Western Cultures Unattainable Standard of Beauty

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American beauty has been wanting to be achieved by millions of men and women in the U.S. for decades and the desire now has reached to other countries. This is problematic due to the fact that Americans have put a standard of beauty upon both men and women that are not achievable for those who are not Caucasian, or are not wealthier to afford cosmetic surgery procedures. Women in general face more scrutiny when it comes to appearance, however, women of color often experience more discrimination based on their appearance alone. Which is why Western cultures standards of beauty affects women in a negative way. Some of the consequences of those actions include; disordered eating habits, surgery to correct ‘imperfections’, and skin bleaching for women of different races.

An example of this would be People’s magazine yearly list of the world’s most beautiful people. Most of the celebrities that are featured in the article, are from European decent, however, there are a few exceptions some being descendants from Asia, and African countries (Travis and Meginnis-Payne). Types of articles like these are controversial because it lacks diversity among race, age, gender, and body types. Not publishing images that show diversity to the public has been proven for women to be more self-conscious of their weight, find they feel less attractive in the eyes of others (Travis and Meginnis-Payne). North American culture has become obsessed with a person's appearance, so today it is almost impossible to avoid the scrutiny of women from others.

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Western cultures beauty standards have slowly made its way to other countries, and changing other cultures idea of beauty. For example, countries such as Ghana, Japan and Indonesia, have seen a trend of bleaching their skin to achieve a lighter complexion (Chaurasia, 217). This trend has an unknown origin as to where it started and came from, however, in countries like India where arranged marriages are still prevalent one of the determining factors for marriage is the woman’s skin color. Moreover, there are no standards that the groom must be held to for the bride's family when looking for a man (Chaurasia, 217). With the higher demand for lighter skin, some women will do almost anything to achieve this look, whether it is from homemade products to whitening creams that are being sold. Achieving lighter skin these ways have the potential of being harmful, “whitening creams, such as Fair and Lovely, which [uses] natural ingredients and [provided] UVA protection. However, after India’s economic liberalization in 1991, there are now available a multitude of whitening products produced by foreign companies” (Chaurasia, 217). Women who buy into these products are supporting a multi-billion-dollar industry that makes women have low self-esteem, and certain products could be harmful to their bodies. With foreign companies creating skin bleaching products, they can put any ingredients in the product which may result in women in experiencing skin irritation, kidney and liver damage. Individuals should not be changing their bodies to fit into the ideal standard of beauty, instead Western culture needs to embrace others for who they are.

America has become a melting pot of a country with different cultures, races, and even different body types. However, with being such a diverse country the mainstream media is still dominated by thin, white females. Article ‘American Beauty Standards: ‘Paling’ in Comparison to the White Norm’, author Marrinan expresses that: “When people from different identities and races immigrate and start to build lives in America, they are constantly reminded of their differences by the media, advertising campaigns and socially constructed expectations. For decades, identifying as White and with a Western culture, and more importantly appearing as such, was considered beautiful and those that did not were ‘unattractive’” (Marrinan, 3).

For individuals who are not Caucasian, they are bombarded daily with Western cultures standard of beauty. Western culture should show more diversity within the beauty industry, showcasing how those who come from different cultures as well as the imperfections that every human has. The white standard has been ingrained into society's brains, that in order to be attractive, those must be white, slim, and have no imperfections. Other races should not look up to men and women who are white, and base that Caucasians are the standard for attractiveness.

Sexual attraction is often based on physical first impressions. While that is true, “one’s identity influences their perception of their own beauty, their opportunities and chances for success may actually be lower. [...] with how beauty has been idealized to the generalized public and how the perception of attractiveness is damaging to those that do not relate or identify as that” (Marrinan, 4). Society in American has been damaged from this idea of beauty, and has created a standard for people who cannot achieve the high standard that has been put in place. Although brands, such as Aerie, ASOS, Old Navy, Fenty, and others, have been trying to constantly change the industry with bringing in a new perspective as to what beauty is with diversity. It may not be enough to change America’s standard of beauty within advertisements.

