Media, society sets unrealistic expectations for women’s beauty
By MEAGHAN MCINTYRE
I am a female member of Generation Y and from the day I was born, my life has been full of stereotypes and generalizations that society has tried to make me conform to. While my family has always encouraged me to be my own person, their message is contradicted by what big corporations claim should be important to me. I recognize that this is not an age or gender specific issue, but for the sake of this article, the female side of the story is going to be told.
Stereotypes are all around us. Magazines only show models with “perfect” bodies, kids are taught that it is bad to “throw like a girl” (or do anything athletic like a girl), society treats both beauty and popularity as top priorities, and the list goes on. The messages that our society sends to females are toxic. The unreasonable standards that females are held to cause girls to develop low self-esteem, quit sports and feel as if they are not enough.
In many aspects of our lives, females get judged more on their looks than their abilities. Take female athletes for example. From a young age, females constantly have to push back against the idea that “playing like a girl” is a bad thing. As an athlete myself, I was always aware of how boys treated me differently until they felt I had proved that female-athlete stereotype wrong.
Many believe that sexism in sports ends during childhood but that belief is wrong. Dove’s recent campaign, #MyBeautyMySay, calls out the media for its sexist nature towards female athletes. It contains a powerful line that reads, “Dear Media, when you focus on an athlete’s looks, you don’t see her at all.” To back their claim, Dove lists sexist remarks on the campaign’s website that reporters have actually made about female athletes. Female athletes put their hearts and souls into their sport; they deserve to be recognized as incredible athletes rather than eye-candy.
From competing in sports to participating in everyday activities, few parts of a girl’s life are safe from society’s judgments. This is because, as a line in sociologist Erving Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life reads, “There are many social contexts in which it would be improper for a woman not to misrepresent herself as being more youthful and sexually attractive than is really the case.”
Despite the book being published in 1959, this statement is still true today; just look at what Alicia Keys is currently going through. After doing a photoshoot makeup-free, Keys came to the realization that she feels empowered without it. But because of the stress that society puts on a female’s appearance, Keys has received much backlash over her decision. It truly makes me sick to my stomach that we live in a world where a female cannot choose to embrace her own natural beauty without facing criticism.
The fact that this is the 21st century and females are still being objectified is a disgrace. I am through with being stereotyped because of my gender. It is time that society stops treating females as if we are pieces of clay that can be molded into “perfect” women. Instead of telling us all the ways that we “need” to change, how about allowing us to carve our own paths and be our own people.
In the words of my favorite organization, She Rocks the World, we are all enough just how we are. I may be a teenage girl living in a society that constantly tries to put me down for refusing to conform to their standards, but I do not care what they say. I am my own person and I will not live my life as a stereotype.