There’s something scary happening in Hollywood. One by one, the women on our magazine covers and TV screens are becoming oddly alike. Their faces are strangely smooth and their expressions are unsettlingly frozen. Botox injections are as regular as manicures, bizarre procedures (like butt implants!) are increasingly common and boob jobs are basic requirements. Some famous women in their 50s look startlingly similar to their 20-year-old counterparts and one particular young starlet is well-known for undergoing a staggering 10 cosmetic procedures in a single day.
Worryingly, a twenty-something woman with face full of botox, lips full of collagen and breasts full of silicone is no longer considered particularly strange. On the contrary, it’s more likely she’ll be dubbed an “it” girl, given a place in the “100 hottest women in the world” lists and turned into a role model for impressionable tweens. On the red carpet, unnaturally perfect, primped, plastic women have simply become the norm.
What’s really concerning is that cosmetic surgery procedures, hair extensions, bizarre exercise regimes and coconut water diets are no longer exclusively the domain of the rich and famous. “Plastic fantastic” culture has spilled over into the lives of regular women. Mamas are getting tummy tucks with their c-sections and teenagers are rocking up to class with fake hair, fake tans and fake nails.
So why has looking like a cookie-cutter clone of a thousand other surgically, cosmetically and digitally enhanced women become something to aspire to? Why are so many smart girls buying into this madness? And why are there so many beautiful women with shattered self esteem and zero body confidence?
Well, at least in part, the answer is quite simple: Because every day the media inundates us with destructive messages. You only need to cast your eyes over the magazine titles at the checkout for a hint as to why negative body image is so rampant. Girls of today are repeatedly told that they are not enough. Natural is not acceptable. Unique is not desirable. If you don’t fit the mould, you don’t matter. And if you’re not in, you’re out. That’s what drilled into little girls when they pick up a copy of Total Girl magazine with a photoshopped picture of Miley Cyrus on the cover. That’s what teenagers are led to believe when they watch Heidi Montage strutting her surgically-enhanced stuff on The Hills. And that’s what mothers are told when they read a Women’s Day article featuring a celebrity mother wearing a bikini and declaring “I lost my baby weight in just 3 weeks!”
An examination of magazines from the 70s and 80s really highlights how much things have changed (for the worse) in the last few decades. Though super models and movie stars have always been enviably beautiful, in the past they were more naturally so. Plastic surgery was not so common and much of the technology now used to digitally “correct” images simply didn’t exist. Today the images presented and perpetuated by the media are so far removed from reality that if it wasn’t so dangerous, it’d be laughable. Furthermore, through technologies such as social media and reality TV, the line between “the girl next door” and “celebrity” has become increasingly blurred, creating even more pressure for women to live up to Hollywood standards.
The expectations currently placed on women are ridiculously high and mostly unattainable. When a girl’s relationship with her body is already such a fragile thing, these unrealistic depictions of beauty are terribly destructive. Body-hate mentality is insidious.
If we are ever going to escape the body-hate cycle, things obviously need to change. The media certainly need to be more conscious of their impact and make serious reforms, but for as long as they are making a profit while pushing their toxic messages, that shift is unlikely to occur.
While as individuals we have little power over the media, as a group we women are a force to be reckoned with. We can speak with our money by not buying the products that perpetuate dangerous beauty ideals and we can speak with our numbers by letting the government know, this is not ok.
It’s time to speak up. It’s time to be heard. It’s time to start a body love revolution.