Women and beauty standards have been at war for as long as we can remember – with the media constantly portraying beautiful, slim women with perfect features and perfect bodies.
Other women have taken a stand to reject this general idea of beauty, making sure to portray women of all shapes, colours, and sizes as beautiful.
One of the most remarkable women in changing this concept of beauty is Winnie Harlow, the Canadian model who has vitiligo. Others include Ashley Graham, who is the first plus-size model to walk a Michael Kors catwalk, and Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first American Muslim hijabi woman to compete in the USA Olympics team.
The fight against beauty standards is happening, it’s slow but it’s there. While women have always been held to beauty standards, now they exist for children as well, thanks to social media.
Children are now more exposed to knowledge than ever before, and it has become exceptionally hard to hide what children can and cannot access, as it is just at their fingertips.
Growing up with social media, children have become aware that you must look a certain way for you to become successful or ‘popular’.
Teenagers are the most vulnerable, being the target audience of most YouTubers and vloggers. They are attracted to the so-called beauty standards, especially that child actors are now in the public eye more than ever.
Millie Bobby Brown is one of the actors that has been criticised for their looks and their appearances, and this increased when she turned 13, given that now she is ‘grown up’.
Despite the fact that the Stranger Things actress has received a SAG award and an MTV award, and is involved with the charity Unicef, the media still focuses on her appearance.
I personally hadn’t realised that beauty standards existed for children until I peeked through my seven-year-old sister’s diary. The diary had a ‘diet plan’ and a ‘weight target.’
Artefact had a chat with Emma Warwick*, a 14-year-old London girl, to hear her concerns and opinions. She speaks about her experience as a teenager living in London and how beauty standards have affected her and other girls around her.
“I remember being a 12-year-old and watching teenage TV shows, and they all had beautiful skinny girls. I remember skipping dinner because I wanted to lose weight and look like them.
I’ve been judged by the way I look and, I’ve been treated differently by the way I look. That made me feel worthless. I’m sure many other girls had this before.
Now I don’t feel compelled to follow beauty standards, although If you asked me 2 years ago I would’ve said yes. Because, even though I was so young, whenever I go online, I just saw someone who’s beautifully filtered.
Nothing is wrong with looking up to someone and having a healthy fit lifestyle, but now it’s reaching the level that 16-year-old girls are getting surgery to look like someone.
We have celebrities like Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian who go to extreme lengths, to look a certain way. I know it’s fake, but other girls don’t.
I have nothing against plastic surgery, but if you are going to change your appearance and you know there’s at least one person looking up to you. Then just say that you had something altered because its unfair for a girl to grow up emotionally tearing herself up about the fact that she does not look perfect like you.
The same goes for the Victoria Secret models. The Victoria Secret fashion show, since it started in the 90s, it has been making women feel disgraced about themselves.
Victoria’s secret is very highly publicized, everyone that watches it around me, when we talk about it no one says ‘oh these wings are nice’. The only thing that goes through our minds, when watching these seriously malnourished models walk down the runway, is ‘wow they’re beautiful’ and ‘why do I not like that’. It’s not an accurate representation of women, no one around us actually looks like that, the general public does not look like that.
With many other girls, this evolved to self-hatred, and they go through eating disorders. I know a lot of girls who aren’t comfortable with the way they look. I know a girl who tried to commit suicide because she was bullied throughout her school life, because of the way she looks.
It’s so unfair because no one tells girls they look fine, but everyone is telling them they don’t look fine. This is something seriously unsettling and disgusting.
Women and girls are constantly being put down about the way they look, boxed in and labeled, and if you don’t fit in these labels then you are an outcast.
Society has this thing where they beat people up, in the way they look or the way they act. And you see it with other celebrities in magazines and in ET they’re always commenting and pointing to someone’s wrinkles, or who’s best and worst dressed for an event.
I do think its rooted in sexism because I genuinely don’t think men go through the same. I’m in year 11 and I genuinely don’t think that the boys in my year have the same body issues that we have. Because no one tells them they look ugly without makeup or, that they should cover up. They’re just free to do what they want without being judged.
It’s a culture fixated on female bodies and appearances, its an obsession with female beauty and female obedience.
I think it’s horrifying that people are being judged by their appearances. You can’t get to know someone from just looking at them, you can’t make assumptions and stereotype people from ideas that you have from TV.
The word beauty is so badly used nowadays, in my opinion, beauty is the way that you conduct yourself, the way you treat people, and it’s your character.
If you think that you are entitled more than any other person, just because you think you have a pretty face, then you need a reality check.”
Artefact also spoke to another London girl, 15-year-old Candice Miller
“Social Media creates beauty standards, as we’re all expected to look a certain way. We feel compelled to follow these rules and sometimes this makes people feel insecure.
I personally don’t feel compelled to follow beauty standards, as it doesn’t affect me and I want to keep doing what I do. Whether it’s posting something online or voicing my opinion without feeling its wrong.
Statistics today prove that children as young as six are concerned about body image. While children may seem too young to understand the meaning of beauty, or beauty standards. In fact it is the exact opposite, the media being the biggest influence on children today.
* name changed to protect the interviewee’s identity.
Featured image by Omima Elmattawaa