You’ve heard it a million times: beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is subjective, right? Certainly no single, objective definition beautiful exists—but America says otherwise. In a generation of people that pride themselves on inclusiveness, acceptance and body positivity, one might be foolish enough to believe societal beauty standards are extinct. Instead, we are reminded every single day and in almost every aspect of our lives, that societal standards of beauty are as persistent as ever.
America’s preposterous beauty standards are everywhere—in social media, on television, in merchandise—you can’t ignore them. Standards that were once confined to the pageant world and Hollywood have now become mainstream. Girls are being incessantly bombarded with what the “perfect” girl looks like and feel pressured to live by those standards. When asked if they believed there is a specific societal standard for beauty, 71 percent of 250 surveyed Marian girls said yes. One can try to dispute these numbers, but as an 18-year-old girl in America, the physical attributes of the ideal woman have been ingrained in me. A tiny nose, but full lips. A stick-thin stature, but D-cup breasts. A lot of curves, but thighs that don’t touch. Not an ounce of cellulite or a single stretch mark in sight. It seems that every Instagram model with over 100k followers has a stomach so flat and a waist so tiny that you wonder if there’s any room for their internal organs inside.
The most disturbing part about America’s freakish obsession with false beauty is not only the deluge of Hollywood and social media, but American girls’ desperate effort to conform to their standards of beauty. We perpetuate the toxic beauty ideals we say we hate. We buy the makeup, apply the lash extensions and get the spray tans. I’ve even witnessed some of my peers buy waist trainers. Yes, you read that correctly; it’s 2019, and the Kardashians have somehow convinced women that 16th century corsets are back in style and will help you get thin!
Thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to alter your appearance. The airbrushed and photoshopped images once seen only in magazines are now at everyone’s fingertips, allowing girls to slim down their legs, widen their eyes and erase every stretch mark or scar. In the aforementioned survey, 48 percent of girls admitted to digitally altering their appearance at least once for social media.
Almost every student—a startling 91 percent—agreed that beauty standards play a significant role in their confidence and self-perception. Girls don’t just hold themselves to these standards, they passively encourage their peers to conform to them, too. We question our friends if they deviate from the conventional look and reserve all compliments and praise only for the girls that fit beauty standards best. Young women claim to reject societal beauty standards but are willing to go to extremes to achieve them—even if they are unhealthy.
Beauty standards come and go, and trends change with every passing year, but one thing remains certain: the ideal body exists in no one. It’s impossible to possess each one of society’s favorite features, so instead of obsessing over looking like a replica of a Jenner or a Victoria’s Secret Model, girls should just focus on being the best version of their unique self. I encourage every girl, both within Marian’s walls and outside, to question conventional beauty and to love every scar, roll, freckle and stretch mark.