WHAT ARE BEAUTY STANDARDS?
Beauty standards are the factors that lead our society to decide who is 'beautiful' and who isn't. These factors range from everything from hair to body type to facial structure and so on and so forth. Beauty standards are often determined by colonization, culture, time period, tradition, etc.
Today's society enforces unrealistic beauty standards on both men and women. The standards set for what should be deemed beautiful are extremely unrealistic as sometimes they can only be achieved through plastic surgery and photoshop. These trends are also constantly changing so by the time you achieve them, the standard has already changed.
Over the last two decades, hundreds of studies have concluded that there is a link between excessive social media use and negative body image. A study conducted in 2016 found that scrolling through Instagram and posting pictures of yourself on the app actually contributed to negative body image.
Every where you go, all you see is heavily edited pictures of models and people who seem absolutely perfect but have actually undergone plastic surgery- but that's what the media doesn't tell you. Furthermore, there is no escape from the internet's obsession with beauty. For example, there are the beauty affirming trends on TikTok (like the inverted filter trend which told people they were ugly if their face wasn't symmetrical). Women today are encouraged to have a certain body and a certain face- small nose, big lips, slim thighs, small waist, flat stomach, big butt and big boobs. But none of that is realistic. Yet it's not only women who suffer due to the beauty standards that are perpetuated by the media- men do as well. Men are expected to have a ripped, muscular, tall body with a low body fat percentage and a chiseled jaw. They're told they constantly need to have perfect hair, perfect skin and perfect teeth, and that standard is also unhealthy and unrealistic.
But how did we end up here?
Today's beauty standards are deeply rooted in internalized racism and colonialism. Our standards are based on time periods that demonized people of colour, who were told their race is inferior. The aftermath of the Korean War is a great example of this- both Korean men and women were forced to undergo surgeries that removed their oriental eyes to make them more appealing to the west. And this led to the popularization of plastic surgery in Korea.
You then had the 1940's which didn't allow women of colour to join the Miss America Pageant, and if you take a look around the world, most cultures who were colonized by the west at one point or another adapted a lot of the standards that the west deemed beautiful- big eyes, pale skin, etc. You see this in areas like India, where women and men are encouraged to bleach their skin to become more 'beautiful'.
We then entered the era of Victoria Secret Angels and the Heroin Chic- former Victoria Secret Angels have opened up about the eating disorders they struggled with while being models, these women were expected to be at a size 2 at all times. Brandy Melville came along with their 'one size fits all' clothes, with that size only fitting women who are a size 0-2.
Then the K-Pop idols came around with extreme work conditions and severe eating disorders- and their lives were glamorized. The world favored skinny over all, and suddenly the world did a whole 180. Now you are valued more if you have an hour-glass-Kardashianesque body.
Yet not even the Kardashians have that natural body- they're known to pay paparazzi to edit their pictures and they're notorious for denying plastic surgery. But after the rise of the Kardashians, the world seemed to favor the features of black women more.
The standard became colourized- just as long as it was white women doing it.