topic: why we need to be aware of the detrimental affects the media has in relation to womens appearances, and why we need to fix this
When I say ‘she looked perfect’, what do you think of? A tanned girl with flawless skin and hourglass body shape walking on the beach? Or an insta picture of a girl in a beautiful dress with makeup and hair all done ready to go to formal? Regardless of what you picture, this ‘perfect’ girl has no flaws, nothing ‘undesirable’ to look at, this girl hides all of her insecurities to avoid judgement and appeal to all of those around her. This unrealistic beauty standard is shown all through the media, all of the time. Social media encourages a toxic relationship between woman and their appearances, as we begin to feel jealous and envious of others who have these features which are seen as desirable through the male lens that the media has. Therefore, women feel that they have to look perfect to be happy and good enough, which can lead to us trying to ‘fix’ ourselves to look perfect like those we see on social media.
Firstly, We have all frequently heard the phrase ‘social media is a highlight reel’, and we know that people only post the best on social media, but do we actually realise the implications of this? For example, 45% of teen girls feel that they need to look a certain way to wear certain clothes, such as bikinis and crop tops, and post on social media. This is because of the male gaze, which is by definition the way women are sexualised and objectified by men, and it has it’s roots in social media. The male gaze pressures women to have these ideal features so women can look ‘good for the men’, creating an unrealistic standard. this goes beyond social media as well. We all grew up watching the women superheroes all have ideal body types, and being second to the men, which has meant that from a very young age we were getting force fed the idea of what a women should look like. We have been watching these characters that we should have been able to relate to, instead they have become victims to the male gaze, as these women get objectified and sexualised. Due to us internalizing this male gaze without even realising it, so many women including most of us here have this expectation we need to have these ‘ideal’ features that this male gaze has presented to us. We feel a need to hide all of our ‘flaws’ on social media, like acne, or stretch marks, because we see and judge ourselves from this male lens of what a perfect women should look like. This is making us feel not worthy or not good enough in our own bodies, instead wanting to be like the perfect women we see on social media.
As much as you may deny it, everyone gets a little jealous sometimes. However, did you realise how much jealousy is embedded in social media? For example how many of you have just scrolled and scrolled through a celebrities instagram or tiktok? Maybe its simply because you like their content, or perhaps, you are jealous of them to the point that you actually can’t look away. Humans are a competitive species, and so we compare ourselves to this highlight reel. So it makes sense that 67% of women felt jealous and dissatisfied with their appearance after looking at celebrities or models, and in addition to that, 35% of these women admitted this was due to the worry of men not finding them attractive enough. Many of us become jealous of these flawless women wearing trendy clothes that fit into this standard, because this male gaze pit women against each other and encourage us to be jealous of each other, to strive to look the ‘best’. There are many products such as skin tints and anti aging cream targeted only at women that promotes the idea that men are allowed to grow old, but the women must always strive to look flawless and ‘young for the men’. As we scroll through social media, we then can become so desperate to find some part of ourselves in these ‘perfect’ people we begin to judge them, as we are so jealous. We feel self loathe, we’ve bet ourselves up, we feel so unbearingly envious of people we are supposed to feel happy for like friends and family. This comparison is due to the social media platforms that are so present in many of our lives.
Its human to experience insecurity around your appearance. However, many women begin to develop a perfectism-mindset due to jealousy, and go to many lengths to fix these ‘flaws’ because of this unrealistic beauty standard. The entire makeup industry is centered around this ideal way a women should look, notably with encouraging a ‘no makeup’ make up look that has a ridiculous amount of steps and products. This links back to the male gaze behind this, emphaising to us that we must look perfect all of the time. Consequently, women begin to ask themselves ‘why can’t i be more like her’, and feel that they are never satisfied with how they look. In fact, 68% of women don’t go out when they feel dissatisfied with their body, in fear of judgement particularly from males, like not wearing makeup, having acne, or not having a completely flat stomach, we feel we aren’t pretty enough. Social media is such accessible comparison, which stems from the male gaze we see ourselves through. Body dissatisfaction, which many of us experience can lead to eating disorders, anxiety, OCD, depression- all of which are terrible for our mental health. These stresses can also include physical symptoms such as acne, nausea, low energy and loss of interest in all hobbies and motivation. we can see just how detrimental these effects of perfectionism, due to the jealousy of others and unrealistic expectation, really is. So we need to fix this.
In summary, the media, especially social media creates such unrealistic standards, due to the sexualisation of women through the male gaze, which then causes us to become insecure, jealous and have a toxic perfectionism mindset. This is such a present and normalised issue, as due to the accessibility of social media and comparison, many of us here may be creating unrealistic expectations of ourselves without even realising it. I’m not going to stand here and tell you to stop using social media, and delete all of you accounts etc etc, because social media also has its good sides, and we have heard this all before. However I will encourage you to train yourself to think of you appearance positively, and start to be aware of this male gaze. As well as disengaging with toxic-ly perfect celebrities that encourage jealousy. Its human to compare yourselves, but at least try and call yourself out when you are doing it. Confront yourselves, confront others, so we can change the perception of womens appearances in social media because looking perfect all of the time, is literally impossible.