauty-standards-create-fear-of-exclusion-for-young-girls/.

Procon.org (2020) Pro and con: School uniforms, Available: https://www.britannica.com/story/pro-and-con-school-uniforms