Beauty is everything nowadays. Beauty is nature. Beauty is love. Beauty is art. Beauty is intelligence. Beauty is confidence. Beauty is humankind. Beauty is realness. Beauty is music. Beauty is family. Beauty is friendship. Beauty is poetry. Beauty is touch. Beauty is happiness. Beauty is secrecy. Beauty is sexiness. Beauty is rebellion. Beauty is different. Beauty is equal. The whole world is basically beauty for the deepest people. The good thing about this term is that it is subjective to everyone’s eyes, mind and heart. Hence beauty is diversity, above everything.
However, even if the word “beauty” sounds enchanting and lovely, it has become one of the biggest problems within society. The pressure to be perfect is too real nowadays. Too real. I’m sure there has always been pressure, but the global media, social networks and the Internet have added even more burden to the population. Many people seem obsessed with being someone’s “woman/man crush”. Nowadays, being called the “baddest” in Twitter is the biggest compliment. The thirst for likes in Facebook increases with every new beauty trend. Photoshop has become the world’s most shamed but used tool. We spend minutes choosing a good “selfie” and selecting a good “filter”. People go to the gym and workout to become “body goals” in Instagram, instead of caring about the actual benefits to their health. Makeup is the new natural look. Cosmetic surgery is so common now, and not only with adults, but also with youngsters. Having a thigh gap is everything. Having a big butt is everything. Eyebrows are more than just hair. Lips are more than just skin. A pretty face makes you famous. And an appealing fashion style makes you rich and adored.
I know that currently there is this big wave of “let’s allow people to do whatever they want with their bodies”, and I couldn’t agree more. Makeup shaming is wrong. Skinny/Fat shaming is wrong. People should be allowed to make decisions about their body because it is theirs. If someone wants to get cosmetic surgery, it is their decision and it should be respected. If someone wants to show off the body they have worked hard on, it is completely fine! Nevertheless, I can help but feel concerned about how much being considered beautiful is getting to people’s head. It is not only about how this obsession leads to eating disorders and other mental health illnesses caused due to low self-esteem. It is about how the value of humans is starting to be measured just by their beauty, instead of by their talents, skills, achievements, wisdom and intelligence.
As humans, we are more than just our appearance. We are intelligent. We are hard-working. We are wise. We are skilful. We have a wide range of qualities. So why, why is beauty the one that counts the most? Everything I’m saying may sound a bit too overdramatic, but if you actually spent a few hours focusing on how much people care about beauty, you would realise of what I’m trying to say. We care more about likes in Instagram than compliments on our actions. We look up to people who show little more than a good looking face and a hot body. We fight over stupid mean comments on our appearance, but we ignore criticism on our studies or work ethic. And unless you are a public figure or a celebrity, a pretty face will not get you very far away, and unless you are a model, it isn’t going to pay your bills.
Perhaps, this obsession wouldn’t be dangerous or important, if it wasn’t because of how society’s idea of beauty is too too too dependent of pop culture and Eurocentric standards. On the one hand, pop culture is problematic. When I was little, I got mocked often for having an arched back and a big butt. Satiric comics often made jokes of people with thick eyebrows and thick lips. Having a thigh gap and collarbones noticing got people calling you “anorexic”. But all of the sudden, all of this is acceptable, and even pursued by the majority of people. And why? Because certain celebrities have acquired these attributes, using them as “new iconic styles”. Then as always, mainstream media glorifies and fetishizes those looks. And of course, the general population gets brainwashed and is crazy about them. Silly to be honest.
Should I be happy that now people aren’t going to shame my body shape? Maybe. Am I happy? No. Why? For the reason that this trend will end up disappearing as quickly as it appeared, and we will be back to the same story. Body shapes and physical attributes aren’t trends set by popular figures. Or at least they shouldn’t be. The high influence of celebrities’ appearance in ordinary people’s life is pathetic, and horrible for both sides. On the one hand, celebrities have to deal with a lot of pressure to look amazing and incredible in every picture and video. How they dress on an award’s show red carpet is more important than the awards they are nominated for. On the other hand, ordinary people that don’t have the money, time and ability to reach those beauty standards feel worthless and less pretty. People who decide not to follow the trends are mocked, people who decide to follow the trends are mocked too. Ridiculous.
Makeup is another aspect of pop culture that needs to be addressed. Using make-up is not bad. Make-up is nice and very artistic. It can also help to cover scars that may cause us psychological distress if seen. It can help us to look different every day, so our face suits our clothing. It is not only about looking attractive. It is also about feeling confident. Makeup is wonderful. But it is dangerous too. I always say that makeup is there to polish the attributes people already have. It shouldn’t be there to create a fake image of ourselves, because, at the end of the day, the majority of make-up items are temporal. We can apply to our skin litres and litres of foundation. We can draw our lips bigger and bigger. We can shape our eyebrows perfectly with a pencil. But our appearance is our appearance, from the moment we are born to the moment we die.
