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The Issue With Unattainable Beauty Standards

TW: Mention of Disordered Eating

Written by Cove Johnson Rabidoux

March is Women’s History Month, which is why now is the perfect time to reflect on the challenges that persist for girls around the world. One of the most prevalent issues affecting young girls today are the (unattainable) beauty standards perpetuated by society. These standards, often unrealistic, can cause immense damage to a young girl’s self-esteem, health, and body image.

From a young age, girls are bombarded with images from TV, advertising, and social media of what the “ideal” beauty is. These images typically highlight features that aren’t real and are therefore unachievable for most. When girls internalize these standards, they often develop a sense of inadequacy and self-doubt, believing that they must conform to these ideals to be accepted and liked. Studies done at Stanford University and the University of Massachusetts concluded that 70% of women in college say that they feel worse about their looks after reading fashion magazines. And unfortunately, these sentiments don’t just affect college-aged women. According to the National Organization for Women, at age thirteen, “53% of American girls are ‘unhappy with their bodies.’” This number jumps to 78% by the time girls reach age seventeen. These statistics aren’t just high, but alarming as they cause serious physical and mental health issues for girls and women. 

The pressure to conform to these beauty standards has detrimental effects on girls and their mental health. Studies have shown that among teen girls there is a correlation between exposure to idealized beauty images and low self-esteem, depression, and even eating disorders, including anorexia. 

Therefore, it’s crucial to recognize that these beauty standards are not just a personal struggle for girls but they’re deeply rooted in systemic issues such as sexism and racism. This is because beauty standards are very disproportionate and favor Eurocentric ideals of beauty. Thankfully, there are ways to combat these problems and bring them to light. For starters, the media should feature a wider range of body types, skin colors, hair types, and other physical features on TV. Adults also need to educate young girls about the harmful effects of beauty standards and teach them to value themselves based on their personality and achievements, rather than their appearance. 

So as we commemorate Women's History Month, we must think of the struggles that girls still face, including trying to conform to beauty standards. This is why we need to challenge these harmful beauty standards and create a more open and supportive environment for girls.

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