Beauty is skin-deep | Teen Ink

Beauty is skin-deep

July 5, 2019
By Mrs_Babble_Dolittle SILVER, Atlanta, Georgia
Mrs_Babble_Dolittle SILVER, Atlanta, Georgia
6 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
"What we call our destiny is truly our character and that character can be altered."
"If I speak in human or angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal."
"The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

If you’re not beautiful, what are you that’s possibly worth being? This message is beat into girls from the time they are old enough to walk. While boys are noticed for their character traits in addition to their appearance, a girl is judged first and foremost by how they look. By the time she turns ten, a girl has had countless people comment on her looks, say she’s going to be a heart-breaker, or pinpoint a specific physical feature. The ultimate compliment to a woman is, “You look beautiful,” and while this compliment is cast with good intentions, it’s ultimately a double-edged sword. It teaches women that, first and foremost, they should be physically pleasing to look at. Ads like Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign were drawn up with a positive goal, but the reality is that not everyone is beautiful. If everyone were beautiful, then beauty would not exist. Rather, the message girls needed more from that campaign is, it doesn’t matter if you’re beautiful. But this message would go against nearly every ideal that young girls grow up with.

The girls section at toys stores is stuffed with icons of beauty - dolls with slim bodies, perfect faces, and conventional skin tones. Boys are given toys like dinosaurs and race cars to play with, but girls are taught that beauty is the ultimate form of desirable. Through conventional princess movies and animations, they are taught not to aspire to careers, but rather to aspire to marriage and child-rearing. Ask a girl if she wants to get married, and the answer is usually an invariable yes. Over time, these subtle, passive displays of sexism can take a toll on girls, and it explains why girls’ confidence plummets as they go through puberty, while that of boys experiences less regression.

We live in a post-feminist world, a world composed of Instagram likes, perfectly made-up women. Our photos, our bodies, and most of all, our faces, become the primary means through which others judge us. Many people think that technology has made our world more interconnected, culturally aware, and advanced. That much is true.

But what we’ve overlooked is that technology has given wings to our superficiality, and, as a result, we live in one of the most appearance-centered time periods in history. In order to gain a first impression of someone, it is no longer necessary to talk to them or observe them in a social situation, but rather to look at their Instagram photos, and, through a complex series of subconscious reactions, judge their appearance and invent their story. It has become so important to look beautiful that the makeup industry has taken off, and so has plastic surgery. Women who aren’t gifted with model-level looks seek to change what nature gave them and increase their perceived worth in society.

A man’s ticket to success is his ambition, character, and drive. The same is true for women, but there’s one catch: in order to get her foot in the door, she needs to be physically attractive. When a woman ran for the highest position of power in our country and almost won, society focused overtly on her appearance. But unfortunately, it seems as though there is no physical middle ground for a woman in the public eye: either she is slandered for being ugly, or she is too attractive and thus sexualized.

Preference for beauty is also beaten into girls by the entertainment industry. Attractive, beautiful women are cast as the protagonists of films, while the villain, if female, tends to be unattractive. Most photos advertising products feature physically beautiful people. Women with bodies and facial features straying from that which is considered conventionally attractive rarely see themselves represented in the media or in positions of influence.

These biases have existed for centuries, and unless we as a society make a conscious effort to address them, they’re not going anywhere. Gender roles and stereotypes are hard-grained into people of all ages, backgrounds, and politically affiliations; no one is in the clear, and everyone - perpetrator and victim - should be treated with compassion and respect. The #MeToo movement was a step forward in many respects, including drawing awareness to sexual assault and power dynamics, but it advanced the feminist movement a step backward in that it created a culture of blaming and tearing down men. It reinforced the untrue caricature of a feminist as a man-hating, bra-burning, and accusation-flinging woman. Progress rarely comes out of anger and the act of pointing fingers, and it’s my belief, as well as the belief of countless other feminists, that feminism is not controversial. Feminism means wanting men and women to have equal opportunities to succeed. It doesn’t mean taking men down a notch or trying to get a country run solely by women. Rather, feminism is equality of the sexes, and I cannot understand why anyone with democratic ideals would oppose that. Feminism can’t and, in all likelihood will not, stop people from valuing a woman by her beauty, but it can put out competing messages to young girls that beauty is more than skin-deep.

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