Within many of the mainstream advertisements, women are seen as objects for men and are even photoshopped into an object. Objectifying women sends a strong message to the public that this is the ideal beauty standard for women. In addition, the objectification theory used in psychology, which is the framework of understanding of being a woman in the Western culture (Travis and Meginnis-Payne) women then internalize the high standards of beauty. Women do this in different ways, by body shaming others, disordered eating, becoming more self-conscious, etc. The theory shows how easy it is for people to have a higher increase in mental health related disorders. In ‘Beauty Politics and Patriarchy: The Impact on Women's Lives’ authors, Travis and Meginnis-Payne explain “in addition to promoting the ideal [standard of beauty], much of advertising conveys the need for women to camouflage unacceptable physical features” (Meginnis-Payne and Travis). Which would include: using deodorant, shaving, and cleansers for genitals. Advertising does not only “promote happiness associated with having the right appearance” (Travis and Meginnis-Payne), it has evolved into telling women their physical appearance is not acceptable, and the product being advertised will help improve your appearance or make you feel better about yourself. These messages are dangerous to women, because it causes unhealthy behavior which has resulted in an increase of eating disorders over the years in the United States.

Opponents of this idea claim that media has impacted young women, in which, the media promotes healthy ways of living as well as, strategies of prevention for disordered eating habits (Morris and Katzman, 288). The article explains how eating disorders have increased over the years and “anorexia nervosa is 0.48% among girls 15 to 19 years old” (Morris and Katzman, 287). Due to the increase of eating disorders the authors claim that with a lack of media literacy among medical professionals, teachers, and parents, young individuals will be more prone to developing disordered eating habits. And that implementing media education programs in schools has been shown to “decrease in the harmful effects of media violence and alcohol advertising on children and adolescents” (Morris and Katzman, 288). The article also argues that parents have the biggest impact on these individuals to promote a healthy behavior for young adults. Parents that promote healthy eating habits, and who also discuss the dangers of media to their children have the potential of decreasing mental health disorders related to high standards of beauty. The article does acknowledge the fact that the mainstream media has the potential of contributing to low self-esteem among younger individuals.

However, society cannot rely on others like medical professionals, teachers, and parents to educate not only children but young adults about the dangers of mainstream media. It is projected that almost 35 million Americans are diagnosed with an eating disorder, or some other form of mental illness (Prah, 121). It is evident that media has a huge role with this number. Reading tabloids or watching television, both are bombarded with actresses that are very slim and could have anorexia or bulimia (Prah, 121). Although, researchers have now concluded that eating disorders are also caused by biological, psychological, and social factors like a culture that promotes thinness. Evidence has even shown that athletic culture encourages eating disorders, an example of this would include “gymnast Kerri Strug began training with a new coach and eating less. If she were a little leaner or lighter, the 14-year-old thought, maybe she would perform better” (Prah, 132). Many women believe that being thinner, will solve or make them happier in life because the media has stressed the idea that women who are slimmer live a happier life.

The American beauty standards have reached a dangerous level. Individuals will risk their health such as skin bleaching, mental health, and even risk death in order to achieve this idea of beauty. Western culture needs to change the way beauty is perceived, and show more diversity, whether that is showcasing different body types, racial groups, imperfections on models. This standard of beauty has affected over 35 million people in the United States already, imagine how many people around the world are being affected currently.

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Western Cultures Unattainable Standard of Beauty. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 24, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/western-cultures-unattainable-standard-of-beauty/
“Western Cultures Unattainable Standard of Beauty.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/western-cultures-unattainable-standard-of-beauty/
Western Cultures Unattainable Standard of Beauty. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/western-cultures-unattainable-standard-of-beauty/> [Accessed 24 Jul. 2024].
Western Cultures Unattainable Standard of Beauty [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 15 [cited 2024 Jul 24]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/western-cultures-unattainable-standard-of-beauty/
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