Moreover, what is quite upsetting is how women we are socially forced to use make-up to look pretty: we are forced to believe that beauty is more important than the rest of our attributes. How many times have we all seen magazines and TV-shows shaming celebs for not using makeup or the “correct” make-up? Why all the dolls for little girls, like Barbie and Bratz, are full of makeup on their faces? Why women in certain positions within their workplace are told to wear makeup to look “presentable”? It is quite worrying because men are not told the same things. Though men have their issues too. We often tend to underestimate the beauty standards set on men: having a six-pack, being 6ft or over, perfect jawline… Men do suffer from self-esteem issues, and are victims of media and society too.
On the other hand, we have the issue of Eurocentric standards. The historical colonisation of countries in America, Asia, Africa and Oceania by Europe led to the supremacy of Caucasians for quite a long time. This supremacy brought oppression for various races and ethnicities, not only political and economic, but also social. When people talk about the implications of colonisation, they talk about slavery, they talk about stolen lands, and they talk about genocide… But they rarely discuss how colonisation affected the mind of oppressed people. Now, this can be a foreign topic for you if your ancestors or you weren’t affected by colonisation, but many know what I’m talking about. Colonisation white-washed the world, and even if it ended theoretically, this planet is still suffering due to it. If you think about it, many countries obtained their independence in the second half of the 20th century. Not long ago.
When I say “white-washed”, I’m talking about how people around the globe fell into the believe that “white is the best, everything good is white”. And that believe was passed onto generations and generations. At present, the supremacy of white people is still a thing. It still goes on, yet it gets concealed a lot. And not only in the West: non-Western countries are also affected by this. Growing up in the West being part of an ethnic minority is hard, and you can suffer from discrimination and racism every day, either directly or indirectly. But growing up in your country of origin, if this was colonised, has drawbacks too. The obsession with light skin tone, straight hair and blue/green eyes is global. White people’s physical attributes are the most worshipped attributes because the rest of races’ attributes were and are often shamed and put down. Furthermore, mainstream media promotes white beauty over anything else. Just look at the lack of diversity in famous fashion magazines and adverts. In catwalks. In skin care product adverts.
I’m not saying that non-white people aren’t celebrated at all. But 75% of times, the majority of non-white people celebrated for their beauty, both by society and in media, have light skin tones. In the case of women for instance, they also wear usually straight long weaves, sometimes of blonde or red colours. You don’t see a lot of afros. You don’t see natural curly hair. You don’t see women with hijabs or veils. I can’t count the times I have seen people praising Latinos for their beauty, but leaving out indigenous, afro-latinos and Native people. I can’t count the times I have seen people praising light-skinned Asians from the Middle East and surrounding countries, but leaving out dark-skinned ones. It all comes down to the lack of representation these races and ethnicities have in mainstream media, and the high amount of satirical jokes that mock the attributes of these people. And sadly, the fault is not only in white people. Self-hate due to appearance is frequent amongst non-white people.
Now, you can say that the lack of representation in the West is normal because “this is the West, this is white people’s region, get over it!”. But, apart from being a wrong statement, it is ignorant. For instance, America is originally from Natives and Latinos, though they have a very low representation in mainstream media. And in Europe, countries like United Kingdom have a high rate of diversity because after the II World War, help was asked to countries like Ghana, India, Pakistan, Jamaica… United Kingdom doesn’t have diversity just because people decide to go there randomly. United Kingdom, as other European countries, was damaged by the war and needed help to recover. When bringing African, American and Asian people to their country, all these countries were committed to integrate them and make them part of their society. Not just use them as mere workers and tools. And with integration, comes representation and acceptance of new ethnicities and cultures, something that didn’t happen 100%, even if promised.
On conclusion: beauty is good and beauty is bad. Beauty is important but it shouldn’t be central to humans. We need to start valuing people more for their hearts, for their brains and for their hands. Because beauty is subjective. We need to learn that beauty, above all, is opinion. Self-love is essential in life: liking how we look, in order to have a good self-esteem. You can rock make-up every day, but you need to learn that you don’t need it to be beautiful. Celebrities and public figures shouldn’t define how you feel about your appearance, and you shouldn’t shame them for their looks and decisions neither. When beauty is dependent on pop culture and Eurocentric standards, a lot of people suffer. A lot. There are hundreds of ethnicities in the world, and there are seven billion of people. Judging everyone by the attributes of some is stupid. And more diversity is needed, because representation is important.