Beauty Standards in Media
What is Beauty Standards?
Beauty Standards, as known as feminine beauty ideals are ideal traits that refer to specific physical appearances of women that are considered as the most attractive. They are determined and accepted by society, following the culture, estimation of women, or sometimes, arbitrarily their sexual orientation’s opinion. A set of beauty standards includes skin tones, facial features—eyelid, nose, lips, etc., hairstyles, body shapes, weights, heights, clothing styles, and more. They are a frame to women, limiting what is beautiful and what is not. They have changed through eras, over and over, but never left the society. Giving priority to outer beauty, without considering the nature of diversity in humans realistically, and ignoring one’s inner beauty. For example, the most common beauty standards are having light skin and being skinny.
Media Representation of Beauty Standards
Mass media is currently one of the medium tools that have a powerful impact on people and society, especially on people’s perceptions and attitudes. Mass media includes traditional media—television, radio, magazine, as well as new media and social media, for example, Youtube and Instagram, in order. Unfortunately, it became a tool that negatively create a belief in beauty standards that later frame women.
Media always portrays models that own specific appearance features that people in a society view as desirable. These ideal models appear mostly on media entertaining content. Such as, in commercials, models are always ideally beautiful to advertise a product and persuade the audience. In the music industry, some songs speak about concepts of feminine beauty ideals. In competitions that use beauty as a measure, when winners are announced, they create a conclusion of how a person should look to be beautiful. Also, on social media, people only post photos that are sometimes edited or distorted to show the best look of themselves. Moreover, there are challenges that people do on the internet to show off their bodies. For example, reaching a hand backward around the body to the belly button, putting coins on the collarbones, etc.
When the audience consumes media without careful consideration, sometimes they forget that media could be very illusory and unreal. Such contents communicate and strengthen the idea of beauty standards, which conflict with the basic principle on the role of media—reflecting diversity in society. It gets supported more and more, along with other factors, such as the growth of the beauty industry—cosmetic and plastic surgery, and more. For example, Thin ideal mentions being a slim woman, with a small waist and least body fat, influenced by supermodels on media.
Effects of Beauty Standards on Individuals
The idea of beauty standards has unintentionally sunk into people’s minds and it has affected an individual both mentally and physically. It has built a norm toward physical appearance—only specific features could make an appreciation and perception of beauty, as well as a body image which is defined as a mental picture of one’s own body, made up from how their body appears, and thoughts. That sometimes could cause people to be judgmental to others’ appearances, and also to their appearances, which will lead to appearance concern in oneself.
Appearance concern happens when people have a negative body image. People who have appearance concerns will start to see some part of their bodies as a flaw, forgetting that it is the nature of humans to have flaws on their bodies, and they are a uniqueness. This thought could be a beginning sign of mental illness. It would get worse step-by-step, appearance concern could turn into lack of confidence. A person would feel unconfident about their flaws, thinking that they do not look attractive to others. As they do not look similar compared to what they have seen on media that are full of beauty standards that are only a part of reality. Sometimes, they might think that they do not even look normal or disgusting in the worst case. It could drag some people even lower when they start to in-appreciate or dissatisfy with themselves. That would take away their self-love and self-esteem because they underestimate themselves, and do not see their real values or self-worth from the inside.
Bridging to physical illness that would come afterward. Some people would start to suffer from an eating disorder, in order to get themselves to look like what they believe how they should look to be normal, following the beauty standards as a measure. For example, Anorexia—unusual low body weight and fear of gaining weight and BED or Binge eating disorder—abnormal frequent and large amount eating.
When Beauty Standards lead to Social Issues
The effects on individuals later have become social issues. From time to time, beauty standards were created from a belief. Bradley University (2021) reported that “in contexts where women are valued mainly for their fertility—their ability to bear and nurture children—often full-bodied women with broad hips and ample breasts are considered the most beautiful.” This kind of belief estimates the value of femininity. It has gotten women into a rut. It has judged a role for women and locked them up in a cage of judgment as long as they live.
