Since the beginning of time, beauty standards have been defined and coveted. Every time standards change, the current generation’s perception of themselves does, too. For my generation, our butts aren’t big enough, our stomachs aren’t flat enough and our bodies aren’t curvy enough. For the generation before us, their hair wasn’t big enough or their butts flat enough.
The common denominator is that these standards have a negative effect on those who are exposed to them. It especially affects teens and pre-teens, as they are just coming into who they are, and self-image is a large part of this.
According to the Park Nicollet Melrose Center, 53 percent of thirteen-year-old American girls are unhappy with their bodies. The number increases to 78 percent by the time they reach 17.
A negative self-image can not only contribute to several mental illnesses and disorders, but problems that last a lifetime. It’s extremely hard to combat insecurity once you’ve dealt with it before.
A 2010 study focused on girls ages 13 to 17 found nine out of 10 girls felt pressured by the media and fashion industries to be skinny. The media is a constant reminder of the narrow definition of what beauty has become. Places like Victoria’s Secret who denounce plus-size women who they don’t “market” to when they’re one of the biggest beauty stores in the world play a large part in this. You also have stores whose sizes run smaller than what is normal, bringing on insecure thoughts.
The biggest problem is the media. Teens and pre-teens spend most of their time on social media, looking at these ridiculous body goals and looks. These images are doctored, airbrushed and usually heavily-edited. I have no problem with anyone who gets plastic surgery, but what about the girls who see those bodies and compare themselves?
It’s unhealthy, at the very least. Subscribing to these images can only have a negative effect on these young women who are still growing into who they are, in a stage of their life already plagued with enough self-doubt.
Magazines are not exempt from this problem. Magazines are largely digital these days, and they also utilize the various practices of editing the images they put out. In fact, magazines are the professionals at this. Magazine editors often lighten skin colors, take in hips and lengthen legs — the list goes on.
American actress Zendaya was a victim of such manipulation in 2015. The singer called out Modeliste magazine for editing her body in images shot for the issue. The then 19-year-old wrote on Instagram, “Had a new shoot come out today and was shocked when I found my 19 year old hips and torso quite manipulated. These are the things that make women self conscious, that create the unrealistic ideals of beauty that we have.”
The images are not without implications at all, and it’s irresponsible for those charged with creating the current images of beauty to keep putting them out. Why publish an image of someone who doesn’t even look like the image? It only helps to foster unhealthy thought processes, low self-esteem and problems for people growing up alongside them.
Maya Stevenson is a 19-year-old English and economics sophomore from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.