“Beauty” and the Beast
Written by: J. Stokes; Photography by: Adriana Reyes – February 12, 2015
This year’s Super Bowl XLIX had a record-breaking 114.4 million viewers. Many tuned in for the football game, others watched Katy Perry’s illustrious half-time performance (who can forget that dancing left shark?), and then there were the infamous commercials! Historically, commercials aired during the Super Bowl are meant to be funny, introspective, and unforgettable. Among those shown this year was a 2015 edition of Victoria’s Secret’s Valentine’s Day lingerie collection. Tall, slender females, most likely size 0, promoted Victoria Secret’s new product for the duration of 30 seconds. Though short in length, this commercial managed to reinforce certain beauty standards for women regarding their bodies.
Here’s the Vicky C’s commercial, FYI:
Body image can be defined as the subjective concept of physical appearance. Issues regarding body image are widespread throughout our perfection-focused society. Females have traditionally had negative thoughts about their bodies due to societal pressures, such as those put in place by models. The modeling industry has frequently been criticized for its unreasonable expectations of women, which have oftentimes had an effect on both consumers and the models themselves. Illnesses such as anorexia and bulimia have been linked to marketing that glorify females who remain thin, tight, and toned. From television to magazines, Americans are bombarded with constant reminders of acceptable beauty standards. But it doesn’t end there.
Social media has also jumped on the same platform as marketing agencies. Not too long ago, Tumblr and Instagram accounts surfaced, encouraging females (mostly teens and young adults) to achieve a ‘thigh gap’, otherwise known as a gap between the thighs when one stands with their feet touching. Hashtags promoting eating disorders to attain this figure include terms such as “pro-ana” (short for pro-anorexia) and “thinspiration”. Youtube videos have even surfaced in which proclaimed experts try to teach females how to safely achieve a thigh gap. Unfortunately, many individuals may be genetically incapable of reaching this desired goal.
Though most of the focus of this post has been on females, it should be noted that men also suffer from body image insecurities. While women and girls are asked to drop pounds and lose weight, males are often pressured to “add inches” or “bulk up”. There is an existing demand for men to have huge arms, be tall, and possess large genitals. Even when men are encouraged to lose weight, they are told to develop ripped abdominal muscles or a sculpted lean physique. Indeed, the societal pressures placed on guys often mirror that of females. One must ask, what can be done to curb these burdening expectations? A possible answer lies with the media.
If you think about it, media influence has a tremendous impact on why individuals are unhappy with their bodies. We are told to conform to certain beauty standards and have a specific physique. Failure to reach these expectations makes us believe we are not beautiful. Ultimately, hate sells. Marketers utilize media outlets to promote this message of “you are broken, so let me fix you” in order to make people buy the latest weight loss product, genitalia enhancer, or body shaping device. Thankfully, many have argued to enact some form of change at the modeling level. This year Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue will feature Ashley Graham, who is known as being the first ever plus-sized model to feature in this magazine (although the term “plus-sized” may be a bit of a stretch). Moreover, women with curves (ex. Teyana Taylor) and heavier men (ex. Timbaland) are being marketed more within hip-hop culture.
Nevertheless, people must aspire to be their own version of beauty without the pressures of a magazine, television advertisement, or social networks. Parents and educators should be encouraged to speak with children from an early age about the concept of self worth. Think about the number of suicides, accidental overdoses, and fitness-related injuries that would decline as a result of increased self-esteem amongst individuals in regards to body image. Lastly, we as a nation must come to an understanding of what beauty really is rather than listening to this metaphorical beast we call the media.
- Updated: November 30, 2016