Beauty myths and stereotypes are unrealistic standards where women feel obligated to fulfill society’s image of beauty and perfection.
Such things as beauty myths trigger toxic habits and behavior that leads women to the obsession of their appearance. Whether it’s achieving the look of a certain celebrity or trying to fit into the shoes of Disney princess stereotypes, beauty myths are unhealthy.
It indicates that femininity is accomplished through beauty. Society’s expectations of beauty standards are always in motion, every decade has a different image of what pretty should be.
Beauty myths and stereotypes always change, and the harm they cause affects women faster with its changing speed.
How Are Beauty Myths and Stereotypes Defined?
To live up to society’s expectations is impossible. No one can ever please everyone. The core of beauty myths and stereotypes is being physically appealing and focusing on your body image. The key quality is being pretty.
Essentially, beauty myths urge women to look beautiful, because that is how femininity is achieved. The pressure of being beautiful in the 21st century is immense. Not everyone is capable of satisfying social norms of beauty stereotypes.
Whether if it’s plastic surgery, losing weight, dying your hair, criticism is bound to follow you. But how exactly do beauty myths and stereotypes harm you? When you’re trying to achieve a look using unnatural ways (which is completely fine), but you start developing physical and mental health issues, that is when you realize you’re forcing your foot into the wrong shoe.
The root of these issues is in ourselves. Humans like pleasing others. But there’s a difference in buying your friend a gift to make them feel better and changing your look to make them happy.
Unrealistic beauty standards have always existed and are active now more than ever. Thick eyebrows, thin waist, bubbly round bottom, perky breasts, long legs, no arm-fat, wavy long hair, pouty lips, small nose, the list goes on.
Society wants women to be put into molds and craft barbie dolls out of them.
Beauty myths and stereotypes are inescapable
They are always promoted through media. Fashion trends, celebrities, movies, Disney princess stereotypes, literature are all methods of delivering it to the audience.
Women are exploited and objectified through media. Go to a nearby store and grab a women’s magazine. What do you see? How to lose weight in 10 days. How to get a slimmer waist. How to achieve a celebrity’s look. All are filled with “how to” articles to shape women into their image of perfect beauty.
Models who are basically perfect looking according to society are still photoshopped to look thinner, creating an unrealistic image. If the magazine is against photoshopping, you still see a pattern. Only thin girls are featured. No diversity whatsoever. Now grab another women’s magazine, what do you see now? Once again, thin girls and a long list of how-to articles.
Tired of reading a magazine? Let’s move onto animated movies. Let’s watch a Disney movie. Sleeping beauty was asleep for 100 years in the fairytale, wakes up as beautiful as ever. In the Disney movie, she’s asleep for a few hours. Have you thought about yourself waking up after a few hours of sleep? No one wakes up looking flawless.
Alright then, another movie. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Snow White is poisoned but wakes up looking perfect. Do you see a pattern? Disney princess stereotypes. Beauty myths create false standards for women from childhood. From a very early age, we are brainwashed into wanting to fit Disney princess stereotypes.
That later develops into a deeper concept. Disney movies become movies where thin actresses are always in the lead. Women who look different play supporting characters or extras. Think about what the media shows when they cover what feminists are protesting.
They associate the idea of women being feminist with less desirable looks. “Oh, she can’t land a guy, maybe that’s why she’s a feminist who hates men.”
Society is so deeply brainwashed with beauty myths and standards that we can’t look past our preconceived notions of Disney princess stereotypes we were subjected to from childhood. The damage is done at an early age.
Beauty myths and stereotypes aren’t always the same everywhere all the time
What’s pretty in the US may be considered ugly in Armenia. What used to be beautiful in the 1930s may be considered horrendous in the 21st century. What you think is pretty might be ugly for your friend.
A beauty myth experiment has been popular recently. Essentially, a picture of a woman is sent to different agencies in different countries and are asked to photoshop the women according to their countries’ standards. This experiment has created on the internet and showed the world how beauty is defined in their country.
- Most of the photoshopped images from Australia showed rosy cheeks, blue eyes, and naturally reddish lips.
- Photoshopped pictures from Israel featured green or hazel eyes, thick eyebrows, pouty lips.
- Italy’s photoshopped ones had angled angular eyebrows, green eyeshadow, nude-colored lipstick.
- Serbia’s beauty is defined as women with big blue eyes, thick eyebrows that are less angular, a straight slim nose and thick light-colored lips.
- Argentina’s interpretation of beauty was shown with thinner eyebrows, glittery purple eyeshadow with black eyeliner, and pink lip gloss.
Beauty myths and standards differ from century to century. In the Middle Ages, blond hair was considered ugly because people thought it referred to fornication. In the Renaissance period, rosy cheeks became beautiful in the eyes of people.
However, pale skin was still the main sign of beauty. Small breasts were what people preferred in the Tudor era. The Victorian era romanticized the hourglass figure which was achieved through the help of a corset.
A woman’s haircut is what made them beautiful in the 1920s, short till their ears. Loose, wavy curls took over the 30s, and Twiggy’s style is the 60s its signature style.
Although these beauty myths and standards were the norms, people have different ideas as what they consider beautiful. You may like red hair, petite body, long fingers, and your friends might like jet black hair, chubby cheeks, and red lips. We all have our own interpretation of beautiful and it doesn’t always have to be compatible with society’s standards.
Why are beauty myths and stereotypes harmful?
No matter what you do, you’ll always be your own person. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and colors. You can’t help it if you were born different than others. Being inclined to constantly change your appearance to satisfy and please society lead to a number of health issues.
The main ones are anorexia and bulimia. 90-95% of anorexics and bulimics are women. In reality, no one is as thin as girls in posters and magazines. Teenagers become fascinated with their looks and do everything they can to get the body that doesn’t exist.
Unrealistic images of beauty are forced into their brains and they become obsessed with the idea of looking like a certain person. According to the American Anorexia and Bulimia Association, almost a million women are either bulimic or anorexic each year, and approximately 150,000 die of anorexia annually.
Lack of diversity leads to women thinking that “tall and skinny” is how normal pretty girls look like. Media does a great job in romanticizing this. Low self-esteem soon follows the obsession of getting the perfect look. And if you fail to do so, it only gets lower and lower.
Women with anorexia have the highest rates of suicide, and bulimics have the highest rates of attempts. Beauty isn’t defined by one person. If we all try to look the same, not only do we lose our individuality, but we become the robots that society was trying to build.
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