Women always need to live under a pressure, as they need to fulfill their roles. And the role is not even their own choices. Even though how much they try, beauty standards are always there to judge their abilities to fulfill their roles. For example, in Thailand, women who have small hips and flat chests are considered as hard to bear and feed children. In fact, those factors do not matter anymore. Because currently, there is a medical technology that helps women to easily give birth to children. And her ability to raise children is not based on her body, yet on her effort and attitude.
In some societies, the role limits women more than their beings for children. It limits their choices of occupation, according to their beauties, ignoring their talents. For example, women sing beautifully but miss beauty standards, they also miss a chance to follow their dream even how talented they are. Also, flight attendants, women need to be groomed perfectly and follow the most common beauty standard—being skinny, disregarding the fact that their body shapes have nothing to do with their potential and strengths to take care of passengers.
When women are considered by their outer beauties. Women are seen from their appearances. Their inner beauty and real potential got ignored. Triggered the idea of seeing women as sex objects. Sexual objectification occurs when a woman’s body, body parts, or sexual functions are isolated from her whole and complex being and treated as objects simply to be looked at, coveted, or touched, Fredrickson & Roberts (1997). Causing women to get sexual assault and sexual harassment continuously.
Furthermore, such actions had led society to be patriarchal, which consists of a male-dominated power structure throughout organized society and in individual relationships. The power is related to the privilege of men, which women are not entitled, Napikoski (2020).
Movements against Beauty Standards
After the long existence of beauty standards in media, the movement of media against beauty standards started to appear. As new media has taken part in society, Youtube has become one of the main video streamers. There are various contents that can be uploaded by anyone. It is a place where popularity is directly considered from the idea of the contents, not from outer looks. People actually have their own access to a space where they can show off their potential without a standard judging them. Weaken the idea of beauty standards and create a fair community in media. As culture builds media, media also builds culture as well. Development against beauty standards in new media has educated people more about confidence in who they are and self-love.
Another big step against beauty standards that Thai society just experienced was Miss Universe Thailand 2021. Ann Anchilee Scott-Kemmis was crowned Miss Universe Thailand 2021 and represented Thailand at Miss Universe 2021. Ann was the only one who obviously but beautifully conflicts beauty standards of Thailand and also Miss Universe. Although she did not look as skinny as other competitors looked, she has won the competition representing the concept of real size beauty.
Ann got more controversial when she seemed to gain more weight on the way to Miss Universe in Israel. Some groups of people supported her and agreed to the concept of real size beauty saying that she was still beautiful the way she was. But some groups of people argued that she was supposed to be stricter to control her look since she was in the middle of the competition. People were saying that she was using the concept of real size beauty as a privilege while others were making every effort to look the best they could.
Even though Ann did not do well in Miss Universe in people’s opinions, her attempt in Miss Universe Thailand has cheered up people. She did not create a new beauty standard like others generally did. She did not say that to look like her is beautiful. But she introduced the beauty of uniqueness and self-esteem in terms of real size beauty to people. It does not matter how far did she go, but did she make a change to society. Did people in society learn to appreciate their originals? Are they ready to break beauty standards and be their own versions of beautiful already?
Nowadays, characters or models out of beauty standards started to pop up more and more on traditional media.
“I spent my whole life afraid people were gonna find out that I was fat. But honestly, who gives a sh-t? There’s nothing more powerful than a fat girl who doesn’t give a f-ck!”, Kat Hernandez from Euphoria, played by Barbie Ferreira.
“She did not have to be the prettiest, or the tallest, or the blondest, or the whitest. She just had that f-cking confidence”, Maddy Perez from Euphoria, played by Alexa Demie
Have Beauty Standards suffered You?
Not only technology in media has developed, but also technology in cosmetic and plastic surgery. There are a lot of people that bear extreme pains just to look-alike beauty standards. People pay too much attention to appearances, specifically to women. Women’s values are based on someone else’s beauty perception of you. People were born and grown totally different, depending on their races, heredities, environments, and more, which make it impossible to follow others’ standards. With human beings that have a superior mental process, ability to communicate, and personal potential, is it reasonable to judge oneself from their beauty which is only a small part of one’s real value? Would it be better if people in society gain both capability and uniquely beautiful with confidence in their own ways? To prevent society of privilege and inequality.