The media surrounding us is geared towards all people. The aging moms who are told they should look younger. The 13-year-olds who are told they need to look older. And everyone else who is told they need to look different, but not different from everyone else. Different from the way they look now. Different in order to fit into the box society tells us we need to fit in, just like it tells us we need to fit into size 2 jeans.

The shiny magazine covers gloss over the fact that people are human beings. They are rife with headlines about weight loss or weight gain and how many new wrinkles Jennifer Aniston has. Who writes these articles? Who follows “celebrities” around on their days off to take pictures of their “beach bodies”? Who decides what is too fat or too skinny or too perfect? Who tells us we have have clear skin and silky hair and shaved legs? Who decides what is beautiful? Because it certainly does not seem like everyday people do. Because what is “beautiful” in the media is a Victoria’s Secret model or the man on the cover of a workout magazine. But those people are trained, and dieted and made up and photoshopped. All in a desperate attempt to salvage this image created by society, that has been implanted in our minds since infancy, can be achieved. But what does this image even do for people other than hurt their self perception?

It makes money.

In fact, the beauty industry is worth $445 billion. This money is distributed to the companies creating serums and mascara and waxing strips. This money is distributed to diet programs and face tuning apps and protein shake powders. The claims these companies make are dangerous ones and often empty offers. The claim they will make you beautiful is selling the idea that being beautiful will make someone happy. That losing those 10 pounds will make you a better person. Or by only drinking your foods you will become healthier. But the reality of these offers and promotions is the never ending greed. Companies latch onto the selling point of buy and sell happiness along with it. Because who wouldn’t walk to be a size 2 and have great teeth to smile with, because everyone knows a model is always happy, right? Or not.

The constant stress of fulfilling that idea of beauty that is sold everywhere leads to 40% of fashion models suffering from an eating disorder. These same eating disorders appear in middle schools and high schools. And among those who suffer from various eating disorders, 95% of them are aged 12-25. Young people in this age range are the people directly targeted and sexualized by movies and advertisements.  

This is seen in movies across the board, but most easily visible in the Disney Princess movies. Young girls watch these movies and are told these are the women they should look up to. The “classic” Disney princesses are saved by men and are portrayed as damsels in distress. Not only does this teach a dangerous lesson to girls about needing to be saved, but also shows young boys women need to be saved. Only in the past years have new ideas been introduced to these movies. Megara’s sassy take on fragile masculinity in Hercules and in Moana’s desire to have a more realistic body shape in Moana are a few examples. But even so, not only are the underlying plots of these movies concerning, but the physical way the princesses are shown.

The waistlines of these characters are completely unrealistic. Shown as the same size, or even smaller, than the same character’s neck. These waistlines are shown in every movie and the variation of body types shown in the Disney movies is completely absent. Children as young as 2 are exposed these standards and the images are ingrained in them even before then.

The advertisements that claim to be “body positive” and “body inclusive”, but only show the three smallest sizes. The ads that tell young boys and girls they need to look a certain way in order to be accepted and loved. Like in all those makeover scenes you loved as a kid. Mean Girls, Clueless, and countless others. Changing the “nerd” to be the much more provocative “popular” person. Ingraining in the teens watching these movies, a certain idea of what it means to be liked and, again, what it means to be beautiful.

And the beauty standards reflect a certain population of people, an unattainable reality for almost all of the rest of the world. And, yes, beauty standards around the world are different and are always changing. But there is one common similarity and that is the need to fit into a box.

Because whoever writes those articles and decides what is beautiful is creating standards off of what they see as beautiful. And, since when does “beauty” equal “happiness”? I think happiness is whatever you make it, and whatever you want it to be. Although, if beauty does equal happiness, then I suggest create your own idea of what beauty is, and create your own happiness through that.

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